Keeping the goal in sight
It may be hard for states to tackle the Centre, but Arunachal Pradesh chief minister Nabam Tuki decided he had the adequate dribble. So when MM Pallam Raju arrived in Itanagar last week, the HRD minister was invited to a game of football against the chief minister’s chosen XI. MPs took on MLAs, but in the end, it was Raju’s sporting enthusiasm that won the day. The MPs bagged the game 2-0, but somewhat unfortunately, Raju found that he had twisted his ankle. It wasn’t, however, the rushed visit to Delhi’s Ram Manohar Lohia hospital that troubled the HRD minister on his arrival. It was a detailed package of demands from the Arunachal CM that needed sifting. In these days of sporting diplomacy, the loser always gets a penalty.
A new kind of custom-made
There are many reasons to celebrate 2013, but bureaucrats in the environment ministry have a peculiar cause for elation. To commemorate the year which Mayans thought would never come, senior officials here were given a coffee mug. Each of these has a picture of environment minister Jayanthi Natarajan and her officer-on-special-duty Dr Gayatri Devi printed on it. Unlike other New Year souvenirs that find their way to the bin as quickly as one’s resolutions, most bureaucrats are reportedly showing off this mug to visitors in an effort to demonstrate their proximity to Natarajan. The question to be asked — as Narendra Modi obviously might — is that mug half-empty or half-full then?
A widening trust deficit
Mamata Banerjee seems to have a talent for rubbing people the wrong way. While most dismiss her aggressive admonishments as crazed ravings, there are some like commerce and industry minister Anand Sharma who find it hard to forget the sting of her mercurial ways. At a Cabinet meeting last week, a proposal for the India-Bangladesh land boundary agreement came up for discussion. Citing her U-turn on FDI after she had reportedly pledged him her support, Sharma remarked, “Mamata Banerjee cannot be trusted.” Strangely, that’s also how Kolkata police officials and photojournalists now explain their fear of the CM.
Changing with the times
Afzal Guru’s hanging did more than alter our political climate. It also caused the Rashtrapati Bhavan to tweak its website. Last year, many were glad to find that the presidential site had made available a link that provided the status of varied mercy petitions. Soon after Guru’s hanging, however, the link was promptly removed. The Rashtrapati Bhavan is believed to have been flooded with so many RTI queries based on the information provided that the secretariat had to return the entire issue to the home ministry’s domain. Digital democracy is perhaps best left for moments when the President is more in the mood for mercy.
Hanging out the dirty linen
Suffering a boisterous relative while setting your house right is never easy. No one knows that better than Omar Abdullah. The Jammu and Kashmir chief minister’s uncle Mustafa Kamaal has put his foot in his mouth again. Kamaal, the National Conference additional general secretary, has argued that by hanging Afzal Guru, an opportunistic Congress has just pandered to the BJP and other saffron parties. Already trying to put out fires burning on many fronts, Omar and Farooq Abdullah have a delicate domestic situation to settle. They have come to Kamaal’s rescue before, but this time he has seemingly left them hanging dry.
Playing copycat with Telangana
It isn’t only the state of Andhra Pradesh that will be affected by the creation of Telangana. During a recent two-day interaction with party vice-president Rahul Gandhi, Congress leaders from Maharashtra and West Bengal are also said to have voiced their concerns about the issue. Afraid that carving out Telangana might help revive the demand for a new Vidarbha and Gorkhaland, respectively, Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan and West Bengal party president Pradeep Bhattacharya urged Gandhi to resolve the Telangana tangle at the earliest. The status quo is clearly no longer acceptable in the party.