One of the very first things that President Pranab Mukherjee, who has a great sense of history, did upon going to Rashtrapati Bhavan, was to begin a massive clean-up and restoration of a magnificent edifice that had been allowed to sink to a sordid state thanks to the neglect of his predecessor. The library is already looking splendid, and rooms are being themed as well as refurbished under the direction of the diligent Mrs Omita Pal, Secretary to the President. Among other decisions, swearing-in ceremonies will take place in the future at the Durbar Hall, rather than the Ashoka Hall where they take place now. This is where Jawaharlal Nehru was sworn in after independence. Mrs Sonia Gandhi has been given a special tour of the great renovations. So impressed was Mrs Gandhi that she promptly sent a letter of congratulations to the President.
Raghuvansh a hit with Babus
Former Rural Development Minister Raghuvansh Prasad's bonhomie with ministry officials continues even though he left government in 2009. Prasad's annual Makar Sankranti lunch at his Ashoka Road residence was attended by several officers from the ministry, including rural development secretary Vijay Kumar. Bihar's rural development secretary Amritlal Meena too attended the party. As all of them gorged on dahi chura and other vegetarian meals, an officer was heard saying, "We always look forward to this not just because it is the biggest Makar Sankranti party, but also because our present minister (Jairam Ramesh) does not believe in hosting such receptions."
Meira adviser in limbo
Meira Kumar's media adviser Rakhi Bakshi is still waiting for the renewal of her contract, which expired on 3 December. Sources claim that the Lok Sabha Speaker is unhappy with her media adviser. They say that Kumar thinks Bakshi failed to promote her image properly, the reason why she lost out the vice presidential race. These sources say that Kumar is now looking for Bakshi's replacement.
CPI(M) MP Sitaram Yechury was recently speaking on how Enron had duped the Indian government. He quipped during the speech that the only positive thing about Enron was that it was headed by a "Marx"; the Indian government could have survived the Enron scandal if it had followed the principles of Karl Marx instead of Rebecca Mark(s).
Congress ' Kashmiri pandit leaders upset
Kashmiri Pandits are unhappy that there was no representation from their community in the recent Cabinet reshuffle of the National Conference-Congress government in Jammu and Kashmir. Angry Congress leaders from the community met party president Sonia Gandhi demanding the inclusion of Kashmiri Pandits in both the Central and state Cabinets. The Union government used to have at least one Kashmiri Pandit minister until P.V. Narasimha Rao's time, when Makhanlal Fotedar revolted and resigned, pledging to bring Sonia Gandhi to the forefront. Indira Gandhi was largely dependent on Kashmiri Pandits including D.P. Dhar, her minister, to run the government. Fotedar unofficially worked as her political secretary and retained his influence in Rajiv Gandhi's time. It used to be said, "Jispar Fotedar hansa, woh Mukhya Mantri phansa (If Fotedar smiles at any Chief Minister, then that CM is in trouble). In J&K, Sheikh Abdullah's government used to have two or three Pandit ministers. Later, Shiv Narain Fotedar was the chairman of the Legislative Council. The G.M. Shah Cabinet had Mohan Kishen and Khemlata Wakhloo. Farooq Abdullah had Pyarelal Handoo in 2006. Even Mufti M. Syed had R.K. Mattu as a Minister of State. The National Conference recently made Vijay Bakhuja a Member of the Legislative Council (MLC). But the Congress, ever since Ghulam Nabi Azad has come to the limelight, has not made a single Kashmiri Pandit either a minister in the state Cabinet or an MLC.
Mahila leader takes on Maha Congress
Sonia Gandhi has suddenly become interested in women's issues after the Delhi gang rape incident. She has asked the Mahila Congress to undertake a nationwide awareness campaign on women after the Chintan Shivir. She has also instructed Congress Chief Ministers to energise their respective women's commissions. But the order has had some adverse fallout in Maharashtra. Janet Lawrence D'Souza, the president of the Mumbai Mahila Congress is up in arms against the state party leadership for backing the name of Lalita Patil for the post of chairwoman of the commission. D'Souza has made it clear that the decision to promote a Maratha, soon after promoting Rajni Patil, a Maratha, to the Rajya Sabha, is not acceptable. She even staged a demonstration, forcing Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan to say that he would appoint a non-Maratha from outside Mumbai as the chairwoman.
But for Shukla...
But for Rajiv Shukla, Ministers of State and AICC secretaries would not have been able to attend Congress' Chintan Baithak in Jaipur. 67 Youth Congress leaders were invited to the brain storming session, but not their seniors in the government or the party. Shukla, a Minister of State himself, took up the issue with Sonia Gandhi after he saw, to his shock, the name of Youth Congress worker Roji M. John right on top of the list. John assists Shukla in his typing work related to Parliament. Sonia Gandhi understood the nature of the problem and allowed the ministers and the secretaries to attend the meeting.
Rented crowd lodges FIR against YC worker
37 daily wage labourers have lodged an FIR against a Youth Congress worker from Udaipur, Ghanshyam Dhabai for failing to pay them Rs 200 each as promised. They were hired on behalf of local MLA Sajjan Katara to shout "zindabad" during Union minister C.P. Joshi's visit to Udaipur. But they claim that they were not paid after the show was over.