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A brother in a bother

The Brothers Ambani were the focus of attention in Parliament last week as a flurry of questions were asked of the government on the floor of the House on alleged violations by their respective companies.

india Updated: Feb 22, 2009 21:47 IST

The Brothers Ambani were the focus of attention in Parliament last week as a flurry of questions were asked of the government on the floor of the House on alleged violations by their respective companies. As is well known, one brother is close to the Samajwadi Party and the other owes allegiance to the Congress. So, when the latter made a “secret” early morning visit to the Capital recently to meet some leaders from the Left who are, incidentally, busy cobbling together pre-poll alliances, it didn’t go down well with the upper echelons of the Congress Party. A mild admonition with a clear message against such pre-election straying is said to have been conveyed.

Singhing a different tune

Samajwadi Party general secretary Amar Singh is a harried man these days. In recent months, his constant grouse has been that some Congress leaders have been humiliating him. But it appears that a bigger problem has emerged within his own fold. The SP rank and file blames Singh for having formalised the party’s arrangement with the Congress — a development many view as detrimental to the party. Singh has actually begun to feel the heat. For fear of being pilloried by colleagues, Singh skipped the meeting of the party’s parliamentary board last fortnight. This is apparently the first time Singh will be missing from action.

Here’s food for thought
The government appears to have couched harsh reality in a layer of wishful thinking in a reply to a Rajya Sabha question on storage of wheat stock in Punjab. The answer read, “No wheat stocks have been declared damaged by the Food Corporation of India.” The very next sentence contradicted this saying “However, three to five bottom layers of stocks at Dera Mir Mian plinth have been reported to be affected by rain water.” Now that’s something to chew on.

Competition that never was

The formation of the proposed Competition Commission of India (CCI), a watchdog body to regulate mergers, market shares and prevent anti-trust market practices, has come across a fresh hurdle. In November 2008, the government constituted a selection panel headed by Supreme Court judge, Altamas Kabir, to appoint a chairman and several members of the commission. The panel selected Haryana cadre IAS officer Dhanendra Kumar to be the chairman and, among others, coal secretary H.C. Gupta and corporate affairs secretary Anurag Goel to be members.

When the appointments were sent to the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC) for approval it was discovered that Anurag Goel was himself a member-secretary of the panel that selected him. On probing deeper, the Home Ministry discovered that the terms of the selection panel had been changed mid-course and it had become a ‘search and selection’ panel (that could not just evaluate a list of applicants but also select from outside the list) to justify
Goel’s inclusion.

But with elections around the corner, a code of conduct for the incumbent government will soon kick in which means that the process of setting up the CCI is now stuck. The buzz: with the future uncertain, Messrs Kumar, Gupta and Goel are running helter-skelter to see what other posts they can be considered for, now that this seems a non-competitive misadventure.