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His own script

Manmohan Singh addressed four press meets within a week,after the Congress election strategists decided that the prime ministerial candidate had to be more visible....

Written by Coomi Kapoor |
April 19, 2009 12:28:29 am

Manmohan Singh addressed four press meets within a week,after the Congress election strategists decided that the prime ministerial candidate had to be more visible. Fearful of strictures from the Election Commission,Singh hosted the media get-togethers not as prime minister but as a Congress leader. He did not permit his official residence at 7 Race Course Road to be the venue. Some wondered whether the uncharacteristically harsh remarks against L.K. Advani by the usually mild-mannered prime minister had been scripted by someone in his party. But Singh made clear that his remarks were his own and not an emotional outburst. It was his “well-considered” response since he felt “enough is enough”. The party’s election think tank watched the PM’s interactions with the media at the war room at Gurdwara Rakab Ganj Road. The consensus was the PM deserved ten out of ten for the meet with the Indian Women’s Press Corps,where he took Advani head on. There was a less enthusiastic response for his performance at the Editors Guild conference. While listing the three main problems holding the country back,Singh referred to terrorism,Naxalism and regionalism,forgetting to mention communalism,which is the key stick the Congress uses to beat the BJP. Singh had to be reminded by an editor of the omission. Some in his party felt Singh could have avoided hitting out at regionalism since he will have to do business with regional parties after the polls.

Another dig at Advani

Asked whether he planned to write his memoirs,the PM explained that he did not want to write his autobiography since he would tread on too many toes if he wrote a truthful account. “I am not interested in self-praise and justification for my actions,” said Singh,who believes this is what most prominent persons in India do in their autobiographies. Was Singh taking a fresh swipe at Advani and his book,My Country,My Life?

CBI not insulated yet

In a recent article,former Chief Justice J.S. Verma regretted that the CBI was still not insulated from political influence,despite the regulations he set in place during the Jain Hawala case to ensure the objectivity and autonomy of the investigative agency. While setting the guidelines for the functioning of the CBI,Verma forgot to take into account the post-retirement benefits which could be dangled by a government as a carrot. Vijay Shankar,former CBI director,has been appointed a member of the committee on centre and state relations with minister of state status. Another former CBI director,P.C. Sharma,was recently granted a second extension on the Human Rights Commission. Even M.L. Sharma,formerly special director of the CBI,who lost the post to Ashwini Kumar,has been appointed Information Commissioner in the RTO.

Return to health

From pundits to pollsters,no one is sure who will be the next prime minister. But whichever government comes to power,there is a general belief that the PMK’s Anbumani Ramadoss will return as health minister. In the last four elections the PMK has unerringly hitched its wagon to the winning side,both at the state and the centre. Party president S. Ramadoss insists on the PMK getting the Health Ministry. The PMK’s earlier choices as health ministers,Dalit Ezhimalai and N.T. Shanmugam,were lacklustre. But Ramadoss’s son Anbumani,also a doctor,has made waves,with his strong views against alcohol and tobacco. In a farewell letter to ministerial colleagues,ministry officials and the media,Anbumani Ramadoss made clear he had an unfinished agenda,which he hopes to complete sometime in the near future.

Neighbours’ fallout

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi is known to be close to Sharad Pawar,but now that Modi has strayed into Pawar’s territory and taken charge of the BJP’s Maharashtra campaign,it is another matter. Pawar mocked Modi’s speeches in Vidarbha,where the chief minister said he wanted to replicate the Gujarat model. Pawar,pointing to Gujarat’s communal record,said he thanked God Maharashtra was not Gujarat. Modi promptly expounded on Gujarat’s edge over Maharashtra in electricity,water,roads and other development indices. Despite the war of words between the two,they do seem to have a common friend in Gujarat businessman Gautam Adani.

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