Banner of revolthttps://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/banner-of-revolt/

Banner of revolt

Banerjee’s objection to the Teesta deal was not over the release of 50 per cent of the water to Bangladesh.

Banner of revolt

Mamata Banerjee stole the thunder from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Bangladesh by nixing at the eleventh hour the Teesta water sharing agreement and dropping out of the PM’s delegation. Banerjee’s objection to the Teesta deal was not over the release of 50 per cent of the water to Bangladesh. It was due to the clause which put a 25 per cent cap on discharge,which would have been harmful to North Bengal’s interests in the dry season. In fact,the draft treaty was submitted to Trinamool Congress’s Dinesh Trivedi just two hours before the Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs met. Trivedi refused to be intimidated into accepting the draft in its existing form despite Pranab Mukherjee’s stern reprimand. In contrast,the Congress government in Assam went along blindly with the Centre’s treaty and now finds it difficult to explain to the people of the state why such large tracts of land were handed over to its neighbour.

Incidentally,Banerjee who has an excellent personal relationship with Sheikh Hasina, sent an emissary to the Bangladesh Prime Minister to make clear that she would be willing to agree to the fifty per cent sharing of river water,once the other clause had been re-worked. No doubt,at that stage Banerjee will pay a delayed visit to Bangladesh to personally capitalise on the treaty.

Plugging the leak

TV channels gave a blow-by-blow account of the infighting in the Cabinet over Ajay Maken’s proposed bill to regulate sports bodies with quotes of who said what. This strengthened the suspicion that a minister had leaked the news to journalists even as the meeting was in progress. MoS in the PMO,V Narayanasamy,speculated that the guilty person had put his phone on silent mode and connected it to another phone so that the entire conversation could be heard at the receiving end. Narayanasamy told newspersons that he would recommend to the Prime Minister that in future,ministers leave their phones outside the cabinet room. Other ministerial colleagues,including Pranab Mukherjee,also expressed shock that deliberations of the Cabinet,which are meant to be strictly confidential,could be leaked so blatantly. Despite the general disapproval,just days later,extensive details of what transpired at the Cabinet regarding the Land Acquisition Bill appeared in the media.

New appointments

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PULOK Chatterjee may not have formally joined as principal secretary to the Prime Minister but he is in the three-member committee for selecting new officials to the PMO. The department is being practically emptied out since most of the IAS officers have completed seven years in their present jobs and according to civil service rules are due for transfer. TKA Nair,whom Chatterjee is set to succeed,and M N Prasad,the departing secretary,are also part of the selection committee. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has taken little interest in the new appointments.

More than meets eye

LOK Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar removed her personal secretary,A P Pathak,after the CBI raided his residences in Lucknow and Delhi and registered a case against him for disproportionate assets. Pathak was appointed to his present job this May despite warnings by various agencies of questionable conduct in earlier postings. A recruitment scam in the Lok Sabha secretariat could tarnish the image of this august body even further. Earlier this year,an exam to fill 80 senior posts in the secretariat was cancelled after it was discovered that the question paper was leaked. Since then some of the vacancies have been filled even though a fresh examination has not been held.

High powered,but inert

THE high powered committee of four,which was to run the party in Sonia Gandhi’s absence,met formally only once while she was away and,that too,with Rahul Gandhi absent. The political fallout over the Anna Hazare standoff was handled not by the said committee but by Manmohan Singh’s ministers. Ironically,the only minister included in the committee,A K Antony,remained completely quiet and played no role in the subsequent trouble-shooting.

Making their presence felt

Relatives and friends of victims of the Delhi High Court blasts were annoyed by the visits of several VIPS,including the PM,to commiserate with the patients at Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital. Because of the extensive security drill for the political leaders,the hospital’s functioning was thrown completely out of gear. But two MPs,Varun Gandhi and Ganga Charan Rajput,came early to the hospital,donated blood for the victims and left quietly.