A big loss for Ramesh
Losing a portfolio is disappointing for ministers. But losing a ministry with a glamorous brand ambassador is even more heart-breaking, as rural development Jairam Ramesh learnt after the recent Cabinet reshuffle. The department of drinking water and sanitation, which had actor Vidya Balan as its ambassador, was taken away from Ramesh. On the sidelines of the last Cabinet meeting, finance minister P Chidambaram, in the presence of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and some senior ministers, said to Ramesh, “I am so sad to hear that you have lost Vidya Balan!” Ramesh, known for his sharp sense of humour, retorted: “As finance minister you can always commandeer someone for me.”
Not what the doctor ordered
Several professors, heads of regulatory bodies and other eminent academicians have been spotted commenting on the nameplate of MM Pallam Raju, the new HRD minister. Raju, an engineer and an MBA who has worked in India and the US in the past, doesn’t hold a PhD degree. But his nameplate reads ‘Dr MM Pallam Raju’. This is because he has received an honorary doctorate. Though legally an honorary doctorate is enough for a person to use the title, academicians usually look down on people who use honorary achievements to equate themselves with those who hold PhD degrees. So now comparisons are being drawn between Raju and one of the ministers of state for his ministry, Shashi Tharoor, who received a PhD degree at the age of 22. But Raju isn’t alone. The new council of ministers has two other members — M Veerappa Moily and Chiranjeevi — who have also received honorary doctorates.
She is off to a great start
Congress Rajya Sabha MP from Rajasthan Chandresh Kumari was taken by surprise at the news of becoming a Cabinet minister in the UPA. Though she was assured a Cabinet berth after being denied a ticket for the assembly polls in Himachal Pradesh (HP), Kumari, who was a minister in the Virbhadra Singh government, was expecting a minister of state rank. It seems that representing two states — HP and Rajasthan — seems to have worked in Kumari’s favour. She has earned the distinction of becoming a Cabinet minister in her first induction into the UPA government.
Discussing democracy down under
The Australia India Institute in Melbourne — which is fast emerging as a hub of India-related policy debates — was the destination of several politicos from India recently. The institute’s three-day conference titled ‘Argumentative Indian: Critical Debates in the World’s Largest Democracy’ had among its speakers West Bengal governor MK Narayanan, UP chief minister Akhilesh Yadav, activist Kiran Bedi, BJD leader Jay Panda, BJP spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman and Congress spokesperson Rashid Alvi. Narayanan’s statement that India and China are destined to be hostile to each other created some ripples.
Hurry up and wait
The new minister of state for human resource development, Jitin Prasada, took charge of his office soon after he was sworn in. But he couldn’t use his new office for three days. This had nothing to do with the earlier confusion over his portfolio — in the press statement Prasada was listed as MoS for defence. It was because Prasada’s predecessor, E Ahmed, took three days to vacate the office. Till then, Prasada had to use the office of D Purandeswari, who was also MoS for HRD with Ahmed.
He’s trying to be fighting fit
Talking about the working culture in the Congress in Delhi, defence minister AK Antony had once famously said, “In Kerala, I used to wake up at 5 am and go to sleep by 10 pm. Here, I once called up Ahmed Patel at 10 pm and he asked if he can call me back at night.” But now Antony starts his work at around 11.30 in the morning because of a special ayurvedic treatment that he takes for two weeks in a year. He has informed his party bosses that he cannot attend any early morning assignments. In his office, too, no appointments and meetings are fixed before noon.