NATIONAL POLITICS: BJP loses appetite for dinner, not pact – political manoeuvring just for Modi’s blunders ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
Patna, June 12: The BJP declined Nitish Kumar’s dinner invite after his public snub to Narendra Modi but scrambled to deny any rift between the two NDA allies.
Party spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain dismissed reports that Arun Jaitley and M. Venkaiah Naidu had rushed to meet Nitish and pacify him. “He (Nitish) is not upset,” Hussain said.
Sources, however, said Jaitley and Naidu had been prevented from going to Nitish by the BJP’s Bihar MLAs. The MLAs apparently said that if the leaders decided to humour Nitish on this point, they might as well merge the BJP with the Janata Dal (United).
Hussain claimed the party had decided to give the dinner a miss because the leaders wanted to prolong their discussions at the national executive, which began here today.
“Our meeting is far more important than any dinner. It would have been a waste of time to curtail the session and leave the hotel. So we are going to sit late tonight and have a working meal. The nation’s reconstruction is more important than a dinner,” he said.
The BJP decision seemed to have suited Nitish fine and he promptly cancelled the dinner without citing any reason.
A Dal (United) leader close to Nitish said the chief minister had been “uncomfortable” all along with the idea of having Modi as a guest but could hardly tell the others that while they were welcome, Modi was not.
The advertisements purportedly funded by the Gujarat government showing Modi as a “role model” for Nitish became the perfect excuse for the Bihar chief minister.
“The BJP got the hint. But there was no way they could have told Modi ‘Don’t come but the rest of us will go’,” the Dal (United) leader said.
It helped that Nitish had not sent out formal invites. “We were informally sounded out on the dinner and scheduled the proceedings accordingly,” a local BJP leader said.
Asked about Nitish’s palpable dislike for Modi, Hussain said: “The BJP has a galaxy of leaders and all of them are committed to one philosophy, one worldview. (And) when we deal with our allies, we are not dealing with individuals but negotiating on a common agenda.”
Asked why the Modi advertisements had been so patronising, Hussain said: “Modi has no dearth of fans. People are ready to die for him. His fans put out these advertisements, what can he do? Our Bihar BJP workers regard him and Nitish as their icons because both of them are committed to development.”
There were six prominent absentees from the national executive: Yashwant Sinha, Vasundhara Raje, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, Hema Malini, Kiron Kher and Vani Tripati.
Nitish slap greets ad-happy Modi – driven by guilt or greed ?!!
BY RADHIKA RAMASESHAN AND NALIN VERMA
Patna, June 12: Nitish Kumar today virtually told Narendra Modi he was unwanted in Bihar, handing out the public rebuff to reassert his secular credentials after suggestions that he was warming up to the Gujarat chief minister.
The excuse for the snub, delivered at a media lunch Nitish hosted, had been provided by Modi himself this morning in the shape of patronising newspaper ads that touted him as a “role model” for the Bihar chief minister.
“The last thing I want is to be seen in Modi’s company,” Nitish told journalists. He dubbed one of the Modi ads “uncultured, unethical”. (and criminal too ?!!)
Asked if he expected Modi to attend the dinner for BJP leaders at his home tonight, he said he had not asked anyone to come “personally”. The BJP took the hint and declined the invite.
Modi is not known to swallow insults, but the BJP said he would stay to address tomorrow’s Patna rally, to be held on the sidelines of the party’s national executive meeting.
The newspaper ads were taken out in the name of private Bihar citizens, but BJP sources said the Gujarat government had funded them, although the Modi administration later denied this.
One of the ads showed Modi holding Nitish’s arms aloft in solidarity. The picture was taken a year ago at an NDA rally in Ludhiana, where Nitish had been left squirming as Modi “ambushed” him by grabbing his arm.
The ad said: “… Gujarat has become a role model for others. The Biharis settled in Gujarat are forever grateful to Narendra Modi for his deeds and hope that Bihar will repeat the magic he has worked in Gujarat.”
