It is after 15 years that Sheila Dikshit is again staying at her two-bedroom first-floor flat in Nizamuddin East, central Delhi. As Delhi chief minister, she stayed at 3, Motilal Nehru Marg, on a 3.5-acre compound with four bedrooms. During her brief stint as governor of Kerala, she resided in the Raj Bhavan at Thiruvananthapuram. It is therefore quite a change for the former chief minister to return to her old modest quarters. The biggest problem Dikshit is facing is climbing the stairs. She wanted to install a lift, but her neighbour downstairs, IAS officer and author Upamanyu Chatterjee, was not agreeable to the idea as it would block his living room view. His landlady in Dubai too had not signed a No Objection Certificate to permit a lift. For now, the 76-year old Dikshit has to necessarily continue to climb the stairs.
Three in a row
Once is happenstance, twice is perhaps coincidence, but when a minister changes her press information officer thrice in the space of five months, there is clearly something wrong with her media relations. But the question is whether the three hapless information officers transferred out — R N Mishra, Nanu Bhasin and Maushumi Chakravarty — are really to blame if HRD Minister Smriti Irani is not getting the kind of coverage she expects in the media. No minister can get good publicity all the time, especially when she heads such a controversy-prone ministry. One reason for Irani’s poor relationship with the media is that she remains largely inaccessible to journalists. This is in contrast to when she was simply an MP and president of the party’s women’s wing. Then she was charming, thoughtful and interacted freely with the media. Before Irani recruits a fourth information officer, maybe she should consider changing her new standoffish approach with the press.
If politicians are upset at Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rule of no jobs for those over 75, senior bureaucrats are put off over another unofficial diktat: that plum foreign postings at the World Bank, IMF and Asian Development Bank not be reserved for Government of India secretaries nearing retirement at 60. Modi’s new rule is that such foreign postings be assigned to additional secretaries around the age of 55. His logic is that the additional secretaries can gainfully utilise their three-year experience at international agencies to the country’s advantage on their return. While the post-retirement sinecures simply swell the officials’ bank balance, they provide no material benefit to the government.
The NCP’s offer of unconditional support to the BJP in Maharashtra was no last-minute decision. Nor was it aimed, as a senior NCP leader claimed jokingly, to simply “set the cat among the pigeons”. An understanding of sorts between Sharad Pawar and Narendra Modi had been reached informally much earlier, thanks to the good offices of a Gujarati business magnate. Coincidentally, the businessmen had stayed at a hotel in Mount Abu in July this year at the same time as Pawar. After the parliamentary polls, NCP leader Supriya Sule had conveyed to her gang of young Congress parliamentarians (all of whom are now ex-MPs) that the NCP might be parting ways with the Congress in the near future. Significantly, the NCP snapped links with the Congress within an hour of the BJP-Shiv Sena break-up. Pawar’s googly in extending support to the BJP took the wind out of the sails of Uddhav Thackeray, which it was meant to do. There is a very real possibility that in a matter of months, the NCP might get representation in the Modi Cabinet, regardless of the Sena-BJP ties.
Ghulam Nabi Azad could lose his position as leader of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha. Azad’s term ends in February next year. He is banking on being re-elected to the Rajya Sabha from Jammu and Kashmir. But there is a question mark on whether Assembly polls will be held in the state early next year because of the conditions due to floods there. The Election Commission is still to take a call on holding polls. The only way Azad can be sure of his seat is if the Congress fields him from Uttarakhand, where an election to the House of Elders is due shortly.