With the presidency issue almost resolved, the Congress is believed to have turned its attention to more pressing problems. And the economy is just one of them. The future of Rahul Gandhi remains a nagging concern, and there are more heads worrying over the matter than Sonia Gandhi would have liked. Congressmen have their own bright idea about how to solve a problem like Rahulbaba. SM Krishna recently demanded that he be inducted into the cabinet. Some others have suggested that Rahul be made working president or vice-president of the party. Privately though, a large section of Congressmen believe that it would be best if Rahul shifted his priority from public to personal matters. They want him to get married before the countdown to the 2014 polls begins. Rahul, one hears, is mightily amused by the speculations over his ‘early’ marriage and the possibility of taking on bigger responsibilities. But wait, if a marriage could bring the fawning crowds back to the British royalty, it may not be such a bad idea for the Congress either.
Rail and rant
The exit of Pranab Mukherjee and Virbhadra Singh have brightened the prospects for many in the Congress who are looking forward to a cabinet reshuffle. But the idea is bothering Kapil Sibal a lot. Apparently, Sibal fears that he may be asked to give up any one of the portfolios he is holding — HRD or telecom. The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, which played an active role in mobilizing support for Pranabda, reportedly wants telecom back. If it can’t have telecom, it wouldn’t mind having railways. But the PM wouldn’t want that. It is not that the PM is fearful of the making of another A Raja; it is because he cannot afford the unmaking of the United Progressive Alliance. With Mukul Roy out, there is no way Mamata Banerjee would continue with her journey with the UPA.
Spot the thorn
Even roses have thorns. Suddenly, Virbhadra Singh’s resignation does not seem such a happy news for the supporters of his adversary and the Union commerce and industry minister, Anand Sharma. With his position in the Union ministry gone, there is every chance that Singh will now turn his entire attention to state politics, a possibility which is beginning to bother the Sharma camp. His supporters in Himachal now want Sonia Gandhi to appoint Singh as AICC general-secretary so that Sharma can be projected as future chief minister of the state. Winner takes all, right?
The presidential poll is believed to portend the political alignments of 2014. Undoubtedly, the AIADMK will go with the NDA and the DMK with the Left in Tamil Nadu. That leaves the Congress high and dry. Naturally, Congress leaders in the state are scouting for safer constituencies. P Chidambaram, who barely managed to hold on to Sivaganga, is believed to have decided to pass the baton on to his son, Karti. The son has apparently zeroed in on a seat dominated by the Gounder community. Since Karti’s mother belongs to that community, he stands a better chance there. Back to the old rules of political survival then?
If the presidential election is another occasion for Pranab Mukherjee to prove his negotiating skills, it is the same for the Janata Party chief, Subramanian Swamy. For Swamy it is perhaps a bigger occasion since his negotiating abilities will also determine his standing in the NDA. Unfortunately, things have not gone Swamy’s way. He first tried to make APJ Abdul Kalam to contest, but failed. Then he roped in PA Sangma, who may not be able to upset Mukherjee’s applecart. Many in the Bharatiya Janata Party remain unconvinced with Swamy’s abilities. One even pointed out the contradiction inherent in Swamy’s role: he is an active campaign manager, but has no presence in the electoral college voting for the president.
The Union surface transport minister, CP Joshi, was recently invited to Mussourie to deliver a lecture at the Lal Bahadur Shastri academy of administration, the apex training institute in the country for senior members of the civil services. Joshi was heard giving vital tips on governance. However, some IAS officers couldn’t help wondering if Joshi was qualified to preach. After all, his ministry had failed to stick to the guideline set by the PMO and the Planning Commission of constructing 20 kilometres of national highways every day. That, however, hadn’t stopped Joshi from flying high or picking up fights with bureaucrats.
India’s poor feed the rich. Astounded? Check out the transparency portal launched by the State-owned oil firms. According to it, the wealthy industrialist and Congress MP, Naveen Jindal, was provided 369 LPG cylinders last year. That amounted to a staggering subsidy of Rs 1.27 lakh in a single year. Although Jindal tops the list of the VVIPs using highly subsidized LPG, his peers in Parliament were no less extravagant. Mayavati used up to 91 cylinders and the subsidy amount was over Rs 31,304. The Maharani of Patiala and junior minister in the ministry for external affairs, Preneet Kaur, ordered 77 cylinders at a cost of over Rs 26,488. A Raja ordered only 89 cylinders, but he was in jail then. Lesser mortals, who are entitled to one cylinder a month, are hoping for the cancellation of discretionary allotments.