Nitish made it plain that Modi had no business telling him how to run Bihar. “What has Modi got to do with it? Bihar is not a weakling. We Biharis have strength to confront the toughest challenge.”
Another ad praised Modi for the help he had given to Bihar during the 2008 Kosi floods. Nitish said: “(In) Bharatiya culture and Bihar culture… it is uncultured, unethical and bad manners to make a production of how much help one gives.”
He later told The Telegraph he planned to return the Rs 5 crore Gujarat had given Bihar as flood aid.
Nitish began showcasing his “secular” credentials right from morning, offering a chadar at Pir Ali Khanquah in the Phulwari Sharief dargah, where he was photographed with leading Muslim clerics. An aide said having these pictures on the front pages of newspapers was the only way to counter the “damage” caused by Modi’s campaign.
Modi-bashing after blind eye to riots – pogrom of 2002 Modi’s lasting national “Legacy of Shame” in a secular India ?!!
Patna, June 12: The BJP is wondering why Nitish Kumar feels it necessary to periodically assert his “secularism”, with Narendra Modi as the focus of the exercise.
BJP leaders are not willing to criticise Nitish’s position in public. In private, they say that a person who did not protest the Gujarat pogrom of 2002, and unquestioningly bought the state government’s version of the Godhra fire, cannot suddenly be seized with pangs of concern about how Bihar’s Muslims may be feeling about Modi setting foot in their state.
Neither does Nitish seem too worried about having Sushil Modi, a kar sevak who was in Ayodhya when the Babri Masjid was pulled down, as the deputy chief minister and Ashwani Choubey as a senior minister.
So why does he have these qualms about Modi?
A Janata Dal (United) leader, who is quietly sustaining Nitish’s “secular” image, put it down to the two chief ministers’ high ambition. “Modi sees Nitish as his only worthy non-Congress competitor in the national arena. He will do everything to demolish him and that’s what he has tried now.”
The reference was to the ad blitz by Modi attempting to sell himself as a “role model” for the Bihar chief minister.
Unlike Modi, whom many in the BJP consider an arriviste with aspirations exceeding his “real worth”, Nitish is seen as a “silent player” who would not reveal his hands prematurely.
For instance, Nitish’s only apparent agenda for the moment is to retain power in the year-end elections. However, if he wins the polls, it’s anybody’s guess whether he would set his sights on Delhi in the 2014 battle, his supporters say.
Even his critics, such as a Rashtriya Janata Dal MP who spoke off the record, admire Nitish’s political dexterity. “Nobody remembers that he was part of the BJP coalition when Gujarat happened. What everybody marvels at is how he takes on Modi, the most powerful BJP leader,” the MP said.
If Lalu Prasad is spoken of as the wizard of the politics of symbolism, Nitish is described in Bihar as the best practitioner of the politics of symbolism overlaid with substantive messages.
Messaging was just what Modi was trying by unleashing the ad campaign that combined a new-found love for Muslims with claims of being a model chief minister.
Modi’s regular blogs reveal his makeover attempt. Having cut the RSS to size in Gujarat and bullied the state BJP into submission, he has found new backers in actors Amitabh Bachchan and Ajay Devgn who have praised his achievements in “development and governance”. (not really true, only fooling everyone, but Narendra Modi himself ?!!)
Nitish, however, said “all these advertisements were unauthorised” without clarifying whose authorisation was needed. “I was not informed about them. We will take legal action against the (ad) agency,” he said.
A government source said the advertising agency’s Patna office had been raided and arrests were likely tonight. It wasn’t clear what the agency’s offence was.
Deport plan for Bangla migrants – BJP misses consensus issues due to Modi bickering, how many in Bengal ‘under cover’ Communists to set this wrong trend right in Bengal ?!!
BY TAPAS CHAKRABORTY
Lucknow, June 12: The Mayavati government today said it had identified 8,500 Bangladeshis living illegally in the state and planned to deport them, wading into a sensitive political issue in an attempt to hijack a BJP plank.
