Monday, March 9, 2009

Snippets / Mail Today, March 09, 2009

EARLY morning in Chennai today, with by the typical fanfare that is associated with nearly everything that she does, the AIADMK leader Jayalalitha will sit on fast in support of the cause of the Sri Lankan Tamils. Strangely, the man whom she even today hates as much as she once hated the LTTE, Tamil Nadu chief minister Karunanidhi has welcomed the move. Another sworn enemy, the Pattali Makkal Katchi( PMK) leader Dr S Ramadoss has gone a step ahead and said, though a muchbelated decision, he will personally go to the site of her protest site and offer a glass of " soothukudi" juice ( mausami) to break the fast. So is the DMK- led alliance in the state crumbling? Will the PMK follow in the footsteps of Vaiko's DMK and hitch itself to the AIADMK bandwagon? If it happens, it will be as much a a shock to Karunanidhi as the news of the Biju Janata Dal deserting the NDA is to LK Advani.
A meeting waiting to happen
WHATEVER he sets out to do, P Chidambaram is a hands- on kind of man. As home minister, he is known to chair meetings like a CEO, dictating targets, setting deadlines and keeping a hawk’s eye on the implementation of the orders. And when it come to the Law and Order situation in the NDA- ruled states, he displays a missionary zeal which is not seen in his dealing with, say the Left- ruled West Bengal and the Congress- NCP alliance in Maharashtra. Since the unfortunate events at a Mangalore pub and in Bangalore in January, Karnataka has been very much on his radar. On three occasions he scheduled meetings in Bangalore with the local authorities and all three were put off.
The reason: the absence of the BJP chief minister of Karnataka. PC believes BS Yedyurappa should be present at thee meetings while the chief minister thinks that with elections announced, he has his plate full. So he deputed his home minister VS Acharya.

The Union Home Minister’s advisors are known to have cited protocol and rank to bring Yedyurappa to the talks- table. But Yedyurappa seized the same argument to state that he has already met the prime minister in this regard and he wasn’t compelled to sort out matters with PC. Perhaps Yeddy has more important items on his agenda. While PC only has to manage his own election from Shivaganga in Tamil Nadu, Yedyurappa will have to deliver Karnataka for
the BJP.

TO SAY that Rahul Gandhi is the second most powerful person in the Congress is to state the obvious. Yet this most important of persons has so far stayed away from the intricacies associated with coalition politics, leaving the job to others who are more accomplished in the wheeling- dealings that go with it. So there was intense speculation about young Rahul taking the plunge into hitherto- unchartered territory when last week he visited Vasantdada Patil Sugar Institute at Manjari near Pune where he was received by sugar baron Sharad Pawar who also happens to be the Union Agriculuture minister. Tongues wagged that Sonia had dispatched her son to woo the Nationalist Congress Party chief who of late was seen to be hobnobbing with the Shiv Sena and strike a 50: 50 deal for the 48 seats at stake from the state to the Lok sabha. It was nothing of the sort. No politics was discussed and the visit was merely the latest in Rahul’s “ Discover India” tours that has taken him to the interiors in several states.

About a month ago, Rahul had sent a request to the Institute directors expressing a desire to visit one of the sugar cooperatives. Taken by surprise, they got in touch with Pawar, who is also the Institute chairman. All arrangement were made to receive the VVIP visitor, which included a 90- minute long power point presentation from the institute directors that detailed the success story of the sugar cooperative movement.

The party’s crown prince who was accompanied by the minister of state for communications Jyotiraditya Scindia was surprised to be received by Pawar himself. Local Congress leaders had hoped to use the visit to score brownie points over their inner party rivals but Rahul made it clear that he would not want to meet with anyone from his party during the trip. Among those sulking was Suresh Kalmadi, the self- styled Pune icon. Was young Rahul showing his displeasure at the tardy progress in the preparations for Commonwealth Games, whose Organising Committee Kalmadi heads?

Ramesh arrives unannounced
WITH power in its hands, the Congress has never had a problem encroaching on property that rightfully did not belong to it. Lutyens’ Delhi in littered with bungalows that belong to the government but have been in the occupation of the party for years. But now there is a curious intra- party encroachment battle brewing in the Congress which has left several top leaders seething with rage.

For years, the Congress publicity department has been functioning out of 15 Gurdwara Rakabganj Road, which became an adda of sorts for the bigwigs. Among those who often dropped in in the evening by to discuss strategy over hot, heavenly coffee and greasy pakoras were the AICC general secretary and its publicity department chief Digvijay Singh, Sonia- aide Ahmed Patel, junior external affairs minister Anand Sharma, Science and technology minister Kapil Sibal, BK Hariprasad, Janardan Dwiwedi, with Rahul Gandhi occasional dropping by. Like the bizarre stories of land- grabbing on tony South Delhi addresses that one occasionally reads about in the papers, there is a new occupant at No 15. He arrived virtually unannounced and plonked his belongings.

Jairam Ramesh, you may recall, was Union minister of state for commerce, industry and power until about a fortnight ago when he suddenly realized that his services were be needed by the party in this crucial election. Sonia Gandhi then appointing him as co- coordinator “ for Lok Sabha elections- related affairs”, aware ofall his connections including those in the corporate. The others came to know about the new occupant only when they grouped together at the adda a few days later. The suave, Harvard- educated Ramesh has all the qualities that endear him to both Sonia and Rahul, including an accent that is music to the ears of the First family. It’s not for nothing they call him the Arun Jeitley of the Congress. Right accent and right connections, including corporate ones.

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