Jayalalithaa’s advance team from Chennai arrived in Delhi with half a dozen chairs meant for the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister who visited the Capital last Tuesday. Jayalalithaa has a knee problem, a bad back and arthritis, so she sits only on specially designed high chairs with sturdy arms. Rashtrapati Bhavan was a bit taken aback by the request to place one of the CM’s own chairs for her meeting with President Pranab Mukherjee. It finally agreed that the chair could be used, but it drew the line at positioning the chair to the right of the President’s chair as only heads of state and government are permitted this privilege. Chairs for other visitors are placed at a 90 degree angle. However, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley was more obliging and agreed to place Jayalalithaa’s chair at whatever angle she desired. Jaitley was aware that the Tamil Nadu czarina by her standards was paying him a singular compliment by calling on him. She had not visited the finance ministers of the UPA government for the past 10 years. A special chair was also placed for the CM in the PM’s office. In fact, there was a matching one for the PM. The specially designed chairs have been retained at Tamil Nadu Bhavan for use when Jayalalithaa comes calling next.
Beyond his brief
Congressmen view with suspicion Jairam Ramesh’s recent activities. Ramesh gatecrashed a meeting between Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and a TDP delegation led by N Chandrababu Naidu. The meeting was to discuss Seemandhra. Ramesh felt his presence was essential since he had handled bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh. He also met Water Resources Minister Uma Bharti to discuss the sharing of water between the two newly formed states. But his partymen point out that Ramesh has not been given any mandate by the Congress to take up Andhra issues with the new government. Nor does the new government seem interested in his advice.
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The Congress is reportedly nervous about a new book which is due for release mid-July. It is Natwar Singh’s autobiography, One Life Is Not Enough, which covers his more than 50 years in government — first as a career diplomat and then as a politician. His publisher Rupa believes the book is quite “explosive”. Singh, who worked closely with Indira, Rajiv and Sonia Gandhi, fell out with the Congress first family as he was removed as minister after the Volcker report named him a beneficiary in illegal payoffs in the Iraq food for oil scam. Singh dismisses comparisons between his book and Sanjaya Baru’s memoirs, The Accidental Prime Minister. “Baru was an outsider, I was an insider who attended Cabinet meetings and was involved in the inner workings of government,” he points out. He admits there is a great deal about Sonia in the book. But he hopes his book will be remembered for its historical gravitas.
Quitting family seat
After Narendra Modi was sworn in as the PM, Sonia Gandhi resigned as a member of the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library Society. This is the first time a Gandhi is not on the board of the committee which runs the NMML housed in the Teen Murti complex. Even when Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Narasimha Rao were PMs, Sonia remained a member of the society. In fact, she was the guiding force behind the annual Nehru Memorial Lecture, although technically it is under the control of the Ministry of Culture with the prime minister as the president of the society. Last year, NMML received a grant of Rs 18 crore from the ministry. Some assume that with Sonia’s resignation, there will be easier access to the Nehru and Indira Gandhi papers. A common complaint of scholars is that they are denied permission to view Nehru’s private papers because Sonia does not grant access. However, this position will not change. Nehru’s papers are a privately owned collection of which the library is the custodian, on the understanding that nobody has the right to view them without a letter of sanction from the legal heirs and the PMO. Sonia continues to be the clearing point for granting such permission.
First daughters’ club
When DMK chief M Karunanidhi’s daughter Kanimozhi first entered Parliament, Sharad Pawar’s daughter Supriya Sule was the one who showed her the ropes and they soon formed a cosy twosome. Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhara Rao’s daughter K Kavitha is a first-timer in Parliament having been elected as MP from Nizamabad. Last Thursday, Sule was busy taking her under her wings and she looks set to be part of the first daughters’ club.