Keeping tab on the political grapevine
FDI for thought
Union commerce minister Anand Sharma was given the cold shoulder by senior BJP leader LK Advani over the government's policy of foreign direct investment (FDI) in multi-brand retail. Finding that the FDI issue had brought the Lok Sabha to a halt, Sharma had rushed off to Advani to explain the UPA's exact position on the policy. Advani kept mum for a while and left even as Sharma was speaking. But the defiant minister caught hold of the leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, Sushma Swaraj. She was more voluble. "Before clearing the policy, you should have spoken to us, not after the Cabinet has cleared it," Sushma said. So here's a product that no one's willing to buy.
Logged out of intellect
Chief Justice of India SH Kapadia is known for his academic inclinations and some of his speeches have attracted the attention of the intellectual types as well as policy-makers with gravitas. But copies of his speeches are not easy to find. Of the dozens of his speeches that have made headlines, only one - delivered on Law Day on Sunday - has finally been made available on the Supreme Court website. All his predecessors made it a point to get their speeches uploaded on the court's website. Is the new media not in sync with cerebral judges?
The newly-constructed government housing complex at New Moti Bagh is Delhi's new power centre with top bureaucrats like home secretary Raj Kumar Singh and defence secretary Shashi Kant Sharma occupying the best homes. Singh, however, left his earlier designated spacious bungalow on Safdarjung Lane, as he had found the place too small to accommodate his ten dogs. Sharma had to yield to former defence secretary and present chief vigilance commissioner Pradeep Kumar who took over his earlier Tughlak Lane bungalow. While few have problems with this shift, the other powerful residents of New Moti Bagh are quietly complaining about Singh's ferocious pets.
Mettle of Menon
National security advisor Shiv Shankar Menon is a quiet man compared to his flamboyant predecessors. A fluent speaker in Mandarin, he's a tough negotiator when it comes to national security issues. Chinese diplomats learnt this the hard way when they tried to run roughshod over New Delhi on the issue of the Special Representative Dialogue meeting that was scheduled for November 28-29 in New Delhi. Beijing had demanded that New Delhi cancel the Buddhist Conference, which would be attended by the Dalai Lama on November 30, or else the Chinese State Councillor Dai Binggou wouldn't come for the dialogue. While Menon didn't come directly into the picture, he let it be known that the Dalai Lama was only delivering a religious discourse in consonance with the oft-repeated demand of the Chinese that Tibet's spiritual head should confine himself to religious activities. The Chinese were also told that Dai would have flown out of India by the time the Dalai Lama addressed the convocation. Beijing, however, refused to listen to New Delhi and insisted last Friday that the dialogue be cancelled. Menon, on his part, advised the highest levels in the government that India should stand firm or else there would be no end to China's demands. And sure enough the dialogue was cancelled.
Turnaround down under
Australia agreeing to supply uranium to India has come as a pleasant surprise to India. It was some behind-the-scenes, informal initiatives that apparently brought about the change of mind with Aussie PM Julia Gillard increasingly seeing India's potential. The Australia-India Institute, set up by Gillard last year, and its founding director Amitabh Mattoo, the buzz goes, were key catalysts in the volte-face.