Guwahati, May 9: It is not everyday that a shiny, black BMW enters one of the narrow lanes at Nandan Nagar in Sarumataria. It is also not everyday that Assam’s most famous tenant comes home.
The usually quiet Guwahati locality sprang to life today when a bullet-proof BMW, hemmed in by a cavalcade of vehicles, came to a halt in front of the house that is mentioned in official documents as the private residence of the Prime Minister.
Manmohan Singh, the state’s long-time representative in the Rajya Sabha, was paying a visit to his sparsely furnished two-room apartment before filing his nomination for another term in the Upper House of Parliament. It was the first time that he was coming “home” since becoming Prime Minister in 2004.
Singh’s landlady, late chief minister Hiteswar Saikia’s wife Hemoprova, was not at home though. She left Guwahati on a tour of Europe yesterday, leaving son Debobrata with the responsibility of making the arrangements for Singh’s homecoming.
Skirting the apartment with the innocuous nameplate “M.M. Singh,” the Prime Minister entered the Saikias’ residence first with media adviser Sanjaya Baru and private secretary B.V.R. Subrahmanyam in tow.
Debobroto had kept some tender coconuts ready, remembering that his family’s tenant prefers to cool off with chilled daab on a hot summer’s day. Singh did not disappoint him, asking for a daab even before he was offered one.
“Madam (Manmohan Singh’s wife Gursharan Kaur, not Sonia Gandhi) gave me a call last night. She was not sure whether the Prime Minister would pay a visit (to his apartment) because of security reasons. But this morning, I got another call which confirmed that he was coming,” Debobrata said later.
Hemoprova had written to the Prime Minister a few days ago, informing him that her son would be at home if he wished to drop by.
The décor in Singh’s apartment was minimal. Two sofas, a tea table, a bed and a rack containing a few books, including the Guru Granth Sahib, made up the furniture. A portrait of Guru Nanak and the Prime Minister’s own picture were the only frames adorning the walls.
Singh picked up his own photograph and gazed at it for a few moments before telling Debobrata and his aides where it had been taken. “It is me at a gurdwara at Nandial in Maharashtra.”
He also glanced at the titles of a few books on the rack during the 20 minutes he spent at the apartment, for which he reportedly pays a monthly rent of only Rs 700.
Government spokesman and minister Ripun Bora said the Prime Minister became “very emotional” during a CLP meeting later in the day. “He recalled his association with the state for more than one-and-a-half decades. He wants to spend the rest of his life here.”
What Bora did not say was that Singh has yet to spend a single night in the apartment that is his “home” in the city.