The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Chair chase for Uma

Bhopal, Dec. 22: She has won the throne, but can’t find a chair.

Uma Bharti’s march to the hot seat may have been a cakewalk, but the man she unseated didn’t leave without a parting kick: he took away the chair he had occupied for 10 long years.

A search is now on for a suitable chair for “Madam chief minister” in Vallabh Bhavan, which houses the Madhya Pradesh secretariat.

It’s not that Digvijay Singh has taken the chair away to spite the woman who ended his dreams of a third stint at the helm. The chair, sources said, was a “personal effect” gifted by a Congress worker which was particularly comforting during bouts of severe neck pain and lumbago.

So Digvijay had no choice but to walk away with the chair even though he has decided after the drubbing at the polls not to opt for a “chair” for 10 years.

Digvijay’s chair was a specially designed one. The former chief minister, who suffers from constant back and neck pain, would complain about the curved wooden chair he used to sit on till one of his associate got him a “perfect” one that was supposed to have cost him Rs 10,000. The chair suited Digvijay, as his physiotherapist had taught him the “Alexander Technique” about how to sit upright and easily for long hours.

Senior IAS officials and BJP leaders, desperate to please the new chief minister, are now looking for an equally “perfect chair” for Uma. Sources said more than a dozen chairs — ranging from Rs 250 to Rs 12,000 — were shown to her, but she did not like any.

Some of the more hi-tech ones included Shiatsu chairs, which are supposed to increase blood circulation, remove toxins, improve skin tone and digestion, supply nutrients, provide relief from back pain, enhance sleep and relax the nervous system.

The officials then placed an executive revolving chair, but Uma rejected that, too, preferring to function from an ordinary wooden chair with a nylon base. The hunt for a suitable chair is thus on. In fact, it has reached Delhi now.

While Uma waits for a comfortable, efficiency-boosting chair, her party is gearing up to enhance the moral fibre of its legislators.

The BJP think tank has decided to hold a “training session” for its 172 MLAs in the state with emphasis on probity in public life. The aim is to warn the 90 first-timers against possible sting operations.

The two-day session is the brainchild of the RSS, which is perceived to be running the Uma government by proxy. The MLAs would be asked to attend the session, where BJP national chief M. Venkaiah Naidu and senior leader Bala Apte would coach them on how to maintain decorum.

A brief prepared for the training session specially mentions moral degradation that could set in and the possibility of getting “framed”.

It refers to “wine, women and wealth” to harp on the theme of propriety, decency and decorum in public life. The MLAs are expected not to visit hotels and see “strangers” or “women not acquainted”, accept cash or expensive gifts. All donations to the party have to be routed through proper channels and preferably in cheque.

BJP insiders said the need for “moral policing” has become compulsory after the “cash on camera” episode involving Dilip Singh Judeo, who had to resign as Union minister after the scandal broke.

“First of all, in public life, we are perceived to be different,” said a senior state BJP leader, explaining the need for such training sessions. “Moreover, our upbringing is such that it does not permit us to indulge in such activities.”

He added that after the Judeo episode, “we have realised that our political opponents are zealously trying to trap us” to give the BJP a bad name.

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