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Finance Minister P Chidambaram's pre-budget consultation with Congress office-bearers on Thursday was marked by the absence of many senior leaders. Out of nine AICC general secretaries, only two — Janardan Dwivedi and Oscar Fernandes — attended the meeting. Many other senior party functionaries and young AICC secretaries like Meenakshi Natarajan, Priya Dutt and Ashok Tanwar stayed away from the meeting. Congress sources attributed the poor attendance to senior leaders' "pre-occupation" with assembly elections and prior engagements. A senior Congress leader, however, pointed out that given the state of the economy, not many in the party are expecting a please-all budget this year and therefore, they were not much enthusiastic about the exercise.
AFTER having his way in appointing Vasundhara Raje as the head of the Rajasthan unit of the party, BJP president Rajnath Singh decided to send a message of unity to the party cadres in the state which is preparing for the assembly elections. Rajnath Singh asked Raje and her rival Gulab Chand Kataria to travel in the same car when they left his residence. Both complied.
THE glamorous Valerie Trierweiler, partner of President Francois Hollande, made her presence felt as she walked with her husband for a press event at the Maurya Sheraton hotel. Hollande's earlier media interaction in the day, a joint press conference with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, was devoid of any questions, possibly because of apprehensions of Singh getting quizzed on the latest defence scandal. Hollande, however, more than made it up for that at Maurya Sheraton, confidently answering questions as Trierweiler watched from the front row. Trierweiler, who has been a top political journalist herself, had earlier in the day quietly peeled off after the ceremonial functions to attend events of her own. As her husband lunched with Prime Minister Singh, Trierweiler went for a walk at the Lodhi Gardens and had lunch at the Lodhi Restaurant with some selected social elite from New Delhi.
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