Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s invitation to Pakistani president Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani to watch the India-Pakistan cricket match had the ministry of external affairs at sixes and sevens.
It was a decision that came without any notice as the government machinery was busy with the home secretary-level talks. Officials, including those in the home ministry, were also surprised on learning that Pakistani fans had already got or were about to get 5,000 visas last Friday. It’s the home ministry that decides on the visa applications. Apparently the news first came out in a Pakistani newspaper quoting the Pakistani high commissioner to India, saying that home minister P Chidambaram had agreed to the visa plan. No extra cover for either side.
A local trust fund
The extraordinary grassroots network that the DMK runs in Tamil Nadu is equipped to counter the nosy election commission that is stretching itself to counter money power. In the no-holds-barred political war in the state, currency notes were distributed freely from 2006 onwards, besides the goodies legally on offer in the manifestoes of both fronts. The Election Commission (EC) checks across the state has restricted movement of money. But political parties have developed an ingenious system of raising money in small towns. They draw money from local wealthy people on the promise that it will be returned on May 14 — the day after the EC leaves. Cash and carry on, really.
Billing and cooing
Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee sent a thank you note to BJP leaders LK Advani and Sushma Swaraj for their party’s support to the introduction of the Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority Bill in the Lok Sabha. Mukherjee had asked his deputy, Namo Narain Meena, to introduce the bill. But the CPI(M)’s Basudeb Acharia sprung a surprise by opposing it after seeing that the treasury benches were not full. BJP MPs came to the government’s aid and voted for the bill’s introduction. What impressed Mukherjee was that the BJP acted the way it did just a day after the bitter debate over WikiLeaks.
On a hot grill
It seems that the DMK’s problems over the 2G scam are not over. If the party thought the CBI would stop hounding it after the questioning of Dayalu Ammal and Kanimozhi, the feeling is fast evaporating. Those who know a thing or two about the direction of the investigations in the
2G scam say that after the first chargesheet in the 2G scam is filed by March 31, the probe agency is planning to question some more members of the DMK’s first family. The only question is when this grilling will take place — before the Tamil Nadu polls or after it.
Looking for a home run
Women have shattered the glass ceiling in the key ministries of foreign affairs, finance and personnel to rise to the top secretary’s post. The security establishment could be next. Sports secretary Sindhushree Khullar is said to be in the running for the first woman home secretary. The charming Gopal Krishna Pillai is to step down from the post this June on completion of his two-year tenure. Pillai would like the government to make up its mind on his replacement within next month so that the officer gets enough time to familiarise himself, or herself, with the requirements of the job. But sources suggest the government is not likely to make up its mind till May. Oh, the rites for women’s rights!
Poetry and pose
A day after the debate on the cash-for-vote scam, LK Advani was spotted in a relaxed mood at a lunch hosted by party colleague M Venkaiah Naidu. Asked if the counter-attack by the PM personally targeting Advani hurt him, a smiling Advani said, “Not at all. We got used to it,” referring to the barbs being thrown at each other with his own ‘weak PM and PM-in-waiting’ references. But asked what part of the debate he enjoyed the most, the BJP leader responded: “Where the reference was to me and also the couplet at the end. I thoroughly enjoyed that,” Advani said.