Cards off the table
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s media adviser Harish Khare created a flutter in the security machinery controlling access to the highly-restricted PMO and PM’s residence last week. Khare lost his digital access card, and the security staff was alerted to avoid any possible misuse of the card. An internal message to officials in the PMO has asked everyone to be careful about handling their cards to avoid such problems in future.
Azad’s an A-lister
Health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad’s stars are again on the rise. Congress president Sonia Gandhi handed over the responsibility of dousing the political fire in Andhra Pradesh to Azad after other senior leaders failed to stem the rebellion following Jaganmohan Reddy’s resignation from the party. Azad succeeded in roping in Jagan’s uncle YSV Reddy and also managed to placate other rebels. Azad’s rise in party affairs can also be gauged by the fact that his name figured at the top of 15 Congress leaders authorised to take part in TV debates.
No photo finish here
After having told by an aide that the leaders of parties with less than 11 members in the Lok Sabha won’t get a chair in the group photograph of MPs, Lalu Prasad decided to give it a skip last week. His successor in the railway ministry, Mamata Banerjee, skipped the function, but for different reasons. She says her interest is in getting work done and not in getting clicked. Prasad’s party may well have been virtually decimated in Bihar, but Prasad considers it infra dig to be photographed in a standing position alongside other MPs!
Coals in the fire
His activism has set the dovecotes aflutter in several ministries. So environment minister Jairam Ramesh has now been sounded out by the PMO to be more flexible in dealing with requests for environmental clearances. The PMO’s anger is triggered by his refusal to budge from his decision to not allow coal mining in more than 35% of forestland, in response to a Cabinet note circulated by the coal ministry. As of now, Ramesh has not given any indication that he has heard anything from the PMO.
An image makeover
Shipping Minister GK Vasan wasn’t amused when Congress spokesperson Jayanthi Natarajan called him asking him to list his achievements as a minister. “Why do you want to know?” Vasan asked. She had just emerged from a Congress’ strategy session for the UPA’s plan to refurbish the government’s image, which has suffered due to scams, where it was decided that spokespersons would collect details from ministers to boost the government’s image. Given the tricky world of Tamil politics, Vasan was taken aback. "OK, I will send it over," he muttered before hanging up.
This is all India Radia
The Niira Radia tapes have prompted a lot of offline tricks. CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury isn’t happy at not being credited for coining the phrase ‘All India Radia’. But there are some creases on the foreheads of some Left leaders. Radia’s PR firm, Vaishnavi Corporate Communications, had on its list West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation, state Information and Technology Department, and Haldia Petrochemicals, where the Bengal government is a minority stakeholder.