Special Correspondent

Congress move to placate Jat community?

JAIPUR: Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Monday evening called on the veteran Jat leader and former Rajasthan Assembly Speaker Parasram Maderna at his residence here. Reaching the Rajasthan capital from Padampura, 30 km away, where she had inaugurated a Congress workers' training camp in the afternoon, Ms. Gandhi sat with Mr. Maderna for 15 minutes.

Congress general secretary in charge of Rajasthan, Mukul Vasnik, former Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and Pradesh Congress Committee president B. D. Kalla accompanied Ms. Gandhi to Mr. Maderna's residence in Jyoti Nagar near the State Assembly. However, Ms. Gandhi and Mr. Maderna met separately.

Political circles here are attaching some significance to the meeting as the party leadership is trying to placate the Jat community in Rajasthan, which is still nursing its grievance of missing out the Chief Ministership in 1998.

The Maderna elder is over 80 years but the political clan behind him is considerable in number. His son Mahipal Maderna is a Congress MLA from Bhoplagarh in Jodhpur while his son-in-law is Harendra Mirdha, a former Minister and son of the veteran Congress leader, Ram Niwas Mirdha. The family is closely related to Balram Jakhar, the Governor of Madhya Pradesh.

What transpired between the Congress president and Mr. Maderna is not known but the octogenarian, who accompanied Ms. Gandhi to the cavalcade of vehicles outside his residence when she left, was reportedly looking pleased.