The last weeks of 2012 have been tough for Congress leaders, who have been scrambling around to gain a modicum of control in the wake of the mass protests against the brutal gangrape in Delhi of a young girl who passed away yesterday. Things have been especially difficult for the home minister, Sushil Kumar Shinde. The man, who is usually seen smiling, is now reportedly both sleepless and edgy as a result of the nation’s unprecedented outrage and his verbal battles with the Delhi chief minister, Sheila Dikshit. On one occasion, Shinde complained to the Congress chief, Sonia Gandhi, that Dikshit seemed to be more concerned about her own image than that of the government’s. But, he argued, nobody seems to have pulled Dikshit up for it. Sonia Gandhi, too, grappled with the civil stir in and around India Gate. She came out of 10 Janpath to meet some protesters and invite them to come again the next day. Since the protesters did not have a proper leadership, six people were allowed entry into 10 Janpath. A couple with a four-year-old girl were the most vocal. The little child asked Sonia Gandhi to imagine what she would go through if her father failed to pick her up from school on time. Upon hearing this, the Union minister of state for home affairs, RPN Singh, quickly offered the child biscuits and assured her that nothing of the sort would ever happen to her. Looks like the government has a long fight ahead of it to prove its credibility, if biscuits and platitudes are what are on offer by way of security for women in the capital.
Patience is a rare virtue these days, almost as rare as the smooth running of Parliament. But the last leg of the recently-concluded winter session revealed a new side of the country’s legislators. Parliament functioned without a break during the passage of the huge companies bill. Amending the bill clause by clause took a lot of time, and the Lok Sabha was in session till 11 pm to get it passed. In the midst of all this, Satpal Maharaj showed immense patience. The member of parliament belonging to the Congress was seen sipping water calmly when the amendments of the bill started after a long discussion. Since such exemplary behaviour is rare in Parliament, other MPs were heard raising slogans such as “Maharaj ji ki jai ho” in order to commend his patience. Perhaps Maharaj’s colleagues could take a leaf out of his book the next time they’re tempted to disrupt Parliament violently.
The friendship between Gurudas Dasgupta and Mamata Banerjee continues to grow, much to the chagrin of the former’s comrades, including those in his own party, the Communist Party of India. Dasgupta’s proximity to the West Bengal chief minister and the bargaining between them has touched new heights during her recent visit to Delhi. Banerjee reportedly spoke to Dasgupta exclusively on the trade union strike scheduled for February next year, and is said to have requested him to ensure that the two-day strike does not affect the functioning of government offices. In return, Dasgupta requested Banerjee to make certain that force is not used to stop the strike, since it is being called to protest against the policies of the Centre and not those of the state government. Both parties seem to be very happy with their agreement. Now if only it were such smooth sailing for the state government and the Opposition parties in West Bengal, then there might not have been fisticuffs in the legislative assembly.
When Delhi was on the boil, the lieutenant governor of the Union territory, Tejendra Khanna — who is directly responsible for law and order in the capital, instead of the chief minister, as is widely believed — was in the United States of America. Khanna apparently had to be instructed by the Union home ministry to cut his visit short and take charge in Delhi.
Khanna’s term as lieutenant governor of Delhi had ended earlier this year in April, but he had not resigned. This is in sharp contrast to the example set by the former governor of West Bengal, Gopalkrishna Gandhi, who resigned the day his term as governor ended. Informed sources claim that Khanna is lobbying for a gubernatorial assignment outside Delhi.
Away from the angry protests and the verbal duels, Rahul Gandhi was spotted being an ideal family man. The Gandhi scion went to Delhi’s Khan Market to pick up Christmas gifts for his mother, sister, brother-in-law and his niece and nephew. Rahul picked up two books on history and civilization for Sonia, who is an avid reader. He chose toys and chocolates for the children, and perfumes for the rest of the family. Rahul as a customer had an eye for the good stuff and did not even bargain. Looks like he provided a moment of joy for his family during an otherwise tense festive season.