L’ Affaire ‘Chhole Bhature’ trivialised a major issue
It was meant to remind the people about the party’s intrinsic links with the Father of the Nation. But unfortunately for the Congress, the ‘day-long’ ‘Sadbhavna Upvas’ planned by Congress President Rahul Gandhi to reinforce the party’s pro-Dalit and pro-minorities credentials turned out to be a huge embarrassment for the party.
Ironically, Rahul himself himself was part of the reason for the embarrassment. By turning up at Rajghat, the venue for the nationwide event at the national capital, at 12.30 pm, full two hours behind schedule, the Congress chief didn’t quite exhibit the kind of urgency and seriousness about the event he had planned himself. No wonder the BJP pounced on this lapse to take a dig at the Congress scion’s elitist ways.
The second embarrassment was caused by the presence of Sajjan Kumar and Jagdish Tytler, the two prime accused in the 1984 anti-Sikh pogrom and a perennial source of embarrassment for the party, at the venue. Sensing trouble, the two were discreetly asked to leave the place. But this was one embarrassment the party could have easily avoided. Someone among Rahul’s minders should have seen this coming and asked them not to come to the venue in the first place rather than ask them to leave after the damage had already been done.
But what caused the biggest discomfiture to the Congress was l’ affaire Chhole Bhature. Shortly before the ‘fast’ was to begin at 10.30 am, pictures of the party’s Delhi unit leaders, led by its president Ajay Maken, gorging on the north Indian delicacy at a city restaurant went viral on social media, handing over the game on a platter for the BJP to feast on. Congress leader Arvind Singh Lovely’s explanation later that the picture was taken before 8 am, well before the ‘upvas’ was to begin, was laughable to say the least. It helped recall DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi’s much reviled ‘fast’ on the Cauvery issue a few years ago that had ‘started after breakfast and ended before lunch’!
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This too was entirely avoidable. If the Delhi Congress leaders wanted to have a sumptuous breakfast before reaching the venue (and it was not a crime to do so, given that it was to be a ‘symbolic’ fast rather than an indefinite hunger strike), they could done that at their homes instead of making a public show of it that left the party and its President red-faced. In an age in which the camera phone is omnipresent, this was one huge error of judgement they could have done without.
It is a pity that these trivialities are the only talking points about an event that was meant to highlight the growing atrocities against Dalits and minorities in Modi Raj. That attacks on Dalits and minorities, especially in states ruled by the BJP, have increased manifold is no secret. That’s why it was painful to see the party that has a lot to answer for on the issue having the last laugh.
In hindsight, Rahul would perhaps have wished he had never given a call for the token ‘Sadbhavna Upvas’ in the first place. Or, even if he did, he should have planned things better to ensure that the focus stayed on this issue of great importance rather than allow the event to drift into triviality.