CPI(M) General Secretary Prakash Karat was to attend the opening of the new assembly building in Chennai on Saturday evening, where Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi were the prime attractions. At the eleventh hour, Karat wrote a letter to DMK patriarch
M. Karunanidhi excusing himself. Karat was uncomfortable about being seen in the company of Congress leaders after he learnt that BJP leader Sushma Swaraj would not be attending. AIADMK leader Jayalalithaa also skipped the function.
An unwanted passenger
The Women’s Reservation Bill not only saw the three Yadav chieftains up in arms but also soured the bonhomie that existed between RJD and Congress leaders in UPA-I. Last Wednesday, when RJD chief Lalu Prasad was coming out of Parliament after forcing the adjournment of the Lok Sabha over the Bill, Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Harish Rawat, tried to get into the car meant for Lalu. He was stopped just in time by Lalu’s trusted aide and former Union minister Prem Chand Gupta. “Saheb ki gaadi hai (This is saheb’s car),” Gupta shouted, prompting Rawat to say that he could still, at least, sit in Lalu’s car.
Follow the leaders
Being well-known crowd-pullers, Lalu Prasad and Mulayam Singh Yadav can get even staunch opponents on their side. The Yadavs were in a minority in the Lok Sabha on the Women’s Reservation Bill but they managed to garner support from the Shiv Sena — long-time ally of the BJP — which supports the legislation. So, when RJD, SP and JD(U) members trooped into the well of the House, they found surprise support in Shiv Sena MP Subhash Bapurao Wankhede who joined them in the protest. “Netaji ke liye (It’s for the leader [Mulayam]),” he was heard saying.
Just as army officers carry their identity cards at all times, Defence Minister A.K. Antony too makes it a point to always keep his ministerial identity card with him. Not that anyone would dare ask the minister to prove his identity in South Block or Parliament. The fact is that Antony is a stickler for rules and would not want to be seen doing something that goes against decorum. He once light-heartedly remarked, “What if the security personnel at Parliament want to check my identity card. I carry it with me at all times.” The minister sure is setting a fine precedent there.
It fits the fillet
Bengalis take to fish as fish take to water. And Union Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee is no exception. Since Indian Railways does the catering for the Parliament canteens, Mamata could not be held back on the fish front. She was
instrumental in getting a cook, Benugopal — known for his culinary skills in fish preparations at Eastern Railway headquarters canteen — shifted to Delhi when Parliament is in session.
A flying visit really
It was a unique visit of a dignitary in many ways. UAE Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Makhtoum drove from IGI airport to 7 Race Course Road to meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and then drove back to the airport after the meeting, and returned to his country. Dubai’s ruler was supposed to attend an event in Delhi, which also featured Salman Rushdie, among others. But without giving any reason, the ruler skipped the event.
No dwelling for Deshmukh
Heavy Industries Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh’s woes are far from over. After a seven-month wait for former Union minister Mani Shankar Aiyar to vacate the official bungalow allotted to him, Deshmukh found his patience being tested once again — this time by junior cabinet colleague Jitin Prasada. Wanting to organise his marriage reception at 14, Akbar Road (the house allotted to Deshmukh), Prasada asked Deshmukh if he could wait longer to shift to his house. Left with little choice but to be gallant, Deshmukh agreed. The reception is now over, but renovation work on the bungalow is yet to begin. Meanwhile, Deshmukh continues to cool his heels in a government guesthouse.