Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Snippets/ Mail Today, June 29, 2009

DOES Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati have a mole in the Human Resources Development ministry? Some senior government officials seem to think so. Their fear is that there are many more moles lurking around in the corridors of other ministries waiting to lay their hands on major central government initiatives and their worst fear is that Behenji's army of snoops may even get their hands on sensitive files. Their suspicions were reinforced after she made a series of decisions in the state education department and last Thursday morning called a press conference in Lucknow to announce that all students who manage to attain minimum pass marks in Class Ten must necessarily be promoted to the next class. A day later, the Union HRD Minister Kapil Sibal made a similar proposal to do away with board examinations for Class Ten. Babus in the central government are waiting to see when the mole will strike again and where.

Vajpayee may step in to save party

THE fratricidal war in the BJP is showing signs of becoming bloodier. Happenings in recent days suggest that all those who were personally handpicked by former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee for their proven calibre are being selectively targeted by the rootless wonders that form the current ruling clique in the BJP. The sacking of Uttarakhand Chief Minister B. C. Khanduri is just the latest example. He was among the best performing ministers in the Vajpayee government and his stint as minister for surface transport during which he oversaw the construction of a large part of the Golden Quadrilateral won praise from even the then opposition Congress. At a meeting last week, when Uttarakhand BJP MLAs were asked to give their opinion on a new chief minister for the state, 25 of the 35 BJP MLAs were in favour of Khanduri’s continuation in office. And though it is the BJP Parliamentary Board that is authorised to take decisions pertaining to change of chief ministers, Venkiah Naidu announced Khanduri's removal without even a formal meeting of the Board.

I am told party chief Rajnath Singh selectively informed a few “ like- minded” Board members and kept out others like Jaswant Singh, who was at the forefront in seeking accountability for the party's crushing defeat in the Lok Sabha elections. The party's famed GenNext leaders appear more like a Losers’ Team now but they seem determined to retain their vice like grip over the party and muzzle all dissent. But the challengers are unlikely to yield, even if it means their expulsion from the party. Their aim is to ensure its revival through inner party discussion and protect the party's constitution in both letter and spirit.

Mr Vajpayee has kept a safe distance from his squabbling partymen but I understand he may not choose to be a mere onlooker for long. Though confined to bed, he is expected to step in. A mere signal from him could neutralise the lethal ammo that the warring factions have stockpiled.

Our leaders also need holidays

THERE was a time when holidays were a luxury that politicians seldom indulged in. It was Rajiv Gandhi who broke the trend when as prime minister, he periodically took holidays with his family in Lakshadweep, Kovalam or Goa. But these were private affairs and seldom did even denizens of his holiday destinations come to know that VIP visitors were in town. Even now, both Sonia and Rahul often get away from the hustle and bustle of Delhi for rest and recuperation at unknown destinations. After weeks of hectic campaigning in the torrid summer heat, even the fittest deserve a break. But like the best plans of mice and men often going awry, holiday plans of our leaders have also been laid low by factors beyond their control. Elated, yet tired after rescuing the Congress party virtually single handedly, young Rahul Gandhi, an avid cricket buff, had taken off for a holiday, hoping to eventually catch up on some of the World T20 cricket action.

Like the rest of the country, he had hoped India would defend the cup and he be able to tell his grandchildren some day that “ I was there when Dhoni and his men won the cup”. The early exit of the Indians means that Rahul must now wait.

After leading what is perhaps his last campaign for the BJP, LK Advani too deserved a holiday and took off for picturesque Coorg where he and family checked into one of the finest jungle resorts. But the family's dreams of living in splendid isolation were soon shattered because his admirers wouldn't leave him alone. The BJP media cell sent a private family picture of Advani and his family members attired in Coorgi dress to hundreds of journos in Delhi. Knowing Advani as I do, I can vouch he keeps such pictures only for his private albums — and perhaps a future book. But there are those who firmly believe their survival depends on projecting Advani and don’t mind stooping so low as to publicise a private holiday to retain their own relevance.

MOST of the union ministers, with all their accumulated experience, are going about their work with clinical precision. But now they are veering around to believing that one should not only be doing a good job, but also be seen doing that and the key to success here involves finding the proper medium and reaching the right audiences.

And nobody is happier than the Information Officers attached to various ministries from the Press Information Bureau of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. Ministers are no more banking solely on their Private Secretaries to pass the good word to the media and are taking along IO's who are more familiar with journalists covering the beat than their PS's.

Though Kamal Nath has been doing this for long, other ministers are now beginning to follow suit. This week, HRD Minister Kapil Sibal is off to Germany for an international conference and the PIB official in charge of the ministry is also travelling along with him.

Foreign travels of ministers and their secretaries are cleared by the PMO which has in the past stipulated who could accompany a minister and who could not. But with many ministers — including some from the alliance partners — now demanding that IO's be added to their entourage, the PMO has suddenly become very accommodative, wishing everybody bon voyage.

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