A persisting profile from the past
The transition from foreign secretary to former foreign secretary takes more time when the world knows you as the country’s top diplomat for close to three years. Former Foreign secretary Shivshankar Menon, who has maintained a low profile since he retired, realised this at a lecture last week. He was repeatedly referred to as the foreign secretary during the interaction that followed the lecture. When it happened for the umpteenth time, Menon himself reminded the gathering to prefix ex- before the title.
Got it all taped up
Last week, Deputy Chairperson of the Planning Commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia got a taste of what his department is accused of — red-tapism. At the release of a report on greenhouse gas emissions, Environment and Forests Minister Jairam Ramesh, invited him to do the honours saying “Please cut the red tape.” Though no one was sure if Ramesh had inadvertently punned upon the delays caused by the plan panel, Ahluwalia released the book with a frown on his face.
In a steering position
Four BJP leaders — Arun Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj, Venkaiah Naidu and Ananth Kumar — hopped into Jaitley’s vehicle to call on RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat when he was in Delhi on a mission to douse the infighting raging in the party. Little did they realise when they left in the same vehicle back to L.K. Advani’s house to brief him on their discussion, some TV channels would run ‘breaking news’ that Jaitley would be next BJP chief and Swaraj and Naidu would be Leaders of Opposition in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. A perplexed Jaitley decided to ask a TV reporter how he arrived at this conclusion. The reply: “Since you sat in the front seat, we presumed you would be the next BJP chief and Swaraj and Naidu, who sat in the back would get the slots in Parliament.” What about Ananth Kumar? “Nothing for him because he sat in the dickey (boot).”
Proprieties on properties
The Russians pushed the Indian delegation on to the backfoot when the two sides met in Yekaterinburg last June where Moscow raised the issue of re-registration of properties allotted to the Russian embassy and consulates in India that are still registered in the name of the USSR. The Russian side had come prepared, but the Indian side only had National Security Advisor M.K. Narayanan and the then Foreign Secretary S.S. Menon accompanying the PM. Two key officials dealing with Russia — India’s ambassador to Russia, P.P. Shukla and Additional Secretary, D. Manchanda, who were both present in Yekaterinburg — were surprisingly left out of the delegation. Sparks flew at the meeting when Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov raised the matter and the Indian side was at a loss for words.
Fears are now grounded
The Congress has a history of losing its senior leaders in helicopter crashes. The death of Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy in a chopper crash has forced many party leaders to rethink travelling in helicopters. “I will certainly avoid travelling in helicopters unless it’s very urgent,” said a senior leader, requesting not to be named.