Dal-bati but no lal maas at all-veg Congress banquet

Jaipur, Jan 18 (IANS) It might be disappointing for some Congress leaders looking forward to authentic 'lal maas' but the banquet being held at Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot's residence Friday night is an all-vegetarian affair - quite in keeping with party president Sonia Gandhi's message on austerity.

Instead of the famed mutton dish, the 450-odd guests at the dinner being held on day one of the three-day Congress 'Chintan Shivir' introspection camp, here will be treated to vegetarian delicacies such as gatte ki sabzi, dal-bati, khatta kadhi and desserts like imarti, choorma and Alwar ka mawa.

"We can get to eat dishes like dal-bati in Delhi too, but real good lal maas is hard to come by," a Congress leader said wistfully.

And the decision to go vegetarian seems to be a carefully considered one.

"We got orders from above that this is a serious gathering to discuss the party's future," said a top source from the organising committee.

"We don't want to give out a message that there's a party going on here. So, simple vegetarian food was cooked," he added.

For those whose palates are not quite used to Rajasthani food, cuisine from south and north India will be on offer too.

Sonia Gandhi had set the tone earlier in the day. Don't indulge in pompous displays of wealth, lead a simple life and be rooted, she told party workers.

"Celebrating weddings, festivals and happy events is one thing. But what of lavish and ostentatious displays of wealth, pomp and status? Does this not beg the question, where is this wealth coming from," she said firmly.