New Delhi: Congress leader Rasheed Masood has contended that Rs 5 can buy a meal in Delhi. He should know - the Congress rules both Delhi and at the Centre.
So with much faith in the Rajya Sabha MP's assertion, this reporter set out with a five-rupee coin to look for food in the national capital.
A vendor selling chholey (chick pea curry) and rice from a roadside cart said he could only serve a plate at Rs 30. Too expensive.
Next stop, a cart selling a simple meal of puris and vegetable. The platter looked inviting, but the Rs 5 coin would not stretch to buy it.
Even a cup of tea costs 7 rupees. An amused onlooker suggested, "You can buy a glass of water with Rs 5."
Undaunted, we persevered.
"The very least you need is Rs 20 for a meal," said a vendor at another stall, as he turned us away.
A kind young man advised, "If you want a full meal you need Rs 80; if you can do with half a meal, Rs 30."
So just where did the eminent Elder spot a meal at Rs 5 in the Capital?
The mystery is solved at the Parliament House canteen, which only Mr Masood and his fellow-MPs and some other people can access. Perhaps the only place in the capital where a plate of Idli and sambhar costs Rs 4 and a masala dosa, Rs 6.
Mr Masood, and before him fellow-Congressman Raj Babbar, were defending the Planning Commission's benchmark for defining poverty. The panel's latest report says that anyone with access to Rs 33 in India's cities and Rs 27 in villages, is not poor. And by that controversial definition, poverty has shrunk in the country in the last seven years of UPA rule.
Mr Babbar's estimate was that a meal could be had in Mumbai for Rs 12. Mr Masood bettered that with his Rs 5 claim.
The BJP has slammed the Congress for what it calls its "cheap joke on the poor."
A man who followed this reporter's failed attempt at buying a meal for Rs 5 said, "If the Congress can get us a meal for 5 rupees, I promise to vote for them in every election."