The Telegraph
Sunday , November 25 , 2012
Since 1st March, 1999
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Human touch

Hidden side

The death of the Shiv Sena supremo, Bal Thackeray, shut the whole of Mumbai down. It also left many people moist-eyed. One of those affected by Thackeray’s demise is the chief of the Nationalist Congress Party, Sharad Pawar. Pawar, who shared an uneasy political relationship with Thackeray, was heard telling numerous tales that showed the rightwing hardliner in a surprisingly mellow light. Pawar recalled the time when his daughter, Supriya Sule, was standing for election to the Rajya Sabha. Thackeray had called Pawar at the time, telling him that he was extending his unconditional support for Sule’s candidature. The Shiv Sena chief reportedly told Pawar that their own political differences should not be passed on to their children’s generation. He also fondly recalled the time when an infant Sule used to play with him. Pawar and Thackeray may have buried the hatchet, but the two warring brothers of the Thackeray clan — Raj and Uddhav — are unlikely to heed such useful advice.

Friend indeed

Recently, the Indira Gandhi international award function was held in honour of the Myanmar Opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, who visited India recently. Present at the ceremony in Vigyan Bhavan was the former aide to Rajiv Gandhi, Vincent George. George, who had enjoyed a considerable amount of clout during Rajiv Gandhi’s era and in the initial days of Sonia Gandhi’s rise in the party, rarely makes public appearances these days. His presence at the event, therefore, generated a lot of interest. However, only a handful of the United Progressive Alliance ministers and Congress leaders present at the venue showed him any warmth. But George didn’t find himself friendless at the event. The journalist-turned-politician, Rajiv Shukla, made it a point to remain at George’s side throughout the function. Neither friendships nor enmities are known to be permanent in the world of politics. But Shukla, who is the secretary to the AICC as well as minister of state for parliamentary affairs, may have just bucked the trend, for he behaved like a true friend to George regardless of the latter’s fluctuating fortunes.

Big change

The first thing that the new Union railways minister, Pawan Kumar Bansal, did after taking charge of his ministry was to stop the rampant misuse of the railways minister’s reservation quota. When the Trinamul Congress had been in charge of the railways ministry, Mamata Banerjee had reportedly set up a special reservations box outside her Calcutta residence, and had issued instructions that all requests for reservations were to be entertained. When Dinesh Trivedi and Mukul Roy briefly held charge of the ministry, requests from party members for reservations were given top priority. But now that Bansal is in charge, things are set to change. He has issued strict instructions against the misuse of the quota. His firm stand has so unnerved the two ministers of state that even they are hesitant to forward reservation requests. In all this, the TMC has found something to gloat over. Bansal’s decisive moves have now elicited remarks that while Banerjee’s ‘generosity’ made her a mass leader, Bansal is merely a Congress leader.

But the Congress, for its part, is retaliating too by pleasing anyone who is opposed to Didi. In his first press briefing, Bansal went out of his way to woo the Communist Party of India (Marxist)’s Basudeb Acharya by allotting a local train for his constituency. A Barrackpore-Delhi train service was announced for the sake of Dinesh Trivedi. But Trivedi will be hoping that Bansal’s ploy does not lead his boss to cold shoulder him all over again.

Enemy lines

The CPI veteran, Gurudas Dasgupta, seems to be rubbing his party the wrong way. His enthusiasm to hog the limelight has antagonized the party’s political bosses. After several hints failed to reach their mark, the CPI’s general secretary, Suravaram Sudhakar Reddy, had to tell Dasgupta point blank not to go and speak to the media on every issue. A defiant Dasgupta shot back that he needs to speak to the media in order to counter anti-Left propaganda. He was also quick to point out that the Rajya Sabha MP and another CPI politician, D Raja, is seen regularly on television. But the CPI has often been left red-faced by Dasgupta’s zeal. He had announced on TV that his party would not support the UPA’s choice for the post of president, even though the CPI had not yet taken a decision on the matter. Expectedly, he has been instructed to stay away from the media and take things slow. Moreover, his hobnobbing with the TMC is being viewed by his partymen as an attempt to keep Mamata Banerjee in good humour. It is believed that Dasgupta can only win his constituency in the 2014 elections with the TMC’s support. The sight of squabbling comrades will make the West Bengal chief minister happy though.

Lot to learn

The newly-appointed human resource development minister, MM Pallam Raju, seems to have a thing or two to learn from his predecessor, Kapil Sibal. Some academicians have not fully understood Raju’s ways of functioning. Recently, a delegation from the Banaras Hindu University requested him to inaugurate a BHU campus for women in Sonia Gandhi’s constituency, Rae Bareli. Raju could not confirm his involvement despite the repeated pleas of the vice-chancellor. Last heard, the BHU delegation was spotted at 10, Janpath, seeking Sonia Gandhi’s personal intervention. That will surely make Raju attend the function.