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A day in the life of Manmohan

Last updated on: May 21, 2004 09:24 IST

On Tuesday, frenzied mobs of party workers almost tore down the briefing room at the 24 Akbar Road Congress office roaring, "Sonia nahin to sarkar nahin (No Sonia, no government)."
On Thursday, the same Congress workers walked up the short distance from Akbar Road to the 19 Safdarjung Road residence of Manmohan Singh with flowers. They came with lilies, roses and garlands of marigold.
"Saade kul de hain, Doctor Saheb (The Doctor belongs to our family)," one of them said proudly, in the same breath confessing that he had sat on hunger strike to persuade Sonia Gandhi to become prime minister "Assi fail ho gaye (We failed)," he said, "magar theek banda aa gaya (but the right guy has been chosen)".

Manmohan Singh was hugged, pinched, shaken so much by the hand that he could barely hold bouquets. He went through the same routine in 1998 when he fought the Lok Sabha election against V K Malhotra from South Delhi and lost.
Then, he looked grumpy and complained his hands ached. Today, because he is the victor, he smiled through the punishment. "Interview?" he was asked. "Please forgive me today," he said smiling. "Maybe tomorrow." Never has a refusal sounded sweeter.
All the Congress chief ministers and their rivals came to play the hail-the- chief tune. Virbhadra Singh arrived from Himachal. If Amrinder Singh came at 10.00 am, Rajinder Kaur Bhattal was there at 8.00 am with a box of sweets.
SM Krishna came without accompanying rivals and Sheila Dikshit made it clear that she had come to meet Manmohan Singh, but more than that, Mrs Singh. The two women slung their arms around each other and rapid-fire Punjabi was exchanged.
Padmini Kolhapure didn't come but flowers sent by her arrived, something exotic, blue. The media, never one to miss a photo-op, could not click the actress so they made up by clicking her peon instead.
They also interviewed Singh's grandson Raghav -- a student in Class VIII -- asking him questions like whether he thought the parliamentary or the presidential form of government was better. Raghav, about to expound on this, was summoned by his mother Upinder, Singh's eldest daughter, and given a dressing down.

K Natwar Singh and Arjun Singh also arrived in the morning and went directly to Singh's book-lined study. When they came out, the TV cameras gravitated towards them.

 "We are involved with government formation said Natwar Singh. "Where are you," a reporter asked ill-advisedly, meaning whether was he going to become a minister? Natwar Singh stared at him for a minute and snapped: "Nowhere". Just that remark betrayed the tension that everyone was under.

Digvijay Singh, Anand Sharma, and Ram Niwas Mirdha also called on Singh. Former home secretary N N Vora was among the prominent bureaucrats, present and past.

Agricultural economist G S Bhalla was one of the earliest to arrive, and Singh's stint in JNU was on everyone's mind, including those IPS officers who were in charge of Singh's security.
Now and again, assorted crowds of men with hennaed hair, wearing large gold chains and silk shirts would shout: "Bole so Nihal". "Sat Sri Akal" the crowd would roar back. A messenger of a prominent chamber of industry arrived but he would not be let inside by security. "But I come here almost every day," he said plaintively.

There was a large contingent of people from Assam and the Northeast. By the end of the day the lawns were strewn with the trademark Assamese gamusa.

BS Bureau in New Delhi