It’s proving to be a drag
Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee’s proposal to increase basic excise duty on cigarettes which are more than 65 mm in length is going to affect the wallets of the Left leaders. Since the length was earlier fixed at 70 mm, the communists used to go in for 69 mm cigarettes while the Congress and the BJP leaders would go for 84 mm. The hike prompted the BJP’s Kirti Azad and Sanjay Nirupam of the Congress to take a dig at CPM leader Sitaram Yechury, reminding him that Pranab-da’s Budget has been too harsh on the Left. A smoke and mirrors game, perhaps?
Quite a seat feat
The revolt by 17 Congress legislators in Uttarakhand over the appointment of Lok Sabha MP Vijay Bahuguna as CM also turned into a bitter battle on behalf of spouses. Many top leaders forwarded their own set of demands to the central leadership. While Union minister Harish Rawat demanded a Rajya Sabha seat for his wife Renuka, his bête noire and one of the contenders for the CM’s post, Satpal Maharaj, too sought a ministerial berth for wife Amrita Rawat, who won the recent assembly elections from Ramnagar. Better halves and have mores.
The plight of the Sri Lankan Tamils has brought out deep divisions within the DMK. Caught, as always, in his family’s internal rivalries, DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi is under pressure from his youngest son, MK Stalin, to withdraw DMK ministers from the Centre. Opposing him is his eldest son, MK Alagiri, who is Union minister for chemicals and fertilisers. Alagiri wants the DMK to first find out what benefits it will get by withdrawing the ministers when they are not exactly faring too well in Tamil Nadu. Chief minister Jayalalithaa has slapped numerous cases of land grab and other irregularities against many DMK leaders. Stalin thinks that the DMK’s revival depends on distancing itself from the Congress.
But behind the difference of opinion on this issue lies a bitter struggle between the two brothers over who should take over the DMK. Karunanidhi’s only worry is that the 2G case involving his daughter Kanimozhi may get complicated. DMK cynics say, “When the party did not withdraw its ministers at the height of the 2009 war in Sri Lanka [when the Tamils were getting killed], why would they give up ministerial berths now?” Crocodile tears now?
Bending over forwards
When Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav sought the blessings of BJP veteran Murli Manohar Joshi by touching his feet in the central hall of Parliament just before the President’s address to both Houses, the gesture got much attention. Many Congress MPs were heard discussing the reason for this. Some concluded that Joshi has been Yadav’s teacher at Allahabad University.But they were corrected by their colleagues who informed them that the new UP chief minister had never studied there. Finally, a young MP concluded that it was a mark of respect for a teacher. Significantly, Joshi had praised Yadav on many occasions in the past. The young man has his feet on the ground, it would seem.