Hauled over the coals
Coal minister Sriprakash Jaiswal faced some tough questions at a special briefing organised by the Congress for its MPs last week to counter the Opposition onslaught over the CAG report on the coal blocks allocation. It wasn't a smooth affair for parliamentary affairs minister Pawan Kumar Bansal either. But there was pin-drop silence when finance minister P Chidambaram began to speak. At the end of his presentation, the members, who had earlier grilled Jaiswal and Bansal, appeared satisfied with Chidambaram's explanation of the entire issue. "Now, we can take the BJP head on," an exuberant MP said later. The briefing was part of the regular interactions organised by the Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Contemporary Studies at the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation in Delhi for Congress MPs and functionaries. It all adds up when he speaks.
No welcome mat for him
The Aviation Research Centre (ARC) under the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) celebrated its golden jubilee on September 1. The function went off well despite apprehensions that there would be some display of anger towards former ARC director Amar Bhushan, who was present. Bhushan has been criticised by many in the security establishment for writing Escape to Nowhere based on R&AW joint secretary Rabinder Singh's defection to the US at the behest of the CIA. As the book hints that 21 out of the 29 officers found to be subverted in the episode were still serving in R&AW, many want the government to take action against Bhushan under the Official Secrets Act. Bhushan's former boss CD Sahay, who has been blamed for the defection, is threatening to sue his former close friend. In the light of all this, many thought Bhushan would not turn up at the ARC function, but he virtually invited himself. Making no secret of his presence.
Nuts and bolts before nostalgia
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh may be wary of visiting Pakistan this year due to the lack of any substantive agenda but few know that he tasted the 'holy water' of Panja Sahib Gurudwara at Hasan Abdal near Rawalpindi after he was born. While Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari has invited him on November 28 on Gurupurab, there is little chance that the PM will see Panja Sahib even if he decides to go. While top officials speculate that Singh may get to visit Nankana Sahib, the birthplace of Guru Nanak Dev, all eyes are on foreign minister SM Krishna's visit to Islamabad later this week as the PM's visit depends on any forward movement recorded in bilateral ties during Krishna's trip. It could well be watered down.
It's got to be in the details
With the BJP taking to the streets in 40 cities over the coal blocks allocation issue, the Congress is planning a counter-move after the end of the monsoon session on Friday. Between September 8 and 15, senior leaders will visit different states and articulate the party's stand on the matter and also on the political situation in the country. Their side of the story.
Not keeping it all civil
Ahead of the assembly elections in Gujarat in November-December, a socio-cultural organisation, Anhad, has launched its 'Bole Gujarat' campaign from Ahmedabad with the release of a music video: "Where is Democracy?" Based on 'Why this Kolaveri Di?', the song, according to Anhad, is a satire on the state of democracy in Gujarat. While the campaign has come as a boost to the Congress, state BJP leaders have raised questions over the civil society's move just ahead of the elections. Anhad office bearers have apparently been camping in the state for the past several weeks now. Another kolaveri lament.
They've got the battalions
RJD chief Lalu Prasad bumped into BJP MPs Shahnawaz Hussain and Rajiv Pratap Rudy on the stairs outside Parliament a day after the Naroda Patiya verdict and said: "You are asking for the PM's resignation but you all should resign after the verdict." Husain rendered Prasad, known for his dry wit, speechless when he replied, "There is nothing to worry. The JD(U) is with us!" No air of resignation.
A cup full of health
Health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, has introduced healthy practices while treating guests at his ministry. Azad has put green tea - hailed for its anti-oxidant properties - on the refreshments menu at the health ministry. His junior minister Sudip Bandopadhyay and many officers not only offer their guests green tea but also point out that it was Azad's idea to introduce it. Are many going green with envy?