Cong tries to avoid saffron hue to its new address

Cong tries to avoid saffron hue to its new address

Cong tries to avoid saffron hue to its new address

Preparations are on for the foundation-laying ceremony of the new Congress headquarters at Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Marg / Kotla Road in New Delhi. DH Photo

As the All India Congress Committee’s office in New Delhi is set to be shifted from Akbar Road to Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Marg, many in the party feel that the new address is somewhat awkward for it and does not go with its secular identity.

So the Congress managers have come up with a smart idea. The swanky headquarters that the party plans to build on the four-acre plot on Deen Dayal Upadhyaya (DDU) Marg would have an entrance on the adjacent Kotla Road too. And, although the plot is officially recorded as located on DDU Marg, the party would use Kotla Road as its address for all practical purposes.

Party president Sonia Gandhi is likely to lay the foundation stone of the new office next Monday. And the invitation card that the AICC sent out ahead of the ceremony, too, mentions Kotla Road as the venue—ostensibly to save her from the embarrassment of stepping on to a road named after one of the architects of the Bharatiya Jan Sangh (BJS)— the earlier incarnation of the Congress’s principal adversary, BJP.

Upadhyaya, who joined the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in 1937, served as the general secretary of the BJS in its early days in 1950s. After the death of its founder Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, he became the head of the organisation.

The Congress, before the Independence in 1947, had its headquarters at Anand Bhawan, the Nehru family’s bungalow in Allahabad. It shifted its headquarters to 7 Jantar Mantar Road in Delhi after 1947.

The shift

The party’s central office moved to 5 Rajendra Prasad Road in 1969 and to its current location at 24 Akbar Road in 1977. But it will now have to shift from Akbar Road, too, as the Supreme Court a few years ago passed an order that all political parties would have to vacate the bungalows in Lutyens’ Delhi.

The ceremony at Kotla Road on Monday will also mark the 125th Foundation Day of the grand old party. “This will be the beginning of a year-long celebration,” said AICC general secretary Janardan Dwivedi.

Gandhi is expected to announce the schedule of the commemorative programmes during the foundation stone laying ceremony, which is likely to be attended by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

To commemorate the Congress’s first session that was held in Bombay on December 28, the AICC may also have a meeting on Monday.

The swanky building that the ruling party has planned to build on the new location will be named after Indira Gandhi. It is expected to be ready in a year or two. It will also have the offices of the party’s frontal organisations.

So, what will happen to 24 Akbar Road? “Well, we will have to see,” said Congress Working Committee (CWC) member Oscar Fernandes.