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The BMW dilemma

June 09, 2004 08:19 IST

Six BMWs and nowhere to go! That was the dilemma in the Prime Minister's Officea few days ago.

Although now, after a great deal of persuasion, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has consented to use six specially imported BMWs, just days ago, he had refused to use any of them and asked that the sturdy Ambassador be procured for him.

It was quite a struggle for bureaucrats in the Prime Minister's Office to convince Singh that it would be in everybody's interest if he were to use the Beemers (as they are called in American slang).

The decision to import BMWs was taken by the last government on the basis of threat perception to the prime minister and the fact that bulletproofing of the Ambassador made it heavy and unwieldy. Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee used them for a few months.

But Singh first mentioned that he did not want to travel in BMWs, when he had just been appointed to the job. He tried to donate them back to Vajpayee and offered them to United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi. Both refused to use them.

With greatest reluctance, the prime minister is now using them, though he has confessed to colleagues that he is most uncomfortable in them.

But his family is still using the old cars. His wife was spotted shopping for vegetables in Delhi's Khan Market, in an Ambassador.

His eldest daughter Upinder, who dropped into the India International Centre to buy pastries for the family, confessed with an impish smile that she had "lost her bodyguard" and virtually had to coax an ancient Ambassador into starting.

"We will never get used to this," sighed Upinder when asked if the family was enjoying its new status.
BS Political Bureau in New Delhi