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Jeans no, but fashion yes, yes: Indian MPs

Indian politicians these days no longer stick to boring white kurta-pyjamas, staid bandhgalas and light-coloured saris.
IANS | By Liz Mathew, New Delhi
UPDATED ON MAR 26, 2007 02:37 PM IST

Indian politicians are no longer fashion agnostics. Most don't stick stubbornly to boring white kurta-pyjamas, staid bandhgalas and light-coloured saris anymore.

Parliamentary decorum does hold them back from being too flamboyant or sporting jeans, but MPs certainly don't shy away from making their unique style statement.

Parliament today boasts of Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, often praised for her haute couture; film star-turned-politician Jaya Prada, who was bold enough to introduce glamour in power circles; communist MP Suresh Kurup, who has no qualms about donning branded shirts; and Ramdas Athawale, who does not mind entering the house in bright Bollywood-inspired attire.

Gandhi, who apparently inherited a wide-range of cotton and silk saris and shawls from her mother-in-law late prime minister Indira Gandhi, is never seen shabbily dressed.

Her neat hairstyle and always-in-place sari have become a talking point for designers as well as politicians. Most women MPs discreetly admit that Sonia Gandhi's modest-but-elegant style make her a fashion leader in the house.

Her MP son Rahul, in his crisp cotton kurta-pyjamas in khadi and malmal, makes a fashion statement of his own.

Erstwhile Gwalior royal family scion Jyotiraditya Scindia captivates with his unique jackets and Gucci sunglasses.

"Politicians will always try and reflect the aspirations of their people. If you observe that there is a change of style among them, that's probably because his or her constituent has also evolved in terms of fashion or style," says Milind Deora, a young Congress MP.

Parliament members no more believe that fashion is a loaded word.

"As long as you take your responsibilities seriously, there could be some fun in dressing up. You do not have to be serious in your attire as well," says Prema Cariappa, a Congress Rajya Sabha MP. She herself always takes extra care to put on matching accessories with her colourful saris.

If Women and Child Development Minister Renuka Choudhury draws attention with her carefully careless style and bright coloured saris she reportedly picks up from weavers in Andhra Pradesh, her colleague D Purandareshwari, a junior minister, always looks elegant in her vibrant saris.

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Sushma Swaraj inspires with her impeccable cotton and silk saris and the famous vermilion on her forehead. Bollywood stars-turned-MPs — Jaya Bachchan and Hema Malini — have their own signature styles.

Preneeth Kaur, a Patiala royal family member and wife of former Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh, carries her chiffon salwar-kurtis with matching handbags and Poverty Alleviation Minister S Shelja looks graceful in her salwar suits with neatly folded dupattas and colourful handbags.

Actress-turned-politician Jaya Prada may have been the first woman MP who dared to come in trouser suits to the Lok Sabha — something later followed by Priya Dutt, an MP from Mumbai.

Former MP and Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje Scindia is even known to have walked the ramp.

Among the male MPs, Biju Janata Dal MP Tathagata Sathpaty sheepishly admits to only wearing kurtas designed by his pretty wife Adyasha. "She has completely spoiled me. I refuse to wear normal kurtas now," says Sathpathy, who edits the Oriya daily Dharitri.

Trinamool Congress MP Dinesh Trivedi, in his bright-coloured and designer kurtis, looks as serious as any of his kurta-clad colleagues.

"You do not have to be formal always. There is no need for being in uniform in Parliament. You can give out a different look. But you cannot cross the lakshman rekha (line) of decorum."

There are members like Manvendra Singh, an MP from Barmer, Rajasthan, who makes sure he reflects his roots by wearing colourful five-metre-long turbans.

Although MPs from Tamil Nadu rarely defy the state dress code of a white mundu and shirt, Kerala and Karnataka MPs seem to be more experimental.

Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) MP Suresh Kurup, who is from Kerala and is easily one of the best-dressed in the Lok Sabha, stands out as he flaunts his branded shirts, designer pens and expensive watches — things that are taboo for most communists.

"As the old Devdas image has changed to that of a well-dressed person (as portrayed by Shah Rukh Khan in a film by the same name), politicians are no longer expected to be in torn kurtas!" said businessman and Vijaywawada MP L Rajagopal.

"For the people, we too live in a fantasy world. So they want us to be well-dressed," he said.

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