Ground beneath his feet
Union chemicals and fertilisers minister MK Alagiri is a changed man. Prior to the Tamil Nadu elections, he hated being in Delhi. Now, he dreads leaving Delhi and going to Madurai, which he once had in his iron grip. His lieutenants are in jail, accused in land grabbing cases. He dreads that his wife, Kanthi, will be arrested in a land grab case involving a temple property worth Rs 25 crore. "Everything is legally acquired," he says to deny the rumours that he could be in trouble soon. Alagiri is clearly on shaky ground here.
On a need-to-know basis
It is no secret that civil servants blocked for years the move to put their immovable assets in the public domain. So when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh finally put his foot down this year and changed the rules of the game, the department of personnel and training put the property returns of IAS officers online. But it encrypted the files to make sure the returns did not show up in internet searches and occasionally blocked visitors from saving or printing the property returns. One reason why officials wanted to tuck away their property returns in dusty files was because transparency would force the government to implement the rules. Like the one that requires civil servants to list the current value of their homes. Most officers — including the ones who drafted the property return form — have conveniently skipped this column. Others brazenly undervalued their properties. A law of diminishing returns?
Modify his strategy?
Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi rolled out the red carpet for Raj Thackeray's 10-day visit to the state. The latter, in return, had fulsome praise for the former. As Mumbai's civic polls are due soon, Raj's Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) could be eyeing Gujarati voters in the metropolis. But what's in store for Modi? The BJP strongman could be looking at a long-term objective, say insiders. He could either attempt a Raj-Uddhav patch up or work for a BJP-MNS understanding if the Shiv Sena moved closer to the Sharad Pawar-led NCP before the 2014 polls. We need to examine what lies beneath.
On a very fast track
Former railway ministers Lalu Prasad and Mamata Banerjee have been good entertainers. For those who thought the new incumbent Dinesh Trivedi is a bit too serious, his first reply in Parliament as railway minister was an eye-opener. On a question on deaths due to accidents, he presented his grand plans for the Indian railways. "I want to make our railways the best in the world," Trivedi declared without getting into details about safety measures, inviting laughs and protests from opposition and treasury benches. To a question from a BJP MP about a file on providing employment to rail victims doing the rounds, Trivedi stated that by the evening the file would be located and the issue addressed. A few minutes later when a similar question came from another MP, sensing the enthusiasm of the minister, the opposition MPs assured the MP with, "By evening, by evening." A day in the life of Dinesh Trivedi.
New kid on the power block
The rise of CWC member Mohan Prakash in the Congress — he joined the party only a few years ago from the Janata Dal — has made many of his party colleagues envious. Apart from being in charge of three important states, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Jammu and Kashmir, Prakash has now been appointed chairman of the powerful screening committee for the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections. This would entail him having regular interactions with Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi, who is working hard and overtime on his 'Mission UP 2012'. Disgruntled leaders are now talking about his "connections" in the party. Talking about promotions in the Congress, Major Ved Prakash has been rewarded for his "services" and given charge of the ex-servicemen department. Major Prakash is a 'regular feature' in the party's daily press briefings. Getting the leader connect right.
Son-rise in Andhra Pradesh
YS Jaganmohan Reddy, son of the late YS Rajshekhara Reddy, has returned to the Lok Sabha winning his family borough Kadapa after quitting the Congress. Since the political situation in Andhra Pradesh is still uncertain, Congress MPs from the state are hedging their bets and are keen not to rub junior Reddy the wrong way. Jagan is trying to establish his new regional party at the cost of the Congress. Many Congress MPs were seen discreetly congratulating Jagan. That apart, Jagan's wife, who was at his swearing-in ceremony, clapped when he took oath in Telugu. People are not allowed to clap in the gallery. Much good cheer for Jagan and family.