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Since 1st March, 1999
 
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DIARY


Swap or swat?

The swap deal between P Chidambaram and Pranab Mukherjee prior to the announcement of the Srikrishna committee report on Telangana may have gone off smoothly. PC spoke on inflation with élan and Pranabda massaged egos, perhaps more artfully than PC. But the two seem to be speaking a lot more than is required, and the verbal overdose is creating a lot of confusion. Many feel that all this is a precursor to the impending cabinet reshuffle and the vacancy in the Rashtrapati Bhavan that will arise next year. The other reason for the tussle is the appointment of the new finance secretary. PC appears to have got indications that he may have the finance portfolio back for he is said to be gunning for his choice to take up the post. Pranabda, on the other hand, is keen to have his choice from the West Bengal cadre. Anyway, both the men may not have their ways ultimately, if their party decides to follow the Kamaraj Plan and send off the veteran leaders to take up responsibilities in their respective states.


Zero to hero

He may be the most hated face in the 2G spectrum scam, but back in his hometown, A Raja is still a hero. His community of Dalits believes that he is very much the victim — once of the domination of the Vanniyars, and now of the canny politicians of the North. Raja was given a rousing welcome on New Year’s eve, with posters put up by the local DMK workers in the city proclaiming that he had been “wronged”. In his first visit to Perambalur after quitting the ministry, the public jostled with partymen to see him. In each village he visited, women welcomed him with aarti and garlands. Without Raja, Perambalur would have been forgotten. Truly, even ill- repute is better than no reputation.


Run for cover

It was probably not surprising that although hundreds turned up to pay their last respects to Surendra Mohan at the condolence meeting after his death, three of the disciples of this veteran socialist leader were conspicuous by their absence — Mulayam Singh Yadav, Lalu Prasad, and Ram Vilas Paswan. They are so far away from the socialist legacy of Ram Manohar Lohia and Jayaprakash Narayan that no path would have led them back to Mohan. The latter’s followers have, however, decided to carry on the struggle and launch a new party in May this year.


Nothing like success

The India International Centre recently saw the deputy chairman of the Planning Commission, Montek Singh Ahluwalia, rub shoulders with 25 Dalit entrepreneurs and businessmen. The meet was sponsored by the Dalit Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and was the brainchild of the noted Dalit scholar, Chandrabhan Prasad. Montek met the first-generation businessmen whose turnover ranged from 25 crore to more than a few 100 crore rupees. Some were into textiles, infrastructure development and real estate, others into education. One graduate from IIT Roorkee said he had set up an engineering college in Agra and ran a franchise system of coaching for entrance exams of engineering and medical colleges. Another said he had set up a cottage industry making cotton gloves that were exported exclusively to Japan. There were some who believed in sloganeering — “Garv se kaho hum Dalit hain” — and others who did not believe their success depended on caste. Most of them were from Gujarat and Maharashtra, and none too happy with Mayavati.


End with a bang

December was the month of celebrations, and leaders across parties threw lavish parties. Agatha Sangma, daughter of former Lok Sabha speaker, P Sangma, known for his generous spreads, lived up to the family tradition. The Congress threw a generous dinner with an unusual menu. So mediapersons hardly complained when Sonia Gandhi did not turn up. And one ought not to forget the birthday party of Arun Jaitley, where Niira Radia’s favourite journalists were present in full strength.


New heroine

MF Husain is yet to get over his obsession with Bollywood stars. After Madhuri Dixit, Husain has found a new muse in Anushka Sharma, who shot to fame in Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi. Husain is said to have liked Anushka’s latest film, Band Baja Barat, so much that he has watched it eight times. The artist apparently finds the movie fascinating and the actress so mesmerizing that he does not put on his spectacles. He is even believed to have claimed that his vision has improved after watching Anushka.

Footnote

Primate fixture

After Himachal Pradesh, Delhi is gripped with the monkey menace and on Mahadev Road, the BJP spokesman, Prakash Javadekar, is trying to get his neighbours to consent to the hiring of a langur to keep monkeys at bay. The monkeys routinely wreck the lawmakers’ kitchen gardens, run away with fruits and other eatables, and even take baths in rooftop water tanks. Both the Municipal Corporation of Delhi and the Delhi police have thrown up their hands in despair. Javadekar is said to have written to Raj Babbar, Satpal Maharaj, Pratap Singh Bajwa and Inder Singh Namdhari among 20 other parliamentarians residing on Mahadev Road. But the matter is far from settled. Babbar has, apparently, asked if a single langur, procured at Rs 7,000 per month, can scare all the monkeys away. Tough question.


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