State home department officials said that once the police had verified all the alleged Bangladeshis’ antecedents, deportation would be recommended. They added that most of these Bengali-speaking settlers were Muslims and lived in Meerut, Lucknow and Noida.
State home secretary Deepak Kumar said 57 Bangladeshis had been arrested and 18 deported in the first five months of this year.
Such deportation, however, hardly achieves anything because Dhaka refuses to accept the alleged immigrants as its citizens. “After the BSF pushes them into Bangladesh, that country’s border troops again push them back into India,” an official said.
Also, the issue can be thorny, with the Bengal Left often alleging that Muslims from Bengal are branded Bangladeshis and victimised by the police of other states.
The BJP had attempted to orchestrate a campaign in 1999-2004 for the deportation of illegal Bangladeshi immigrants. Political analysts said Mayavati was trying to hijack the issue to win over some of the BJP’s upper caste Hindu voters.
An official claimed the Mayavati government had started the drive because of the terror attacks in the state by “home-grown terror modules”.
Samajwadi Party leaders were quick to claim that the Mayavati government was targeting their supporters by branding them Bangladeshis. However, like the Left in Bengal, the Samajwadis here have often been accused of issuing ration cards to Bangladeshis to “naturalise” them and create a vote bank.
“The state government is aware of the sensitivity of the issue. We will verify all the details of their identity before deporting them,” said R.K. Srivastava, an official of the immigration unit of state intelligence.
Home secretary Deepak Kumar said most of these settlers — about 6,000 — lived in Meerut in western Uttar Pradesh, 350km from here, and about 1,800 in Lucknow.
“In Meerut, they try to merge themselves in the mainstream Muslim society but their broken Hindustani gives them away. They settle in Meerut because it is easier for them to travel to Delhi in search of work,” an official said.
“In Lucknow, they work as labourers in the unorganised sector and their women work as housemaids.”
Another home department official said that some 350 Bangladeshi nationals had been identified in Noida but their number there could be higher.
Many of these Bangladeshis are engaged in human trafficking, an official alleged. He said the police had arrested four Bangladeshis, including a woman, in January from Saharanpur district and they had admitted to running a trafficking racket for the past five years.
“They were bringing Bangladeshis to India by promising them jobs and were charging money from them,” the official said.
Fresh plea on Anderson – past ghosts come to haunt the future ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
New Delhi, June 12: India may soon make another request to the US for Warren Anderson’s extradition, although government sources admit there is little hope of it being accepted.
However, the Congress leadership hopes that making a fresh extradition request would deflect some of the flak the party is facing over Anderson’s escape from Indian law at a time the party ruled both at the Centre and in Madhya Pradesh.
The government is set to ask attorney-general G.E. Vahanvati to reframe Delhi’s request for Anderson’s extradition, the sources said.
In Calcutta, Union finance minister Pranab Mukherjee echoed this. “We are trying,” Mukherjee told PTI when asked whether India was trying to bring Anderson back to stand trial.
India had sent requests for Anderson’s extradition at least thrice to the US: in 2003, 2005 and 2008. Each time, Washington had turned Delhi down.
The US government had said the evidence provided by India did not prove Anderson’s personal culpability, negligence or liability in the Bhopal gas leak, as required under the India-US extradition treaty of 1999. It said Anderson could not be handed over just because he was then chief executive of Union Carbide.
The sources said neither the CBI nor any other investigating agency had any evidence to prove Anderson’s direct involvement in the world’s worst industrial disaster that killed at least 15,000 people.
An extradition request will come up for hearing in a US court, which would unlikely be persuaded by the available evidence to order extradition. So, it is extremely unlikely that a fresh request would meet a fate different from the three previous ones, the sources said.
Still, a request is likely to be made. “The government is very conscious that it should make this request only after intensive homework to plug the gaps in evidence,” a source said.
On all three previous occasions, the Indian foreign ministry had asked the investigating agencies to supplement Delhi’s request with more evidence to prove Anderson’s personal culpability. However, the CBI could not produce it.
