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Elephantine problem

Mayawati’s penchant for setting up parks has,ironically,not found favour with environmentalists and naturalists.....

Written by Coomi Kapoor |
April 5, 2009 12:11:32 am

Mayawati’s penchant for setting up parks has,ironically,not found favour with environmentalists and naturalists. This is because her idea of a park is not about greenery and nature,but statues,concrete and mortar. Bird watchers are agitated over an Ambedkar Park coming up in Noida opposite media city. This half-a-kilometre stretch of forest land was formerly a haven for birds. Now,construction workers are erecting pillars around the boundary wall and a 20-ft-high stone elephant has scared the birds away. The Okhla bird sanctuary has shrunk to the small area around the lake.

Jaya’s new home

Apart from her mansion in Poes Garden in Chennai,Jayalalithaa has a home away from home in some other part of the country. The location of her second home keeps changing. Once she had a grape garden in Hyderabad which she visited regularly. Later she shifted to Bangalore. Last year she spent four months in her hill bungalow near Ooty.

Construction began last year on a farm house in Delhi’s Vasant Kunj,close to the airport. While the property may not be officially in Jayalalithaa’s name,it is certainly being built under her instructions with a Vaastu expert and engineers from Tamil Nadu flown down to oversee work.

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The fact that Jayalalithaa is building a house in the Capital suggests that she hopes to be part of the next government in New Delhi. After all,a change of state government in Chennai is not due till 2011 so Jayalalithaa will have time on her hands.

Record numbers

According to Home Ministry records,some 30,000 freedom fighters are alive. Considering that any freedom fighter who is alive today would be at least 75 years old and probably older,the number seems suspiciously large. In fact there is a joint secretary in the Ministry to handle the desk for freedom fighters and rehabilitation of refugees. During Indira Gandhi’s tenure the government had bestowed a Tamra Patra to each freedom fighter to commemorate their service to the nation. The present government has a scheme of Samman Patras—handicraft gifts from Andhra Pradesh. Why the government feels the need to hand out fresh awards at this late stage,however,remains unclear.

Sonia’s spirited genes

In a crisis and under attack,Sonia Gandhi is known to remark,“They don’t know the stuff I am made of.” Rashid Kidwai in his recently updated biography of Sonia Gandhi cites an example of the fighting spirit of Sonia’s father,Stefano Maino,to make the point that such determination runs in her blood. In 2005,Sonia Gandhi was on a visit to Russia along with Natwar Singh. She made a special trip to two prisons in Russia,where her father had been kept a prisoner of war. Sonia proudly informed Singh and President Vladimir Putin,who accompanied her,that her father had escaped from this jail and traveled 5,000 miles in adverse conditions to get back home to Italy.

Then there were none

Sherry Rehman,who stepped down recently as Minister of Information and Broadcasting,is almost the last of Benazir Bhutto’s close confidantes and friends to be eased out of Pakistan’s power structure after falling out with President Asif Ali Zardari. Before Rehman,Zardari sidelined other key figures in the Pakistan People’s Party. Aitaz Ahsan was suspended from the PPP for siding with the lawyers for the reinstatement of the Chief Justice. Nahid Khan,Benazir’s personal secretary for decades and in whose lap Benazir breathed her last,joined the anti-Zardari protests last week. Makhdoom Amin Fahim,who was co-chairperson of the PPP at one point and ran the party while Benazir was in exile,is another former favourite to fall form grace. Israr Shah,who lost a leg during the Karachi bombings and was part of the party’s executive committee,has distanced himself from the party and joined the opposition. The only one from Benazir’s inner coterie who is still around is Farahtullah Babbar,once a powerful PPP party manager. She is now Zardari’s spokesperson,but has little influence.

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