It’s a low-key Holi for political leaders (Roundup)

March 11th, 2009 - 8:32 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, March 11 (IANS) Holi, celebrated by many political leaders with much fanfare every year, was a sombre affair Wednesday with leaders of major political parties refraining from all-out revelry.
While Congress president Sonia Gandhi met schoolchildren at her residence and received some party leaders, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader L.K. Advani decided against celebrating the festival of colours in homage to those killed in the Nov 26 Mumbai terrorist attack.

The day was a dull affair even at the home of Railways Minister and Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Lalu Prasad though the Holi celebrations at his Patna home are usually a spectacle. He and his supporters spray colours with such enthusiasm that they often tear each other’s kurta - it is popularly called ‘kurta-faad’ Holi.

All this was missing this year.

Lalu Prasad spent some time at the official residence of his wife, former Bihar chief minister Rabri Devi. In the evening, party workers spent an hour with them, dancing and greeting one another.

In Uttar Pradesh, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) leader and Chief Minister Mayawati spent her day carrying out official work from home. “There was no celebration at all. No colours, nothing,” Navneet Sehgal, a secretary to the chief minister, told IANS.

He said there was no specific reason for not celebrating the festival.

“It was just that she was busy,” Sehgal added. Except for a few officials who went to see her on official work, there were no party leaders visiting as most of them were touring their constituencies to prepare for the April-May Lok Sabha elections.

Tom Vadakkan, media secretary of the Congress party, said Sonia Gandhi met schoolchildren on Holi and some party leaders also came calling.

On Tuesday, Gandhi described Holi as a festival that “not only promotes communal harmony but also brings cheer and infuses among the people the fundamental and eternal values enshrined in our ancient Indian culture”.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who stepped out of home for the first time since his cardiac bypass surgery in January, called on President Pratibha Patil and exchanged with her Holi greetings.

He also discussed “matters of national and international importance”, an official communique said. The two leaders met for about half hour, the statement said.

“The president was very happy that the prime minister was in good spirits,” a Rashtrapati Bhavan official added.

BJP leader Advani did not play Holi and a notice on the gate of his residence here said: “Due to the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack, Shri Advani and family are not celebrating Holi this year.”

More than 170 people, including 26 foreigners, were killed when terrorists who India said were Pakistanis went on a killing spree in Mumbai.

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