The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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VIP greetings, muted celebrations

New Delhi, Dec. 9: Greetings from President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, film star Govinda, former Prime Ministers, members of Parliament — amid low key celebrations by party workers — marked Sonia Gandhi’s birthday.

While Kalam sent a bouquet to the Congress president, who turned 56 today, Vajpayee phoned and wished her happy birthday. Govinda, who had campaigned for the party during the February Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, called on Sonia to wish her a healthy life.

Others who wished the birthday girl, attired in a light green sari, included former Prime Ministers P.V. Narasimha Rao, I.K. Gujral and H.D. Deve Gowda.

MPs, Congress leaders and scores of party workers thronged 10 Janpath early in the morning with bouquets to wish Sonia, who had asked party members not to celebrate her birthday because of severe drought in several parts of the country.

They wished the Congress president, who returned to Delhi only last night after a three-phase election campaign in Gujarat, a happy life.

The 1946-born Gandhi had on Saturday asked party workers not to celebrate her birthday in an “ostentatious manner”. Recalling the hardships faced by people because of the worst-ever drought in various parts of the country, Sonia had appealed to workers and leaders to contribute their mite to extending relief to the affected people.

However, this did not prevent a dance troupe from Karnataka and several music bands from Delhi from performing in front of 10 Janpath.

Later, in the Lok Sabha, Speaker Manohar Joshi and other members wished Sonia. Joshi, who belongs to the Shiv Sena, also wished his party colleague and MP Mohan Rawale a happy birthday.

When Rawale rose to ask tourism minister Jagmohan a question, Trinamul Congress leader Sudip Bandopadhyay, sitting by his side, stood up and greeted the Shiv Sena MP. Then, looking at Sonia, he added: “We also wish Madam Sonia Gandhi a happy birthday.”

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