Confirmation that the Prime Minister’s drive against red beacons on VIP vehicles was a token “show” addressing the VIP culture he claimed he was dismantling has just been provided by one of his new-found favourites ~ the chief minister of UP. If a “border action team” of the Pakistan military caused horrific injury to a BSF trooper by mutilating his body, immense insult was heaped upon his family when Yogi Adityanath visited them to offer condolences. The district administration in Deoria had literally rolled out a red carpet in the BSF man’s family home, fitted an air-conditioner and laid out saffron-coloured table-cloths ahead of Yogi Adityanath’s visit to the bereaved family. Alas, none of that was for their benefit: less than half-an-hour after his departure the “goodies” were removed, actually making a mockery of the various announcements the chief minister had made to honour the memory of Prem Sagar who had made the supreme sacrifice.

While it is highly likely that the chief minister had little to do with what an official sought to project as standard arrangements for such visits, surely as a man of simple living (as he is projected) Adityanath ought to have “sensed” something amiss in those trappings of luxury: particularly under the trying circumstances into which that family had been plunged? Or has a short spell in high office rendered him immune to the harsh realities of life of common folk? Even three days after the “incident” there was no word from the chief minister’s office, not even an attempt to pass the buck on to officials who see sycophancy as a shortcut to success.

Whether Mr Narendra Modi’s staff will draw his attention to the insulting incident is doubtful, babus are well aware “that fools rush in where angels fear to tread” and would be hesitant to “bell the cat”. Yet if the Prime Minister is indeed genuine about ending the pernicious culture in which politicians, bureaucrats etc revel, he will have to do much more than tackle the visible signs of a status obsessed society. And that would include desisting from making fashion-statements and donning a suit which had his name emblazoned on its pinstripes. That, of course, is not to recommend recourse to George Fernandes’ “carefully-crumpled kurta,” but only to stress that his entire team not only falls in line but makes consistently conscious efforts to shun the VIP culture. Doing so will not be easy, politicians may pretend to be “social workers” but they desire their slice of the cake. Witness the heart-burn over the size and location of the bungalows they are allotted in Lutyens’ luxury enclave in New Delhi ~ or equivalent locales in state capitals. It is not that air-conditioners or limousines “hurt”: what devastates is unabashed political hypocrisy