Normally, the Congress and the Prime Minister ignore the results of opinion polls, even the excessively unfavorable ones. But of late, Congress supporters and members of the Prime Minister’s think tank have been minutely dissecting various surveys to spot trends that may need timely corrections for the 2014 polls. However, the party and the Prime Minister’s supporters seem to have different agendas. While Manmohan’s promoters are looking at ways and means to salvage his plummeting popularity, the Congress party is busy spotting a potential threat to heir apparent Rahul Gandhi. Though he tops the list of popular candidates for prime minister, Rahul’s popularity rating hovers around 20 per cent as against Sonia’s mere 10 per cent. Both the
It is mandatory for all ministries to release massive newspaper ads on the occasion of both the birth and death anniversaries of Mahatma Gandhi and Pandit Nehru. On August 20—former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s 67th birth Anniversary—over a dozen ads carrying his pictures and statements were carried by over 200 publications in the country. But the one that stood out was issued by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting headed by Ambika Soni. The half-page ad contained an excerpt from one of Rajiv’s speeches which read: “The democratic way of nation building requires patience, perseverance and a spirit of conciliation.” Since Soni has been leading the attack on Hazare’s movement from the front, the advertisement took all Congress leaders by surprise because all the other advertisements from different ministries carried only inane messages from the former Prime Minister. According to senior officials of various ministries, they were instructed by their ministers last month to raise additional funds for the campaign. But none of them were directed to choose for publication any particular part of Rajiv Gandhi’s speeches. The ministers simply approved the text and the photograph put up to them by their babus. But I&B Ministry officials were directed to pick up the lines by the minister herself, which indicated a change in the Government’s attitude. Comparing Rajiv’s name to an olive branch was, however, lost on Team Anna. Surprisingly, not one ministry controlled by the allies, and ministers considered close to the Prime Minister, could find the necessary funds to pay homage to the departed leader.
While the government’s recently launched austerity drive has come a cropper, the Prime Minister has decided to ground his ministers and senior civil servants for the time being. He had been quite liberal with his colleagues and allowed most of them to go on foreign jaunts, even to attend frivolous seminars and meetings. He had also allowed External Affairs Minister S M Krishna to spend extra days abroad, even after his official work was done. Now, the message has been sent out that no minister will leave the country during the current Parliament session. In case of any emergency, only a senior official from the concerned ministry will fly out, and that too for the minimum possible period. The first victim of the Prime Minister’s missive was environment Jayanthi Natrajan who wanted to go to Brazil for a three-day official visit. Manmohan vetoed her visit, to send out the clear signal that even UPA allies will be given a similar treatment. The PMO had got a whiff that some important ministers were trying to stay away from the country to avoid Heat Hazare.