The sub-group of parliamentarians led by CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury to meet Kashmir leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq was served tea without milk. The Mirwaiz apologised to the members saying that the milk supply was hit due to curfew. The message could not have been lost on the delegates. Talking of the Kashmir visit, Home Minister P. Chidambaram impressed colleagues and people with his command over Hindi and Urdu. On one occasion, BJP leader Sushma Swaraj volunteered to translate the complaint of a woman. “I get it, I get it,” the home minister said thanking Swaraj.
A special selection process
The officer on special duty (OSD) to the home minister has a challenging post. P. Chidambaram has selected Ajay Yadav, a 1996 Himachal cadre IPS officer, after a selection process that went on for over two months. The incumbent Safi Rizvi, from the UP cadre, is moving to the Intelligence Bureau after being promoted as DIG. From a shortlist of more than a dozen, Chidambaram interviewed several and zeroed in on Yadav. Normally, ministers pick their OSDs and personal staff through pre-existing networks, but Chidambaram has set a different precedent. In 2008 when he became the home minister, Rizvi was picked as OSD after a brilliant presentation he did on terror funding.
Wild card carrying comrade
Congress MP Mani Shankar Aiyar recently shared the dais with Left leaders Prakash Karat and A.B. Bardhan at a seminar on Palestine. Aiyar attacked the UPA for its ‘changed policy’ on Palestine. At one point, Karat suggested that Aiyar lead a group of parliamentarians on Palestine. A quick-witted Aiyar responded by saying that he will consider the offer provided the Left parties considered him a “non-card carrying comrade”. But it was Bardhan who won the battle of wits. “We have always considered you one of us,” he told Aiyar.
In the penalty corner
Cabinet colleagues shouted down Sports Minister M.S. Gill recently when he tried to explain the progress of the Commonwealth Games preparations. The irony is that Gill was only following the protocol put in place to get the Games’ preparations back on track. After an intervention by the prime minister more than a month ago, the minister was supposed to brief the Cabinet every week on the preparations.
Freedom of expression
Gurudas Dasgupta, a CPI MP for decades, is no expert on Kashmir. But when it comes to political correctness, he is alert. When he met Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq as part of a small team, he noticed that the leader had already invited TV channels to be present. When the Mirwaiz, in the full glare of the media, began emphasising on a separate status for the Valley, Dasgupta didn’t mince words: “We are not for azadi. That’s not our agenda, Mr Mir.”
Greet and retreat
Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj and other members of the all-party delegation asked a patient in a Srinagar hospital, who had been injured in street violence and was lying in the bed, “Kya haal hai (how are you)?” The man nearly jumped out his bed, shouting “we want azadi (freedom).” Soon other inmates also joined in the chorus. The delegates had to beat a hasty retreat.