Two days after senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal hosted a gala dinner for opposition bigwigs, party president Sonia Gandhi will host a virtual version of the event on August 20 — not only to cobble together opposition unity for ‘Mission 2024,’ but also to send a message to the G-23, or dissenting party members.
The Congress, on the other hand, appears to be divided as a result of the two dinners. Rahul Gandhi conducted a brunch gathering for the opposition a few days before Sibal’s scrumptious dinner affair, where the participants were fed food purchased from Chandni Chowk in old Delhi.
Even groups that do not generally identify with the opposition at the Centre, such as Andhra Pradesh’s YSR Congress Party and Odisha’s Biju Janata Dal, attended Sibal’s dinner. It was only feasible, Sibal claimed, because of his personal relationship with the heads of these parties. Sibal’s meal was perceived as a disrespect to the Gandhis in many ways.
Sonia Gandhi is throwing a dinner next week to send a counter-message. Certainly, the goal is to build a strong opposition coalition to fight the BJP’s power, but it’s also about sending a message to the G-23 leaders. Sibal is one of the most outspoken members of the G-23, the group that wrote Sonia Gandhi a letter in August demanding a total reform.
Who All to Attend Sonia’s Dinner?
Mamata Banerjee, the Chief Minister of West Bengal, has already confirmed her attendance for Sonia Gandhi’s virtual dinner. Lalu Prasad Yadav of the RJD and Akhilesh Yadav of the Samajwadi Party, among others, are expected to attend.
The Gandhis will discuss how they can make the ultimate decision on the contours of an opposition unity for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, which was also discussed during Sibal’s dinner.
So far, it doesn’t appear that the G-23 will be invited to the dinner. However, several Gandhi family supporters have been invited to attend.
According to sources, this is not likely to be Sonia’s or the Gandhis’ only meal. This is because the Congress’ top leadership not only wants to defeat the BJP, but also wants to teach dissenting party leaders a lesson in order to get them to fall in line.
Members of the G-23, on the other hand, are arranging similar meals. They are making it plain, according to sources, that their goal is not to fight the Gandhis, but to guarantee that the Congress changes its ways and becomes a formidable force in the opposition. However, it appears that Sibal’s dinner has caused indigestion among Gandhi supporters.
A Lot Can Happen Over Food & Tea in Politic
The dinner politics being played out in Congress reminds of some historic moments where food or tea played a key role in shaping political accords or even breaking the ice between political foes. Take a look at the following events:
The conspiracy to remove Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s government was conceived at a tea party hosted by BJP leader Subramanium Swamy. Among those in attendance were former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa and Sonia Gandhi herself. The Vajpayee government was defeated by a single vote during a vote of confidence a few days later.
Apart from that, the tense relationship between the DMK and the Congress healed over a cup of tea. Despite the Gandhis’ criticism of the DMK for taking too long to prosecute the assassins of Sonia’s husband and former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, senior Congress leader Kamal Nath has reached out to the Tamil party. However, over time, relations between the two parties improved to the point where the DMK became one of the Congress’ most loyal partners.