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Tenting to the masses

india Updated: Jan 19, 2009 13:31 IST

Bihar chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s decision to go on a month-long ‘tent yatra’ has kicked off a row. He will spend time with poor villagers, stay in makeshift houses, and hold janata durbars en route. While he says he wants to better understand the people’s problems by living in their company, both the Opposition and ally BJP, see it as a “state-sponsored picnic” before the Lok Sabha polls. The CM’s entourage will be housed in high-quality tents and tastefully designed Swiss cottages, with huge pandals, including a kitchen, a generator room, scores of bathrooms and 16 sentry posts with barbed wires on all sides, said RJD’s spokesman Shyam Rajak. Ah yes, nothing like that common touch.

Many hats in the ring

British foreign Secretary David Miliband’s recent visit to Congress heir apparent Rahul Gandhi’s constituency, Amethi, seemed rather unexpected. Going by the body language of the two young leaders, it was quite evident that they shared a great chemistry. Asked to comment on Miliband’s impressions of Amethi, UPA president Sonia Gandhi said, “I haven’t met Rahul after his visit. But Miliband and he have known each other for a while.” When HT asked her what she thought of two young aspiring prime ministers (Rahul and Miliband) on the same platform, Sonia burst into laughter and said, “There are many aspiring prime ministers in this country!”

Setting the stage

Defence minister AK Antony bowled over BJP leader L.K. Advani with his courtesy at an Army Day function hosted by Army Chief General Deepak Kapoor. As they waited for the President to arrive, the VVIPs present — including the Prime Minister, Vice-President, Cabinet ministers and the Service chiefs — were all exchanging pleasantries on the stage. Antony noticed that Advani was missing and was mingling with the crowd of defence officers. The minister wasted no time in escorting Advani to the stage. When Antony was Kerala CM in the late 1970s, the state became the first to give Cabinet rank to the Leader of the Opposition.

Not coming to nought

Former Indian High Commissioner to Britain, PC Alexander, spoke at length about the past greatness of India at the recently-concluded diaspora meet in Chennai. But he had the audience in splits when he said, “Our ancestors invented zero and chess. We are champions of chess today, but I hope we never become champions of ‘zero’.”

That home alone feeling

J&K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah doesn’t want to vacate his present three-bedroom house at Gupkar Road in Srinagar. But it seems he will be ‘forced’ to shift to the palatial Hari Niwas complex, which was recently renovated at a cost of Rs 11 crore. The Special Security Group considers his current residence ‘insecure’, lacking ‘depth of the area’, with little space to accommodate security guards and apparatus. “I would prefer to stay at my present residence. I have a small family; my two children will be lost in that huge house. If security would allow me I would continue to stay at my residence,” Omar had said after becoming the Chief Minister. Dogra ruler Hari Singh had built Hari Niwas for his wife Tara Devi. But prior to its renovation, security forces were using the building as an interrogation centre.