Driving home the tough message
Home Minister P Chidambaram was clear right from the start that his visit to Pakistan must drive home the point about Indias unhappiness over the progress in the 26/11 case a view endorsed by the Cabinet Committee on Security. His Pakistani counterpart Rehman Malik,however,had other plans. Even as the talks were being set up,he sent word that he would like to request Chidambaram to stay an extra day so that the two can go to a hill station near Islamabad for a retreat and some informal chat. But New Delhi was in no mood to enter into such informal conversations just yet. More so,a political event in Coimbatore,where Chidambaram was required to be present on Sunday,proved to be the ideal foil for a polite no.
Narayanan back in business?
West Bengal Governor and former NSA M K Narayanans rather frequent visits two to three in the last couple of weeks to Delhi have set the babu circles abuzz with speculation. Some quarters even add stories about how he has had quiet meetings in 10 Janpath while others have started speculating about Narayanan plotting a comeback into the power hierarchy. Much of this may qualify as loose talk,but what is clear is that the former NSA is giving detailed feedback on Naxal issues,especially on how security forces are lacking in dealing with their challenge. And given his expertise in the area he handled the IB desk on Left Wing Extremism for decades while in service these views are getting a serious hearing.
Bday boy Rahul on Europe yatra
Rahul Gandhi has been mostly away this month,much to the frustration of eager beavers in the party who wanted to organise more events on his birthday. Its believed that Rahul was somewhere in Europe and most of the time was possibly spent in London. Keen observers point out that he does take time off usually during this part of the year. He was not here for his birthday even the last time around,add sources. With a hot political season ahead as important assembly elections draw closer,supporters argue that this was a much deserved break before hitting the campaign trail.
No messing with Jairam Ramesh
Jairam Ramesh takes his job as Environment Minister seriously. Rather too seriously,some would say. Minister of New and Renewable Energy Farooq Abdullah realised this to his peril a few days ago. After a function in Delhi,Abdullah was asked by a reporter about the progress of a hydro power project in Kerala. Unaware of the details and the complications,he gave a general reply that the project would be completed soon. His statement got published. Abdullah was later briefed about the environmental problems in that project and that the project did not even fall in the domain of his ministry. Realising his mistake,Abdullah promptly issued a clarification to the newspapers and even had a telephonic talk with Ramesh to apprise him of the facts. Ramesh,however,refused to be placated and sent a strongly worded letter to Abdullah a couple of days later,placing his protest against the remarks on record.
Taking out time for Laxman
Away from conducting the countrys foreign policy,External Affairs Minister S M Krishna had an unlikely appointment this week. He flew to Mumbai to meet ailing cartoonist R K Laxman with whom he shares a long association. Both are alumni of Maharaja High School in Mysore,and Krishna had always been a great admirer of Laxman cartoons. Krishna also carried a get-well-soon message from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh,who is also fond of Laxmans common man. Last heard,they were talking about honouring Laxman for his cartoons.
Fresh fruits and socks
Soldiers coming down from some of the toughest military posts along the Siachen glacier were in for a surprise this week when they were greeted by Defence Minister A K Antony at the base camp. While high level visits to the glacier are increasing,what pleasantly surprised the soldiers were the fresh fruits handed over to them by Antony. On his last visit to the glacier in 2009,one of the complaints Antony noted was the lack of fresh fruits at the high altitude camps. Remembering that,the minister got several cases of fresh fruits specially packed from a research lab in Leh that specialises in producing food at high altitude areas before flying to the Siachen base camp. For soldiers who sustain on packed food and tinned fruits during their tenure on the glacier,fresh fruits are a rare delicacy.
Commonwealth goof up
In A goof up that left the organising committee of the Commonwealth Games red faced,military bands that were to perform at the welcome reception for the Queens Baton at the Wagah border on Friday were pulled out at the last minute after the Border Security Force said that Pakistan had raised concerns about a possible breach of protocol. While the military bands had been specially brought in from Shillong and Wellington (Tamil Nadu) for the reception,they were not allowed to play after the BSF told the organising committee that concerns about propriety were raised by Pakistani Rangers at a flag meeting. The protocol issue was that on the Pak side,the Rangers were playing and the military playing on the Indian side would have disturbed the Pak establishment. While the protocol issue was understood,the Defence and Home ministries are fuming over the goof up by the organising committee that failed to anticipate the situation. Sources said that till the last minute,the Home Ministry was not formally informed about the presence of the military bands at the reception.
