Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee has come up with a novel explanation for staying away from Union Cabinet meetings. It is the sweet-and-sour relationship she shares with Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee. He’s a nice man, but has a tendency to fly into rage at the drop of a hat, feels Banerjee. The Trinamool Congress chief is not very adept at keeping her cool herself. So, to avoid possible acrimonious situations with Pranabda, she skips Cabinet meetings. That’s good for his blood pressure and mine, she feels.
Going by the book
Jyoti Mirdha, the grand-daughter of veteran Rajasthan leader Nathuram Mirdha, is a Congress MP from Rajasthan. Being tech-savvy, she brings her Apple iPad to Parliament. She is often at work on it and her colleagues are impressed. On seeing her, some first-time MPs are thinking of asking the Lok Sabha secretariat to replace their MTNL 3G phone sets with iPads.
Reaching for the moon
With Kashmir on fire, the government had to do some firefighting at the United Nations to counter the handiwork of an official of Pakistani origin. Farhan Haq, the assistant spokesperson at the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s office played some mischief last week. He had sent out some selective ‘guidance’ from the background briefing notes to some journalists. It had references to the UN Secretary General urging all concerned to address problems peacefully in Kashmir. To clear the air, India’s Permanent representative to the UN Hardeep Puri took up the matter with the UN Secretary General, and it came to the light that Ban Ki-moon had not made any such statement.
Waging a campaign
Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad and Samajwadi Party boss Mulayam Singh Yadav are at the forefront of those demanding a hike in the salaries of Members of Parliament. They want MPs’ salaries be raised to Rs 80,000 per month. So, whenever Parliament is in session, the Yadav duo make it a point to meet Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee with their demand. But Mukherjee, like an astute politician, refers them to Parliamentary Affairs Minister P.K. Bansal and his junior V. Narayanasamy. The Yadav duo apparently threaten — a liberty they cannot take with Pranabda — the two ministers that they will withdraw support to the UPA government if their pay hike demand is not met.
Down to earth again
Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah does not want to annoy the Congress leadership at this juncture when he is facing strong criticism for his handling of the situation in the Valley. He has taken the Congress directive to cut down on his frequent weekend holiday trips to Delhi seriously. The junior Abdullah does not stay overnight in Delhi now. The last two times he came to meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Home Minister P. Chidambaram, the chief minister flew back to Srinagar the same day saying that he had lot of work to do back home.
Clearing the air
Minister of State for Defence M.M. Pallam Raju sprang a surprise on Pakistani fighter pilots at the recently-concluded Farnborough International Airshow.
The minister decided to check out the static display of Pakistan Air Force’s JF-17 fighters that were taking part in an airshow for the first time. The minister quizzed the pilots about the capabilities of the fighter.
A Pakistan Air Force pilot said, “We were quite surprised to have the Indian minister visit us. He was quite curious about the aircraft and asked us about the range, weapons payload and its development history.”