NATIONAL

Rahul hogs the limelight, Priyanka absent

NEW DELHI, AUG. 21. Once again it was the young Gandhi-Nehru family scion, Rahul Gandhi, who was the cynosure of all eyes and got the maximum attention and applause during the one-day AICC session held at the Talkatora Indoor Stadium, re-christened Rajiv Gandhi Nagar. However, much to the disappointment of thousands of delegates, Mr. Gandhi's sister, Priyanka Vadra, did not attend the session.

Aesthetic backdrop

If chaos and confusion prevailed outside the venue, it was a pleasant sight inside the venue. The backdrop of the stage had been done aesthetically with the main focus being on `Remembering Rajiv Gandhi'. It also had photographs of the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh and the Congress president, Sonia Gandhi, along with those of the past Congress leaders, former Prime Ministers and freedom fighters.

The entire stage and the area separating the stage from the crowd had been decked up and decorated with white and yellow flowers. A special pedestal was covered with white flowers and 60 `diyas' (lights) were lit in memory of the former Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi. The 60 lights signified his 60th birth anniversary on August 20.

Seated on the stage alongside Ms. Gandhi were the Congress Working Committee members, Chief Ministers of Congress-ruled States, PCC chiefs, AICC general secretaries and AICC secretaries. The Delhi Chief Minister, Sheila Dikshit and the AICC general secretary, Ambika Soni, were constantly on the move giving directions. The Union Ministers were seated on chairs on both sides below the stage. Ahmed Patel, political secretary to the Congress president, sat along with the other AICC delegates away from the limelight.

The main attraction for thousands of delegates who had assembled from all over the country was Mr. Gandhi. As soon as the session started, he was seen sitting on the stage but then immediately got down from the dais and sat with the Union Ministers.

As the meeting got along, the delegates interrupted Janardhan Diwedi, conducting the proceedings, and demanded that Mr. Gandhi be seated on the stage.

Though the delegates stood on their chairs and others in the 3,000-capacity hall rose to their feet, Mr. Gandhi, dressed in a white kurta-payjama, refused to budge even as his mother looked on with amusement.

Mr. Dwivedi then climbed down the stage and went over to Mr. Gandhi to impress upon him to come to the stage but he did not oblige.

But Mr. Gandhi got up on his seat and waved to the cheering crowd and then sat down.

Later, he joined his mother on the stage for a few minutes after the lunch break.

Even towards the end, a section of the party workers insisted that he be called to address the delegates.

They were told that Mr. Gandhi had given up his turn to enable other delegates to have their say and had left the venue much before the conclusion.