Ticket Seeking Crowd

Ticket seekers are every where. From seeking ticket to contest elections to expecting free tickets to a cricket match to wanting a ticket to attend dinner parties. There is no end to this ticket seeking crowd. Some of the VVIPs got abused in this game for tickets. Who can forget Amar Singh waiting endlessly for the dinner ticket of UPA I inauguration. In the latest episode of ticket seeking crowd, a huge Indians and Americans are gatecrashing White House for the dinner invitation cum entry for the banquet hosted by Barack Obama in honour of Dr. Manmohan Singh.

The Times of India writes on 19 November 2009

It’s not tickets for the hoop game involving Washington Wizards or for the Jersey Boys performing live in the capital region; it’s not for the Beaujolais Nouveau celebration at the Embassy of France or Vinifera Bistro’s Eastern Mediterranean world tour dinner. The hottest ticket in town is an invitation to the banquet President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama are having next week for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his wife Gursharan at the White House – the first State visit Obamas are hosting since moving into 1600, Pennsylvania Avenue.

It’s an invitation everyone covets but no one has seen. Word is that the White House is telling invitees to keep it close to their chest because of the clamour and lobbying that will inevitably break out – especially in the desi crowd – once the word gets out of the honours scroll. In fact, so closely-guarded and tightly scripted is the event that there isn’t even a whisper of the guest list or menu or entertainment for the evening – all of which will provide some reading of the tea leaves about how Obama intends to treat New Delhi at a very uncertain time in US-India ties.

This much is known: Prime Minister Singh will arrive on Sunday, November 22, and will NOT check into Blair House — located right across from the White House — which is the official state guest house used to check in most foreign dignitaries on state visits. Instead, the Prime Minister and his entourage will check into Willard Hotel, a block east of the White House, which is famous for having originated the term “lobbying.” Local folklore (often challenged) has it that President Ulysses Grant often repaired here to relax and smoke a cigar in the lobby where favour-seekers would approach him, hence the term lobbying.

After a night’s rest (more likely than getting lobbied), the Prime Minister will address the US-India Business Council on Monday morning and engage policy wonks at the Council for Foreign Relations later in the day. The next day, November 24, is when he will be formally feted on the White House lawns with the band-baja, pomp and ceremony, that he has already seen once as a guest of the Bush White House – which will make Singh arguably the only world leader who has been a “state guest” of two successive US presidents of two political parties.

Strictly speaking though, Singh’s is not a “state visit” since such visits involves the Head of State (in India’s case Pratibha Patil) whereas in India’s parliamentary system the Prime Minister is the head of government. But since India’s presidential post is largely ceremonial and titular, Washington, keen to mollify New Delhi with grand gestures in the absence of any substantial developments building on the nuclear deal, has gotten around the protocol issue by terming this an “official state visit.”

Tuesday evening is when the Obamas will host the formal black tie dinner in the White House when the Americans will be largely tuxedoed (men) and be-gowned (women); the Indian sartorial equivalent, it was decided during the Clinton-Vajpayee banquet, will be the bandh-gala (men) and sarees (women). There will be brief speeches, toasts, fine food and entertainment – all of which has been kept under wraps.

The Prime Minister will receive various cabinet principals (Hillary Clinton, Robert Gates etc) at the Willard on Wednesday before attending a reception for the Indian community in the US hosted by Ambassador Meera Shankar in the evening. He will leave Washington DC on Thursday morning, which is Thanksgiving holiday in US, for Port of Spain, Trinidad, to attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government summit.


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