At home with much success
The buzz in North Block is about whether new home minister Sushilkumar Shinde’s political luck has to do with a big blue sapphire ring he has worn since he returned to active politics after a 14-month stint as governor of Andhra Pradesh in 2006. Shinde has never had to look back since, say his loyalists. He was inducted into the Union Cabinet and given the power portfolio. He got home soon after India’s worst power outages recently. Close to most Maharashtra leaders, Shinde began his life as a sub-inspector. A meteoric rise, if there ever was one.
Boxed out unfairly here
Sports minister Ajay Maken’s benevolence could not help Indian boxer Sumit Sangwan at the Olympics. Sangwan had lost the bout but many including his coach believed that he had won. But, a review in the Olympics is expensive. Maken, who was watching, also thought Sangwan had won, and offered to pay £500 to seek the review. It was done. But, unfortunately, the organisers stuck to the earlier decision. The request clearly lacked enough punch.
Mamata’s on the move
Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress is rapidly spreading its wings in north India. After opening a swank northern region office in Chandigarh in June, the party is thinking of fielding candidates for almost all the 68 seats in the coming assembly elections in Himachal Pradesh. Banerjee has handed over charge of north India to Rajya Sabha member and entrepreneur KD Singh. The party’s foray into Haryana is giving the Congress a major headache. Many disgruntled Congressmen from Jatland are joining Didi’s party. Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda’s former media advisor Sunder Pal Singh and two media coordinators Bittu Chawla and Jaipal Singh Mann are among the first ones to join the Trinamool Congress. The party has also launched massive ad campaigns in Haryana. Didi’s extending her family.
It must have come as a relief
Hyderabad MP and All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) president Asaduddin Owaisi has been camping in the riot-hit areas of Assam for several days now. He has gone there with relief material and medical aid worth over R20 lakh and a team of 11 doctors from his own Owaisi hospital in Hyderabad. He had earlier announced R1.25 crore for relief and rehabilitation of the riot victims. He also met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during the latter’s visit to Assam and briefed him about the conditions of the affected population. The move has led to speculation about his political interests in Assam. Are there any strings attached?
Coming to the aide of leaders
Shumsher K Sheriff is likely to be appointed as secretary general of the Rajya Sabha. Presently, Sheriff is secretary to the chairman of the Rajya Sabha. A close aide of Vice-President Hamid Ansari, his name was earlier in the reckoning for appointment as Election Commission member. That was when Ansari’s future looked uncertain and the government was keen to fill the vacancy in the poll body with a Muslim member —after VS Sampath was promoted as Chief Election Commissioner on SY Quraishi’s retirement in June. Now civil aviation secretary Nasim Ahmad Zaidi is set to become the new Election Commissioner. Ansari may select a secretary and a joint secretary from the Indian Foreign Service to assist him in international affairs. P Harish, who was handling it earlier, has assumed office as consul general of India in Houston. He was till recently officer on special duty to the vice-president. The game of musical chairs has begun.
No withdrawal symptoms yet
Was Jammu and Kashmir chief minister sulking or observing Ramzan when he skipped the dinner in honour of visiting defence minister AK Antony to the Valley end-July? While the answer to this question may depend on whether you are on the side of the Centre or the state, Abdullah was peeved with Antony for not committing to the withdrawal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) from select areas of the state during his two-day visit. While Antony stressed on the security forces reducing their visibility in the Valley and other parts of the state as a peace incentive, he told Abdullah that the withdrawal of AFSPA from the state was not his decision alone. Antony, however, asked the defence ministry to review the rent given to the state for the armed forces. The rent was increased by five times when Antony went to the state in 2008. No special powers for the defence minister.
The more things remain the same
Home ministry officials breathed a sigh of relief after home minister P Chidambaram walked over to the finance ministry after attending the routine high-level meeting last August 1. However, the relief was shortlived due to the serial blasts later that day. The new home minister, Sushilkumar Shinde, has also turned out to be not an easy customer. Stung by the negative publicity generated by power outages in his last two days as power minister, Shinde went into the home ministry with a mission. He made it clear that his priorities were no different from Chidambaram’s and wanted the Intelligence Bureau to give reports on terrorism, left wing extremism, Assam violence and Kashmir. The mandarins have realised that nothing ever changes in the home ministry. They can’t make themselves at home.