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The buzz

Keeping tabs on the political grapevine.

india Updated: Dec 17, 2012 21:49 IST

For the public's convenience
For over a year, Union minister Jairam Ramesh was so engaged with toilets (the lack of them, actually) that when the recent reshuffle took away the sanitation ministry from him it came as a shock to many and disappointment to the uncelebrated ministry which shot into the limelight for a short while. Ramesh, too, appeared downcast at the change then. So last week when minister of state for sanitation (independent charge) Bharatsinh Solanki requested Ramesh to answer his questions in Parliament, the spirited minister willingly agreed to stand in for his junior colleague. "Anyway, Ramesh is the authority on the subject," a ministry official said even as he observed that it is unusual for a MoS to request a cabinet minister to answer his questions. Ramesh, however, has also found another issue - manual scavenging - that he is highlighting at various venues now. He is flush with ideas.

Opening and closing arguments
Law minister Ashwani Kumar shares a lot with telecom minister Kapil Sibal. They're both lawyers and both studied at St Stephen's College. But they also share a professional relationship that hasn't always been smooth. At a time when Sibal dismissed calls to amend section 66A of the IT Act, which gives the police powers to arrest citizens for objectionable posts on social media, Kumar has told his Cabinet colleagues - through a note - that he believes an amendment may be best. There's a history. Last year, Sibal declared that the nation had suffered "zero loss" due to the controversial 2G spectrum allocations, sparking criticism, Kumar had written to the Prime Minister slamming Sibal for "damaging" the government's public image with his claim. No law against voicing differences, is there?

No class preferences here
Minister of state for human resource development Shashi Tharoor faced criticism for his "cattle class" jibe at the government's austerity measures at the start of UPA2, when he was minister of state for external affairs. But the MP from Thiruvananthapuram, who insisted his remark - made in the context of flying on low-fare carriers - was misunderstood, is keen to fight for ordinary members of his constituency when it comes to traveling home ahead of Christmas and New Year. Tharoor has asked the railway ministry to offer special trains to supplement the usual ones to Kerala during the coming holiday season. Following the right train of thought.

A feminine touch to the campaign
Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi turned to women BJP leaders to do their bit to bolster his campaign. Much to the chagrin of his male colleagues, who were not in much demand, Modi handpicked a batch of women BJP leaders to woo voters. Modi talked to each of them, giving instructions as to what he wanted them to do on a daily basis. If BJP spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman handled the media 24X7 at the party headquarters in Ahmedabad, Rajya Sabha MP Smriti Irani coordinated speakers' tours for rallies. BJP secretary Vani Tripathi and Meenakshi Lekhi, familiar BJP faces on television debates, were asked to focus on women voters in interior rural pockets. Hema Malini, too, was roped in to draw the crowds at BJP meetings. Not a man's world for Modi.

Nurturing the seeds of creativity
Minister for food and distribution KV Thomas has turned to some extracurricular activities and is following in the footsteps of some of his illustrious ministerial colleagues, such as minister of petroleum and natural gas Veerappa Moily and Union minister of state of external affairs Salman Khurshid. No, we don't mean courting controversies. The food minister has just come out with a published work. The book, titled For the Grains, is Thomas's take on India's food economy and includes some of his speeches. Not exactly a high-brow academic primer but a useful guide to understanding food economics from somebody who ultimately signs off on big policies that decide our food security. Those in the know say Thomas, by turning to the pen, isn't going against the grain. He has already authored a few books in Malayalam, his native tongue. Quite a bit on plate.