The Buzz

Currying some favours
Culinary politics is on display here. The factions owing allegiance to Union health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad and Jammu and Kashmir Congress chief Saifuddin Soz are certainly dishing it out. Soon after the three-day Congress plenary in the Capital, the two factions engaged in lunch and dinner politics. While party MP from Jammu, Madan Lal Sharma, hosted a lunch for the Soz faction at his residence, former MP Janak Raj Gupta organised the dinner hosted by Azad for leaders of his faction at the India International Centre. While the leaders of the two factions have been virtually at each other's throats, there was one common thread in the two parties. Senior leader Ashok Bhan was present at both places, much to the amusement of many. With Congress president Sonia Gandhi set to announce the name of the party head for the state soon, the war over gaining control over the state unit has intensified.

No helping hand here
Helpless is not a word which comes to mind in the case of the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj. So she was a bit nonplussed when Arun Jaitley — Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha — referred to her as bechaari Sushmaji during his speech at a rally in the capital against corruption. He said that though bechaari Sushmaji had objected to the appointment of Central Vigilance Commissioner chief PJ Thomas, the prime minister ignored this. Swaraj, sources say, asked JD(U) chief Sharad Yadav on the dais: "Mujhe kyon bechaari keh rahe hain? Main bechaari kaise ho gayee? (Why is he calling me helpless? How did I become helpless)?"

Not knowing your onions
Like the peeling of an onion, the truth is often difficult to get at. One such conundrum arose when it was sought to be ascertained whether Prime Minister Manmohan Singh wrote to Union agriculture and consumer affairs minister Sharad Pawar asking about the sudden surge in onion prices. While Pawar had initially feigned ignorance, Congress sources insisted the letter did go. Now it turns out that confusion arose as the letter from the Prime Minister's Office was addressed to two people — the secretaries of agriculture and consumer affairs. Pawar met the prime minister to explain the price rise matter as soon as he learnt about the letters. Why did the letter go to officials and not the minister? Is the prime minister acting on Pawar's request for reducing his workload? Keep your eyes peeled for answers.

All lines are open
Kapil Sibal's made it clear that his heart lies with his human resource development ministry. But the course of true politics never runs smooth. There is talk within government and Congress circles that the lawyer-politician may have to give up his educational reforms to manage the telecom ministry, which he landed following A Raja's resignation. Officially, Sibal is holding additional charge of the telecom ministry at present. If telecom were to be made his principal ministry — with the human resource development ministry taken away — the message to the party's southern ally DMK would be that it is unlikely to get back telecom, which the UPA ally desperately wants. To keep all options open, and the DMK guessing, it's best go for the call waiting option.

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