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Free for all                 Virendra Kapoor
   February 2, 2002

Are we turning into a nation of freeloaders?

It would appear so, if you go by the way the high and mighty of the land grabbed tickets for the recent India-England one-dayer at Delhi's Ferozeshah Kotla stadium.

The stadium being one of the smallest venues for first class cricket matches in the country, only 26,000 tickets were printed. Of these, more than 16,000 were given as compliments!

Office-bearers of the Delhi and District Cricket Association apportioned the lion's share among themselves depending on their clout and, in turn, distributed them to friends, relatives and others.

DDCA president Arun Jaitley, who also happens to be the Union minister for law, justice and company affairs, had a tough time fobbing off requests for complimentary tickets. There were his ministerial colleagues (who wanted tens of tickets), senior officials in the Prime Minister's Office (who weren't so bad), and, of course, party colleagues (who were the worst).

Jaitley's friends in the Bharatiya Janata Party were of the firm belief that they should have free run of the Kotla ground. A senior BJP official put the logic behind this reasoning thus:

"We are now in power and people close to us would expect us to make arrangements for them to watch the match."

Next, there were the members of the fourth estate. Overnight, there was a spurt in the number of sports journalists, with one leading English daily claiming 11 on its rolls, and that all 11 must be permitted to cover the match! Self-important editors, who normally pontificate from ivory chambers, too came down to earth, er, the ground.

In other words, the real cricket-lovers, the young fans who wanted to see Sachin Tendulkar in action, were short-changed by the cricket administrators. And, mind you, the story is the more or less the same in other Test and one-day centres across the country.

My good friend Vajpayee

Atal Bihari Vajpayee Politicians are big suckers for hangers-on. Atal Bihari Vajpayee is no different, and that could explain the many durbaris at his court.

Most of them had latched on to him when he was on his way to power. But there is one man who has known him for long.

Scion of an illustrious family, he is a Mumbai-based industrialist, and is known to have exploited his Vajpayee connection to the hilt.

Then there is another one, again from Mumbai, whose conversation is always peppered with anecdotes of his good 'friend' Vajpayee.

But then, such people are very common on the sidelines of power. In fact, you will find many, many of them in Delhi who try and make the best of their nodding acquaintance with a member or two of Vajpayee's foster family.

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