Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, man who controls government spending, made headlines, travelling economy class to Kolkata Saturday last. In case you wonder if it was a one-day, one-way wonder done for media effect, Pranab-bhai’s office told The Hindu that the minister would return to New Delhi, also in economy class.
Mocking at Mr Mukherjee’s austerity call, Karnataka’s Deve Gowda offered to give up his MP’s salary, if it would help the economy. Travelling economy class was another matter. Mr Gowda wanted to know if an elderly person with pain in the joints wasn’t entitled to a mode of travel that “allows me to stretch my legs”. Mr Gowda has a point. He is entitled to his comforts.
But then Mr Gowda, has-been PM and now MP, could emulate fellow Kannadiga and external affairs Minister S M Krishna; and foot his own biils, to stay in accustomed comfort. Mr Gowda could do the same, and fly business-class, if he feels entitled to more leg space . Mr Krishna and his deputy in the ministry Sashi Tharoor are reported to be staying in star hotels in New Delhi at their own expense.
Deccan Herald ran a story on the lifestyle of yet another Kannadiga, the late S Nijalingappa. He, unlike Mr Gowda, didn’t think of entitlement as has-been CM. Mr Nijalingappa, after having been chief minister, declined the offer of a government house in Bangalore; and he didn’t accept treatment at a private super-speciality hospital at government expense. Mr Nijalingappa had himself admitted at a government hospital for treatment of a fracture at an advanced age.
A chief minister in office who led a life way too simple for the position he held was Nripen Chakraborty of Tripura. As CM Mr Chakraborty stayed in a room at his party office. At the end of his term as chief minister he shited from CPI-M office to MLA quarters, according to Mr R Sankaran who was Tripura chief secretary during Mr Chakraborthy’s tenure. On his transfer from Tripura, Mr Sankaran was invited to a farewell dinner by CM, at which he was served the same quality rice that was supplied to ration-card holders under the public distribution system.
Mr Sankaran recalled that he was invited to a breakfast Mr chakraborty hosted for a visiting central minister, Mr Raghunatha Reddy. Menu – two gulab jamoons with tea. The minister, unaware of CM’s style, was waiting for more till Mr Sankaran whispered to Mr Reddy in Telugu that nothing else was on the menu. At this the union minister was reported to have observed that the communists were entitled to their austere ways, but they could do with a good breakfast.