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Trust the Samajwadi Party’s ubiquitous general secretary Amar Singh not to disappear from sight even when he is in Singapore for a kidney transplant....

Written by Coomi Kapoor |
July 26, 2009 3:21:46 am

Trust the Samajwadi Party’s ubiquitous general secretary Amar Singh not to disappear from sight even when he is in Singapore for a kidney transplant. Within ten days of the major operation,Singh had organised a video press conference from his Singapore hospital to his bungalow in Delhi. Singh,sitting on a chair in the hospital conference room,responded to the media’s queries. Singh does not want anyone else in the party to assume the role of spokesperson in his absence. Since Mulayam Singh Yadav is rather taciturn,journalists have been approaching his son,Akhilesh Yadav,the president of the UP party unit,for his comments.

Mulayam has to make a tough call as to who gets the SJP ticket for the Ferozabad parliamentary by-election. Akhilesh won the seat but relinquished it in favour of Kanauj from where he was also victorious. He wants his wife Dimple to be accommodated in his place,but his half-brother,Pratik Yadav,feels he has a better claim.

Learning the ropes

At the ceremonial exchange of the Indo-US agreement at Hyderabad House,External Affairs Minister S M Krishna remained seated much to the amusement of Hillary Clinton who laughed loudly. Clinton explained that he was expected to stand up for the traditional handshake and photo-op and said she would show him the ropes. Should not the MEA have briefed the minister properly on the function?

Even at Sharm el-Sheikh,although Krishna accompanied the PM,he was not in the picture when the Pakistan and Indian foreign secretaries drafted the joint statement. True,Pakistani foreign minister S M Qureshi too was missing in action,but that was because Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani left him behind in Pakistan since he is considered close to President Zardari.

Maun vrat order

Congress President Sonia Gandhi suspects that some of her senior ministers are leaking stories against others in the Cabinet and has ordered senior Congresspersons not to air their grievances over official matters in public. Gandhi is upset at the amount of inside information that has appeared in the media recently. The rice export scandal is believed to have come to light because of ministerial rivalry. A regional newspaper broke the news that the offending sentences in the joint statement between Pakistan and India were not part of the draft which was discussed by the Cabinet Committee on Security. Another embarrassing report was the disclosure that the MEA had pointed out at an inter-ministerial meeting that some Defence Ministry officials had agreed to arms contracts with the US where the end use clauses were far more objectionable than those framed in the joint Indo-US agreement.

Spin before statement

In media management,the cardinal rule is,“first give your spin then hand out the official statement.” The MEA spokesperson,Vishnu Prakash,made the mistake at Sharm el-Sheikh of first handing out the joint Indo-Pakistan statement to the Indian media contingent without giving the government’s own interpretation of the document. Actually,the copies of the statement were not so much handed out as snatched from Prakash’s hands,with journalists shoving and pushing on the hotel staircase. The melee,in fact,was reminiscent of the Agra summit,when the then spokesperson Nirupama Rao was shoved aside by the Pakistani media and Jaswant Singh had to come to her rescue. The Pakistanis,on other hand,had PM Yousaf Raza Gilani immediately interpret the joint statement from his perspective. Gilani even confided to the media that he had told Manmohan Singh that he was his younger brother from Punjab and he had therefore to accede to his request. Our PM spoke to the Indian media over an hour and half later,by which time journalists had already filed their reports and duly taken note of the Pakistani take on it.

Beach bypass

On the first day of the NAM summit at Sharm el-Sheikh,none in the Indian media party had the correct passes to enter the main conference hall. When the Indian media brandished their passes,they were informed by the Egyptian authorities that what they displayed merely entitled them to go to the beach,the café,restaurant and the disco. The next day the MEA handed over the correct NAM passes to the Indian journalists,but by then no one was interested. The PM had already spoken on the first day of the summit.

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