India was faced with a Carla Bruni-kind of situation while preparing for Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillards visit to New Delhi next week. Much like the protocol dilemma that accompanied the visit of the then French President Nicholas Sarkozy in 2008 over the status to be given to his girlfriend Bruni the Indians were deciding on a similar issue with regard to Gillards partner,Tim Mathieson. After some discussion,it was decided to grant him the status of the spouse of a visiting head of government since the Australian system recognises him as a partner. In diplomatic parlance,he would be referred to as common law partner. Though the issue was resolved to the mutual satisfaction of both New Delhi and Canberra,it seems Mathieson is making things easier for the protocol division. Much like Bruni,who had opted out of the India visit at the last minute,it appears Mathieson is not going to accompany Gillard.
THE first to go was the list of cabinet ministers from the Prime Ministers website. That apparently was done to keep the ambiguity about whether A K Antony or Sharad Pawar is the de facto number two in the cabinet. Then that list was removed from the website of the cabinet secretariat as well. The latest disappearance is the list of GoMs and EGoMs from the cabinet secretariat website. The links for these lists were down for the last few days but they have now been removed altogether. So much for transparency in the government!
POLITICS OVER ART
WHEN the choice is between garnering political dividends and celebrating art,it is not very difficult to guess where the priorities of a politician will lie. Culture Minister Kumari Selja skipped Sangeet Natak Akademi awards function earlier this week. Apart from the fact that her ministry is closely associated in organising this annual function,Seljas absence was also in a way a breach of protocol since the awards were to be given by President Pranab Mukherjee. For Selja,though,there was a compelling reason. She was accompanying Congress chief Sonia Gandhi to Jind in Haryana,where recent instances of rape have become a hot political issue. It is no secret that Selja is a bitter political rival of Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda. Getting Sonia to reprimand the Haryana administration,even mildly,was a big political achievement for Selja. She,incidentally,ensured that she returned in time for another function related to the Sangeet Natak Akademi the same evening,where she was the chief guest.
AS one of the longest-serving chiefs of Haryana Police,1974-batch IPS officer Ranjiv Singh Dalal had enough time to improve the functioning of the state police department. However,Dalal,who is scheduled to retire at the end of this month,is likely to be remembered mainly for the spate of rape cases across the state in the last one month. However,rather than holding him responsible for the ineffectiveness of his force in preventing rapes,the Bhupinder Singh Hooda government is planning to give Dalal a post-retirement job. In all likelihood,he will be the new chairperson of Haryana Police Housing Corporation,a post he holds ex-officio even now.
CONSIDERING his recent experiences in Parliament,HRD Minister Kapil Sibal tried to take a shortcut and convince his cabinet colleague,Petroleum Minister S Jaipal Reddy,to continue the old LPG subsidy for the mid-day meal scheme,which would be hit badly by the price hike. But in this reform-charged atmosphere,he quickly realised that such a request might not be entertained. So he has written to Reddy again,requesting to continue the subsidy for the time being,as an interim measure,till he is able to get approval for an enhanced allocation for the mid-day meal scheme from Parliament. Sibal,clearly,is not very enthusiastic about getting his proposals through Parliament,considering the fact that many of his Bills have been stalled for several months now.