As the BJP government launched the year-long celebration of Jawaharlal Nehru’s 125th birth anniversary Friday, the absence of one person at the official launch function was noticed. Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was not there. He was not invited. The national committee for overseeing the commemoration of the birth anniversary was set up when Singh was the Prime Minister. And he was its first chairman. So is it a tit for tat move by the BJP government. The Congress’s decision to not invite Prime Minister Narendra Modi to an international conference it is organising to mark the anniversary had triggered a controversy with the BJP slamming the Congress. Although the government did not invite Singh, he did get an invite at the last minute from the director of the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library where the function was held. The NMML director rang up Singh’s office late Thursday evening, perhaps to remind his office of the event. When he got to know Singh has not been invited, he sent across an invite but by then the former PM’s schedule for Friday had been finalised.
Vying for Vatican
The composition of the official Indian delegation to the Vatican seems to have upset MPs from the Catholic community. The government has chosen a three-member delegation led by deputy chairman of the Rajya Sabha, P J Kurien, to attend the canonisation ceremony of Kuriakose Elias Chavara and Euphrasia Eluvathingal in Vatican on November 23. The other members of the delegation are BJP MP Neiphiu Rio and TDP leader P Ravindra Babu. It is learnt that MPs from Kerala are miffed because they feel the delegation does not represent Catholics. Although Kurien is from Kerala, he does not belong to a community that has allegiance to the Pope. Incidentally, MPs from areas where the two saint-designates come from were not included in the delegation despite being Catholics.
Raising the stakes
The Uttarakhand Congress unit’s refusal to nominate Ghulam Nabi Azad to the Rajya Sabha seems to have pleased a section of party leaders in Delhi. Azad, whose Rajya Sabha term comes to an end in February, was desperate to get re-elected from Uttarakhand in the recently concluded election. But the state leadership refused to give away the single seat to an ‘outsider’. Now, for Azad to be in Parliament and retain his Leader of Opposition post in the Upper House, he has to ensure that the Congress gets adequate number of seats in the Jammu and Kashmir elections so that he can be elected from the state. Party leaders hope Azad and his loyalists will now work extra hard because of the personal stakes involved. Moreover, with relations between the Congress and the National Conference already strained, the possibility of NC supporting Azad’s Rajya Sabha bid, like it had done almost two decades ago, seems bleak.
Taken by surprise
The Archaeological Survey of India had a surprise visitor Monday. A meeting of tourism secretaries of state governments was on when Mahesh Sharma, Minister of State for Tourism, walked in. Sharma, who had become a minister only the previous day, had not even taken charge when he decided to visit the ASI, which is why many people were caught off guard. Sharma had an informal interaction with officials before driving back to the ministry to assume charge.