A dash to the finishing line
The race for the next foreign secretary’s post is very much open. While the frontrunner is Sujatha Singh, India’s ambassador to Germany, S Jaishankar, India’s envoy to China, is also very much in the running.
The latter’s name is being pushed by national security adviser Shivshankar Menon. If the government goes by seniority, Singh, a 1976 batch officer, should succeed Ranjan Mathai as the country’s next foreign secretary.
Jaishankar belongs to 1977 batch and there are a few serving officers of the 1976 batch left as well. Singh is the daughter of TV Rajeswar, a former intelligence bureau chief and a former governor of Uttar Pradesh, who is close to the Congress.
Seniority played a major role in the selection of the last two foreign secretaries — Nirupama Rao and Ranjan Mathai.
With Rao keen on getting an extension as Indian envoy to the US, things are not going to be easy for Jaishankar whose next best option is Washington.
At the same time, when Menon was appointed foreign secretary, seniority was not made the criteria. As we said, for the contenders, it is still a long way to go.
She has a way with words
Congress spokesperson Renuka Chowdhury has been praised by her party colleagues for coining the term ‘Namonitis’ with reference to the absence of senior BJP leaders at the Goa conclave. Congress general secretary Digvijaya Singh tweeted: ‘Full marks to Renuka. Any one from the Sangh who can treat this disease?’
Taking cautious steps
Of late, road transport and highways minister CP Joshi, who holds additional charge as railways minister, has been treading cautiously and the reasons are not too far to find.
The last time he held additional charge of the portfolio, Pawan Kumar Bansal had pipped him at the post at the last minute. This time, Joshi has remained detached from the job.
Since he took over the portfolio, Joshi has not taken any major policy decisions and has not touched the files relating to transfers and postings. As they say, once bitten, twice shy.
A bill of foods
As the Congress brass twiddled its thumbs on a strategy to get the food Bill off the ground, the agreement was that a special session should be called.
Defence minister AK Antony, who usually keeps a low profile, advised that the government ought send some tough signals, rather than go weak-kneed before a belligerent Opposition.
It was on his advice that the option of an ordinance was back on the table. Soon, the food ministry moved a note to the Cabinet Secretariat to that effect, although a decision is set to be taken after one more round of discussions this week.
He is the ultimate Mr Cool
The scorching Delhi summer hasn’t had any major impact on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s exercise routine except that his treadmill has been moved into the house from his garden. Small wonder then that the prime minister has managed to keep his cool despite the controversies surrounding his government.
Shuffling the pack
The ministry of external affairs seems to be reluctant about shifting out many senior joint secretaries in charge of important divisions at the headquarters.
Those who have completed their mandatory three years for some months now include Gautam Bambawale, joint secretary in-charge of East Asia, Harsh Shringla of BSM division (Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Maldives) and Ajay Bisaria who deals with Russia and central Asian republics.
While it’s expected that these who handle tough divisions at the headquarters are rewarded with postings, key envoy postings are hard to come by. JS Tirumurti, another senior joint secretary, has been posted at the headquarters for close to six years now, and he is in-charge of one of the divisions dealing with the UN.
Earlier he had headed the BSM division.
Amma’s way or the highway
Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa knows how to have her way not just in her home state but also in Delhi.
The chief minister was recently in the Capital to discuss the state’s annual plan with Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia.
Surprising many, the Tamil Nadu Police took over Yojana Bhawan, one of the oldest government buildings in central Delhi.
Such is the clout of the chief minister that even senior functionaries of the panel issued directions to their security staff to listen to the state police department.
Even the Delhi Police staff seemed to be reporting to them. The building was sanitised by the TN police and they even debarred journalists from entering it.
The panel was unwilling to take chances since the chief minister had accused its deputy chairperson of giving inadequate funds to the states. The panel sure knows how to make amends without spending too much money.