British journalists who accompanied Rahul Gandhi and British Foreign Secretary David Miliband to Amethi were taken aback at the Gandhi scions reluctance to speak on international and national issues. To queries on Pakistan and Afghanistan,Gandhi was non-committal,remarking simply that the situation was complicated. On the other hand,he was happy to discuss at length the affairs of his constituency,particularly the condition of the local hospital. This led the British press to wonder whether Rahul,who may well be chosen to lead India in the near future,should be content to focus all his attention on relatively minor matters. They felt Rahul should have been more willing to expound on weighty issues outside Amethi.
Uncovered home truth
Unlike his predecessors L.K. Advani and Shivraj Patil,Home Minister P Chidambaram has minimal security cover. Advani,who is in the Z-plus category,had a convoy of four to five limousines and 24 security guards in three shifts. Patil had a bullet-proof car and an escort vehicle. Chidambaram,however,still travels in his finance ministry car with just one policeman. Recently,he even decided to walk to his office in North Block when his car was stopped by the Delhi traffic police who had blocked the road to allow President Pratibha Patils motorcade. The policemen did not even permit Chidambaram to cross the road on foot. Rules do not permit anyone to pass through without special permission.
Govt and allied matters
Pranab Mukherjee will have his hands full in the coming month. Not only does he have to shoulder many of the PMs responsibilities,he will play a pivotal role in framing election strategy and tying up alliances for the Congress before the polls. On the advice of Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy,Mukherjee has conveyed to the party that it is best for the Congress to go solo in the state and not back the demand for a separate Telangana. The six-member Congress election committee from Maharashtra,which is to negotiate with the NCP,held discussions first with Mukherjee on the line to take. Pawar is trying to bring both the SP and the RPI in the state alliance. Mukherjee is handling the alliances for Jharkhand and Bihar,juggling the competing demands of Lalu Yadav,Ram Vilas Paswan and Shibu Soren. He is in regular touch with Amar Singh for the seat sharing negotiations in UP,even if the SP keeps unilaterally announcing the names of its candidates for the state.
Boeing signed a deal with India for the long-range anti-submarine warfare aircraft P-8 Poseidon worth some $ 2 billion this month. The deal,which had been pending for two years,was cleared hastily in the wake of 2611,despite some reservations of the chief of the naval staff and the defence secretary. The dispute between the Navy and the US Department of Defence over several issues,including technology transfer,mission system software and 360 degree radar,has not been resolved yet.
Exploring all possibilities
The DMK believed it had secured a temporary reprieve by its convincing win in the Thirumangalam assembly by-election. Yet,the only two allies left with the DMK are now sparring openly. Dalit Panthers Party (DPP) leader Thirumavalam has hit out at the Congress-led central government for not taking a tough stance against the Sri Lankan government. With Tamil parties comparing Prime Minister Manmohan Singhs inaction over Sri Lanka to former Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao sleeping before the fall of Babri Masjid,Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi had perforce to express his displeasure with the Centre in the state assembly.
The DPP,meanwhile,is looking for a new alliance. It has approached the AIADMK allies and suggested a third front in the state,without both Jayalalithaa and Karunanidhi.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh,ten senior ministers and their secretaries attended a meeting last week on the Island Development Authority. After two-and-a-half hours of discussion,no constructive ideas emerged. Cabinet Secretary K. M. Chandrashekhar suggested that the Planning Commission,in charge of the authority,had not done its homework. Secretary,Planning Commission,Subhash Pani took offence at his bluntness but the PM sided with the cabinet secretary and suggested a meeting of secretaries be convened to follow up.