| Vajpayee at the tea party. Picture by Rajesh Kumar
New Delhi, March 8: The Prime Minister hosted a tea party today — only for women.
To an outsider, the hundreds of guests milling around the lawns of 7 Race Course Road would have looked like a massive kitty party.
On International Women’s Day, the PMO had sent out invitations to all women journalists — heavyweights and lightweights.
Host Atal Bihari Vajpayee made an appearance a little after 5 pm, flanked by party colleagues Sushma Swaraj and Sumitra Mahajan. By then, the invitees had made themselves comfortable on the sofas spread out on the green expanse.
Vajpayee made a brief speech touching on the impending US war on Iraq and the significance of women’s day. “There has been some progress in terms of women’s rights but a lot of work still needs to be done,” he said.
Seeing his guests starting to scribble in their notebooks, the Prime Minister quipped: “There is no need to bring out paper and pencil. We have made arrangements for snacks and tea.” The arrangements were as expansive as the freshly-mowed lawn.
In one corner were the Delhiwalla’s favourites —varieties of chaat and golgappa. Cheese patties were followed by a South Indian spread — idli, onion uttapam, dal vada. Then came a non-vegetarian mix of sheekh kebab, fish fry.
Finally, the dessert — swadeshi gulab jamuns and videshi pastries. Beverages ranging from Coca-Cola, milk shake and jal jeera to tea and coffee.
“The war drums are beating. We do not know when it will begin but we should try till the end to avert it. From whatever we have gathered, the United Nations has come across weapons of mass destruction. And Iraq seems to be ready to destroy them.”
Later, much to the consternation of his security men, Vajpayee mingled with the guests. What about the women’s reservation Bill, asked some of the journalists mobbing him. The Prime Minister was optimistic. Though the all-party meeting yesterday had failed to throw up a consensus, Vajpayee was hopeful of turning around chief protesters Mulayam Singh Yadav and Laloo Prasad Yadav.
Other journalists were happy to queue up for a photograph with the Prime Minister in his house, usually out of bounds for most.