HYDERABAD: The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) spent about Rs 1.4 crore on 20 lavish dinners hosted for its UPA allies in recent years, it said in a recent reply to an RTI query, but turned down requests to reveal the minutes of meetings and private parties involved in organizing these dinners.
Interestingly, lakhs were also spent on organizing dinner for the Left coordination committee in mid 2007, months before the communists eventually pulled out of the government, protesting the landmark civil nuclear cooperation deal with the United States of America.
Activists said the tax payers’ money was being used by leaders for political gains at a time when the nation was battling inflation, poverty and food crisis. The dinners hosted by the PMO between 2004 and 2013 were attended by 3,064 guests.
While the catering charges came up to Rs 60 lakh, the charges forerecting tents was pegged at Rs 57 lakh, lighting costs stood at Rs 15 lakh and floral arrangement about Rs 7 lakh. On an average, the PMO spent Rs 4,478 on each guest in these feasts.
Analysts said these dinners, meant to be social events, end up being misused for narrow political purposes. “There should be some code which should be followed for hosting such dinners,” said Telakapalli Ravi, a political analyst from the city.
“Most often these dinners are used for lobbying to keep the coalition close-knitted. This is the reason why the guest list in such events includes corporate bosses and extra-constitutional authorities. This is not good for democracy. There should be proper protocol and transparency as to who is invited.”
While the PMO revealed the basic information of these dinners, it refused to divulge anything about the guest list, citing security reasons. It also did not share any minutes of the meetings.
“We do not know why most of these dinners were hosted in the first place and what was their outcome as PMO did not give out any details regarding this. The PMO also failed to provide copies of communication between PMO and party offices of all the UPA allies or any government agency regarding the dinners hosted.”
“If one were to go by Planning Commission statements, then Rs 4,478 spent on a single guest in these dinners is more than the monthly per capita expenditure of a rural family,” said Ali.