Last week, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh set tongues wagging by drawing a distinction between a “friend” and other “colleagues” in the Cabinet. In his inaugural address to the 98th Indian Science Congress in Chennai, the PM described Kapil Sibal as his “friend” while referring to P Chidamabaram, Dayanidhi Maran, GK Vasan, D Purandeswari and N Narayansamy who were also present as “colleagues in the council of ministers”. This wasn’t all. The original plan included seats for Chidambaram and the other ministers on the dais. But the prime minister’s office, it is understood, ensured that all ministers other than Sibal were relocated off the dais to the front row.
Some southern comfort
After months of dillydallying, the ministry of external affairs has decided to appoint a new ambassador to Nepal. Jayant Prasad, presently special secretary in charge of public diplomacy, will replace Rakesh Sood who will return to New Delhi. With Aloke Prasad, the deputy national security advisor appointed envoy to Japan, Sood could be a contender for that post. But there is a keen demand from intelligence agencies that the deputy NSA should be from their cadre, as both the NSA Shiv Shankar Menon and his deputy are from the Indian Foreign Service.
All at sea now
One man’s woes can be another man’s gain. DMK’s TR Baalu, who couldn’t make it to the Union Cabinet earlier, is looking forward to his induction now. The slot vacated by Raja is still vacant. Baalu is keen to get the shipping portfolio now being held by GK Vasan. Baalu wants to launch the Sethusa-mudram project before the Tamil Nadu elections if the Supreme Court can be persuaded to vacate the stay.
Not green in the gills
Environment minister Jairam Ramesh is battling an old friend, Planning Commission deputy chairperson Montek Singh Ahluwalia, over his green overdrive that is holding up development projects and mining. Ahluwalia has publicly criticised Ramesh’s intransigence, but it was more humour than bitterness when both met at a recent public function. As soon as he arrived at the function, Ramesh thanked Meghnad Desai for sitting between them on the podium. Ahluwalia smiled at the remark, later congratulating Ramesh for creating environment consciousness in the country. Later, both were seen having a good laugh. Not clear who will have the last laugh over the no-go policy in mining.
Not a moving sight
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has taken exception to the failure of 851 top bureaucrats to declare their assets despite reminders. The PM’s order, issued on January 6, directed bureaucrats that Immovable Prop-erty Return (IPR) be submitted latest by January 31. The bureaucrats were also directed to avoid phrases like “same as previous year” or “no change”.
All sugar and spice
It’s rare for external affairs minister SM Krishna to make an extempore speech. But addressing the staffers of the Indian mission in Kabul this weekend, he was overwhelmed by emotion and didn’t care to speak from the written text. The minister had also carried sweets for all employees, living under rather tough circumstances.