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Krishna spent Govt money to watch Wimbledon SF

Krishna spent Govt money to watch Wimbledon SF

Author: Paarull
Publication: IBNLive.com
Date: July 4, 2011
URL: http://ibnlive.in.com/news/krishna-spent-govt-money-to-watch-wimbledon-sf/164962-3.html

External Affairs Minister SM Krishna has courted controversy after he overstayed in England at taxpayer expense for three days after an official visit and also watched tennis matches at Wimbledon. Sources have told CNN-IBN that Krishna stayed at Bentley Hotel run by the Waldorf Astoria chain on Government expense.

Krishna was on a five-day visit to the UK for talks with British Foreign Secretary William Hague. The talks ended on Thursday but Krishna stayed back and watched the Wimbledon men's singles semi-final between Novak Djokovic and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga on on July 1.

Sources have told CNN-IBN that the Prime Minister's Office allowed Krishna to extend his official tour. The Prime Minister's Office and the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) ignored the impropriety.

Moreover, the timing couldn't have been worse with a Cabinet reshuffle round the corner.

While Krishna was watching the Djokovic-Tsonga match at Wimbledon's Center Court a diplomat who was part of the official delegation was on a flight back to India.

Curiously, MEA sources confirm that Krishna's meeting had not been scheduled till mid-June.

In mid-June, India suddenly proposed to the British government June 29 and 3O as dates for Krishna's meeting with Hague.

The hurriedly put together Hague-Krishna meeting raised eyebrows within the Ministry for another reason as Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao had met her British counterpart in London just two days earlier.

MEA sources concede that usually a political visit does not immediately follow scheduled foreign office consultations.

CNN-IBN has learnt that doubts about the visit were privately raised within both the PMO and MEA but South Block did not officially red flag a meeting that appears to have been tailor-made for the minister to watch tennis.

Ironically, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had spoken of cutting down of foreign visits a few weeks ago as part of an austerity drive. The proposed visits by other ministers like Civil Aviation Minister Vayalar Ravi were cancelled. Why was then Krishna allowed to go ahead for what seems to have been a junket of sorts?

CNN-IBN asked the MEA if the ministry considered it proper for minister to overstay on taxpayer expense and whether the MEA was aware of the Prime Minister's advice to avoid unnecessary foreign travel.

The MEA is yet to respond.

But MEA sources say that the External Affairs Minister is the target of friendly fire within the ministry ahead of the Cabinet reshuffle with a section of the ministry gunning for him.

While that may be true, Krishna has given his critics the ammunition to fire at him at just the wrong time.

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