The Orissa era
Manmohan Singh’s PMO was dominated by officials from Kerala, including T K A Nair, Shivshankar Menon and M K Narayanan. The buzz in South Block is that, in the new regime, it’s Orissa that dominates. P K Mishra, Additional Principal Secretary in the PMO, who is from the Gujarat cadre, belongs to Orissa and is in charge of appointments. In the past few months, there have been a large number of appointments in the Central Government of officers belonging to either Orissa or the Orissa cadre. G Mohan Kumar is the new Secretary, Defence Production; Shaktikanta Das is Secretary, Revenue; Prakash Misra, Special Secretary, Internal Security; S K Panda, Textile Secretary; H K Das, Inter-State Council Secretariat Secretary; Jugal Kishore Mohapatra, Secretary, Fertilisers; Satyanarayan Mohanty, Secretary, Department of Higher Education; and Shubha Sarma is Secretary, Central Electricity Regulatory Commission.
Guruprasad Mohapatra, formerly Ahmedabad municipal commissioner, is now Joint Secretary, Ministry of Commerce, U P Singh is Joint Secretary in the Petroleum and Natural Gas Ministry, Arun Kumar Panda is Additional Secretary, Health & Family Welfare, Saurabh Garg is Joint Secretary in the Department of Economic Affairs, IFS officer Binay Srikanta Pradhan is Private Secretary to the minister of state for Petroleum and Natural Gas, and Debjani Chakrabarti is Deputy Secretary in the Road Transport and Highways Ministry.
CBI DIRECTOR Ranjit Sinha has informed the Supreme Court that he had no knowledge of a diary listing the names of all his visitors which was maintained by guards at his residence at 2 Janpath. But Sinha’s wife was obviously aware of this practice. This can be seen from a noting in the diary in Hindi. A guard has noted in the book that by order of “madamji”, the full name of those entering as well as their car licence plate numbers should be entered. One of the visitors was simply described as “chairman”.
The note elaborates that “madamji” did not find this designation acceptable. Despite these clear instructions, the guards did not enter specific names in all cases. Women visitors were referred to mostly as “ladies”: “Rakesh Kumar + 1 ladies”, “Dilip Shah + 2 ladies”, or “Qureshi ki wife”, and so on. Even some lawyer visitors were entered simply as “advocateji”.
Officials of Bharat Heavy Industries Limited (BHEL) have for long been planning the public sector undertaking’s golden jubilee celebrations falling on November 14. The idea was to confirm the date with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is expected to inaugurate the function. It was also hoped that Finance Minister Arun Jaitley would release a coin and Communications Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad a stamp to mark the event. However, the programme is still to be firmed up because Minister for Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises Anant Geete has been lethargic following up. One reason being cited is that with the BJP and Shiv Sena falling out, Geete does not want to annoy Uddhav Thackeray by being seen as cosying up to Modi.
President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Narendra Modi share a cordial relationship and the President has not vetoed several of the government’s controversial decisions, such as the transferring and sacking of governors and the ordinance appointing Nripendra Misra as principal secretary to the PM. Recently, Mukherjee invited Modi to a dance recital by his daughter Sharmistha. Sharmistha, who is close to Congress leader Sandeep Dikshit, has joined the Delhi Congress. Modi attended the recital along with L K Advani and Vice-President Hamid Ansari. There wasn’t any significant presence from the Congress side.
The Chinese delegation led by President Xi Jingping was served a 20-course gourmet vegetarian Gujarati meal when they visited Ahmedabad. The delicacies included nylon khaman, sandwich dhokla, tilwali khandvi, sev khamani, khasta kachori, khatti meethi dal, half undhiyu, bhindi sambhariya, badshah khichdi, Gujarati kadhi and bhakri. Most dishes were laced with a dash of gur and peanuts or til for the sweet and sour flavour of Gujarati food, and the Chinese found the preparations a new gastronomic experience. In fact, a joke making the rounds is that when it was announced that desserts would be served, including thanda dudh pak, mango srikhand, beetroot halwa and gehu ke laddu, one puzzled delegate muttered that he was under the impression that the entire meal was only desserts.