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DIARY


Roving eye

Long reach

Jairam Ramesh raised a storm by saying that there are more temples than toilets in India. But to his horror, during the cabinet reshuffle, he found that his beloved drinking water and sanitation portfolio had been taken away and placed under the care of Bharatsinh Solanki. Poor Solanki is now being subjected to unsolicited advice from Ramesh. Even before Solanki could settle in, Ramesh shot off a letter informing the new minister that he should be on a war-footing to secure an additional sum that had been promised by the former finance minister, Pranab Mukherjee, to improve the standards of sanitation in India. Not just Solanki but the present finance minister, P Chidambaram, who is desperately trying to cut down the enormous fiscal deficit, is unlikely to be amused by Ramesh’s enthusiasm. Ramesh’s opponents are equally miffed. His love for topics such as water and hygiene, they allege, stems from the fact that these issues generally decide the fate of politicians during polls.


Early start

After becoming a minister of state in the Manmohan Singh government, an elated Deepa Das Munshi decided to throw a lavish lunch. The generous host mingled freely with her guests. She did not mind chatting with the scribes either. During one such conversation, she informed the journos that her son, only twelve years old, has already expressed a desire to join politics. Das Munshi junior had once accompanied his mother to the Central hall where mother and son had a chance meeting with Rahul Gandhi. The young boy sprang a surprise by admitting that he wanted to work for the Youth Congress. Rahul, too, was impressed, and he advised him to wait till he turned 18 and then join the Youth Congress and the National Students’ Union of India.

Das Munshi may be gushing about her son’s ambition, but ordinary partymen are already bracing up to face criticism about the party being a ‘family affair’.


Great skills

Ashwani Kumar has high expectations of Rajiv Shukla. Kumar feels that Shukla will excel in the Yojna Bhavan where he has been given additional charge of planning, a post that was held by Kumar previously. By Kumar’s own admission, he could not manage to earn publicity during his stint because of the presence of the mercurial Montek Singh Ahluwalia — the deputy chairman of the Planning Commission — who hogged all the limelight. “But Shukla is Shukla”, Kumar is supposed to have said, expressing his admiration for the man who, Kumar fervently hopes, would be able to create a niche for himself. As for Ahluwalia, this only means that he will have to plan carefully so as to remain in the spotlight.


Old habit

Beni Prasad Verma, prone to costly gaffes, may have survived the cabinet rejig but he is unlikely to change his old ways. An unfazed Verma has finished reading LK Advani’s My Country My Life, and, thanks to the book, believes that he is now in a position to unmask his former boss, Mulayam Singh Yadav. Verma wants the world to know that Mulayam — who never tires of flaunting his secular credentials — had named a police station in Ayodhya Ramjanam Bhoomi at a time when he was supposedly battling the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and its army of kar sevaks in the 1990s. Meanwhile, Prasad’s supporters are praying that the revelation will not add to Prasad’s impressive number of blunders.


Strong bond

Kamal Nath’s hard work is bearing fruit. Opponents have been floored by the newly appointed parliamentary minister’s style of functioning as he goes about building bridges with them. Sushma Swaraj, Opposition leader and Vidisha MP, was reminded how he had sought the clearances of all state-related projects when he was the surface transport minister. Mayavati is so impressed with Nath that she instructed a partyman not to approach the court over Nath’s decision to extend the lease of the Delhi Golf Club before the due date. But Nath’s real test will be the winter session when the Opposition is going to try and stall proceedings, once again.


Healthy concern

The Union health minister, Ghulam Nabi Azad, was seen talking to Sunanda Pushkar in Dogri recently. A concerned Shashi Tharoor, ever worried about barbs being directed at his wife, could not resist asking what they were talking about. Pushkar replied that Azad was merely expressing his concern over her losing weight. Azad, reportedly, interjected, “Aap dono ka to Kashmir aur Kanyakumari ka milan hai, bahut achcha hai, par hamari Jammu ki ladki ka khayal rakhna (Your union is akin to that of Kashmir and Kanyakumari. It is very good. But please take care of our girl from Jammu.)”. A relieved Tharoor vigorously nodded his approval.