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The buzz

Keeping tabs on the political grapevine

india Updated: Jul 23, 2011 19:50 IST

He stays on track as usual
While most politicians zip across on private jets, Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar loves going by train since the days he was railway minister. A senior BJP leader was surprised when Kumar told him that he was taking the Rajdhani Express back to Patna from Delhi, and that “a long journey by train is the best way” for unwinding between pressing schedules. And to maintain his train of thought, perhaps.

Not past the screen test
Megastar Chiranjeevi thought his fledgling party’s entry into the Congress would mean his automatic elevation to Union minister. But AICC general secretary Ghulam Nabi Azad burst his bubble recently. “If Chiranjeevi wants to join the Kiran Kumar Reddy government, he is welcome. There is no Rajya Sabha vacancy (for him to become a central minister),” he said. Also, Chiranjeevi can’t resign from his Tirupati assembly seat and let it go to the YSR Congress party or the TDP. His aides say the best he could do now is to accept actor Rekha’s invitation to do a mega film with him. At least it will be a starring role for him.

Lagging behind his jetlag
National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon was an unintended victim of finance minister Pranab Mukherjee’s jetlag after a hectic tour of the US last week. Mukherjee returned on Thursday, but on Saturday he decided to reschedule a meeting with Menon in order to catch some sleep. Menon was already on his way, when Mukherjee’s office requested him to delay by one hour. He must have lost a bit of sleep over that one.

And spat came the reply
The all-party meeting on the Lokpal Bill witnessed a spat between Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj and Union minister Farooq Abdullah. The irrepressible National Conference leader took on the BJP for meeting Anna Hazare and his team. “You should have told them to go to hell,” he told Swaraj. This prompted an angry reaction from Swaraj. “You are a minister and you’re in the government, which is talking to them and had sent ministers to the airport. You should have told them to go to hell,” she retorted. The verbal duel came to end only on the intervention of senior leaders who described it as a “slip of the tongue” on the part of Abdullah. Swaraj had in the meantime asked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to restrain his ministers from using such language. Hell hath no fury…

Not trying to duck Beijing
When HRD and telecom minister Kapil Sibal held a press conference last week to allay concerns of national security over a joint project between the Indian Institute of Science (IIS), Bangalore and Chinese telecom firm Huawei, his relaxed smiles hid the jitters in the government that he had to personally calm before going public. Though the government is convinced that the IIS-Huawei deal has no genuine security implications, the repeated barrage of scams that have hit UPA 2 have left many defensive and desperate to avoid controversy, even if all is above board. The IIS, it’s learned, told the UPA that it was planning to scrap the Huawei deal after the media furore and had to be convinced by Sibal to stay the course after assurances that the government would support the institute to the hilt. No more slaying dragons.

Real rank and file here
Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee loves to spend his spare time reading books. Last week, however, the lokpal had taken over the space of literature in his life. During his US trip, he carried a fat file on the Lokpal Bill along with Tapan Roychowdhury’s history-cum-memoir Bangalnama (The Tale of the East Bengali) to read during his journey. After he returned to Delhi, the department of personnel and training received an unusual request from Mukherjee’s office: for a dossier to be provided on the latest events related to the bill. Mukherjee had to go to Kolkata during the weekend and he wanted to remain updated on the issue. Needless to say, another file was provided to him on his special flight. We’ll take that as read.