After the US turned down the last request in August 2008, India’s then ambassador to Washington, Ronen Sen, had written to the CBI to provide more evidence. The CBI is yet to reply.
“But this is not about the CBI or the foreign ministry or any other government agency. This entire process has been a collective decision,” a source said, adding that neither the CBI nor any other government agency should be singled out for blame.
Carbide cash for trust tied to Arjun – caught between a rock and a hard place ?!!
Bhopal, June 12: Union Carbide had donated Rs 1.5 lakh to a trust associated with Arjun Singh’s family when the veteran politician was the chief minister of Madhya Pradesh.
Such donations are not illegal but the payment serves to underscore the cosy relationship between the company and the then Madhya Pradesh administration, which assumes significance in the wake of the uproar over the then Union Carbide chief Warren Anderson being allowed to fly out of Bhopal in a government plane.
A pilot had said the call clearing the flight had come from the office of Arjun, who was the chief minister when the tragedy unfolded in December 1984.
The trust, called the Churhat Children’s Welfare Society, had received Rs 150,000 from the US-headquartered company under the head “donation collected for building from Union Carbide”.
A copy of the audited account of the society, dated June 15, 1983, suggests the donation had been made between June 1, 1982, and March 31, 1983 (see graphic below). The Bhopal gas tragedy took place in December 1984. Arjun was chief minister during these years, his first stint stretching from 1980 to 1985.
S.N. Gupta, a Bhopal-based chartered accountant who was handling the Churhat society’s audit, said he had come across the reference to the Carbide donation. “Yes, I recall having recorded such a transaction,” Gupta said.
Apart from the chartered accountant, a person named Ajay Singh signed the document as secretary of the society on June 15, 1983. Arjun has a son named Ajay Singh. Ajay could not be contacted today as repeated calls to his home went unanswered.
The title Churhat society, once part of the political lore, will stir unsavoury memories for Arjun. The veteran politician’s association with the society had come under public scrutiny when it floated a phoney lottery.
The issue had snowballed into a scandal amid allegations that Arjun had siphoned off funds to construct a palatial mansion in Bhopal near the Kerwa dam.
The controversy had whipped up such an uproar that Arjun was forced to exit as chief minister in January 1989 during his third innings at the helm of the state.
His name was finally cleared by the high court.
During the legal battle, a court had made an observation that Arjun owed an explanation to the nation on the source of funds that were used in constructing the house. Arjun’s family now lives in the house, called Dev Shree.
Arjun, who had met Sonia Gandhi on the day the gas tragedy verdict was delivered, has not yet spoken out on allegations that he had bailed out Anderson. Neither has he revealed who had called him from Delhi with a request to ensure that Anderson was allowed to leave.
Rajendra Kothari, who was a manager with a well-known company in Bhopal, said: “Prior to the gas leak, Union Carbide was a sought-after company. Contractors, government officials and politicians used to proudly flaunt their association with the company. I am not surprised if it had tried to oblige the chief minister by donating in a society that had his patronage.”
However, Arjun’s party colleague and former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shyama Charan Shukla had viewed Carbide with suspicion, at least in hindsight.
Shukla, whose brother Vidya Charan was linked with some of the excesses of the Emergency, was chief minister in 1969 when Carbide had set up the plant in Bhopal.
Shukla, who died a couple of years ago, had written an article in a Hindi daily two weeks after the 1984 gas leak: “Carbide’s intentions were always dubious. As chief minister in 1969-72 and 1975-77, I always wondered why Carbide officials were so eager to please government officials. After all, professionalism demanded that they stick to their work and we to ours.”
Moily jab at Alexander – can a Law Minister judge and pre-judge ?!!
From The Press Trust of India
Bangalore, June 12 (PTI): M. Veerappa Moily today dubbed former Rajiv Gandhi aide P.C. Alexander “a new convert to the BJP-Shiv Sena camp” for suggesting the then Prime Minister may have had a role in Warren Anderson’s release.
