The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Raves, rants and records

New Delhi, Dec. 25: Greetings and gifts poured on Atal Bihari Vajpayee on his 78th birthday. Here’s a sample of the good, the bad and the plain absurd.

The scientific: “You have performed 78 parikramas (circumambulations) around the sun” — from President A.P.J Abdul Kalam who broke protocol to drive down to the PM’s house with a bouquet of 78 roses, one for each year.

The record-breaker: A 1.5-km-long greeting card — the biggest ever — from Coimbatore with over 25,000 signatures. The existing record is 750 metres and the industries and commerce cell of the BJP, which took the initiative, plans to apply for a place in the Guinness book.

The runner-up: The PM’s constituency, Lucknow, will have to be satisfied with second place because it sent a greeting card that was 1 km long. But it also baked a 121-kg cake — is that a Guinness record' It was not just another cake.

“It’s a pure vegetarian delight,” said Guddu halwai, who made it. “Instead of egg, butter and flour, it is made of pure desi ghee and boondi,” he added. The first piece was offered to Lord Hanuman.

The traditional: A life-size portrait was presented by Lal Krishna Advani. The deputy PM and his family had breakfast with Vajpayee, a practice they have kept up for decades. Bread was broken — or whatever it is they ate — after the day began with a puja at the PM’s residence.

The gift to the nation: The PM launched Swajaldhara, aimed at providing drinking water to all villages by 2004, through video-conferencing with the ceremonies being held in three villages — one in the south (Andhra Pradesh), one in the west (Maharashtra) and one in the north (Uttar Pradesh). The east was not on the list, but surely not intentionally. In the first phase, 883 villages are to get safe drinking water.

The tide turns: Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayavati was present at Gohan Kala where the ceremony was performed. “May you live long to lead the nation and the states,” Mayavati, the unmarried BSP leader who lately renewed her alliance with bachelor Vajpayee’s party, said.

Another single woman who has recently hit the path of renewal piped in. “I wish you many more returns of the day,” she said. Mamata Banerjee, also interested in resuming the relationship and single, wished him, too.

Victory in Gujarat came after a string of defeats. Luck must surely be turning for Vajpayee — the ladies are trooping back.

The ridiculous: Had she been around, Mamata wouldn’t have been amused. Rebel Trinamul Congress leader Ajit Panja brought the PM a bouquet that sang out: “Happy birthday”.

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