The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Uma calls off dinner, offers khichri

Bhopal, Oct. 6: Uma Bharti, the BJP’s chief ministerial candidate in Madhya Pradesh, has decided to call off a dinner she was hosting for state IAS and IPS officers, alleging that chief minister Digvijay Singh was intimidating the bureaucracy.

Instead of the dinner, she would treat them to “khichri” on Makar Sankranti on January 13, by when a new government would be in place in Bhopal, she said.

In a letter addressed to all IAS and IPS officers, Bharti regretted that she was forced to call off the dinner but clarified that she wanted to save the state bureaucracy from intimidation. The BJP leader claimed she had received several complaints that senior officials were informally told not to attend the dinner.

In Vallabh Bhavan, however, there was a sigh of relief as more and more bureaucrats said they did not relish the prospect of attending a dinner laced with controversy.

While serving officers chose to speak in private, retired bureaucrats like former chief secretary M.. Buch publicly questioned the rationale for hosting such a dinner when elections were round the corner.

Buch regretted that political parties were trying to “politicise” the bureaucracy without bothering about its consequences.

The Bharti camp, however, justified the move saying it had not expected the Digvijay regime to “browbeat” the bureaucracy and make it a “sort of trial of strength” between the BJP and the Congress.

The chief minister, who is busy chalking out election strategy with party chief Sonia Gandhi in Delhi, was not available for comment.

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