Alexander, Rajiv’s principal secretary at the time of the Bhopal gas leak, had hinted that the leader could have agreed with the decision on letting off the ex-Union Carbide chief days after the December 1984 disaster.
“I think he (Alexander) had joined BJP, and with Shiv Sena’s support he became a Rajya Sabha member. He is a new convert to the BJP-Shiv Sena and the anti-Congress camp because he was not considered for Presidentship. It is a motivated statement,” Moily, the Union law minister, said.
The minister also appeared to blame the judiciary for diluting the charges in the case. “Unfortunately the judiciary (the Supreme Court) did it,” Moily said.
But A.M. Ahmadi, the Chief Justice of India at the time, said he “would not like to enter into a blame game”.
Govt to clear air on Rajiv in Bhopal case – Congress expresses concern on former PM being dragged in, cites Arjun statement of 1984 – Arjun to capitulate ?!!
SANJAY K. JHA
New Delhi, June 12: The Manmohan Singh government will soon make a formal statement confronting the insinuations about the role of the Rajiv Gandhi-led dispensation in the release of former Union Carbide chief Warren Anderson.
The decision was taken yesterday after the Congress core group expressed concern about the allegations swirling around following this week’s verdict on the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy.
Sources said the party’s top leaders felt Rajiv’s name was being maligned for no fault of his. Then Madhya Pradesh chief minister Arjun Singh, the leaders pointed out, had declared at news conferences in 1984 that he had taken the decision to release Anderson on his own and that there was no pressure from the Centre.
The party will contest the presumption that Arjun had lied and that Anderson couldn’t have been released without a prime ministerial diktat.
Corporate and minority affairs minister Salman Khursheed said “it is outrageous to jump to Rajivji straightaway”. “Such issues don’t necessarily go to the Prime Minister.
Had the SP, DM and CM all said they were helpless and couldn’t decide? Was there nobody between them and the Prime Minister….Where was the Union industry minister, law minister and the home minister?” Khursheed told The Telegraph.
Asked about claims by Arun Nehru (a member in Rajiv’s team) and P.C. Alexander (Rajiv’s principal secretary) that the matter couldn’t have been decided without the Prime Minister’s knowledge, Khursheed said sarcastically: “Only people like them will know how all sorts of things are done without the knowledge of the Prime Minister.”
Anderson, Khursheed argued, was not declared an offender and had reached Bhopal days after the tragedy on his own.
“The police didn’t know whether it (the gas disaster) was a sabotage, accident or negligence but they would have liked to prevent Anderson from going to the factory for law and order considerations. They might have discussed the issue among themselves and probably with the chief minister and taken the decision to get him out of Bhopal at the earliest. Where does the Prime Minister come in between?” Khursheed said, questioning the anti-Rajiv voices.
Khursheed also appeared to suggest that not much should be read into Arjun’s silence. “Arjun Singh is a retired old man. To expect him to indulge in regular repartee with the media is not fair. He has spoken on this issue in the past. If he has any new evidence, the right forum would be the group of ministers (set up on the tragedy probe lapses).”
But another Congress leader took a line different from Khursheed’s. Satyavrat Chaturvedi said it was “sad” Arjun had chosen to be silent when questions were being raised about Rajiv’s role. “He should break his silence and say whether he stands by the three statements he’d made after Anderson left the country.”
Karat seeks independent probe – CPM capitalizing on BJP incompetent infighting triggered by Modi ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
New Delhi, June 12: Prakash Karat today rejected the group of ministers panel formed by the Centre to look into the Bhopal gas tragedy and demanded an “independent” probe to ascertain how Warren Anderson was let off the hook.
Speaking on the sidelines of a tribal convention organised by the party, the CPM general secretary said: “It is clear that both the Centre and the state had connived to exonerate Anderson (the Union Carbide chief when the gas leak happened)…. Therefore it is time for a comprehensive inquiry into how this happened. This cannot be done by a Group of Ministers. It has to be done independently.”
