The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Cong frowns on Advani retinue

New Delhi, June 10: The deputy Prime Minister continues to draw public attention for the wrong reasons. If L.K. Advani expected the row created by BJP chief and confidant Venkaiah Naidu’s remarks on who should lead the party’s election challenge to peter out with his departure for the US and UK, he was mistaken. Controversy continues to dog him.

The unusually large delegation that Advani is heading — not all members of which are officials — has raised eyebrows. The Congress has wondered if the deputy Prime Minister is on an official visit or holidaying in the cooler climes abroad.

While there can be no objection to Advani’s taking along home secretary Gopal Swamy, Intelligence Bureau chief K.P. Singh, his private secretary, officer on special duty and senior home ministry officials, the Congress wondered why their spouses were accompanying them. Party spokesperson Anand Sharma added that the deputy Prime Minister is being accompanied by his wife, son and daughter.

“On a serious note, we have no problem with senior government officials accompanying the deputy Prime Minister. His effort to win support and co-operation in our fight against terrorism has our support. But the composition of the large delegation is revealing. Part of the delegation is spouses of many officials,” Sharma said.

He asked if it was necessary to have such a delegation accompany Advani on an official visit. “How much burden should the taxpayer bear'” Anand asked.

The spokesman said the external affairs ministry had asked Indian missions in the two countries to make all arrangements, including hospitality and travel, for the delegation.

Sharma said the A.B. Vajpayee regime was not bothered with keeping things simple and saving the taxpayer’s money. He said the delegation for the 12-day trip had 23 members.


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