A well-planned friendship
Planning Commission deputy chairperson Montek Singh Ahluwalia has realised that the phrase, 'A friend in need is a friend indeed', isn't completely true. His old friend rural development minister Jairam Ramesh helped him wriggle out of the R32/26-a-day poverty line jam only halfway. Ramesh agreed to a joint statement with Ahluwalia on the poverty issue but pulled out when Ahluwalia suggested that his ministry should file a joint affidavit supporting the plan panel's view in the Supreme Court. In the end, Monty realised that the panel will have to fight for its abysmally low poverty line alone in the court.
Mayawati, the Congress candidate
In Uttar Pradesh, the Congress has its own Mayawati. The party has fielded former UP minister Mayawati aka Maya Prasad in next year's assembly elections. Incidentally, Mayawati has come to the Congress from the BSP. She also belongs to the scheduled caste and has been given a ticket from the reserved constituency of Srinagar in Lakhimpur-Kheri district. Mayawati had won from this constituency on a BSP ticket in 2003 and was later made a minister. But she switched to the Congress in 2007 after being denied a ticket by (the more powerful) Mayawati. Mayawati's husband, Rameshwar Prasada, had also contested the election from Mohammadi constituency on a BSP ticket, but had lost. We mean the Congress Mayawati's husband, of course.
Unique identity crisis?
After the CWG and 2G scandals, no one wants to take any chances with the growing ruckus over Nandan Nilekani's unique identification (UID) scheme. Home minister P Chidambaram has made it clear to Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia that Nilekani should bring the entire scheme to the Cabinet this week and get clear-cut approvals from the government and not merely a go-ahead from the PM. With the Planning Commission raising the issue of the UID duplicating the work of the National Population Register and security concerns over the privacy of the data gathered, even Pranab Mukherjee's finance ministry is having second thoughts. The UID scheme was sanctioned to issue 100 million UID numbers by the Cabinet with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh ordering another 100 million. As only three million numbers have been issued, the finance and home ministers want the matter to be thrashed out in the Cabinet pronto. Nilekani, on his part, has been dragging his feet over going to the Cabinet. Not surprising, considering that the home ministry had opposed the scheme the first time round itself.
Party pooping on the side
Anna Hazare had set the winter session of Parliament as the deadline for passing the Lokpal Bill. But the decision of the Anna camp to become election campaigner in Hissar, driven primarily by Arvind Kejriwal, has introduced a sub-plot in the story. Kejriwal has been criss-crossing Hissar in a Toyota Fortuner with the single-point 'Defeat the Congress' slogan. Crusaders, it seems, can have their electoral fun too.
Quote of arms
Trust senior UPA ministers to have a quote ready for every crisis facing the government. For 2G, one minister came up with: "What you cannot cure one must endure". On Telangana, another quipped: It is like my spondylitis, you have to live with it and bear the pain." No marks for guessing the ministers.
While the UPA is fire-fighting Anna Hazare and 'matters 2G', one of Manmohan Singh's principal troubleshooters Kapil Sibal will be in the US for the bilateral Education Summit in Washington. Attended by some 90 Indian education leaders and some 300 dons and university presidents from America, the high profile two-day summit will be launched by secretary of state Hillary Clinton on October 12, with the closing session addressed by her deputy William Burns and US education secretary Arne Duncan acting as the host. Given that top MEA officials are tagging along with Sibal on his visit to the US, it seems much more than education will be discussed on the sidelines.