Debating India

India (more than) shining

Monday 20 March 2006

You read it here first: the UPA is thinking of elections. What else explains reviving moribund publicity plans and putting three of the PIB’s best and the brightest in charge of them? Last week the PMO’s ICE committee-no that’s not the body charged with giving cold shoulders to the Left; ICE stands for information, communication and entertainment-appointed the three most senior information officers to liven up international publicity, the public service campaign and the Lok Seva Sanchar Parishad. ICE is headed by the I&B Secretary, who has asked the three PIB staffers to quickly draw up plans that will make sure the world and the nation know that India is far more than shining under the visionary leadership of the Prime Minister and the chairperson of the National Advisory Committee. There was a hush-hush daylong briefing and the three information officers have been asked to get back to the ICE chief ASAP.

PM says, so she’s here

What’s the difference between George W Bush and Khaleda Zia? New Delhi couldn’t wait for the former to come. For the latter, it couldn’t make up its mind whether she should come. That Begum Khaleda is in the capital today is thanks only to Manmohan Singh. In the weeks before the visit, the Indian mission in Dhaka was convinced that hosting a leader who is not exactly enamoured of India might not be the smartest of ideas. The MEA view was less sharper but the mandarins said they couldn’t see what could be gained from a visit. The Sheikh Hasina factor was playing both ways-she

wouldn’t be thrilled at her nemesis visiting India but India couldn’t be seen sympathising with one side of Bangladesh’s political divide. No one was saying yes, the visit is necessary, we must have it. So it fell to the PM to issue the directions: I want the visit he said, and, of course, everyone agrees.

Judging it right

Law Ministry officials are consumed with this question: should the bill on judicial accountability be sent to the chief justice of India for his views on the grounds that judges are a special case or should Parliament assert its supremacy on matters of framing law and treat the judiciary exactly as it would any other body? For now, officials are buying time by saying that while the English version of the bill was ready, the Hindi translation was in the works. But that argument won’t work for too long as CJIs use English as their professional lingua franca. Officials say if the bill is sent there is the risk of the judiciary wanting some accountability provisions ??softened’’. But if the bill is not sent, there’s the risk of worsening the already none-too-pleasant relationship between the legislature and the judiciary. The decision-a real tough one- rests with Law Minister H R Bhardwaj. How easy, in comparison, it must be to defreeze foreign bank accounts.

Didi vs Dada

Who says Bengal’s influence in Indian politics has diminished? There’s a row brewing in Parliament, and the principals are all from Bengal. Expressing solidarity with the expelled Rajya Sabha MP Jaya Bachchan (nee Bhaduri) is the Lok Sabha MP and

Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee. Didi, as he is affectionately or otherwise called in Delhi, has targeted Dada, aka LS Speaker Somnath Chatterjee, who hasn’t commanded a lot of affection from MPs expelled in the cash-for-questions controversy. Didi has asked why Dada, whose CV includes chairmanship of the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation, should not be asked the same questions as Jaya. Enthused by this, the expelled MPs held what they thought was a secret conclave. The meeting decided Didi would have the full support of those ??hard done in’’ by Dada.

On the same page

Sharad Yadav, whose happiness at the Janata Dal(U)’s Bihar victory was tempered by Nitish Kumar hogging all the attention, is finding peace in hectoring economic reformers-and in perusing Page 3 ??news’’. Yadav joined the Left in taking on Praful Patel over airport modernisation. ??You have made airport reform a Page 3 party,’’ he told the minister during a Rajya Sabha debate, ??and you are seen on Page 3 rather too frequently.’’ And added, ??Like your friend sitting behind you,’’ pointing to Subbirami Reddy. ??But you have started seeing the Page 3,’’ was the ministerial riposte. Not exactly a high quality debate, is it? But good news for Page 3 editors.

Yawning gap

Your boss calls you late evening and tells you let’s meet at 11. What would you think, 11 next morning or 11 that night? If you tick on the first option make sure you never work for Ghulam Nabi Azad. The J&K CM reportedly is a night owl; working till 1 at night is perfectly

normal for him. His officials are far more somnolent. So when one of them got a call from the CM’s staff that boss wanted a meeting at 11, he said fine, I’ll be there and went to sleep. Only to be woken at 10.30 that night and asked whether he was going to be in time for the meeting. Of course, the official attended the meeting and no, he didn’t think he’s lucky to have such a conscientious boss.

Singh Parivar

We will never know now how Himachali politics would have been transformed had 100 of Sahib Singh Verma’s finest loyalists landed in the state. Taking a retinue of 100 was the BJP leader’s idea of showing how serious he is about his new party job, looking after BJP affairs in Himachal. When news of this formidable travelling party reached the Himachal unit, its leaders were at Rajnath Singh’s door the next instant. How do we make arrangements for 100 people, they asked the party chief, and what is Sahib Singh’s motive, they asked everyone else. Rajnath seems to have shared their apprehension. Sahib Singh was ordered to travel light.

Aryans for army

Did you know (a) that there’s something called World Military Games (b) that India is hosting it in 2007 and (c) the man charged with giving the games a buzz is a chart buster Indi-pop lyricist and musician? And to think of the boring, boring guys who run other sporting events in the country. D J Narayan is anything but boring, although a casual glance at his CV may make you

think otherwise. He edits Sainik Samachar, an armed forces publication not exactly famous for bold, in-your-face journalism. But the MoD had his other accomplishment in mind when it made him the vice-chairman of the games committee. Narayan is a member of Aryans, the band that, among other things, launched the star who never kissed Kareena Kapoor in that restaurant because both of them are from good families. Shahid Kapur is what he is today because of the Narayan-created music video Aankhon Mein Tera Hi Chehra. The Aryans have, if not conquered Bollywood, made a big impression on it. The MoD is hoping some of the stardust will fall on the military games. Gauge that history

Luv and Kush were born there. Sita pined there, after Ram sent her away. Valmiki had this ashram there. The Rani of Jhansi and Tantiya Tope, fighting the imperialist Brits, took refuge there. But it still doesn’t have a broad gauge line. This shocking anomaly, this manifest indifference of modern India to our glorious heritage was passionately exposed by Ramnath Kovind, BJP’s Rajya Sabha MP, who comes from Kanpur. Kovind told Lalu Yadav that so much history needed at the least a broad gauge railway line. The place? Surely you know it? Bithur, a short distance from Kanpur.


At least one proof that L K Advani’s current political strategy is being taken seriously by his party: a big time lawyer and BJP leader is describing his impending English sojourn as London Yatra.

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