Keeping tabs on the political grapevine

Updated on Jan 21, 2013 11:08 PM IST

MM Pallam Raju moved from South Block to Shastri Bhawan two months ago, but the new human resource development (HRD) minister is yet to get over his first portfolio as minister of state for defence.

HT Image
HT Image
By, New Delhi

Piloting his new ministry
MM Pallam Raju moved from South Block to Shastri Bhawan two months ago, but the new human resource development (HRD) minister is yet to get over his first portfolio as minister of state for defence. Raju, who recently told a public gathering how ignorant he felt about Indian education the first few weeks after taking over, continues to routinely keep track of major defence ministry initiatives, his close aides say. And Raju was clear that his new office would have one of his favourite framed photographs - an image of an Indian fighter pilot midair, performing a stunt that could be right out of Tom Cruise's iconic film Top Gun. His affections are quite plane.

It did not sit well with him
It may have been meant as a joke, but it certainly was not taken as one. Planning Commission deputy chairperson Montek Singh Ahluwalia has apparently declined to be part of the delegation for the World Economic Forum (WEF) headed by urban development minister Kamal Nath. And, not without reason. Nath as road transport minister in UPA 1 had described the Planning Commission as an "arm-chair" advisory body at a function hosted by Ahluwalia, stunning the eminent economist. The two have not had the best of relations since then. "I am not required at Davos," was the curt response from Ahluwalia when asked why he had decided to skip the WEF meeting despite being a regular there over the last several years. An economy of words here.

His heart is clearly Hindustani
As a film star K Chiranjeevi used to travel to foreign countries to shoot songs with the female lead in picturesque locations. From the time he took charge of the ministry of tourism two months ago, the superstar-turned-politician has been busy visiting foreign countries. First it was Britain. A few days ago, he toured Vietnam with his wife. Though he stopped acting in films after entering politics, he certainly has not forgotten the interests of his fraternity. The minister has asked the Vietnamese authorities to provide good packages for Indian filmmakers so that quaint Vietnamese locations can be captured in films and attract Indian tourists. Chiranjeevi might like to make such a pitch in Laos, Switzerland and Japan that are on his itinerary for the rest of January and February. He is certainly travelling right.

Quite a seat feat
The UPA may have lost some allies in Parliament, but it has managed to retain additional seats in the coveted first row of the Lok Sabha. After the Trinamool Congress, MIM and JVP pulled out from the ruling alliance, the UPA was entitled to only nine seats in the front row. But parliamentary affairs minister Kamal Nath negotiated with the TMC, stopped them from claiming a front row seat and retained 10 seats. This means both Lalu Prasad and HD Deve Gowda can continue to sit in the front row - on seats allotted to them under the UPA's quota. No row over this row.

The heat was definitely not on
Over the weekend, all senior Congress leaders gathered in Jaipur for the Chintan Shivir. The fact that Jaipur was almost as cold as Delhi prompted a pun on the serious session from junior human resource development minister Shashi Tharoor. "In Jaipur for the AICC Chintan Shivir," he tweeted. "If it doesn't warm up soon, some of us will have a chintan shiver!" Taking a chill pill.

A shift in time...
Union minister Jaipal Reddy's annual Sankranti lunch is famous for its spicy Andhra food and meaty conversation. Relaxing under the mild January sun last Wednesday, Reddy mused over his long career in politics. "You know I am the only politician who never changed his ideology," said Reddy who began his career with the Congress in the 1960s, joined the Janata Party in the 1970s and later in the 1990s rejoined the Congress. "All my shifts were in confirmation with my firm ideology that conflicted with the party decisions of that time," he added. And the minister vehemently denied two things - that day being his birthday as some of his guests had thought and the possibility of becoming the CM of Telangana if it is formed. A real mover and shaker.

More than a coincidence
Many Congress leaders believe that Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot is the lucky mascot for Rahul Gandhi. He was the first Congress leader who had demanded that Gandhi be made party general secretary months before his formal appointment in 2007. It was a coincidence that the elevation of Gandhi as party vice-president also took place in Jaipur during his tenure as chief minister. It works each time.

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