The defence minister has found himself in the line of fire for several reasons in recent times, but the Congress chief continues to support him nonetheless. Evidence of Sonia Gandhi’s unwavering faith lies in AK Antony’s appointment to head a panel that has been constituted to investigate the factors that led to the poll debacle in Uttar Pradesh. This task, Antony will concede, is far more easy than managing the present army chief, for instance. This is the third time since the 1990s that Antony has been asked to look into the causes behind a Congress rout in the Hindi heartland. In 1996, PV Narasimha Rao had asked him to file a report after the Congress suffered reverses. In 1998-99, Sonia Gandhi had ordered him to tour several states, including UP, to reveal the factors behind the poor showing. However, the Congress chief and the Congress Working Committee did not have the time or the inclination to go through Antony’s findings on the two previous occasions. The reports continue to gather dust somewhere in the party headquarters. Some partymen are wondering whether it would have been more prudent to go through the old reports instead of sending the beleaguered defence minister on another wild goose chase.
Akhilesh Yadav loves his pet name. The young chief minister insists on being addressed as ‘Tipu’, his pet name, rather than as ‘Netaji’ or ‘Manyawar Mukhyamantri’. But what must have surprised him is that a section of the minority community has started to call him names. Minority leaders can be heard grumbling these days, even though the young chief minister has taken up the reins of the state only recently. The imam of Delhi’s Jama Masjid, Syed Ahmed Bukhari, is one such petulant soul. Bukhari, who backed the Samajwadi Party during the assembly elections, has shot off a letter to Mulayam Singh Yadav and complained that his son has shown a tendency to slight Muslims. As proof, Bukhari has referred to the SP’s list of candidates for the Rajya Sabha in which only one of the six nominees came from the Muslim community. This, in a state that has a 20 per cent Muslim population. Adding insult to injury, the imam’s son-in-law, Umar Khan, who was an aspirant for the Upper House, was nominated to the UP legislative council seat. Bukhari signed off saying that he was declining the offer that had been made to his son-in-law. All this must worry Akhilesh, who wouldn’t want his name to be tarnished in any manner at such an early juncture in his political career.
Anshuman Mishra, who was engaged in an ugly spat with Arun Jaitley over the nomination of candidates to the Rajya Sabha from Jharkhand, is apparently ready to buy peace with the senior leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party. The London-based BJP sympathizer has been sending feelers to Jaitley to mend fences. Apparently, he has also expressed his willingness to tender an apology in court when the defamation suit comes up for hearing.
Mishra has roped in Rajiv Shukla to convey the peace proposal to Jaitley. This is because Shukla and Jaitley go back a long way, thanks to their immense love for cricket. Last heard, Shukla has not shown much interest in taking up Mishra’s case with Jaitley. This fight, Shukla knows, is a different ball game altogether.
The prime minister had called an all-party meeting to discuss the lok pal bill. The meeting had been called on a day when Parliament was not in session on account of festivals such as Gudi Padwa and Ugadi — New Year celebrations that take place in many parts of the country at this time of the year. Sitaram Yechury, the leader of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), had come to attend the meeting but was in a hurry to leave in order to participate in the Telugu New Year celebrations. Seeing Yechury’s rush, a senior BJP leader remarked in jest that at last communists have started to believe in the Hindu calendar.
The coal controversy brought a smile to the faces of Prakash Javadekar and Hansraj Ahir. The two BJP leaders had highlighted the problem earlier but the 2G scam, which had broken around that time, had shifted collective attention elsewhere. Now, the duo can claim like seasoned scribes that the murky coal affair was their ‘exclusive story’.
The pop singer, Katy Perry, who has ruled the music charts as well as the hearts of teeny-boppers, was flown in to entertain the young and the old during the inauguration of the recent edition of the Indian Premier League. The hot star, however, received a cold reception from the crowd in Chennai.
But the going got even worse for Perry. It is being reported that when Perry was introduced to Sachin Tendulkar sometime later, she ended up asking the maestro which ‘position’ he played for. Perhaps it would have been better had the organizers taken the necessary steps to educate Perry so that she could have known that the rules that guide the gentleman’s game are very different from those that are followed in sport such as American football or baseball.