WEDDINGS in India are usually elaborate affairs, celebrated with fanfare and pomp. But VIP weddings, like the one of Sharvan Kumar, Prime Minister P. V. Narasimha Rao's grandson on Friday, are an extravaganza attended by thousands. They are also a testing ground for political loyalty and clout, with MPs, ministers and other hopefuls cadging invitations and making sure they are photographed or filmed alongside the host. Political pundits, meanwhile, are busy assessing alignments for the forthcoming elections on the basis of who attended Mr Kumar's wedding in the southern city of Hyderabad and from the amount of time Mr Rao spent with whom. And, with Jayalalitha Jayaram, Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu state in the south attending and being made a fuss of by Mr Rao, it is now apparent she has abandoned her confrontational stand towards the federal Government. It follows, therefore, that the politically beleaguered Prime Minister, busy stitching up alliances, can now count on her support in the forthcoming parliamentary elections. The guest list of 5,000 included only one of seven of Mr Rao's former Cabinet colleagues facing corruption charges. The rest were conspicuous by their absence, leading to the belief that a revolt was brewing in the ruling Congress (I) Party, led by disaffected ministers and MPs. But other than being political barometers, VIP weddings also impinge irritatingly on the public. The high level of security provided to the Prime Minister dictates that no aircraft takes off or lands half an hour before or after his flight. Mr Rao's departure from Delhi for his grandson's wedding disrupted at least seven major domestic flights on Friday. But for sheer extravagance at weddings, there is no one in the world to match Ms Jayaram. Known for elaborate public functions, she organised a wedding lunch for 150,000 people last September to celebrate her foster son's marriage in the state capital, Madras. Guests ate choice vegetarian fare spread over 12 hectares in batches of 12,000 each. About 20 truck loads of flowers decorated the lunch tables and around 700,000 litres of water, in a city plagued by water scarcity, were used. Thousands of VIPs were sent invitations on silver salvers accompanied by silk saris for the women and embroidered dhotis or sarongs for the men. But the luncheon was nothing compared to the previous day when celebrations kicked off with the arrival of the wedding party at the bride's house in a red chariot, escorted by the Madras Mounted Police. It took the groom's entourage of hundreds of relatives, friends and two mobile orchestras two hours to travel down the three kilometre long 'fairy tale' road in the heart of Madras. The wedding procession passed through several huge, plywood mock-ups of castles and forts. Festivities along the street, lit by coloured lights, ended with a fireworks display.