Right down to the dot
When it comes to planning and detail, not many can rival finance minister and senior Congress leader Pranab Mukherjee. He made a two-page manual on campaigning for his son Abhijit Mukherjee, contesting from the Nalhait assembly seat in West Bengal. It is a Bible for efficient campaigning. Some of the details include the number of water bottles to the carried, food packets to be taken along, the number of vehicles with a full tank of fuel for the block Congress president of the area and others and the number of people to be employed in distributing pamphlets. It also includes the need to focus on road shows rather than attending big meetings and also meeting as many voters individually as possible when on the road. The devil is certainly in the detail here.
Stalling the hall for now
AIADMK leader J Jayalalithaa is so sure of the Tamil Nadu poll outcome that she has decided that the first thing she will do if she becomes the chief minister is to reverse M Karunanidhi’s decision to shift the state secretariat to the new complex last year. She thinks its vaastu is not right. She has even sent a letter to the Election Commission, asking it to prevent files from being transported from the old secretariat building at Fort St George to the new complex. Last May, the prime minister inaugurated the R450 crore new Tamil Nadu assembly and secretariat complex in the presence of Sonia Gandhi. A few months ago, the DMK regime shifted the assembly hall to the new secretariat complex. The state government converted the old secretariat hall into a library. Is a shift in leadership on the cards?
Two peas in a pod
HRD minister Kapil Sibal and Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar have a grudging respect for each other — each accepts the other's achievements even though they appear to be crossing swords often. The official inauguration of IIT Patna last week provided the latest platform for their two-year old tussle over the CM's insistence on Motihari as the venue for the new Central University of Bihar even though the HRD ministry found it unsuitable. But there is possibly no other NDA CM whose complaints command Sibal's attention as much as Kumar, those close to the HRD minister assert. Perhaps that's why Sibal ended up praising improved educational opportunities in Bihar under Kumar last week. Not damning with faint praise.
All in the family
Of late, Amar Singh has been cosying up to the Congress. He has been batting for the Congress, pointing out the steps taken by the UPA government to fight corruption and action taken by the party against its leaders. Reciprocating the gesture, Congress general secretary Digvijaya Singh called Amar Singh his brother, friend and an associate. When asked the reason for this warming up and the fact that he was acting as a Congress spokesman, Amar Singh retorted: “Is it unconstitutional to defend the Congress and the UPA government?” Defence is clearly better than offence.
No mean seat feat
BJP women's wing chief Smriti Irani's plan to enter the Rajya Sabha from Madhya Pradesh has suffered a setback. The party's tribal leaders are opposing her entry, saying that when the Congress has made Union minister Kantilal Bhuria president of the Madhya Pradesh Congress Committee (MPCC), tribals must not be ignored. Ex-Union minister from the BJP and senior tribal leader of the party, Faggan Singh Kulaste, has again staked his claim for the seat. He had earlier staked his claim for a Rajya Sabha berth twice from Madhya Pradesh but his request was denied in favour of Chandan Mitra and state BJP chief Prabhat Jha. The vacancy was created by the death of senior Congress leader Arjun Singh. We must watch this space.
The best laid plans…
At least one member of the Planning Commission has made her dissent public regarding the approach paper for the 12th Five Year Plan. Sayeeda Hamid has shot off a letter to the plan panel's deputy chairperson Montek Singh Ahluwalia saying that the views of civil society had failed to find adequate space in the approach of the 12th Five Year Plan. She sent the letter a few days before Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was to attend a meeting of the Planning Commission on this issue. Hamid had some support among panel members who backed her at an internal meeting this week. No advance planning it would seem by the proceedings.