Nairs eye Tharoor’s empty cabinet perch (Capital Buzz)

Sunday, July 18, 2010

NEW DELHI - Several young MPs are eyeing the high-profile job of minister of state for external affairs, a coveted berth that fell vacant after Shashi Tharoor resigned.

The Rahul Gandhi brigade, known for glib talk and smooth manners, is pitching for the perch. But also in the fray are MPs from the Nair community in Kerala, Tharoor’s home state.

The Nairs point out that with Tharoor’s exit there is none from the community in the central cabinet. Even when Tharoor was in South Block, the Nair Service Society (NSS), the powerful community organisation, had been complaining of under-representation of the community at the centre.

With the NSS raising its voice and the state Congress leadership posturing favourably, all the three Nair MPs of the party from Kerala - other than Tharoor - have begun lobbying, sources say.


Lingaram in Agnivesh’s safe custody

Lingaram Kodopi, the tribal youth who has been in the media spotlight and the crosshairs of Chhattisgarh police for allegedly being a Maoist “mastermind”, is spending his days in the safe custody of rights crusader and social reformer Swami Agnivesh.

Agnivesh, the ochre-robed and turbaned activist who fell out with the Arya Samaj after he sought to reform its leaders, has been taking Kodopi along with him wherever he goes.

Kodopi fears the state police might otherwise arrest him and spirit him way to a prison in Chhattisgarh where he could be left to rot like the good doctor Binayak Sen who remained in prison for two years. Kodopi keeps sitting in the car while Agnivesh goes around his daily schedule as he is apprehensive of going out in Delhi on his own.

Last heard, the home ministry had quietly told Chhattisgarh Police to keep their hands off him unless they had concrete evidence of his masterminding any rebel operation and the youth with journalistic aspirations was expected to rejoin the media institute in Noida where he hoped to learn enough skills to make him a voice of his oppressed tribal community.


Look who’s mimicking PM

India’s first woman IPS officer Kiran Bedi surprised many when she mimicked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at a gathering on honour killings.

When someone asked her about what role the prime minister would play, Bedi said in a stunningly accurate imitation of Manmohan Singh’s vintage professorial drone: “We will find a solution to the problem and the file related to the matter will be sent to the respective ministries.”

The hall burst into laughter and applause. She, however, swiftly praised the leader in the very next sentence, saying he is a great prime minister and the country needs him.


Tale of two exits at T3

It was just as well that the authorities decided to postpone full-fledged operations at the shining new Terminal 3 of Delhi airport by two weeks. When the first commercial flight of Air India arrived this week, there were several systemic hiccups that passengers from New York had to endure.

The airport authorities had earmarked two exits - one for the passengers and the other for journalists and officials. But when the flight landed, the exit door meant for journalists did not quite work.

They then ended up using the same exit as that for passengers, leaving immigration officers totally perplexed. A few journalists were stunned to be told that they would be deported to New York since they did not have a passport and visa! Finally, the Central Industrial Security Force personnel sorted matters out.


Who’s spoiling Uma’s chances?

Uma Bharti’s re-entry into the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is not going to happen so soon despite “100 percent” assurance from party chief Nitin Gadkari and RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat.

BJP insiders say Gadkari has intimated Bharti she was already “a party member”, but an official entry has to wait a bit. Reason: A section in the party’s Madhya Pradesh section led by Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan is opposed to the idea.

RSS general secretary Suresh Soni, who is feared for his power to veto BJP appointments in the state, is siding with Chauhan in this turf battle. For now, Bharti, known for her hard Hindutva rhetoric, has been advised to avoid the media glare and be a little patient.

An undeterred Bharti, meanwhile, has taken off on a nine-day secret pilgrimage - perhaps to pray for some divine intervention.


Politburo meet? Present please

Wary of the media watching the party’s every move, CPI-M top boss Prakash Karat has apparently asked West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya not to miss politburo meets, nor walk out midway, however, innocuous the reason!

Saying a section of the media in Delhi is “creating news”, Karat believes they want to portray the CPI-M as a divided house and that West Bengal leaders will demand his blood at a meet in Hyderabad next month.

Still fresh in Karat’s mind is the headline, “Buddhadeb skips politburo”, when the West Bengal chief minister was absent from the June 5-6 meet. Never mind if Bhattacherjee insists he was busy with official work in his state.

The chief minister did attend the politburo meet this month, but went out for “official work” on the second day. Sure enough came a headline that pained Karat, “Buddhadeb skips politburo”.


CBI’s ’secret’ public answers!

Strange are the ways of India’s premier probe agency, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). Thanks to its obsession with secrecy, it even stamps as “secret” answers given to citizens under the Right to Information Act.

The case in point is an answer handed to advocate Ajay Agrawal who had sought information on former Union Carbide chairman Warren Anderson, wanted by India in connection with the 1984 Bhopal gast tragedy.

The agency gave him an answer that was as vague as it gets but marked “secret”. The information seeker is now not sure whether he could be tried under the Official Secrets Act if he were to be caught with this worthless bit of paper!


Good old Amar uncle!

Samajwadi Party’s philosophy of “it’s all in the family” is coming unstuck. At a posh London restaurant, former party leader Amar Singh who used to call Mulayam Singh Yadav his “elder brother” ran into the latter’s son Akhilesh Yadav.

As usual, Akhilesh walked up to “Amar uncle” and talked with him. But the usual warmth was missing. Akhilesh, say insiders, was not happy that Amar uncle left without picking up the tab.

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