Filling the fiscal tank
The Chairman of the Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council C. Rangarajan and Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia differed on the timing of the hike in oil prices. Rangarajan wanted the hike after inflation softened. But Ahluwalia lobbied for decontrolling the oil prices to bolster India’s fiscal health, as they account for a quarter of the State’s subsidy bill of Rs 120,000 crore. Finally, the prime minister accepted Ahluwalia’s view for partially implementing the long-pending Kirit Parikh Committee recommendation on full market pricing.
Just for the record
The Congress’s set a record in Karnataka. It has, for all practical purposes, outsourced the party to immigrants from other outfits, especially the Janata parivar. In fact, the state unit is headed by R.V. Deshpande, a once-trusted lieutenant of Lok Shakti president Ramakrishna Hegde. In another first, Deshpande has appointed a political secretary to assist him. “There is no example of this in any other state. But then Karnataka is unique,” quipped a Congressman from the state where his party has ceded space to the BJP. The only political secretary in the Congress has so far been at the national level.
All hail to the chief
Sycophancy is not new in politics but academia in Tamil Nadu is succumbing fast. With 5,000 scholars attending the ‘first’ world classical Tamil conference in Coimbatore, about 20 papers were presented on Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi’s contribution as a writer and five on his poet-daughter, Kanimozhi.
Error of his ways
It’s difficult to rise to Home Minister P. Chidambaram’s exacting standards for many officers like Chief Executive Officer of Prasar Bharati B.S. Lalli. At a recent meeting of the Group of Ministers, he apparently tried to get a pat on the back for framing service rules for Prasar Bharati employees after a long time. But Chidambaram took a glance at the document and pointed out many errors. This, he told Lalli, appeared to be an example of the work culture in Prasar Bharati. An apologetic Lalli promised to ensure such mistakes wouldn’t be repeated.
His French connections
The French ambassador to India, Jerome Bonnafont, continues to remain one of the most influential foreign diplomats in the country. The Ministry of External Affairs was cold to the idea of the European Union High Representative Baroness Catherine Ashton and her delegation (in India last week) meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. While MEA was dilly-dallying on the issue, the EU diplomats knew where to pull the strings. Bonnafont’s help was sought. Soon enough the appointment with Singh came through.
No wasting words here
Most government departments fear the Comptroller and Auditor General of India Vinod Rai when his office begins auditing their accounts. Now they have another reason to be apprehensive for Rai has donned the hat of a concerned citizen. Recently, while traveling by Shatabdi, the unseemly sight of garbage along the rail tracks prompted him to dash off a letter to the chairman of the Railway Board, which has since been passed on to the general manager of Northern Railway. In his letter, Rai suggested that the Railways go in for a one-time operation to clean up the tracks along the Rajdhani and Shatabdi routes before the Commonwealth Games begin.
Straight from the heart
External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna has been trying to impart a humane touch among people in his ministry while dealing with issues relating to the old, the ailing and the dead. The minister always makes it a point to meet all his associates, friends or relatives who are hospitalised or bed-ridden. Last week, Krishna found time to fly to Mumbai to meet cartoonist R.K. Laxman who’s hospitalised. Recently, he conveyed to the missions in Gulf countries that special efforts should be made to ensure that all dead bodies of Indian nationals be flown back so their last rites can be conducted at home.