On the last day of polling, with all exit polls predicting a wipeout of the UPA, a quiet farewell was given to Defence Minister A K Antony by the armed forces. A formal ‘dining out’ was held at the IAF’s Akash Mess for Antony who is the longest serving Defence Minister of the nation. Present at the function were the service chiefs and most senior officers posted in the Capital.
Anticipating a drubbing in exit polls, aired by TV channels at the end of the last day of polling, the Congress Monday officially declared that it will stay away from exit poll debates. AICC general secretary Shakeel Ahmed said the party, “keeping with its tradition”, will not participate in any discussion on any channels as both exit and opinion polls had been wrong in the past. But, in the evening, AICC spokesperson Randeep Surjewala and Union minister Ghulam Nabi Azad were seen on different channels, which were, as anticipated, predicting a drubbing for the ruling UPA. Surjewala however said he did not discuss exit polls. Talking about gag orders, some senior Congress leaders were in for a shock Monday evening when, after a meeting with Congress president Sonia Gandhi, they were instructed to keep their mouth shut once they were out of 10, Janpath.
And, it seems that farewell season is on all over in the government. While National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon hosted a lunch for his colleagues Monday, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s Principal Secretary Pulok Chatterjee treated his staff and senior officers to Bengali food at a lunch last week. PM’s adviser T K A Nair had also hosted a lunch some time back.
SET FOR SHAKE-UP
Power equations are set to change not only at the political level but also across ministries. The HRD ministry is expected to go through a major shake-up with most of the top brass, including Secretary Ashok Thakur, set to retire by August this year. A couple of joint secretaries are also completing their tenure at the ministry over the next few months making space for a new set of bureaucrats to take over under a changed political dispensation.
Sources said Ashish Khetan will be the vice-chairman of the commission.