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PM wife pays in free-for-all

New Delhi, April 18: The country's First Lady has set a first-rate example.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's wife Gursharan Kaur was the only VVIP to buy a ticket to the Ferozeshah Kotla stadium to watch India battle Pakistan in the last one-dayer. She forked out Rs 77,000 to buy seven tickets for herself and her family members.

The Prime Minister alone got a complimentary ticket in the family.

The capital's family of freeloaders was, however, bursting at the seams. Chetan Chauhan, the vice-president of the Delhi District Cricket Association (DDCA) and a former Test cricketer, said: 'From the beginning, there was pressure on us for passes.'

Apart from Singh, politicians, bureaucrats, policemen and employees of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi and other government departments were the beneficiaries. If there were honourable exceptions, the DDCA could not name them.

It had been decided that of the 28,000-odd seats, 50 per cent would be for pass-holders and 50 per cent for ticket-buyers.

The DDCA also decided that no passes would be issued for the Rs 11,000 seats ' the highest priced. The idea was that only the very affluent, mostly from the business and corporate sectors, would be willing to pay for them to brush shoulders with the powerful and the privileged.

Kaur's ticket got her a seat next to Singh and President Pervez Musharraf so that neither protocol nor security would be disturbed.

Officials accompanying the Prime Minister wondered how they could enter the stadium, as they possessed neither tickets nor passes. When one of them asked Singh what to do, his solution was simple. 'Buy a ticket,' he told them.

However, no tickets were available. So they sat in a waiting room at the entrance till the Prime Minister left for Hyderabad House.

Not many in his cabinet and party were apparently too keen on loosening their purse strings.

DDCA sources said the pressure from pass-seekers was 'so high' that their calculations went topsy-turvy and designated tickets had to be doled out to please the high and mighty. There were at least 4,500 'committed' passes, but the demand from politicians, administration officials and the police was 'never-ending'.

A DDCA functionary even paid for some 'passes' from his pocket. Not that it bothered the recipients, some of whom reportedly resold their passes outside the stadium.

In a city of 'freedom fighters and freeloaders', a politician quipped, such trespasses should be treated as foibles.

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