New Delhi, March 2:
In a rare move, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had lunch at the parliament canteen on Monday, surprising the staff and many people present there. Modi had some fruit salad and a vegetarian thali at a total cost of Rs.29.
The prime minister went to the canteen at room no.70 of Parliament House around 1 p.m. when the canteen was bustling with activity.
The canteen managers as well as MPs were surprised when he came and sat at a table occupied by two other parliamentarians.
“We were surprised, no one expected the prime minister to come for lunch in the canteen. But that is how he is, he is very natural and humble,” Shankarbhai N. Vegad, one of the MPs who shared the table with the prime minister, told IANS.
Chhedi Paswan, a Lok Sabha member from Bihar who was also at the table, said it was unexpected.
“We MPs eat at the canteen every day, but who would think the prime minister himself will come there. We feel lucky that he sat on our table,” he said.
“He did it several times in Gujarat too. He would go to the canteen where the legislators ate,” Paswan told IANS.
Paswan and Vegad accompanied the prime minister through the lunch, and union minister Piyush Goyal joined them later.
The prime minister first asked for a glass of water.
Canteen in-charge B.L. Purohit rushed forward and asked the prime minister what he would like to eat.
“The prime minister said ‘jo hai wahi khilaiye… kuchh bhi. Alag se intezam karne ki zaroorat nahi hai’ (give me what has been cooked, no need to do anything special),” a canteen official said.
The prime minister, a vegetarian, then had some fruit salad, followed by a vegetarian thali (platter) consisting of sarson ka saag, aloo subji, rajma, rice, roti and curd.
The bill was of Rs.29. Modi gave a Rs.100 note and was returned Rs.71, according to canteen officials.
Modi later wrote in Hindi in the visitor’s book: “Annadata sukhi bhava.” (May the giver of food be happy).
“We were all surprised. I have never seen any prime minister come for lunch here,” said a canteen staff member who said he was working there for the last 13 years.
Paswan said: “After the prime minister left, a canteen staff told us this is the first time in history that a prime minister has eaten in the MPs canteen. They were very happy.”
“This sends out a very strong message. The prime minister had the humble food every common Indian has. Moreover, there have been complaints about the canteen food by some MPs. Now that they know the prime minister can come any time, the food will be better,” Paswan added.
Asked what the prime minister talked about with the MPs, Vegad said: “He talked as any one would chat over lunch. He talked about the weather, and that he was worried the unexpected rain has caused damage to crops.”
The parliament canteen run by Indian Railways is the most subsidised canteen in the country. It serves parliamentarians, parliament staff and journalists in different sitting areas. IANS