It was news to him
A day after last week’s largely non-populist budget, Montek Singh Ahluwalia looked very relaxed. The deputy chairman of the planning commission was also at his humorous best in a post-budget press interaction. “I am here to shed some light on the budget, or (as some might like to think) spread darkness.” Ahluwalia also quipped to a reporter who following an answer from Ahluwalia on low resource utilisation remarked that the government machinery seems to be inefficient. “That is a surprise. You know you just broke that news to me,” Ahluwalia said. For a change, reporters found themselves at the receiving end of their own questions. Making light of things.
Clarity doesn’t begin at home
The Uttar Pradesh father and son duo’s contrasting takes on his ministry’s flagship programme infuriated the rural development minister Jairam Ramesh last week. Speaking on the motion of thanks to the President’s address in the Lok Sabha, Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav demanded scrapping of the NREGA, claiming it to be the root of corruption in the country. However, Ramesh took on the senior Yadav aided by requests from the junior Yadav — Akhilesh Yadav, the chief minister of UP. “Does his son agree with his view? His son writes to me every second day asking for more money under NREGA. I don’t think that his son shares his view. Mulayam Singh should ask his son,” Ramesh quipped. Not the son of its parts.
They are game for it
With MM Pallam Raju, Shashi Tharoor and Jitin Prasada as ministers in the HRD ministry, the country’s education establishment has new faces at its helm after a long time. And that’s showing in the ministry’s internal priorities too. Raju, Tharoor and Prasada are all avid sports lovers, with cricket — predictably — and football — their favourite sports. Under them, the ministry is supporting a University Cricket League, and Raju and Tharoor are now discussing the possibility of the HRD ministry forming its own cricket and football teams, and participating in inter-ministerial competitions. Well, some points will certainly be scored.
Saying it with flowerpots
Telecom minister Kapil Sibal is an ace lawyer, and is adept at deftly negotiating tricky political terrain. But on Saturday, he had to dodge a missile — a flowerpot flung at him by the same man who last year slapped agriculture minister Sharad Pawar. Sibal, who was visiting his constituency Chandni Chowk at the time of the incident, escaped unhurt, and asked the police to let the man — who was nabbed — go. But following the incident, the minister’s aides have started discussions on whether it is time to start preparing for future “attacks”. “Not just Sibal saab, all politicians across parties need to start preparing — it’s that time again,” one aide said. After all, a spate of state elections — including to the Delhi assembly — are coming up this year, and the Lok Sabha polls are just a year away. Memories of a journalist flinging a shoe at P Chidambaram on the eve of the 2009 elections are also still fresh in people’s minds. Time to take cover, it would seem.
No longer foreign to them
NCP chief Sharad Pawar, who along with Tariq Anwar and PA Sangma, had left the Congress in 1999 over the issue of Sonia Gandhi’s foreign origins, praised the UPA chairperson recently for not accepting any post in the government. Addressing a function in Pune to felicitate Mahesh cooperative bank founder Hiralal Malu, Pawar said: “A few of us had acted in this regard (left the Congress over Gandhi’s foreign origin issue) but all of us later understood that Soniaji showed magnanimity by deciding not to accept any post of power in the government and history would certainly take note of this.” The post is in the past.