The white towel: unveiling the symbol of Indian power politics | india | Hindustan Times
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The white towel: unveiling the symbol of Indian power politics

india Updated: May 29, 2014 23:22 IST
HT Correspondent
towels on ministers' chairs

Why, have you ever wondered, do almost all seats of government power in India come draped in milky white Turkish towels? Be it the plush U-bend chairs in their offices or the bucket seats of their official cars, the white towel perhaps conjures up for ordinary citizens the most powerful symbol of the ruling elite in this country.

From rummaging through the government’s Warrant of Protocol to sifting through anecdotal evidence, trying to find an answer to this strange obsession of the Indian power elites would prove an impossible task.

By one account, the white towels are apparently a hand-me-down from the World War II days when some natty British soldiers and American GIs had them placed on their staff cars. Others, however, say it’s just one more colonial hangover.

A third explanation is more relevant: A white towel simply represents an invisible screen that separates the ruler from the ruled, a new identity maker in the strictly hierarchical nature of Indian power politics, an unspoken political caste system.

For instance, it is most likely that at any government function, the central chair, occupied by the most powerful in that gathering, has the brightest white towel on it. The ones on the left and right can have towels which are slightly smaller, or less white, or of lesser quality, depending on who occupies the chair.

Anyway while you rack your brains over this unique tool of discrimination among India power elites, HT leaves you with some funny tweets on white towels and their new owners in the Modi government.

Omar Abdullah's tweet: Why is it the order of things to sit on a chair draped with a towel in Govt offices? Are the chairs not clean? Do the towels hide stains?

The following politicians had white towels for their high-seats all pressed and ready for them when the assumed office:

Home minister Rajnath Singh.

Finance, corporate affairs and defence minister Arun Jaitley.
Consumers affairs minister Ram Vilas Paswan.

Women and child development minister Maneka Gandhi.

Railways minister DV Sadananda Gowda.

Water resources, river development and Ganga rejuvenation minister.