The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Pockets picked at BJP protest
There goes the phone' A man at the
NDA rally. (AFP)

New Delhi, June 12: The National Democratic Alliance leadership sounded the war bugle and marched in the blazing sun this morning to express anger at the government picking the people’s pocket with its oil-price caper.

In the end, they found their own pockets emptied by some smart cutpurses.

At least 25 members of Parliament lost about 50 mobile phones (they carry several), a couple of watches and some wallets in the mass pickpocketing that took place within yards of a police station.

After the smooth operators ' a term often used to describe politicians ' decamped with the booty, a trail of sufferers surfaced in each of the NDA’s constituents ' the BJP, Biju Janata Dal and Janata Dal (United).

Ravi Shankar Prasad lost his phone, so did Prakash Javadekar, Pyare Lal Khandelwal, S.S. Ahluwalia and Satya Narain Jatiya, among others, in the BJP.

Brija Kumar Tripathi of the BJD and K.C. Tyagi and Shambhu Srivastava of the JD (U) had their phones and wallets taken.

Atal Bihari Vajpayee and L. K. Advani escaped only because of the tight SPG cover around them.

The leaders had gathered at the Jantar Mantar crossing to address a rally against the petrol price hike. After Vajpayee, Advani and others dismissed the government’s policies as a “joke” ' raising the oil price first and then getting Congress-ruled states to lighten the sales tax burden ' the protesters marched. The police stopped them and everyone courted arrest.

No sooner had they walked inside the police station than Ravi Shankar Prasad felt for his cell phone. “I felt in the right pocket, it wasn’t there. I frantically searched in the left and realised that I’d lost it. Just as I had started complaining, I realised two-three others were missing their phones as well,” he said.

Former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Kailash Joshi’s secretary Hukum Singh was carrying Joshi’s phone. Hukum Singh realised someone was feeling his pocket and went for the hand. But the pickpocket dropped the mobile and disappeared. Jatiya had his wristwatch unclasped while he walked into the police station.

Some BJP workers alleged a “Congress conspiracy”. Senior leader M. Venkaiah Naidu dismissed the talk. “It is stupid to even suggest it. They are not so cheap.”

Naidu, you see, wasn’t a victim.

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