April 6: Sonia Gandhi today took up a glittering issue not usually associated with her pet themes, prompting jewellers to suspend a strike that was beginning to cloud the wedding season round the corner.
Jewellers have been on strike for the past 21 days to press for the withdrawal of certain measures in the Union budget that finance minister Pranab Mukherjee had proposed to fight black money.
After a delegation of bullion traders met Sonia and the finance minister today, it was announced that the Centre would consider the possibility of reworking a tax on branded jewellery.
Suspending the strike, the jewellers have now given the government time till May 11, by when Parliament is scheduled to reconvene and take up the Finance Bill.
Jewellers in Calcutta are planning to stay open over the weekend in view of the wedding season that begins from April 14.
Sonia usually concerns herself with grassroots issues such as foodgrain for the poor and forest rights of tribals. Not known for ostentatious display of wealth — the family is more partial towards floral ornaments, confining gold to the minimum, at weddings — Sonia in her poll nomination affidavit for 2009 had listed 2.5kg of jewellery and 88kg of silver.
Some bullion traders and jewellers had parked themselves outside 10 Janpath for the past three days but they could not meet the Congress president until today.
By then, Congress sources said, the party had received feedback from states and some chief ministers that the strike was beginning to stir panic ahead of the wedding season. They feared that the BJP, which has a traditional base among traders, could reap mileage.
Some Congress leaders pointed out that not all jewellers were rich as being portrayed and countless poor workers depended on jewellery shops for their livelihood.