In the collegium to select a new member of the National Human Rights Commission,Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj disagreed with the majoritys choice of Justice Cyriac Joseph. The minutes of the meeting approving the appointment were first signed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh,Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar,Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde and Deputy Chairperson of the Rajya Sabha P J Kurien. When it came to the turn of the Opposition leaders to affix their signatures and attach their dissenting note,they discovered to their amazement that the ruling party members had all signed the minutes without even realising that the place where Josephs name had to be filled in had been left blank. An embarrassed government hastily withdrew the minutes and made a fresh document.
CBI director Ranjit Sinha has an old history with some members of Mamata Banerjees government. When he was posted in Patna as DIG,CBI,the then joint director of the bureau,U N Biswas,had complained that Sinha was diluting the case against Lalu Yadav in the fodder scam. Today,Biswas is a minister in Banerjees cabinet. Similarly,Gautam Sanyal was Mamatas OSD when she was railway minister and Sinha was removed as DG,Railway Protection Force. Sanyal is now Mamatas private secretary. The tables seem to have been turned. The CBI recently launched an inquiry against Sanyal,while the Finance Ministry is probing K D Singh,a TMC MP and Mamatas key adviser. The Bengal chief minister believes the UPA government is deliberately using the CBI to target her party men just as it used the CBI against Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mayawati to make them fall in line. At party rallies,Mamata has started referring to the CBI as the chor bureau of India,and vows she will fight such pressure tactics. The CBI investigation seems to have brought Mamata closer to the BJP. Recently,K D Singh met both Rajiv Pratap Rudy and BJP president Rajnath Singh. In the Howrah by-election,the BJP has not put up a candidate.
Weve come a long way
The government is rolling out a multi-crore ad blitz in the media highlighting its achievements. There is also a booklet listing the key milestones of the UPA rule over the last nine years and a theme jingle titled,Weve come a long way,a long way well go,sung by Shaan and Sunidhi Chauhan. Nevertheless,there is an air of gloom over the preparations for the UPAs 10th anniversary on May 22. The Prime Minister is hosting a dinner at which party president Sonia Gandhi will naturally be present. The party pooper is the recent exit of Ashwani Kumar and Pawan Kumar Bansal. An additional damper is the talk that Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh are not on the same wavelength and a question mark remains as to who will be the partys candidate for prime minister in 2014. On the anniversary,the youth wing of the BJP is bringing out a booklet,Scams Galore of the UPA,with the title Rs 250000000000 crore scam on the cover.
The prestigious Cannes film festival has given special importance to India this year. India was chosen as the guest country to coincide with 100 years of Indian cinema. However,Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari could not make it to Cannes since he was too busy fire-fighting back in Delhi,what with two ministerial resignations and the Opposition upping the ante inside and outside the House. In place of the minister,I and B secretary Uday Verma,who is to retire next month,is leading a delegation of two joint secretaries. The contingent of babus has little to contribute to the show,though. It is left to Bollywood to keep the Indian flag flyingVidya Balan is a jury member and Amitabh Bachchan declared the festival open with his Great Gatsby co-star Leonardo DiCaprio.
Most favoured status
Pakistans prospective prime minister Nawaz Sharif showed special favour to the Indian media during the campaign. He called them to the dais when he was interacting with minoritiesHindus,Christians and Sikhs. He hosted a breakfast meeting for them and invited Indian journalists to watch the election results with him. The western press was so put off by this partiality to the Indians that Sharif had to compensate by hosting a lunch for them after his victory.