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HindustanTimes Wed,17 Sep 2014
Keeping tabs on the political grapevine
Hindustan Times
New Delhi, October 22, 2012
First Published: 22:41 IST(22/10/2012)
Last Updated: 22:44 IST(22/10/2012)

From low key to high gear
Sushma Swaraj, the leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, is back in action to oversee the BJP's affairs in Delhi and Haryana. Swaraj, who has kept away from the Capital's politics, took a lot of interest in a meeting of Delhi leaders held at party chief Nitin Gadkari's residence recently. Incidentally, Arun Jaitley, her counterpart in the Rajya Sabha, was absent. Swaraj's fresh interest in Delhi's affairs has come after a spell that saw her in a low key-mood during the municipal polls held in April, which the BJP won. Swaraj's foray is being interpreted by insiders as her personal endeavour to see that Sheila Dikshit's hat-trick of winning three polls consecutively is ended. Swaraj was the CM of Delhi before Dikshit took over. An interesting interest in Delhi. 

Hooked on providing data
Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi's statement that seven out of 10 youth in Punjab were drug addicts saw many of his party leaders searching for data on the internet to defend the claim. Congress Working Committee (CWC) member and senior leader from Punjab Jagmeet Singh Brar went a step further and issued a statement claiming that the sperm count of men from Punjab has gone down drastically due to  drug abuse and alcoholism. Citing data from the World Health Organisation, he said the "big macho Punjabi male is losing his vigour and that too fast". He further said that the average sperm count of men the world over was 60 million three decades ago which has now decreased to 15 million and Punjab is the most adversely affected state in India. Google, according to Brar, gives as many as 12 crore entries on drug addicts in Punjab. A count of some account from him.

A studied appeal for help
The human resource development ministry has long struggled to get credible private companies on board for its grand plan to launch 2,500 schools based on public private partnerships (PPP). But when the HRD minister is also the telecom minister at a time when that sector is in turmoil, it should not be that difficult. As telecom minister, Sibal has routinely had to meet representatives of the Tatas, Sunil Bharti Mittal and the Ambani brothers - both are now in the sector. So in September, when the HRD ministry desperately needed help from the private sector, Sibal wrote to his friends in the telecom industry, asking them to join in nation-building - and promptly got letters of support from Ratan Tata, Mukesh Ambani and Sunil Bharti Mittal. It helps to straddle two ministries. Friends in need indeed.

Not much gets past him
In the last meeting of the GoM on the land bill, finance minister P Chidambaram again proved why he is considered the key legal brain in the ruling dispensation. He not only spotted the anomalies-reading out the bill clause by clause-but also suggested changes in the language of the bill. The GoM accepted all his suggestions and later a key member quipped, "It was expected from Chidambaram who always reads all papers meticulously before coming for any meeting." The key to the bill's success.

Lost and not found yet
President Pranab Mukherjee is a connoisseur of history and artefacts. So, naturally, after assuming office, he asked for an inventory of collectibles in the sprawling Rashtrapati Bhavan. In particular, he wanted to know about the table on which Lord Irwin and Mahatma Gandhi signed the historic 1931 Gandhi-Irwin pact, which paved the way for the Congress to join the Round Table Conference. But to Mukherjee's shock, the table was missing. A study table used by the last British viceroy Lord Mountbatten was also missing. Other rare furniture, paintings and artefacts had been taken away either by his predecessors or officials, he was told. An upset President ordered a joint secretary to take the responsibility to ensure that all artefacts be brought back and a museum set up inside Rashtrapati Bhavan. Former president Pratibha Devisingh Patil took 155 artefacts as 'gifts' with her, which have been accounted for though. She has created a mini-museum in her hometown. Mukherjee feels these artefacts could later be brought back to Rashtrapati Bhavan. Not moments to treasure for him.


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