The Telegraph
Sunday , February 21 , 2010
Since 1st March, 1999
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Cold comfort

Sarojini Naidu had once remarked that it cost a fortune to keep the Mahatma in poverty. Organizers of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Indore conclave have now learnt that it also costs a lot to house netas in supposedly humble tents. In a bid to prove that the BJP believes in simple living and high thinking, most party leaders in Indore have shunned all kinds of five-star comfort. But their frugal tastes have not minimized expenses. Thousands have been spent to erect fancy jute tents, complete with modern amenities such as attached toilets, visitors’ sections and so on. Some partymen have been heard saying that the cost of putting up delegates in expensive hotels would have been far lower. Meanwhile, many of the delegates, unused to such ‘comfort’, found the going tough. Due to a sudden drop in temperature, a number of senior leaders found it difficult to sleep at night and ordered extra blankets to keep themselves warm. In the morning, some of the delegates discovered that the filtered water in bottles — the ordinary water supplied to the tents was suspected to be unsafe — which had been stored by leaders to brush their teeth, had frozen. But there were also plenty of takers for this novel experience. Hema Malini and Smriti Irani enjoyed their stay in tents, but Shatrughan Sinha shifted to a hotel. Let’s just blame his escape on starry tantrums.

Different results

Not every politician has a similar style of functioning. The Haryana chief minister, Bhupinder Singh Hooda, recently celebrated his son’s pre-wedding lunch in grand style. The affair in Rohtak saw helicopters swooping down on the town, BMWs thundering on its streets and a huge gathering making its way to the pandal. Such was the pomp and show that work came to a standstill even in neighbouring towns such as Panchkula and Chandigarh. Meanwhile, the big event coincided with the wedding reception of Union minister of state, Jitin Prasada, in New Delhi. The barat, devoid of party heavyweights, arrived at Akbar Road with only a few young MPs. The media were kept at bay for the sake of privacy. The following day, the celebrations shifted to a Union minister’s house, but there were no signs of a VVIP enclosure or a stage. The verdict? Madam, who was a guest at the Delhi do, is said to have been pleased with Jitin for keeping the event low-key. But she is supposedly cross with Bhupinder for his extravagant display in Rohtak.

Strange topics

At a meeting summoned by the parliamentary affairs minister, Pawan Bansal, on the eve of the budget session, the representative of the Rashtriya Janata Dal stated that he will raise issues related to climate change and genetically-modified crops. Keeping in mind MK Azhagiri’s unwillingness to speak in any other language except Tamil, partymen hailing from the DMK and the MDMK demanded that Parliament permit simultaneous translation facilities in all 14 officially recognized regional languages. All this makes us wonder whether our leaders are interested in debating price rise or Maoist violence.

Lonely leader

Not many have joined ND Tiwari’s Nirantar Vikas Samiti, but the former governor seldom misses an opportunity to attend public functions. On one such occasion, Tiwari chanced upon Margaret Alva, the current governor of Uttarakhand. Unable to contain his emotions on meeting a party member, a tear-eyed Tiwari rushed to meet Alva who, however, moved away. It is time for him to shed some more tears, say Tiwari’s opponents.

Silent exchange

Montek Singh Ahluwalia’s Planning Commission is reportedly finding it difficult to elicit information from the surface transport ministry headed by Kamal Nath. So much so that a Planning Commission official invoked the RTI Act for the purpose. And we thought that this piece of legislation was meant to deal with stubborn babus only?

New faith

Is the diplomat-turned-politician, Shashi Tharoor, a devotee of Lord Shiva? Apparently, on Shivratri, Tharoor visited a temple dedicated to the deity and later tweeted that the purohit and the minister were the only two male members in the throng. Surely this isn’t the last of Tharoor’s temple trips.

Bright idea

Didi is still trying to bury the ghost of Singur. Keen to shed her anti-industry image, she organized an industry meet in the capital the other day. Mamata Banerjee hoped to fulfill two objectives in the course of the exercise: sort out the problems industrial houses faced while doing business with the railways and attract further private investment. Even as the top railways officials sat on stage, Banerjee got up all of a sudden, vacated her front-row seat and moved behind. Apparently, she had got irritated because the sun’s rays were hurting her eyes. Meanwhile, seeing Didi retreat to the back rows, the officials broke out in sweat. They did not know whether to follow her or remain on stage. Thankfully, Banerjee came to their rescue soon. As the sun moved, the lady returned to her designated spot that was now in shade.

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