By Dipankar De Sarkar,IANS,
London : India’s outgoing envoy to Britain Tuesday defended Richard Dannatt as a “gracious host” after the British Chief of the General Staff was revealed as having served his Indian and other guests with a fiver-a-head cut-price meal a year ago.
Sir Richard Dannatt, who is soon to retire, hosted then High Commissioner Shiv Mukherjee, visiting Indian Army chief General Deepak Kapoor and 21 others for a reception in August last year at his plush Kensington Palace residence.
But rather than delicacies from the nearby upmarket Harrods superstore, they were given pastries, cheese and salmon bought from the supermarket Tesco.
The entire meal cost a mere 123.58 pounds – or 5.15 pounds per person, the British media reported, lauding the British army chief for how frugal he is.
Ruling Labour MPs had apparently planned to discredit Dannatt after he criticised the government for failing to provide proper kit for troops in British Afghanistan, by portraying him as a champagne-guzzling member of the military elite.
But Mukherjee sprang to the Dannatt’s defence Tuesday, saying the party last August was “elegant and very, very enjoyable”.
“It was a wonderful party – exactly as expected from the chief of a professional army,” he told IANS.
“Mrs Dannatt and the chief of army staff made us personally welcome at and the food was wonderful. We didn’t feel it was cut-price at all.”
British newspapers said the Labour MPs’ bid to target Dannatt had “spectacularly backfired”.
“It was part of a suspected plot to blacken his name ahead of his retirement this week, when he is expected to step up his criticism of the way the armed forces have been treated by Labour,” reported the Daily Mail.
Dannatt has spent as little as five pounds per head on meals for political and military top brass and paid just 1.49 pound each for bottles of wine bought from a duty free cash and carry in Calais, France. He also bought sausages for these meals at Lidl, a cut-price supermarket chain.
One military source told the paper: “Sir Richard hasn’t put a foot wrong – and this proves it. Whatever these Labour politicians were planning to do, they’ve failed spectacularly, scoring a massive own goal, because their expenses claims are a thousand times worse.”