Media group Tehelka undertook some ingenuous ways to raise funds. In 2007,it organised an art auction in London at Bonhams. Eminent artists donated works for the auction,titled Art for Freedom. The charitable purpose for which the auction was organised was support for independent media. The highlight was a joint painting by M F Husain and Shah Rukh Khan. Other joint works between artists and prominent personalities included a partnership between Ram Jethmalani and Naina Kanodia,and Shalu Jindal and G R Iranna. The paintings auctioned at the show,attended by the glitterati and the power elite,included the works of Akbar Padamsee,Arpita Singh,Jehangir Sabavala,Atul Dodiya and Jogen Chowdhury. The extended Tejpal family attended the London event.
Mamata vs Meira
Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee is furious with Speaker Meira Kumar as her party has been denied adequate office space in Parliament House for the past five years. The party has 29 MPs,but the Speaker had allotted it the office quarters of the RJD,after it went down to only five MPs. Even Lalu Prasads party refused to vacate the premises,leaving the Trinamool high and dry. We cannot remove them physically,it is for the Speaker to have evicted them, Mamata argues. The TMC also feels it has received a raw deal from the Central government. The Ministry of Urban Development took a deposit of Rs 1.6 crore from the party for building an office in the Capital,but there has been no progress on the project,she complains.
NCP boss Sharad Pawar claimed his party was in a week-long mourning after ally Congress was roundly defeated in the Assembly polls. He compared it to the custom of Sutak in rural India that whenever there is a death in the village,even close neighbours stay indoors for a week. But Pawar,far from observing a week-long silence,was busy bringing media attention to his latest blog which took potshots at his partner. Pawar inferred that the Congress was led by weak leaders,who were unable to thwart the emergence of pseudo activists in the political arena the oblique message being the Congress,given its present weakened state,should not take its ally for granted.
Amit Shah,Narendra Modis confidant,is officially in charge of the BJP campaign in Uttar Pradesh. But,unofficially,Shah,a BJP general secretary,is overseeing many other states in the Hindi belt. He is also helping out in Jharkhand,Bihar and Uttarakhand. Out of a total of some 139 parliamentary seats in this region,he is hopeful of the BJP securing 70-80 seats. Shahs writ also runs in some 10 seats in Rajasthan and three in Haryana,which are dominated by Jat voters.
Congs loud silence
Senior Cabinet ministers were not to be seen on TV on December 8,the day of the Assembly results. Those who appear frequently on channels on behalf of the Congress,such as Digvijaya Singh,were also missing. Even Ajay Maken,head of the media cell,stayed away. Defence of the Congresss performance was left largely to a few youngsters in the party and Jayanthi Natrajan. One of the media spokespersons who is normally very accessible,Renuka Chowdhury,abstained,upset because Makens staff had hinted to several TV channels that she was no longer on the media panel. In fact no such order had been passed. It seems Maken and Chowdhury had differences over the selection of some candidates from Makens New Delhi parliamentary constituency. Chowdhury,as a leader of the Jat Mahasabha,felt that proportionate representation was not given to the Jat community.
Unable to resign
The six Congress MPs from Seemandhra,R Sambasiva Rao,Sabbam Hari,V Arun Kumar,A Sai Prathap,L Rajagopal and G V Harsha Kumar,who gave the notice of a no-confidence motion against the government,have held out the threat to resign their parliamentary seats since 2009. Initially,the threat seemed more of a drama than a genuine act,with the MPs submitting their resignation letters to Digvijaya Singh,knowing it would be rejected. However,since last year,the MPs have been more serious. They forwarded their resignation letters to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. When this did not produce results,they sent a resignation letter directly to the Speaker this year. Meira Kumar rejected it on the ground that it was a joint letter,and that the MPs had not applied their mind since it was not handwritten. The resignation letters have been sent once again to the Speaker,but Kumar has still not accepted them. In fact,one of the MPs,Rajagopal,recently approached the high court for relief but was referred back to the Speaker.