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Ever since their release, the Radia tapes have sounded like sweet music to the ears of the Opposition. They sound even sweeter to some others. Take, for instance, the two leaders of the Opposition — Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley — who have now been given a rare opportunity to develop their writing skills. Apparently, Jaitley is being bombarded with requests to write for the print media. Jaitley has his own take on such matters. He believes that the involvement of some columnists in the controversy has meant that a few columns have been stopped, and hence his soaring demand. Swaraj has not bothered herself with such trifles. She is busy tweeting. Every other day, she reportedly mentions some important meeting that she has attended and her own views on matters of public importance. All that dislike for Shashi Tharoor’s tweeting habits is a thing of the past. Telephone conversations, and not tweeting, may lead to quitting these days.
Ghulam Nabi Azad’s crisis management skills were rediscovered when he was sent to Hyderabad to get a new man on the chief minister’s chair after the resignation of K Rosaiah. Soon enough, there was not only a new CM, but also a fracture in the YSR family that helped the party fight the Jaganmohan fire. Apparently, Sonia Gandhi is keen to have Azad back full time in the party. But, given the dire need of crisis managers in the government, Manmohan Singh is also under pressure to bring Azad back as parliamentary affairs minister. The choice now before Azad is whether to be a full-time gen-sec or full-time minister.
The presence of many senior journalists on the Radia tapes has caused acute embarrassment to many puritans in the media. A wag was recently heard asking a colleague,“Are you from the media or from Radia?”
President Pratibha Patil’s visit to the United Arab Emirates and Syria was a grand success, but a piquant situation had developed in Syria. The Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, was animatedly speaking in chaste Arabic on the microphone. The Indian delegation could not hear a word because of an obvious technical hitch. This annoyed the young president, who also heads the Syrian Computer Society, a body which had introduced the internet to Syria in 2001. Al-Assad resumed after a brief delay, but again his voice did not reach the guests. The Baath Party chief was now visibly angry and marched menacingly towards the interpreter and technical staff. Sensing danger, Patil quickly rose from her seat and signalled to the president that she understood there had been a technical problem. Her gesture stopped Al-Assad on his tracks. Fortunately, there were no further snags.
The inactivity in Parliament seems to be consuming all the energies and attention of the principal Opposition party. The Bharatiya Janata Party has quietly rescheduled its executive meeting from the early half of December to the third week of the month. The meeting is supposed to take place in Guwahati, which goes to assembly polls early next year. However, after rescheduling the meet, the party discovered that the Congress is about to hold its AICC plenary session during the same time in the capital. So the BJP meet has been ‘re-re-scheduled’ to January. The reason? The party did not want to lose media attention, which, invariably, would be hogged by the Congress if both the parties held the meetings at the same time.
At a recent meeting in the Central Hall of Parliament, Suresh Kalmadi was seen carrying a briefcase. He was on his way to exchange notes with a couple of fellow parliamentarians. When the talk veered round to the scams associated with the Commonwealth Games, Kalmadi was heard blaming the media for indulging in character assassination.
When he got up to leave, a member of parliament whispered that he should perhaps leave behind the briefcase. He did not go unheard and an infuriated Kalmadi reportedly blurted out, “These contain papers, not cash. I need to organize my defence, don’t I?” Of course.
Apart from her trademark chappals and crushed cotton sari, there is something else that Mamata Banerjee carries on her. It is her dark grey canvas bag that she lovingly calls jangal mahal. The bag is supposed to hold two first-aid kits, numerous 10 rupee notes (apparently given by her mother each time she leaves Calcutta) and other knickknacks. The bag’s zipper has been giving Didi some trouble but she cannot think of discarding it. Hence, huge safety-pins are in place to stop things from spilling out. With the winter setting in, Banerjee is said to have decided to buy shawls for her close associates. But in New Delhi’s stores, where the finest pashmina, angora and woollen shawls are available, her budget of Rs 2,000 a piece is proving to be too modest. In Calcutta, as she would have discovered, such a princely sum can still fetch woollens.