Symbolic rejection

The Election Commission is certain to reject actor-turned-politician Chiranjeevi’s request for a common election symbol...

Written by Coomi Kapoor | Published:January 4, 2009 12:46 am

The Election Commission is certain to reject actor-turned-politician Chiranjeevi’s request for a common election symbol,the rising sun,for his candidates in the Andhra assembly polls. The EC’s hands are tied. The guidelines issued by the Supreme Court in 2007 stipulate that only recognised political parties are entitled to a common symbol. Chiranjeevi,who makes his debut in politics this year,has to first prove himself. In Tamil Nadu,actor Vijaykant,who is similarly handicapped,has appealed to the Supreme Court.

The rejection of Chiranjeevi’s petition,which he presented personally,is despite the actor securing the help of a high-powered team of advisers from Andhra Pradesh,including Rama Devi,a former election commissioner,K.J. Rao,a former secretary of the EC,and K.V. Rao,a former IAS officer. Former union minister P. Shiv Shankar is also among Chiranjeevi’s advisers.

Speaking in two voices

What is one to make of Digvijay Singh’s recent public pronouncements—on Afzal Guru’s hanging,the Batla House attacks,Maharashtra ATS chief Karkare’s death and the alleged demands of the Mumbai terrorists. Singh’s remarks are contrary to the official party line,but no one in his party protests. The suave,senior party general secretary is an important member of the Congress high command and his comments cannot be conveniently categorised as an individual aberration,unlike those of Arjun Singh and A.R. Antulay,who are dismissed as mavericks. (Curiously,the party leadership,which came down like a tonne of bricks on Margaret Alva for a squeak of protest,has not touched the two ministers.)

It appears that the Congress has informally put Digvijay in charge of minority affairs as a counter to the unpredictable Arjun Singh. Digvijay’s brief is to woo Muslim voters regardless of whether the party takes a different line officially. The Congress wants to hold on to the secular space even if it means speaking in two voices.

 

New protocol

According to the hide-bound armed forces hierarchy,the service chiefs can call on only the prime minister,the President,the defence minister and foreign defence personnel of comparable rank. However,an exception to the longstanding protocol was made for the new home minister,P. Chidambaram,who summoned the Army chief,General Deepak Kapoor and Naval chief Admiral Suresh Mehta to his North Block office last week. The Air Force’s Fali Homi Major is to call on the home minister shortly to discuss security issues.

 

Cash and carry

The theft in the BJP central office of a reported Rs 2.6 crore from the safe has left party President Rajnath Singh red-faced,exposing the lax manner in which the office is run. Attempts to reconcile accounts and discover just how much has been filched will prove difficult because of the slapdash systems in place. It is also difficult to pinpoint the guilty since there is more than one key. Some employees claim privately that the money could not have been taken without the knowledge of a senior functionary. Others suggest that this may not be the first time money has been removed from the strongbox without following due procedure. Party treasurer Ramdas Aggarwal—unlike his predecessor,the late Ved Prakash Goyal—is not a hands-on treasurer. A coterie at the Ashoka Road office was left to deal with cash.

 

Branding exercise

The Ministry of Tourism has appointed actor-director Aamir Khan as its brand ambassador for the New Year. Khan has helped conceive a campaign for the ministry on the theme that the foreign guest to India should be treated like a god. The message is to be spread through films,a website and the media. The talented star has provided his services free. Minister of State for Tourism Kanti Singh,who is a close lieutenant of Lalu Prasad Yadav,suggested that Santosh Yadav,the woman mountaineer who twice conquered Mount Everest,should also be made a brand ambassador for the ministry. Minister Ambika Soni,however,turned down the suggestion.

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