The BJP-led government in Manipur has gone one step ahead of its Assam counterpart, passing a Bill proposing that all those who settled in the state after 1951 be barred from being recognised as permanent residents. They will either have to leave or seek special entry and work permits. The Bill has put the Central government in a quandary, particularly as it fixes a cut-off date 20 years before Assam’s disqualification date of 1971. In fact, Manipur became a separate state only in 1972. Governor Najma Heptulla, who is unlikely to clear the Bill in a hurry, rushed to Delhi last week to apprise Prime Minister Narendra Modi of the situation. The state government has reportedly buckled under pressure from the dominant Meitei community.
A few cancellations put a damper on this year’s Mountain Echoes Literary and Cultural Festival organised by the Indo-Bhutan Foundation in Thimpu. The Indian Ambassador to Bhutan cancelled his customary dinner. Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje, whose state is a sponsor, hosted a dinner for the speakers, but did not show up herself. Senior members from the MEA who are normally present for the festivities were also absent. The reason for the last-minute glitches was a week-long mourning period in India following the death of former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. The Bhutanese, who look forward to the popular annual event, would have been more understanding of the absenteeism from the Indian side if they had not learnt that Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj had left after Vajpayee’s funeral for Mauritius to attend a Hindi conference.
Mamata Banerjee’s pro-active role in putting together an anti-BJP front has prompted speculation that she could be the all-India face of the alliance. Asked by some Delhi journalists, Banerjee remarked that she was small fry, but likened herself to the squirrel in the Ramayana. The other animals, particularly the monkeys, may have mocked the tiny creature’s attempts to help build a bridge from India to Sri Lanka, but Lord Rama pointed out that it was the sand carried by the squirrel, mixed with water, which cemented the large rocks and pebbles.
When the flooding in Kerala was at its peak and disaster relief measures were urgently required, Thiruvananthapuram Congress MP Shashi Tharoor was away, first in Geneva and then Germany. Tharoor had got special permission from the court to leave the country on the grounds that he had to condole with the family of former UN chief Kofi Annan. From Geneva, Tharoor flew to Germany to accompany Rahul Gandhi on his lecture tour and fund-raising campaign. When questions were asked about his absence back home, Tharoor tweeted that he had gone to Geneva to meet high-ups in the United Nations about flood-relief assistance on behalf of the government. The problem was that both Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and the Central government denied that he had gone as an emissary on their behalf.
Learn by example
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal called on his predecessor Sheila Dikshit before her departure for France for an aortic valve replacement. Kejriwal tweeted the news of his visit, but did not add that he stayed for barely five minutes. If his visit had been slightly longer, he could have picked up some helpful pointers from a veteran like Dikshit, who successfully ran the Delhi government for three terms without any major hitch even though the NDA was in power at the Centre for some of that period. The 80-year-old Dikshit courteously came down to see off the CM and was taken aback to find that Kejriwal was accompanied by a long convoy of cars, including several police vehicles. Kejriwal, who joined politics claiming to be a man of the people, could have taken a lesson from Dikshit who crisscrossed the city most unobtrusively. People in Nizamuddin East recall that Dikshit frequently visited the colony when she was in power, as her sister lives there, but few got to know since she travelled without any fanfare.
Shivraj Singh Chouhan is the longestserving Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh because he tries not to ruffle any feathers, not even those of his political opponents. In fact, he earned considerable sympathy when his Congress rival Kamal Nath recently implied he was a “nalayak (nincompoop)”. In a masterstroke on Raksha Bandhan, Chouhan sent out 1.5 lakh rakhis to women in villages. Along with the rakhi was a personally signed letter which earned the CM much goodwill ahead of the Assembly polls.