Handing over the baton from the old guard to the new, Sushmita Dev welcomed the foreign dignitaries who attended the 84th plenary of the Congress, instead of Janardan Dwivedi who is the general secretary, AICC Communication. The obituaries of the Congress leaders who have died in the recent past were also read by Dev. During Sonia Gandhi’s tenure, it was Janardan Dwivedi who used to be the Master of Ceremonies and has been a moderator at such events in the past.
All eyes were on Siddaramaiah and Amarinder Singh, Chief Ministers of the only two states where the Congress is in power. While Siddaramaiah sat in the front lines, Amarinder Singh had excused himself after Rahul Gandhi delivered the opening remarks.
In keeping up with his witty reputation, Shashi Tharoor started his speech and addressed the audience as “Mitron”. It took a fraction of a second for the audience to get the reference, who then responded with hoots. Tharoor then went on to continue his speech.
Further, Tharoor, defending Rahul Gandhi for portraying himself as a Shiv bhakt, said,”When Rahul Gandhi calls himself a Shiv Bhakt, it does not mean that only those people who worship Shiv can identify themselves with him. Being a Shiv Bhakt means that you welcome people of all faiths even if Shiv is the God you are most fond of. There is a difference between Hindutva and Hinduism.”
Crticising the BJP for not passing the Women’s Reservation Bill, Sushmita Dev said, “BJP has full majority, yet they have not addressed our requests to pass the Bill. Sonia Gandhi has written to PM Modi, but has not received any reply yet. It is the Congress party who gave India its first woman Prime Minister and President, unlike the BJP government which talks of Muslim women’s rights in the name of Triple Talaq bill.”
Upon his arrival at the venue, the Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium, Rahul Gandhi hoisted the Tricolour in front of Seva Dal volunteers. He was garlanded by a senior Seva Dal member after the flag hoisting and was accompanied by his mother Sonia Gandhi and former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to his seat. Seva Dal members, dressed in white with green stripes, strictly monitored access of people into restricted areas where AICC members were seated.
At the 84th plenary, seating arrangements were based on seniority. The steering committee members and other senior leaders sat in a separate enclosure nearest to the stage, followed by AICC members and workers were offered back seats in the stadium. Before the 2006 Hyderabad plenary, party leaders used to freely mingle with the party workers who came from various states and used to have lunch and dinner in a shared common space.