The Telegraph
Sunday , February 6 , 2011
Since 1st March, 1999
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At rest

The babus in the Shastri Bhavan wing that houses the petroleum ministry have found themselves on a slippery surface. Despite the acute shortage of space, Murli Deora, the man who was in charge earlier, had made sure that the personal staff of his junior minister, Jitin Prasada, was accommodated. But the new man in charge, S Jaipal Reddy, has proved to be different in this respect. As a result, the minister of state, RPN Singh, has not been able to find space for his staffers. But overcrowding isn’t the only problem that the babus are grappling with at the moment. Much to their horror, they have discovered that both Reddy and Singh are reluctant travellers. The duo seem to be particularly allergic to flying. Now this may not be that bad a news, given the high cost of aviation fuel. But the bureaucrats are of the opinion that by not attending international meetings and overseas engagements, Messrs Reddy and Singh are sending the wrong message to the Prime Minister’s Office. If insiders are to be believed, Reddy, apparently, finds the whole notion of travelling physically taxing. As for Singh, the very idea of flying gives him the jitters. So while Reddy and Singh continue to stay put in the premises, the babus spend their days racking their brains to come up with a solution to get the duo on their feet.

Free gift

The Bharatiya Janata Party has got a new stick to beat the government with — the Centre’s refusal to allow the party to hoist the national flag at Lal Chowk in Srinagar. Incidentally, Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley were arrested at the Jammu airport and deported from the state. Never the ones to give up easily, Swaraj and Jaitley tried to re-enter Jammu the following day along with the other participants of the Ekta Yatra. But this time too, their fate remained unchanged: Swaraj and Jaitley got arrested once again. During the whole episode, Swaraj tweeted vigorously and gave a minute-by-minute account of the treatment that was being meted out to her and to her partymen by the Omar Abdullah government. The Ekta Yatra may have turned out to be a damp squib, but Swaraj isn’t exactly unhappy. Thanks to her dramatic tweets, the following of her tweeter account has increased by thousands.

Close ties

A Raja’s arrest has sent shock waves not just to Chennai but also faraway Mumbai. Supporters of the former chief minister, Ashok Chavan, fear that something similar may happen to their leader because of his alleged involvement in the Adarsh Society imbroglio. Recently, 27 MLAs belonging to the Congress, who are fiercely loyal to Chavan, aired their grievances against the possibility of the CBI questioning him. They also requested a non-committal Prithviraj Chavan, the current CM, to ensure that Ashok is spared Raja’s fate. Such a show of support in such difficult times must have pleased Ashok Chavan.

Tough job

It has been a while since the cabinet reshuffle took place. But the corridors of power are still agog with conspiracy theories that explain the reasons behind some ministers getting carrots and others getting sticks. Some Union ministers are of the opinion that the Radia tapes played a role in the distribution of plum posts. To bolster their claim, they point out how three of their colleagues, whose names are said to feature on the spools, were shunted out of their respective ministries. There is also some talk of a former bureaucrat, who is now a member of parliament from the Janata Dal (United), playing a role in the process. But a funnier explanation of the cabinet reshuffle is also doing the rounds. The prime minister, it says, implemented the ‘employment guarantee scheme’ on his colleagues while executing this difficult task as he did not want anyone to go jobless.

No clue

After the recent hike in petrol prices, Didi directed her party workers to take to the streets in protest. Given the fact that the polls are round the corner, Mamata Banerjee’s compulsions are understandable. But what shocked the Congress was her claim that she was not consulted on the matter. A senior cabinet minister remarked in jest that Didi seems to have forgotten that after the de-controlling exercise, the government had no hand in the change of petrol prices.


In a hurry

Piggy Chops, alias Priyanka Chopra, does need a shoulder to cry on, given these taxing times. And she seems to have found one in Shahid Kapoor. By this time, most of us know that when the income tax sleuths came knocking on Priyanka’s door, Shahid — in true filmi style — dropped in from nowhere to make sure all was well with his new friend. But what is not known is that Ranbir Kapoor almost ended up doing a Shahid at Katrina Kaif’s residence. Before the income tax team reached Katrina’s house in Bandra, Ranbir, the grapevine says, was through with his ‘early breakfast meeting’ and had left the premises. It is being said that these days both Ranbir and Katrina have become much more open about their ‘friendship’. If that is true, why did Ranbir flee the scene of trouble?

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