Friday, October 19, 2007


Two visits of the Indian MPs' delegations to the United States and Mexico have been dropped without assigning any reason.

Having missed his trip to Rashtrapathi Bhawan, Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil may shift to Maharashtra to take over as Chief Minister from Vilasrao Deshmukh. Of the proverbial nine lives, Deshmukh seems to have exhausted all.

Well, this shift falls in place because Chidambaram (or Veerappa Moily) may shift to Patil's chamber in North Block. For Chidambaram, it is only a hop, step and jump. Jairam Ramesh seems intent to spoil Chidambaram's dream run in the Finance Ministry, through Rahul Baba's intervention. Chidambaram met Rahul Baba at 12, Tughlak Lane, the other day to present his side of the case.

Meanwhile, the young Turks of the Congress like Scindia and Pilot are getting ready for Ministerial assignments.

Mrs Sonia Gandhi is leaving for China on 26th Oct. And so she will have to sit with the crestfallen PM after his return from Africa and finalise the list. The wounds inflicted on the suave economist by the ill-fated nuclear deal would have, it is hoped, healed after his sojourn abroad.

If nothing of the above takes place, a Cabinet reshuffle may be necessary at least for those like Prithviraj Chavan who has been appointed General Secretary in charge of two crucial states of Jammu & Kashmir and Karnataka as also Tripura, Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim. And for Suresh Pachouri who is being sent to Madhya Pradesh as PCC President. It is not certain if those assigned party responsibilities will be happy to let go of the power and perks of office !!

Information and Broadcasting Minister, Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi, also has no particular reason to be happy. He was to lead a delegation of 15 MPs (with spouses) to the United States, but he has been told to put it off. Equally disappointed are the MPs and their spouses who were to accompany him.
But Dasmunshi has mollified them by assuring them of a trip around Christmas time !!

Lok Sabha Speaker, Somnath Chatterjee, was to have gone to Mexico with a delegation, but happily so sobs were heard after the cancellation of this trip !!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Prime Minister's office (PMO)

The Prime Minister's office(PMO) has always been a power centre right from Pandit Nehru's days. M O Mathai was literally the lord of all that he surveyed till he was tripped. R K Dhawan wielded the stick with ease. V. George was the Garuda of Rajiv Gandhi. A N Varma was the power behind the throne. Brajesh Mishra was the CEO.

But now, the current PMO is not seen with such awe. Does its lacklustre image speak of its ineffectiveness or reflect its "rulebook" stance on issues, refusing to turn into a trading house.

Be that as it may, UPA alliance partners without exception do not look up to the PMO for a solution but turn to 10, Janpath for a reconciliation. Perhaps, it is the honey-and-bee story. To lend credence to this theory, the numbers of letters from Chief Ministers to the Prime Minister have reduced drastically of late.

Many Chief Ministers do not feel inclined to write to the Prime Minister in view of the curt conventional replies. Or they are told that the issue was being dealt with at the level of the empowered group of ministers (eGOMs) and hence the policy is subject to its decision.

In terms of integrity, none can point an accusing finger at the present PMO. But the flip side is that many would prefer a single power centre instead of several. For instance, there are at least four or five power centres in the present UPA Government !! So why approach the PMO and instead deal with the power centre(s) !!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

STC under Scanner

The needle of suspicion for the wheat scam is moving helter-skelter. But it always comes to rest when it points out to the State Trading Corporation chief, who is also a confidante of his Minister Kamalnath. So is it just not Sharad Pawar alone ? It is also said that the STC boss has got away so far becauseof the "Mallu" caucus which is keen on bailing him out !! His son's lavish wedding was attended by everyone who is somebody in Delhi. One steel baron flew in from London just for this purpose. Incidentally, the Food Secretary T Nandkumar and the Commerce Secretary G K Pillai are Mallus, although they have an impeccable record.

Baalu's Turn Now

Is DMK's Transport Minister T R Baalu going the Dayanidhi Maran way ? Stories are being narrated to the Crown Princess of DMK, Kanimozhi, about how Baalu has been having his way by threatening a pull-out of UPA at the drop of a hat !! She appears to be shell-shocked. But if she reports it to her "Appa" , would Baalu's wings be clipped or chopped off ? And the one who would be most relieved would be the Prime Minister himself. Dr Manmohan tried to scuttle Baalu's demand for G S Maini, an IAS officer of the Punjab cadre, as Chairman of the National Highway Authority, because of negative CRs. His own Principal Secretary, TKA Nair, also from the Punjab cadre, opposed it. But Baalu made it clear that DMK (meaning he) would not brook a "no" . And he got what he wanted.

Budget or ballot ?

The polls are round the corner, if pointers from the Finance Ministry are any indication. This is not because the Budget preparation are to begin soon, but mainly due to the oft-repeated, casual remark of Mr Chidambaram -- who is not known for his slip of tongue -- whether he would be in the chair at the turn of the year !! Being a control freak, the Finance Minister does everything his way, be it setting the ball in motion for the Budget or anything less or more important. The bureaucrats, whoever they are, are in total awe of him; those who aren't have to pretend to be so; or else they are out .... .In any case, Mr Chidambaram has nothing to cheer about, because of the huge drop in the revenue collections. This is despite all the aggressive campaigning on TV and print media.. And the three crucial secretaries in the Finance Ministry -- of Expenditure, Revenue and Economic Affairs -- are pulling in different directions. Perhaps, this is what the astute Finance Minister wants.

A lot of Loot in the Booklet

After the gas price has been signed (and sealed ?) , dirt seems to be hitting the ceiling. A colourful booklet has been brought out entitled " A Loot of the KG Basin" which narrates how the nation's precious resource is being squandered away by a section (or is it sibling ?) of corporate leaders, bureaucrats, mediamen and politicians. Embarrasingly, some have been named in the booklet. Many are therefore red in the face. No prices for guessing who brought out the booklet !! But this is certainly not the end of it.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Lame duck or dead duck !!

Bureaucrats, as is their wont, spend hours speculating their future and that of the Government's during any political crisis. After a meeting of the Committee of Secretaries last week, a senior IAS officer came out with his own interpretation of the usage "lame-duck" while walking down the Cabinet Secretariat's corridors. He suggested that a lame-duck could as well turn out to be a dead-duck !! Is a lame-duck Government in the offing ?