With just a week left for Ramzan to end, parties across the spectrum seem to have given political iftars in the Capital a complete miss. Neither the government, or the parties in the Opposition have hosted any prominent iftars till now, and, from what it appears, there does not seem to be plans for any. With preparations for the mahagathbandhan in full swing, parties from across the spectrum are wary to wean off the Muslim appeasement tag ahead of the last iftar of the present regime.
The ruling BJP had traditionally not held iftar parties, save for the time in 1998 when former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee held one. Once he assumed office, Vajpayee held iftar parties from the Prime Minister’s Office during the six years the NDA 1 was in power.
Iftar parties held by the President, Vice-President and the Prime Minister’s Offices have also trickled down in the last few years. From the President’s office, Pranab Mukherjee was the last head of the state to hold parties, where Muslim diplomats from several embassies were also part of the guest list. Former vice-president Hamid Ansari, too, was the last to hold iftar parties. After he assumed office, PM Modi has not held a single iftar party, and has not attended any parties, including any of those hosted by Mukherjee as the president.
NDA ally leader Ram Vilas Paswan, too, is known to hold lavish soirees and he held one in Patna last year. This year, Paswan’s office, too, is mum on such parties.
Among opposition parties, the Congress, who made it a political norm to host leaders in the month of Ramzan, has conspicuously been quiet on the front. Former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister and socialist leader Hemwati Nandan Bahuguna had pioneered the norm of hosting iftar parties as social networking events since the late 1970s, which was adopted by Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi and then, Sonia Gandhi.
Last year, the Congress donated its iftar spend, an amount of Rs 5 lakh, to the flood victims in Assam. This year, a prominent Muslim leader from the party said that the leadership has not sent any directive to hold such parties.
“The party has not actively stopped individuals from hosting parties on their own, but no directive has come to us to hold a Congress iftar party,” said the leader, who has in the past helped organise such gatherings.
In April this year, the Samajwadi Party leadership, keen to shrug off an image of a Muslim ally, had sent out directives to party leaders to not host prominent parties and ensure that any event held on a personal scale is not seen as a publicity event. The Trinamool Congress, too, hasn’t held any such party and there has been no word on any such arrangements yet. A Muslim leader from the party told DNA that while there is no directive to hold such gatherings, CM Mamata Banerjee attended an iftar party held by the Kolkata Municipal Corporation recently.
The season’s unlikeliest iftar party was hosted by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh when the right-wing body hosted a gathering in Mumbai’s Sahyadri Guest House on June 4 with the help of the RSS-affiliated minority body Muslim Rashtriya Manch.
The only prominent leader who has held an iftar party this year was Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. CM Kejriwal hosted an iftar party on June 4 at Delhi’s Palika Services Officers Institute. However, the party was a quiet affair with the L-G, Congress leaders as well as the Delhi government bureaucrats giving it a complete miss.