Putting nuke talks on fast-track
The standing committee on Science and Technology has been working double time to hold discussions on the civil nuclear liability Bill so that it is ready in time for the Monsoon session,to the extent of even inviting charges that it is under pressure from the US. Some members of the committee,in fact,say that standing committee chairperson T Subbirami Reddy would have held meetings on the issue every two or three days instead of the weekly meetings,but for one simple reason relating to financial remuneration. As per rules governing standing committee attendance,members cannot avail of TA/DA compensation if a seven-day gap is not there between two rounds of meetings. It is because of this rule,that Reddy has been compelled to call meetings with a week long interval,else standing committee members would be up in arms against him.
Law Ministry image at stake
Trouble is brewing in the Law Ministry over some top law officers managing to corner all important cases,leaving Additional Solicitors General to deal with relatively sundry cases. At a routine meeting on judicial reforms,an ASG brought the matter to the notice of Law Minister M Veerappa Moily,telling him that the Central Agency,which allocates work among law officers of the Government of India,was playing favourites. This law officer is said to have threatened to resign,saying he would not like to be a burden on the exchequer without doing any substantial judicial work. The hapless minister could only offer to get the matter looked into.
As the job scam in the Mumbai Railway Recruitment Board (RRB) began unfolding last week,with the CBI naming the Mumbai RRB Chairman as one of the accused,Rail Bhavan went into a tizzy with many of the electronic news media running stories calling it a scam in the Railway Board,the highest administrative decision-making body in the Railways Ministry. Things took a funny turn when the CBI arrested Mumbai RRB Chairmans son named Vivek. With the Railway Board being currently headed by the recently appointed IRTS officer named Vivek Sahai,the impression that got created,albeit for a brief while,was that the Railway Board had been hit by the scam and that its Chairman had been arrested. Shocked by TV stories about the arrest of Vivek in the Railway Board scam,a worried Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee even called up the Railway Board Chairman just to set the record straight. Last heard,Rail Bhavan is mulling to change the name of Railway Recruitment Boards as they often get confused with the Railway Board.
Even probe committees do not have much liberty when it comes to giving recommendations based on observations they may have made. This was reflected last week in the case relating to Rouvanjit Rawla,the Kolkata schoolboy who committed suicide after being caned by his school principal. The committee set up by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) had recommended changes in certain sections of the Indian Penal Code to make sure that corporal punishment is completely done away with. However,the probe committee members were in for a shock when they were asked to sign on a version of the final report from where these stringent recommendations had conveniently been omitted. The NCPCR officials had erased all those important changes which could have made a difference, says one of the members. The committee members say they could not do much but to accept that changed report. Buzz though is that the NCPCR was not particularly amused with the committee members stealing its thunder on the issue and generously doling out quotes to the media.
Alagiri now marking attendance in Delhi
While the entire DMK leadership converged in Coimbatore to attend Karunanidhis dream world Tamil conference,his elder son and Union minister M K Alagiri gave it a miss after briefly attending the inaugural session. Otherwise rarely found in Delhi and a regular absentee in Cabinet meetings,he was in the capital when the conference began in the industrial town. He attended the Group of Ministers meetings on Bhopal and on oil pricing. The buzz in the DMK is that he was upset with the importance being given to his younger brother M K Stalin even at the conference. Party insiders say Stalin was seen overseeing and supervising the arrangements at the mega conference. He gave the welcome address as well. Alagiri was scheduled to preside over a couple of events during the conclave,but he skipped them and flew to Delhi. With Assembly elections barely 10 months away in Tamil Nadu,insiders say the sibling rivalry is posing the biggest headache to Kalaignar.
Gadkaris late-night talks
Nitin Gadkaris efforts to settle the tussle between the BJP and JD(U) unsettled the body clock of many of his party leaders. His meeting with the top leadership of the BJP from Bihar went on till 2 am and several leaders,including state unit chief C P Thakur,were heard complaining about the party chiefs penchant to told late-night consultations. Party insiders say Gadkaris preference for late-evening and late-night consultations have already irked some of the central leaders and they could only hold their laugh when the leaders from Bihar,where most follow an early-to-bed and early-to-rise rule,also got a taste of his style of functioning. As usual,the residents of the multi-storey apartment where Gadkari is putting up now were also annoyed.