In this season of wedding celebrations, one significant alliance that Mumbai missed out on was the wedding of Maha CM Prithviraj Chavan’s architect daughter Ankita with IT professional Prakhar Bhandari — he’s the scion of an Amritsar-based business family. The calculatedly “simple” marriage ceremony, which was organised at Chavan’s still-to-be-vacated official residence at 11 Racecourse Road in Delhi, was followed up by a reception there the next day, attended by political leaders cutting across party lines. But while Sonia Gandhi turned up with son Rahul and joined Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in rubbing shoulders with Opposition leaders LK Advani and Nitin Gadkari, alliance partner NCP’s chief Sharad Pawar and deputy Maha CM Ajit Pawar were conspicuous by their absence.
In fact, not a single NCP leader was among the guests. For political observers, attendance at such private functions has always been the surest give-away of personal equations not readily apparent during day- time political posturing. The fact that Chavan chose to relocate the marriage of his daughter to Delhi instead of holding it in the state he rules is, with reason, being interpreted as a clear sign of his comfort level in Mumbai — or lack of it.
While Delhi journalists, administrators and politicians who Chavan cemented relationships with during his stint in the PMO received invites, most of his own Cabinet colleagues from Mumbai were missing.Though we hear that local leaders had been gearing up for a big reception at the RWITC grounds in Mumbai, an “image-conscious” Chavan had a last-minute change of plan, opting for a modest reception for limited guests in Colaba almost as if to get done with the formality. Ironically, he’s pulling out all stops for the third and most ambitious reception of them all which is scheduled to be held at his hometown Karad this Sunday. An estimated 50,000 people from in and around Satara are likely to attend the grand feast on December 22. For his many detractors who’ll be raising a din about the lavish scale of the celebrations at “a time like this”, the Chief Minister does have some political logic to throw at them — he’s likely to contest assembly elections from that area. Hmm.