February 21, 2024

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and MPs have lunch at Parliament canteen during the Budget session, in New Delhi on Friday Photo: @narendramodi/X

On the penultimate day of the final session of the 17th Lok Sabha, Prime Minister Narendra Modi surprised several MPs cutting across party lines as he invited them for lunch at the Parliament canteen. The chosen MPs—eight of them—sat down for a late afternoon lunch with the PM over a vegetarian meal and plenty of conversation.   

The drill began a little earlier in the day when officials from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) contacted the MPs, some of them first-time members, without giving away the details. When the PM joined them at the Parliament canteen, he said in jest: “Chaliye, aapko ek punishment deni hai (let me punish you a bit).” The guests were more than ready for this ‘’punishment’’.

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ‘s Heena Gavit, an MP from Maharashtra’s Nandurbar, the party’s Ladakh MP Jamyang Tshering Namgyal and its Rajya Sabha member from Nagaland, the first woman to be elected an MP from the north-eastern state, S Phangnon Konyak, attended the lunch. Others on the table with the PM were BJP’s L Murugan, a Rajya Sabha member and minister of state, Ritesh Pandey of the Bahujan Samaj Party, Biju Janata Dal’s Sasmit Patra, Telugu Desam Party’s Ram Mohan Naidu and N K Premchandran of the Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) from Kerala.

At the surprise lunch lasting some 45 minutes, MPs asked the PM about his daily schedule, how he gets by with barely three and a half hours of sleep, when he wakes up, how he manages a punishing schedule, his inveterate travelling across the country and abroad and his habit of not eating after sunset. The challenge of dealing with Covid19 was also discussed. 

The PM told the MPs about his experience when he landed in Lahore to attend the wedding of Pakistan leader Nawaz Sharif’s grand daughter in December 2015. Sharif could be the prime minister of the neighbouring country again after a contentious election. Modi told them about his foreign tours, how he planned the ‘Statue of Unity’, and his upcoming visit to the United Arab Emirates on February 13-14, where he will inaugurate a Hindu temple in Abu Dhabi for which he laid the foundation stone in 2018. The PM said it was the first Hindu temple project in Abu Dhabi, underscoring India’s soft power.

“Enjoyed a sumptuous lunch, made even better thanks to the company of parliamentary colleagues from various parties and different parts of India,” the PM posted on X after the lunch. 

“Had a delightful lunch and enriching conversation with the PM,” said Namgyal. Other MPs also said the conversation was informal over the vegetarian meal — rice, daal, khichdi, raagi and til laddoos among the items served. 

Gavit, a medical doctor, is a tribal and a second-term MP from Maharashtra’s Nandurbar. She initiated the debate on the Motion of Thanks to the President’s address in the Lok Sabha on February 1. Namgyal and Konyak are ethnic tribals from Ladakh and Nagaland, respectively. Before entering the Rajya Sabha, Murugan headed the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s scheduled caste cell in Tamil Nadu. He is currently the junior minister for fisheries, animal husbandry and dairy as well as information and broadcasting. Naidu is a second-term MP, while Pandey is a first-term MP from UP’s Ambedkar Nagar. Premchandran’s RSP is part of the Congress-led United Democratic Front in Kerala, and he is a multiple-term MP elected to the Lok Sabha for the first time in 1996.

First Published: Feb 10 2024 | 12:13 AM IST