Scoring a self goal
Peeved over an advertisement that praised Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi and described him as a master organiser and astute election strategist, the Congress party’s central leadership has sought a clarification from the state unit for the bungle. Livid over the issue, the central leaders are keen to fix responsibility on those who cleared the draft that has embarrassed the party in the run-up to the assembly elections later this year. Until the culprits are identified, the blame game is on with almost all the state leaders trying to wash their hands of the controversy. Not an advertisement for efficiency here.
Not quite Reddy to face the music
With the CBI gunning for him in the alleged Rs43,000 crore disproportionate assets case, YSR Congress Party president and Kadapa MP YS Jaganmohan Reddy has hired a public relations firm in Delhi for positive image-building. Perhaps Jaganmohan, who publishes the Telugu daily Sakshi, which is part of the Jagathi group and runs a television channel of the same name in Andhra Pradesh, thinks his own vehicles are not enough to improve his image. However, Jagan could not attend a few meetings set up by the PR agency with journalists in Delhi. Nothing positive about his present situation, it would seem.
No more share and share alike
Despite all the symbolism of growing ties with Bangladesh, New Delhi is finding it increasingly tough to get Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee to agree to the Teesta water-sharing pact. She had vetoed the agreement on the eve of the PM’s visit to Bangladesh last year and has refused to climb down, as yet. What has emboldened her is the World Bank agreeing to provide a loan for irrigation projects that also cover the Teesta for West Bengal. The proposal was being resisted by Bangladesh and settling the Teesta agreement was considered a way out. Mamata no longer has that reason to allow the agreement. Meanwhile there is no dearth of gestures from Dhaka indicating the growing ties. Foreign minister Dipu Moni and her husband spent a long time at the Republic Day function that the Indian embassy organised in Dhaka. Not water under the bridge.
Housekeeping is not its forte
The census commissioner is ready with his first report on the latest census, but you may have to wait to see it. The home ministry may have to hold back the outcome of the house listing census that would indicate how far India has moved in precise terms in view of the ongoing assembly elections. Some officials are wary of formally declaring the results without checking with the Election Commission if this would violate the code of conduct. The argument goes that since this report card of governance could be used by political parties to hit out at the ruling party, state governments could complain about the timing of the results. Of course, there is another minority view: that even if this is so, it could bring development — and not caste — to the centrestage of the elections and empower voters to make an informed choice. A house divided, it would appear.
Reach, not preach
Ministers chatting with journalists after cabinet meetings is disallowed as a matter of practice. However, Planning Commission deputy chairperson Montek Singh Ahluwalia, who attended last week’s Cabinet meeting on the Unique Identification (UID) scheme versus National Population Regi-ster (NPR) issue would have none of it. He began explaining to journalists in some detail the controversy and solution that was arrived at. Ahluwalia also told off some officials who cited the rule, saying it was an absurd thing. “It’s for the government to reach out to the people through media,” he said. On talking terms at all times.
Not a nice ring to it
If West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee decides to avoid meeting any person, her office too becomes unreachable. Union rural development minister Jairam Ramesh learnt this the hard way. Days before Ramesh went on a three-day long tour to West Bengal, not only did he fail to talk to Banerjee directly, even the CM’s key aide Gautam Sanyal stopped taking telephone calls from Ramesh’s office. “Whenever we called Sanyal, we were told, he is in the CM’s chamber. And the return call never came,” said a rural development official. On the third day, hours before Ramesh boarded the return flight to New Delhi, he managed to talk to Banerjee over the phone. Such silence is eloquent.