Eyes set on higher things
Their nation may have fought innumerable wars over this one piece of land, the world may be holding its breath at the outcome of the Kashmir polls, but Congresswallahs have better things to do. Sort out a few matters among themselves, for example, about who can lick madam’s heels more efficiently. So win or lose, they did not lose their chance of trying to gouge out each other’s eyes during the runup to the Kashmir polls. Sample the little drama between the two trusted lieutenants of madam — Ambika Soni and Ghulam Nabi Azad. All hell broke loose when Soni declared in Rajauri that if voted to power (not a chance in hell), the Congress would crown Azad as the chief minister of the state. Azad, who till recently was interned because of some illness and seems to have returned to the scene even more spiteful, was far from impressed. Guessing that there was some mischief he could sniff not out, Azad retorted that he was a “kingmaker” who would not like to be confined to Srinagar. “I have the more important task of making Soniaji pradhan mantri,” he added, implying that the task could not be left to lesser mortals like Soni. True. But can Azad carry the entire Congress burden on his convalescing shoulders'
Victims of the ballot
Evidently, the quarrel over the loaves and fishes of power among politicians has left Kashmiris extremely sour. Especially because amid the ballot and bullets, they can have none of their favourite goshtaba, roshtaba, tabaqmaaz or other delicacies. The assembly polls have clashed with the wedding season in the valley and is, quite naturally, causing much heartburn to those who are fond of the lavish community meals. Weather-wise, the September-October months make the most pleasant season for Kashmiris to have elaborate weddings with “Bhoomro, bhoomro, shyama rang bhoomro” playing full blast. The elections this year have spoilt it all for them. There are fewer marriages this year and less of the 20-course meals. Blame JM Lyngdoh for not lending a ear to Narendra Modi on the illogic of the Kashmir polls.
He will be missed
Not only politicians, but bureaucrats too seem to be out of sync with matters that concern India. Recently shifted out of the agriculture ministry was an expert on GATT-WTO-related matters, a man who had over the last five years or so mastered the nitty-gritty of negotiations with the world body. He was planted in the home ministry to look after, of all things, the Northeast. In his place was installed a man who now has to learn everything from scratch. Even the agriculture minister resisted the transfer, but a powerful cabinet secretary seemed very determined to get his man in the ministry. And pray where is the home minister amidst all this' Busy observing Calcutta, it seems.
Madame boss is watching
It isn’t easy being a Congressman, especially if you happen to be a visible face of the party. For no one, however close, lasts very long in the durbar. And with someone as thoughtful about control as Sonia Gandhi at the helm you have to be especially careful. All party spokespersons are given a daily briefing of their own before they face the media and are expected to strictly adhere to it. This is to ensure that the message the party sends out to the people is exactly the one that is intended. Those like S. Jaipal Reddy, who are quite proud of their powers of articulation, have an especially tough time because they are expected to keep their tongues in check.
Most parties have media cells which meet once in a while, when a big issue crops up or before elections. But so elaborate is the monitoring-process in the Congress that video-recordings are made of all press conferences. To check whether the one fielding the media questions has not deviated a sentence from madam’s diktat.
The minister and her man
Admittedly, Mamata Banerjee is going through a rough patch. On the verge of political oblivion, no one seems to care for our firebrand didi. So it is quite surprising that someone should ask after her, and even more surprising that that someone should be MM Rajendran, the governor of Orissa who is filling-in for Viren Shah. Rajendran had been a secretary when Mamata was sports minister and continues to be a well-wisher. MB however is not one for such sentiments — she never even put in an appearance at the swearing-in. She may no longer be a minister, but she is yet to shed her ministerial airs.
Skeletons in amma’s cupboard
Did you know J. Jayalalithaa’s real name was Komilawalli, that MGR called her ammo, and that she changed her name when she became an actress' And that for all her high rhetoric about protecting the rights of Tamil Nadu over the Cauvery waters issue, she is not a true-blue Tamilian, but was born in Karnataka' And that she wanted to commit sati after MGR’s death' That’s the dirt the Congress has unearthed on the iron lady of Tamil Nadu after she went ballistic on Sonia Gandhi’s foreign origins and is waiting to fling at the first opportunity. Let’s see if it sticks.
Paying for all their vices
Heady days are here again. By this time, many should be conversant with the exploits of the Punjab chief minister and his party, the team just returned from a junket to Britain and the US of A. Rumour mills have it that many of these men returned heavily loaded with one particular brand of whisky which is the favourite of their political master. This, despite the fact that the customs permit only one bottle and slap a prohibitively high duty of 130 per cent on the second bottle. But in a state where people pay anywhere between two to five lakhs for entry into government service, a mere Rs 10,000 for each extra bottle does not seem to much agitate the high and mighty. On another front, they were however less courageous. Remembering how the senior Congress MP, Kamal Nath, was once harassed by the customs for bringing back XXX-rated stuff, many of those who carried adult videos along with extra whisky bottles, lost nerve at the last moment. They either dumped them in airport toilets or left them in the overhead cabins. What a waste!