The capital witnessed a bizarre spectacle earlier this week - the lavish wedding of the children of two Delhi politicians on which an estimated Rs 250 crore was spent. A five-seater helicopter worth Rs 35 crore was gifted by the bride's father to the groom. Instead of indignation, the event generated nothing more than gasps of disbelief among the chatterati.
The groom's father and Congress leader, Kanwar Singh Tanwar, and the bride's father, former- MLA Sukhbir Singh Jaunpuria, might deny these estimates should the income tax authorities dare to question them. And, who knows, this expense might indeed be from well- earned and tax- paid income.
However, the Tanwars and the Jaunpurias are not alone. Society pages of newspapers tell us that the Indian wedding has not only become fatter over time but that families buy space in newspapers to show-off their the wedding and guests. Mere consumption is no longer enough, it also has to be conspicuous.
How much will the political elite, made up of a few hundred families, agree to forgo to prevent the delegitimation of its immense power? Might not the ordinary citizen begin to question the legitimacy of the system of governance which catapults such people to the top? It is not just the question of an A Raja or a Suresh Kalmadi. Corruption scandals have marred almost every government that came into power since the mid- 1980s.
There is a nexus between the worst elements - criminals, cheats, land grabbers and contractors who milk public funds - and politicians which is very difficult to break.
This is what makes one wonder that while the Indian economy may indeed return to nine per cent growth from this year on, might it not bring social and political problems which this society shows no sign of tackling? Will it be able to digest a high economic growth that comes with social unrest? Growth is necessary because the alternative is the socialism of poverty which does no one any good. But without an ethical basis, economic growth can aggravate inequity to unmanageable proportions. Economic growth and its concomitant increase in income and consumption ideally ought to have a moral and ethical underpinning. This is particularly important in a society where wealth distribution is skewed and inequalities abound.
The economic distance that already exists between " IPL India and BPL India" ( to use Sitaram Yechury's memorable phrase) can eventually result in the political alienation of large sections of society. Those who are heard declaring that an Egypt will never happen in India because of the safety valve provided by our functioning democracy may not be able to delude themselves for long. It may not take more than a decade for India to become a dysfunctional society. The result of mal- governance is already visible in the Maoist affected areas of the country. The question is whether its spread can be tackled amicably and whether our political elite are capable of this.
Bharat Bhushan in India Today. More Here.
The groom wore a garland made of bank notes and received a helicopter as a gift, there were 18,000 guests - or perhaps it was 30,000 - and 1,000 workers took 40 days to prepare the venue.
The exact details have been fiercely disputed, but Thursday's newspapers in New Delhi were all in agreement that this had been one very big, very fat Indian wedding.
Lalit Tanwar married his bride Yogita Jaunapuria at a family farmhouse near the city in a ceremony Tuesday celebrated with 100 dishes, 12 giant TV screens to broadcast proceedings, and even a gift of $5,500 for the groom's barber.
The Times of India calculated the cost of the extravaganza uniting two influential political families at Rs1billion ($22 million), while the Mail Today went for the less conservative figure of $55 million.
"I don't understand why there is so much hoopla about this marriage," the groom's father, Kanwar Singh Tanwar, told the Times. "All estimates of this marriage in the media are speculation." In the Indian Express, he was quoted as saying: "True, a Bell 429 helicopter was given but it was a simple wedding."
Kanwar Tanwar is a wealthy city politician from the ruling Congress party, while the bride's father is a former politician in the capital - making the arranged marriage a perfect power deal.
The media recorded each lavish detail with a mixture of shock and delight.
The Hindustan Times reported that at a pre-wedding ceremony last week 2,000 guests were each given a silver biscuit, a safari suit and $500 in cash, while at a different ritual the bride's family welcomed the groom with gifts worth $5 million.
The newly-weds, both 26, were heralded on Tuesday night by flowers and lights bedecking three kilometres of roads leading to the function, where no meat or alcohol were served in line with Hindu tradition.
However the groom's new $8 million five-seater helicopter could not be present due to flight regulations, and instead he was given its keys and a small silver replica.
Celebrations are set to continue with another reception on Thursday and a final gathering on Sunday at a five-star hotel attended by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
A report in Gulf News. More Here.