The Telegraph
Saturday , March 8 , 2014
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Catfight holds up women’s day event

New Delhi, March 7: Women’s Day is set to be celebrated 12 days too late by the National Commission for Women because of a catfight at the helm.

NCW chairperson Mamta Sharma and joint secretary Sunita H. Khurana have been eyeball-to-eyeball over the choice of venue for the celebrations.

While Mamta, whose term ends in July, wanted a high-voltage event at Talkatora Stadium, Sunita was not agreeable, sources said.

The joint secretary wrote, in a file noting, that it was not tenable to hold the event at the stadium as the model code of conduct, which kicks in after elections are announced, bans public meetings.

Asked what had become of the NCW celebrations, Mamta, however, said they would be held on March 20 at Vigyan Bhavan, the standard venue for such events. But she did not cover up her differences with Sunita.

“It’s a shame that the NCW is celebrating Women’s Day late. The venue and the dates should have been fixed in January and the schedule should have been finalised by now,” Mamta said.

“It is the joint secretary’s fault as she should have made sure things were in place for the event. If the NCW doesn’t hold a Women’s Day event, who will? I will attend the event only because this year is special for me.”

Sources said Mamta wanted to ensure a memorable exit for herself by holding the event at Talkatora stadium, which recently hosted the AICC conference and the BJP national council meeting.

“She (Mamta) wanted a grand send-off. But it wasn’t to be. She wanted to hold a rally with women from across the country celebrating womanhood. This year is special because her tenure is ending,” said an official close to Mamta.

Sources close to Sunita — she was not available for comment — said the chairperson had been adamant on either the Talkatora stadium or Ashoka Hotel, but both would have cost way more than the NCW budget.

When Sunita expressed her reservations, Mamta sent her a four-page note saying her “negative approach” was affecting the commission, the sources said. From then on, Mamata “would not have anything to do with the planning of the event”, she said.

“The delay in celebrations was an internal problem. First, they started looking for a venue late; then, when they zeroed in on some places, neither agreed on themů. Then, there was the question of pre-booking. This happens when an organisation has no system in place,” a source said.

It is not clear if the March 20 programme at Vigyan Bhavan will be affected by the model code. The women’s ministry, which holds its own celebrations, today changed the venue of its programme tomorrow from Vigyan Bhavan — it has a big hall — to the smaller Durbar Hall in Rashtrapati Bhavan. A ministry spokesperson said the model code had forced the change.