The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Bhairon has no time for protocol

New Delhi, Sept. 19: There is stiff competition between President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam and Vice-President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat when it comes to breaking protocol.

First, Kalam broke the dress code, started tying shoelaces himself and made it a point to break the security cordon to reach out to children. Now it is Shekhawat’s turn. Old habits die hard and it was evident the way Shekhawat made it a point to walk up to any group of persons numbering 10 or more during his recent visit to home state Rajasthan.

The 75-year-old policeman-turned-politician could not resist stopping at panchayats and chaupals while travelling by car. The official refrain of letting people call on him had no impact — Shekhawat rubbished the idea of not taking a lead.

Bhairon Baba, as he is commonly referred to, would roll his sleeves, fold his hands and greet in the same manner in which he used to do while seeking votes.

Passing through tiny, dusty hamlets around Jodhpur and Udaipur, the politician in him disregarded the time schedule, overruling, “arre bhai, these are my people. Others can wait. Let me meet them.”

Shekhawat’s lifestyle has remained unchanged in Delhi, too. Scores of people would arrive in blue, red or green turbans at Hyderabad House every day to meet the Vice-President, who would break the security cordon and intermingle with them, addressing many on a first-name basis.

The security staff attached to Shekhawat is having a torrid time, having failed to put in place the elaborate drill involving VIP security.

Several visitors calling on Shekhawat are seen flaunting their mobile phones, which are not permitted at Rashtrapati Bhawan, the Prime Minister’s Office and residence and 10, Janpath, the official residence of the leader of the Opposition, Sonia Gandhi.

Shekhawat plans to move into his official residence sometime in October. The Vice-President is in no tearing hurry even though the widow of former Vice-President Suman Krishna Kant has finally vacated the 5, Maulana Azad Road residence after much persuasion.

Informed sources said Bhairon Baba, a great believer in astrology, wants to pick out a more auspicious day to move in after the rather inauspicious period of “sharadhs” has passed off. Till then, 5, Maulana Azad Raod will remain under “renovation”.

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