Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh found himself in the center of a major international controversy when he abruptly left the ASEAN summit to fly to Mumbai to visit grandbaby B and proud mother Aishwarya Rai-Bachchan at the Seven Hills hospital in the city. This has been viewed as a major setback to India’s aspirations of being a major player in the Asian political arena and to Abhishek Bachchan’s aspirations of being at least the fourth-most important person in the Bachchan family.
Earlier in the morning, there was a flutter of panicked activity among the Indian diplomatic contingent when Dr. Singh did not arrive for a scheduled meeting with Indonesia’s external affairs minister, Mr. Weddaphuk Hazigorn. Sources tell us that, fearing the worst, Indian officials went to the hotel room where Dr. Singh was staying, and entered after repeated knocks on the door, only to find a note on Dr. Singh’s bed. The contents of the note have not yet been revealed, but it is widely speculated to have contained the suggestion “Let’s pretend this was a kidnapping, and blame the ISI”.
The exact details of how Dr. Singh reached the airport undetected are still unclear. Reliable sources say that he disguised himself in a burkha, but were unsure about where he got that idea from. Due to official protocol, he was not allowed to fly in Air India One, which is why he reached his destination without any delays. Instead he had to board a chartered Kingfisher flight. An aide who flew with Dr. Singh described the experience as “harrowing” because Kingfisher now turns on only one of the two engines on the plane as a cost-cutting measure.
There was a great deal of buzz around the Seven Hills Hospital when Dr. Singh arrived to greet the proud grandparents and parents of grandbaby B. A number of socialites and film personalities who were there visiting the family were stunned by Dr. Singh’s sudden appearance. “For a moment, I thought it was Khushwant Singh who had come to see the Bachchans, but I realized it wasn’t him when he didn’t make a move on me. It was the Prime Minister instead!” said a visibly excited Simi Garewal. The involuntarily poker-faced Parmeshwar Godrej had words of praise for Dr. Singh: “I have always been a great admirer of Dr. Singh. I wish I had aged so gracefully.” There was an awkward moment when actress Tanisha Mukherjee, who has never been known for her awareness of current affairs blurted out, “Who’s that old dude?”
The Bachhans themselves were overwhelmed by the Prime Minister’s visit. Amitabh Bacchan jokingly told this newspaper, “Aj mere paas ghar hai, gaadi hai, bangla hai, bank balance hai…aur aj mere paas Ma-nmohan Singh bhi hai.” Aishwarya Rai-Bachchan in an exclusive statement to this newspaper said that she was overwhelmed by the support from all quarters, and was honest enough to admit that the highest-ranking politician she expected was Amar Singh, and was flattered to have the Prime Minister grace her with his presence. The proud dad, Abhishek Bachchan said that he was overjoyed to become a father, and the icing on the cake was having the Prime Minister visit. “I felt like what I would have felt if I had another hit after Guru” he said.
The Opposition has used this as an opportunity to criticize Dr. Singh and the government. “It is utterly irresponsible of the Prime Minister to sacrifice nationally important work just to be in the media limelight” said Leader of the Opposition, Sushma Swaraj, and promised to stall the next session Parliament over this issue. LK Advani was despondent when he heard the news. He is said to have scheduled his rath yatra to travel through Mumbai so that he could visit the family when grandbaby B was born, but Aishwarya’s obstetrician’s error in calculation put paid to his plans. He has vowed to return for the birth of the next baby in the family. On hearing this, Abhishek snickered and said, “Well, best of luck with that! We don’t plan on having one for another three years.” BJP party president Nitin Gadkari summed up the situation saying, “The Prime Minister is interested in Aishwarya Rai giving birth to her baby, but this government has not been able to give birth to the Lokpal Bill.”