The Telegraph
Sunday , January 6 , 2013
Since 1st March, 1999
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Family ties

You can let down the family, but the family never lets you down — that seems to be the guiding principle that helps the Nehru-Gandhis retain their loyalists. What else could explain the family’s undying affection for Mohan Prakash, former Janata Dal ideologue and now Congress gen-sec in charge of Gujarat, despite his flop show in the state elections? Prakash is believed to have assured the Congress president, Sonia Gandhi, that the party would win 80-85 seats and may even be able to form the government. Before Gujarat, Prakash had been head of the party’s screening committee that picked nominees for Uttar Pradesh where the Congress suffered badly. And yet, Prakash continues to enjoy the confidence of both mother and son. He was spotted with Rahul Gandhi and his friend, the Jammu and Kashmir chief minister, Omar Abdullah, when they visited Amethi recently. Although Rahulbaba is believed to have snubbed Prakash a little by giving the foundation day celebration in Maharashtra — an event that was organized by Prakash — a miss, the damage is not severe. In fact, disgruntled partymen suspect that Prakash’s proximity with the Nehru-Gandhis may even win him the charge of election-bound Karnataka. Some people just have all the luck!

Big picture

One who has had more than his share of luck is Narendra Modi. He had used 3D technology for campaigning throughout the state. Modi, apparently, has an agreement with an international company, which provides this technology around the world, for its use for the next two years. That means the Lok Sabha elections in Gujarat is bound to go hi-tech as well. During the assembly election campaign, Modi is believed to have canvassed in more than 50 places at the same time through the use of this facility. So Nitish Kumar willing or not, Modi could be seen in Bihar in 2014. Like the 3D projections of Life of Pi, supporters are believed to be craving to see Life of Na Mo.

All play

At a time when the nation expected to see group of ministers at their active best, they went missing. During the protests against the Delhi gang-rape, the GoMs met just once and failed to work out a cogent strategy. Shastri Bhavan insiders have several explanations — first, heavyweights like P Chidambaram and Kapil Sibal find Manish Tiwari, Ambika Soni’s replacement, a lightweight. Second, the year-end also saw several cabinet ministers missing in action — Salman Khurshid was holidaying and Sibal had taken leave because of his father’s death.

Under watch

The lacklustre statement of the prime minister on television on the Delhi gang-rape case was followed by an even timid “theek hai”, but that has not stopped fingers from being pointed at Pankaj Pachauri, the PM’s communications advisor. Pachauri is believed to be responsible for the telecast as well as the goof-up because he, reportedly, was present when the recording was done. The Prime Minister’s Office now accuses him of clearing the final version of the recording without editing the last bit that has caused so much embarrassment to the PM. Now that there has been a slip, Pachauri is also being blamed for the previous fiasco that had the PM’s off-the-record comment on Bangladesh being uploaded on the PMO website. The call for Pachauri’s head has grown louder with heads already rolling in Doordarshan. Incidentally, these are not those of the honchos. Most believe small fry have been sacrificed at the altar of the bigger ones. Any way, following the incident, the director-general of news at DD is now seen sitting in the newsroom monitoring the news personally. If you see the newsreader stuttering, you should know the reason.

Alarm bell

Now that it is certain that the fiery Tamil Nadu CM will try her utmost to have a hand in the next government-formation at the Centre, there are stories galore about her drama at the National Development Council meet in the capital. J Jayalalithaa had done her bit to become the first speaker among the state CMs. Given that speakers’ names are put according to the alphabetical order of the states, the Tamil Nadu CM featured way down on the list. Upset that she had to wait her turn for so long, Jayalalithaa is said to have sent word to Manmohan Singh, requesting an earlier audience. The request was granted.

The first speaker at the meet was Montek Singh Ahluwalia, followed by P Chidambaram and then the PM himself. Jayalalithaa was immediately next, much to the surprise of the other CMs. Unfortunately, the buzzer, put on a timer of 10 minutes for each speaker, went off.

Sticky wicket

Is Jairam Ramesh’s image of a spin-doctor beginning to hurt the Union rural development minister? There are several straws in the air pointing in that direction. At a much-publicized cash transfer announcement, Ramesh was missing and it was P Chidambaram who held fort. Ramesh, one hears, was unaware of the important engagement, and was spotted travelling in Jharkhand. There are whispers that the Union finance minister did not like his once-upon-a-time aide scoring at an earlier cash transfer meet when Ramesh had spontaneously coined the slogan, “aapka paisa aapke haath”, and won laurels. That’s not all. A team of Planning Commission members called on Sonia Gandhi recently, explaining big schemes and plans. Once again, Ramesh was kept out of the loop. Ramesh now wants Rahul Gandhi to let him know where he stands.