Asked what kind of an independent inquiry he was demanding — whether it was a CBI probe that he wanted — Karat said his party was in discussions with groups concerned with the matter and would come up with suggestions later.
Karat also demanded once again that the Civil Nuclear Liability Bill should be scrapped as it could lead to a worse situation than the Bhopal gas tragedy. “Minor changes would be insufficient. It’s a shocking piece of legislation. It should be scrapped,” Karat said.
GAS TRAGEDY 2 – Benign sentence for worst disaster – hoping it will all just drift away ?!!
BY RASHEED KIDWAI
CRIME: 15274 DEAD (Official Figure)
PUNISHMENT: 2 years in jail and fine
Bhopal, June 7: Guilt— the death of at least 15,000. Punishment — two years in jail but bail for now.
Seven ageing Indian men walked out of a Bhopal court with a sense of relief today, convicted of negligence that caused the world’s worst industrial disaster 26 years ago but spared jail till their appeals are disposed of — a process that could take years.
Outside, thousands of gas victims wept in disappointment, calling the sentence of two years’ jail and Rs 1.01 lakh in fines a “joke” after a 23-year trial that moved at a snail’s pace.
“This punishment is not enough. I lost my son, younger brother and father and I still have nightmares,” said villager Ram Prasad, 75. To law minister Veerappa Moily, the delay in judgment symbolised “justice buried”.
To many, the worst blow was the 93-page judgment’s silence on Warren Anderson, 89, who was chairman of the US-based Union Carbide Corporation when its Bhopal factory spewed the killer methyl isocyanate gas on the night of December 2-3, 1984.
The American is still in hiding with no serious effort having been made for his extradition.
Insult was added to injury with the survivors and the activists who championed their cause being barred from the courtroom and then being beaten up by police in riot gear when they demanded to be let in.
Inside the court, chief judicial magistrate Mohan P. Tiwari dealt with the day’s business quickly, convicting all the seven Indian accused who were officials of Union Carbide’s Indian arm.
The original charge had been culpable homicide, which can carry a life term, but it was changed under Supreme Court orders in 1996 to “causing death by negligence”.
The section is generally invoked against rash drivers and carries a maximum punishment of two years.
Tiwari, however, claimed he had not convicted the accused of culpable homicide because they were aged and suffered from serious ailments. All the convicts were granted bail against a surety of Rs 25,000 each.
The eighth convict, Union Carbide India Limited, has been fined Rs 5.01 lakh. Like Anderson, the remaining two accused, Union Carbide (US) and Union Carbide Eastern (Hong Kong), went scot-free.
The victims accused the CBI of half-hearted prosecution and alleged the government’s eagerness for foreign investment had prevented it from pursuing Anderson’s extradition in earnest or challenging the apex court ruling watering down the charges.
Activists said the case underscored the challenges of ensuring that safety regulations kept pace with India’s fast-growing economy. The issue looms over a stalled nuclear liability bill in Parliament that limits foreign firms’ responsibility in giving compensation to victims of nuclear disasters.
Dow Chemicals, which has bought Union Carbide, reacted to the judgment by saying neither it nor its officials were subject to the Indian court’s jurisdiction.
The government says the gas leak killed 15,274 people and maimed 50,000. International rights bodies say the toll was 25,000 dead and one lakh ill, with the after-effects including the birth of deformed children and environmental pollution that still endangers the health of at least 20,000 Bhopal residents.
The gas victims’ illnesses include cancer, blindness, and diseases of the respiratory, immune, neurological and female reproductive systems.
MEANWHILE – THE ANALYSIS
DIARY – from The Telegraph
The bells for the West Bengal assembly polls are yet to toll. But heads have started rolling already among the top echelon of the Communist Party of India (Marxist).
A blame game is rife among the Prakash Karat lobby, which is holding the chief minister, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, responsible for the declining fortunes of the Left in the state.
