Delhi Confidential: Panchayati debate

Delhi Confidential: Panchayati debate

Jairam Ramesh and Mani Shankar Aiyar had an interesting exchange of ideas on Panchayati Raj last week.

Panchayati debate

During an afternoon session in the Global Development Network and IRMA policy dialogue on Panchayati Raj last week,Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh and former Union minister for Panchayati Raj Mani Shankar Aiyar had an interesting exchange. Once Ramesh,who was on the dais,finished talking,Aiyar who was sitting in the audience during the session raised his hand to speak and went on to deliver a long speech about the need to ensure effective implementation of decentralisation,despite Ramesh’s reminders that he had to leave for the Cabinet meeting. As Aiyar continued speaking,Ramesh decided to leave with just a few minutes to go for the Cabinet meet. Aiyar,however,continued to say how his suggestions had not been implemented. Incidentally,Ramesh and Aiyar are not known to be the best of friends.

MoD Jugglery

The Defence Ministry’s vital acquisition wing will see a bit of jugglery in coming days with the appointment of Asha Ram Sihag to the post of Director General (Acquisition) — an Additional Secretary level post. Sihag,who was earlier posted at the Ministry of External Affairs,is Himachal Pradesh cadre officer from the 1983 batch. Also from the same batch is current Joint Secretary & Acquisition Manager (Land System) Upamanyu Chatterjee who earlier held additional charge for air acquisitions. As per the structure,Chatterjee reports to the DG Acquisition and Sihag’s appointment has thrown open questions of seniority. Chatterjee,who did not make it to the next rank this time,will most likely be moved to a new department within the Defence Ministry.

Home breached

Alarm bells rang in Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde’s security team when a woman fell on his feet while he was leaving his North Block office last Thursday. The woman,wife of a suspended BSF constable,had come to seek help from the minister along with her children and the husband. Security has been beefed up after the incident with clear instructions that no one be allowed to stand at the entrance at the time of arrival and departure of the minister. The Home Minister’s security including police personnel from Delhi Police were also pulled up for the security lapse and letting the woman block Shinde.

Warming up


Amid reports about President Pranab Mukherjee’s daughter Sharmishtha thinking about taking the political plunge around the next Lok Sabha election,the grapevine has it that she recently accompanied Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit on her campaign trail. Although she did not address any gathering,she was by Dikshit’s side in areas with Bengali concentrations. The Congress has roped its top leaders and chief ministers like Bhupinder Singh Hooda,Oommen Chandy,Vijay Bahuguna and Virbhadra Singh to reach out to people from their respective states who are voters in Delhi. An accomplished Kathak dancer,Sharmishtha has not spoken about her political plans yet.

Making a point

Even as Tarun Tejpal dominates headlines for his alleged sexual assault on a young colleague,Tehelka,the magazine that he founded,has done a cover story on Aarushi Talwar murder case in its latest issue pointing to the media and the “lynch mob” for influencing justice and playing to the gallery. Tehelka says the court’s verdict was on “expected lines”; “the lynch mob had already made up its mind” and the media “playing to the gallery,had done its bit in the deliverance of ‘justice’.”

Back to work

Having been acquitted in the cash-for-votes scam,unattached Rajya Sabh MP Amar Singh has started gaining some political traction. In the first major social event,Singh on Monday will be hosting retired Army Generals from India and Pakistan which is likely to be attended by Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid and Pakistani High Commissioner Salman Bashir along with former Union minister Mani Shankar Aiyar. True to his style,while he has got famous qawwals to enthrall the audience,expect some Bollywood stars also to dash in.

Suiting the decision

Although in Delhi last week for his daughter’s wedding on November 29,nothing prevented Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan from monitoring the administrative work in Mantralaya. Officials in Mantralaya were surprised when Chavan,in midst of his daughter’s sangeet ceremony,sent a file suggesting 10 corrections to be carried out in the government campaign for a B R Ambedkar memorial in Indu Mills. Chavan pointed that Ambedkars suit shown in the picture should be black instead of blue. The reason was that a blue suit would be confining him to the Republican Party of India (RPI) as the colour is often associated with the party. Ambedkar is a national leader,Chavan argued. So instead of blue the colour of the suit was changed to a classic black.