Those in public life must lead by example, says Soni

Some ministers unhappy with the directive to lead an austere life


Ambika Soni

“It's important how people perceive those of us in public life,” Soni said on Friday, adding that the Prime Minister and the Congress Working Committee have suggested to cut wasteful expenditure since the country is in the midst of a drought.

The Information and Broadcasting Minister's comments -which she made during an informal interaction with the journalists come in the wake of reported unhappiness amongst some ministers on the directive to lead an austere life and avoid unnecessary official expenditure.

External Affairs Minister S M Krishna and his junior Shashi Tharoor have been asked to vacate their five-star accommodation, despite them claiming that they are paying for it out of their pockets. However, ministers like Anand Sharma and Kamal Nath are said to have raised objections to the directive to fly in economy class.

“It is incumbent upon those in public life to lead the way by example. This is the way our party cadre and people expect us to behave,” Soni said.

Soni said she had tried over the years to follow Sarat Chandra Sinha, whom she had met in 1976 when he was the Assam chief minister. Sinha was known for his simple lifestyle.

“I found his office to be simply furnished. When I asked him the reason, he said he didn't want visitors from interior parts of the state to feel intimidated and should be able to talk to him as someone their own. Those words guided me in public life,” Soni said.

On the day he lost his Chief Minister's job Sinha -who had passed away a few years ago- was said to have travelled in a city bus with a single suitcase to his private residence in Guwahati. He said to have led a simple life inconceivable to many present ministers and chief ministers.

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