The who’s who of Indian politics converged on Wankhede Stadium to watch the World Cup final on Saturday.
President Pratibha Patil hosted her Sri Lankan counterpart Mahinda Rajapaksa. They were accompanied by their families and staff. Mayor Shraddha Jadhav, who had objected to her not being given a seat alongside Patil, got her way and accompanied India’s first citizen.
Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi watched the match with friends. Union minister and former state chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, who also is Mumbai Cricket Association vice-president, was at the stadium with his wife Vaishali. His Cabinet colleague Farooq Abdullah was there too.
The entire Maharashtra Cabinet travelled to the stadium in luxury buses to get around the parking mess and watched the encounter from an enclosure below the press box.
International Cricket Council chief Sharad Pawar, who also heads the Nationalist Congress Party, played the perfect host. Most of his party leaders were there to witness the action.
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Nitin Gadkari, senior party leader LK Advani and his family, BJP leader Arun Jaitley and Shahnawaz Hussain were there too. Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi was expected to join them later in the evening. The BJP’s Eknath Khadse, who has been alleging that Pawar was linked to those accused in the 2G spectrum scam, was politely refused entry when he landed up at the wrong gate. He was escorted to the right entrance and let in.
Shiv Sena executive president Uddhav Thackeray, his family and senior party leaders cheered the home team. Uddhav’s estranged cousin, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena president Raj Thackeray, chose to watch the match at home. He was likely to visit Shivaji Park, where his party had arranged for a public screening of the match.
While the match organisers had sorted out the problems in getting passes for state legislators by Friday night, most of them had left Mumbai in view of the three-day break in the ongoing Budget Session of the Legislature. Those in the city caught the action from the stands. Among them were Baba Siddique, Amin Patel, Krishna Hegde, Aslam Sheikh and Nilesh Parvekar.
State Congress general secretary Sanjay Dutt said he had given a party colleague his ticket because he wanted to prepare for a party meeting on April 6. “I’m watching the match on TV and working as well,” he said.