| New headache
Steal the thunder
When it comes to stealing the limelight, Sonia Gandhi finds herself foxed by her own party men. The Congress president woke up to this annoying fact in the course of her visit to Bangladesh, where she had gone to receive the country’s highest honour that had been bestowed on her mother-in-law, Indira Gandhi. A crowning glory for the party, the event, unfortunately, received only lukewarm coverage in the press. Reason? Jairam Ramesh and Mani Shankar Aiyar were busy making tasty morsels of news. While Ramesh hit the headlines by wiping his shoes with a khadi garland, Aiyar did his bit by describing the ongoing activities at the headquarters at 24 Akbar Road as a “circus”. Madam, reportedly, has pulled up the two for their indiscretion. Perhaps she could have added Digvijay Singh to her list of those deserving some plainspeak. Luckily for Singh, Madam’s spin doctors seem to have prevented that from taking place.
Twist in the tale
The heartburn caused by the recent reshuffle in the cabinet has left a lingering odour. Gurudas Kamat has resigned from the cabinet, making known his unhappiness with his new portfolio. Another Congressman known to be sulking is Srikant Jena, who was appointed minister of state with independent charge of statistics and programme implementation. But it is not the denial of cabinet rank that is causing the misery. Apparently, not being relieved of his charge as MoS of chemicals and fertilizers is upsetting Jena more. The person holding the cabinet rank of this portfolio is MK Alagiri, and Jena is no longer willing to do Alagiri’s work while the latter busies himself with affairs down south.
Jairam Ramesh’s exit from the Union ministry for forest and environment seems to have orphaned many babus. A recent meeting at the Indian Forest Research Institute in Dehra Dun, apparently, saw a speaker referring to Ramesh as “the late” — instead of “former” — minister for environment. The bureaucrat quickly realized his mistake and apologized profusely. But the incident has prompted many to conclude that Ramesh is being sorely missed by the environmentwallahs.
Close and comfortable
Both the Congress veterans, ML Fotedar and RK Dhawan, are believed to have declined gubernatorial assignments. Have they been motivated by Sonia Gandhi’s spirit of sacrifice? Unlikely.
Fotedar apparently wants nothing less than a place in the Rajya Sabha and Dhawan is happy to stay put in the national capital. Why? Both of them secretly wish to remain as close to 10 Janpath as possible just in case Madam summons them for some urgent work.
It is well-known in political circles that both the loyalists have been eyeing the office of the political secretary to Sonia Gandhi. Unfortunately, since Ahmad Patel seems to have grown roots while staying firmly in that post, there is still no vacancy for that position.
Fatigue is slowly creeping into the income tax sleuths who have been put on the job of checking Baba Ramdev’s accounts. If credible sources in the IT department are to be believed, Ramdev’s chartered accountants seem to have done a thorough job. Unlike his assistant, Acharya Balkrishna, Ramdev has left no loopholes. Agencies trying their best to ‘expose’ Ramdev, apparently, have not found much material to substantiate the allegations brought against the yoga guru by senior functionaries in the United Progressive Alliance and the Congress. The big question now is how to break this piece of bad news to the political masters?
As leader of the Lower House, it is Pranab Mukherjee’s job to see that Parliament runs smoothly and MPs get a chance to speak. When asked about his personal views on key policy matters, Mukherjee neatly side-stepped the issue saying, “I do not have the liberty to have a personal view.” Touché.
Ladies’ day out? That seems to be the best way to describe Hillary Clinton’s latest visit to India. Hillary could have hardly missed the display of ‘woman power’ during her trip. She was greeted at the airport by the foreign secretary, Nirupama Rao, and India’s ambassador to the US, Meera Shankar. Next day, she held high-profile meetings with the Congress president, Sonia Gandhi, and the leader of the Opposition, Sushma Swaraj. When Hillary moved South, she met J Jayalalithaa. South Block mandarins were heard saying that had Hillary decided to travel to the north and the east, she would have come face to face with two more women CMs — UP’s Mayavati and Bengal’s Mamata Banerjee. That would have been no less an education for the visiting dignitary, who is herself rated among the most powerful women leaders of the world.