On their part, Karat’s opponents feel that he should shoulder the lion’s share of the blame. Recently, the politburo announced its decision to convene an extended central committee meeting in Vijayawada in August, when some serious soul searching is expected to take place.
Meanwhile, the Bengal lobby, led by Sitaram Yechury, has charged Karat of overstepping the party line, an allegation that no general secretary of the CPI(M) has faced since the party came into existence in 1964.
Apparently, the brief was to work towards the defeat of the Bharatiya Janata Party, but somewhere the focus shifted to the Congress.
Add to this Bhattacharjee’s industrial policies, and what one gets is a royal mess. It remains to be seen how ‘the most disciplined political party’ in the country is going to fix this internal feud.
All is not well
In the BJP, too, seeds of discontent are growing into full-fledged trees, spreading their branches all over the place.
Nitin Gadkari, the party president, is clearly unhappy about the fact that senior leaders, Arun Jaitley and Rajnath Singh, are no longer on talking terms.
Moreover, the buzz is that Najma Heptullah is disillusioned with the BJP as well. Her grouse is particularly directed at Sushma Swaraj. Heptullah, who is never tired of flaunting her august lineage, had joined the BJP a few years ago in the hope that her talents would be better recognized there than in the Congress. That, clearly, does not seem to be the case at present.
It is said that the world of politics is all about pedigree and currying personal favours. But there are exceptions as well. Take, for instance, the case of the Union coal minister, Sriprakash Jaiswal.
Recently, Jaiswal took his counterpart at the urban development ministry, S. Jaipal Reddy, by quite a surprise.
It so happened that Jaiswal had sought an appointment with Reddy. When he called on Reddy at Delhi’s Nirman Bhawan, Jaiswal presented a case for a junior-level government official’s inability to get accommodation in spite of his just entitlement.
Reddy, of course, did the needful, but not before enquiring whether the official was somehow related to Jaiswal or perhaps linked to someone in the Congress.
The coal minister’s reply was short and stunning. The only link that the official had with him, Jaiswal said, was that he happened to be a voter in his parliamentary constituency.
Since then, Reddy has not stopped gushing over the minister’s sense of responsibility even towards an ordinary voter.
The composition of the National Advisory Council held a different kind of surprise in store for many members of the Congress. There were several heavyweights from the party eyeing plum NAC slots this time.
It is believed that Mani Shankar Aiyar, Jairam Ramesh and Digvijay Singh were some of the aspirants to the panel headed by Sonia Gandhi.
They all wanted to share their vision and ideas with the party president. But the NAC chief went on to pick a team of ‘apolitical entities’ disappointing many in the process.
In Congress circles, a membership to the NAC has assumed more value than a berth in the Union council of ministers. An NAC membership is considered akin to being granted entry into no less than the sanctum sanctorum.
The monsoons are yet to arrive but there is already a great deal of expectation over Manmohan Singh’s reshuffling of his council of ministers.
The Union commerce and industry minister, Anand Sharma, is said to be keen on the foreign office, where he believes he will do a better job than S.M. Krishna.
Krishna, in turn, would be content with being shifted to the human resource development ministry, replacing Kapil Sibal.
Apparently, Sibal won’t mind at all if he is asked to move into Udyog Bhawan to take up Sharma’s post. As the United Progressive Alliance government begins the second year of its second term in power, it remains to be seen how the good doctor is going to preside over this game of political musical chairs.
The Congress has asked its leaders not to give any public statement on Prakash Jha’s Bollywood sensation, Rajneeti. Further comments would only aggravate the controversy and spark tension throughout the country.
By this time, Jha must have got used to being ignored by the Congress. After losing the Lok Sabha elections on a ticket from Ram Vilas Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party, Jha had expressed interest in joining the Congress. But the party refused to entertain him in any way.
Another snub came from the Union minister for petroleum and natural gas, Murli Deora. Recently, Jha offered Deora a piece of land he had acquired in Betia on a lease to build a warehouse for the Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited. And once again, he had to take a frosty no for an answer.