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All that glitters is not clout
- Mani daughter wedding a mini-summit, Montek son’s is quiet

Nov. 26: One is the father of the bride and a Union minister. But the foreign dignitaries who trooped in for the wedding made the venue look somewhat like a mini Saarc summit.

The other is the father of the groom and one of the Prime Minister’s most trusted men. But the wedding was largely a family-and-friends affair, though the grandeur was not missing.

DoNER minister Mani Shankar Aiyar’s daughter Yamini and Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia’s son Aman got married — not to each other — at ceremonies whose contrasting styles could be taken as beguiling pointers to the subtle shift in the power balance.

Yamini’s wedding to former Union minister Krishna Kumar’s son Adarsh was held today at Aiyar’s 14 Akbar Road residence, with the lawns rocking non-stop to Bollywood and Indipop numbers.

The celebrations have, in fact, been going on for three days and will spill over to tomorrow. But the talking point was the foreign dignitaries who were present.

Among the guests were Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse, former Lanka President Chandrika Kumaratunga, Pakistan foreign minister Khursheed Mehmood Kasuri and wife Naureen, the Bhutan agriculture minister and high-level representations from Bangladesh, the Maldives and other countries.

Cut to two days ago when Montek’s son Aman got married. The reception was held against the backdrop of the majestic Neemrana fort on the Delhi-Jaipur highway but the guests were mostly friends and family. The affair was not shorn of grandeur but not many political faces were on display.

Such nuggets are unlikely to attract much thought elsewhere but not in Delhi.

Political weathervanes are now busy activating their antennae to figure out whether the weddings offered clues to the changing power climate in the capital.

One pundit had this to offer: the glitz and the guest lists are inversely proportional to the amount of clout the two papas enjoy.

Montek is Manmohan Singh’s handpicked lieutenant and among some 20 technocrats/professionals who are calling the shots at the moment.

The others include members of the Planning Commission and the National Advisory Council; heads of the finance commission and the scientific advisory council; and the interlocutors for behind-the-scenes talks with the US, Pakistan and China.

On the face of it, politicians may appear to be in charge of big portfolios but in reality, their influence is on the wane. Their places are being taken over by highly skilled professionals who share Manmohan’s vision.

Some ministers claimed that colleagues like Arjun Singh, A.R. Antulay and Meira Kumar are not helping politicians by indulging in rhetoric on sensitive issues.

Against such a backdrop, any social occasion that offers a chance to showcase friends in high places becomes a handy barometer, though it need not necessarily reflect the full picture.

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