Top leaders meet to discuss Gandhi's 150th anniversary

Top leaders meet to discuss Gandhi's 150th anniversary

Top leaders of the country on Wednesday met here to discuss the contours of a year-long celebration to commemorate the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.

However, the absence of certain chief ministers set tongues wagging in political circles.

President Ram Nath Kovind led the deliberations at the meeting held at Rashtrapati Bhavan, which was attended by Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the chief ministers of various states and several others who are part of a 115-member committee formed by the government for chalking out the celebrations.

The absence of Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu and his Telangana counterpart K Chandrasekar Rao was read in political circles as an extension of their anger against the BJP dispensation.

At the same time, the presence of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who has reached out to Naidu and Rao among others to prop up a federal front ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, was viewed at least in some quarters as a division in the camp.

However, sources in the Opposition camp denied any such division saying the meeting called by the government was not political in nature and such conclusions were overboard.

On record, the Andhra Pradesh government wrote on Tuesday to the Ministry of Culture intimating Naidu's pre-occupations in his state, including a scheduled Cabinet meeting, as the reason for not attending the meeting.

It also said that Naidu's government will be keenly awaiting directions from the meeting held to have clear guidelines and action points.

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan also did not attend but the state government had in April last week intimated that he would not be present for the meeting but assured to take steps as per the decision of the meeting.

Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah did not attend as he is busy with electioneering in the poll-bound state.

Interestingly, neither Congress president Rahul Gandhi and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, who were in the capital, did not attend the meeting.

The party was represented by senior leader Ghulam Nabi Azad.

Former prime minister Manmohan Singh attended the meeting, while another former prime minister H D Deve Gowda did not attend due to his election schedule in Karnataka.

At the meeting, the prime minister emphasised on the need to use technology in the celebrations, so that the whole world can take note and participate.

He called for the celebrations to move beyond government events and take the shape of a mass movement.