Salman Khurshid has become the new face of diplomacy in recent weeks,which has set tongues wagging in the runup to a possible Cabinet reshuffle necessitated by Pranab Mukherjees eventual elevation as President. Khurshid recently went to two important foreign affairs events overseas. First,he attended the Kabul conference in place of Mukherjee. Then he went for Saudi Prince Nayefs funeral which was also attended by the then Pakistan PM Yousaf Raza Gilani,US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta and other high-profile dignitaries. With S M Krishna busy with the US,Cuba and Canada trips,Khurshid was handpicked by the PM as he was keen to send Cabinet ministers for both the events. Krishna,meanwhile,has been forced to devote some attention to the goings-on in the tennis circuit as well,being the honorary president of the All India Tennis Association. He has appealed to the warring tennis players to keep their egos aside and play for the national interest.
SEARCHING FOR SUPPORT
WHILE NCP chief Sharad Pawar has been reaching out to leaders of different political parties to secure their support for UPAs presidential nominee Pranab Mukherjee,there is one leader even he is wary of approaching West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. His colleagues say that even a leader of Pawars stature finds it difficult to reason with her. UPA strategists are,in the mean time,reaching out to disgruntled TMC MPs. While Mukherjee recently called up rebel TMC MP Kabir Suman,another call from a senior Congress leader went to former Railway Minister Dinesh Trivedi on Thursday. There are five TMC MPs,who had joined the party after quitting the Congress,and UPA strategists are said to be eyeing them as well.
RAISING THE STAKES
WITH every financial fraud or scam now worth several crores of rupees,the Central Vigilance Commission has revised the upper limit of the amounts that can be investigated by the Economic Offences Unit (EOU) of the CBI. So far,the EOU could investigate frauds involving an amount between Rs one crore and Rs 7.5 crore. Cases involving amounts more than that used to to be probed by the Bank Security and Fraud Cell. The CVC has now authorised the EOU to investigate cases involving amounts up to Rs 15 crore. In fact,the CBI wanted this limit to be increased to Rs 25 crore but the CVC did not agree.
ALL set to move to the Rashtrapati Bhawan,Pranab Mukherjee may get to keep his present modest residence at 13,Talkatora Road as well. Chances are that his MLA son,Abhijit,may be fielded to contest from Jangipur Lok Sabha constituency in West Bengal,which will fall vacant on Mukherjees elevation as President. In the event of his son winning the election,an exception might be made to allot this ministerial bungalow to an MP. There are a few precedents in which such exceptions have been made. The house that has proved so lucky for Mukherjee will then remain within the family.
AFTER much hue and cry over locomotive pilots not being given enough rest between shifts and made to work under a stressful work environment,the Railway Ministry has finally suggested some measures to improve their working condition. In a recent meeting with the All India Loco-running Staff Association,the ministry decided that,among other measures,adequate rest time should be given to loco pilots,their engine cabs should be made air-conditioned and they should also be given subsidised meals. While thanking the ministry,the association urged that the quality of the food served to them should also be monitored for quality. While the suggestions still need to be fine-tuned,the ministry is hoping that these will at least take care of the majority of the long-pending complaints of the drivers,who are often blamed for accidents,especially collisions.