March 25, 2011 3:18:01 am
Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates had an authentic Delhi moment during his visit to the Capital. Advocacy executives from the Gates Foundations Delhi office had organised a media interaction for Bill Gates slotted in the middle of back-to-back programmes. While the mediapersons waited and waited,his executives were engaged in hectic phone calls tracing Gates movements. Finally it was learnt that he was stuck in a massive traffic jam in the city. After this frustrating experience on the Capitals busy roads,it was but natural that his interaction time was shrunk by half.
Actor Aamir Khan must be wondering where has he has done wrong. As the brand ambassador of Incredible India,the actor has been enthusiastically participating in the Tourism Ministrys campaigns. And yet,when the National Tourism Awards are to be handed out at a function next week,it is another Bollywood actor who has been invited to grace the occasion: apparently someone in the Ministry has a soft spot for Priyanka Chopra who will reportedly be the guest of honour while Aamir has not even been invited. Talk about star-crossed!
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The scathing criticism against the CAG principally for its over-zealous calculations in the 2G scam appears to be a thing of the past. Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal has been recently observed quoting figures computed by CAG, and now the government is citing the sound methodology used by it to compare it with the shortcomings in the Commonwealth Games (CWG) reports filed by the high-level committee headed by former CAG (Comptroller and Auditor General) V K Shunglu. The message is clear: the media should not give the findings of the Shunglu panel as much importance as the findings of CAG,which incidentally,is also putting the final touches on its own CWG special audit.
Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao managed to elicit some praise on Twitter after she posted a message saying that she met the Permanent Representatives to the United Nations of Latin and Central American countries and discussed the strengthening of ties with India. After being congratulated by a user on looking beyond the narrow walls of English-speaking nations,Rao revealed that she actually spoke to the envoys in Spanish. They were pleasantly surprised, she noted.
While the ruling establishment treats Congress president Sonia Gandhis religion as a state secret,one can still trust former international diplomat and Congress MP Shashi Tharoor to wade into territories where even Congress veterans fear to tread. So,participating in the debate on the demands for grants of the Ministry of External Affairs as recently as March 15 this year,Tharoor underlined Congress president Sonia Gandhis Roman Catholic background to highlight the capacity of Indian democracy to manage diversity. I was at the UN,I was travelling in the Gulf countries at the time of the elections of 2004 and people were astonished that here in India we had an election being won by a woman political leader of Roman Catholic background,who then made way for a Sikh gentleman to be sworn in as the Prime Minister,by a Muslim President,in a country 80 per cent Hindu. This is India,and this stands us great stead in the world, Tharoor had said.
The sound of music
Couplets could soon lead to full-scale melodies in Parliament! Not a bad idea,considering that this is precisely what some MPs have indicated to Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar. They want a forum where they can showcase their musical talent. Considering that Vilas Muttemwar of the Congress and Shailendra Kumar of the Samajwadi Party are widely known for their rendition of old Hindi film songs,this could surely mark a change in the tone of the proceedings. The assumption is that there is a lot of untapped talent in Parliament,which is waiting to be discovered. And they will have a full house.
The WikiLeaks effect has started having an impact on interactions between US officials and their Indian counterparts. Indian diplomats naturally are more guarded in their conversations with US Embassy staffers. Even though the American side has apologised more than once for the leaks,talks are much more cautious,so much so that at a recent interaction,Congressional staffers who were on a visit to the capital were explained that discussions could not be too frank due to the presence of Embassy staffers who would of course prepare cables based on the meeting. It is also speculated that the matter of the leaked cables was also discussed at a meeting between US Ambassador Timothy Roemer and Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao earlier this week.
House and the World Cup
The World Cup India-Australia quarter-final clash on Thursday impacted attendance in the Lok Sabha. That explains why a discussion on issues related to the socio-economic and educational status of minorities in the afternoon was rather poorly attended. The lone Muslim MP from the BJP Shahnawaz Hussain admitted that had he not been scheduled to speak during the discussion,he would have also chosen to skip the debate. However,cricket was obviously foremost on his mind. Talking of the under-representation of Muslims in various sectors as noted by the Sachar Committee,Hussain urged Minorities Affairs Minister Salman Khursheed to create a cricket-like environment which enabled the likes of Zaheer Khan,Munaf Patel and Yusuf Pathan to make it to Team India purely due to their talent and not owing to any reservation-based systems.
The faulty vote machine
There were many red faces in the Treasury benches in the Rajya Sabha as Prime Minister Manmohan Singhs voting machine was found to be non-functional on Thursday,as Rajya Sabha voted for the Orissa name-change Bill. Voting was conducted six times,and five times Singhs machine either showed no or abstention or went blank. This gave the BJP an opportunity to score some brownie points,as initially one of the member said,us chair me garbar hai (theres something wrong with that chair). The last time they had to vote,the PM didnt use the voting machine and asked for a piece of paper. The BJP members again didnt lose an opportunity to make a point,with a party MP noting: If the condition of the voting machines is such in Parliament,one can well imagine the situation with EVMs in far-flung areas. In the end,however,the Bill to change the name of Orissa to Odisha did pass with a two-third majority.
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