Left-turn: Obama is OK, but not America (Capital Buzz)

Sunday, October 31, 2010

NEW DELHI - Finally, it seems their visceral distrust of America prevailed. The Left parties, initially undecided about whether to protest during the visit of US President Barack Obama, have decided to go ahead.

Some Communist leaders are rumoured to have a soft corner for Obama, unlike for his predecessor George Bush, who was much reviled by the Reds. But Big Brother Communist Party of India-Marxist was not enthusiastic about an elaborate protest like they organised during Bush’s visit in 2006.

CPI-M general secretary Prakash Karat has left it to party MPs to decide on attending the address by Obama to the joint session of the Indian parliament Nov 8. However, junior partners - especially the Communist Party of India and the Forward Bloc - were keen on some sort of protest as they thought the Left could otherwise be viewed as changing its anti-America/anti-imperlialist/anti-capitalist stance.

During their protest, the Left parties will rake up issues like extradition of Union Carbide’s former boss Warren Anderson and foreign investment in retail.


Obama visit sparks corporate feud

A turf war has broken out among leading industry bodies ahead of Barack Obama’s visit. Usually, the three leading business chambers - the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) and the Associated Chamber of Commerce and Industry of India (Assocham) - co-host the business interaction with the visiting head of state. But then Obama is not just another visiting foreign leader.

Top industrialists have stepped up lobbying for an invite to his address in Mumbai to corporate honchos Nov 6, which is being co-organised by the US-India Business Council (USIBC), CII and FICCI.

With mega trade and investment deals in the offing, it appears that the industry bodies are caught in a game of one-upmanship. The powers-that-be of CII and FICCI have apparently decided to keep the Assocham, the oldest business chamber formed in 1920, out of the show. They want to corner all the glory, resented an Assocham member.


Red roses for Sibal

Rahul Gandhi, it seems, has competition. The Congress general secretary is not the only one to get red roses from women admirers. HRD Minister Kapil Sibal, who has won a fair amount of fan following for his reforms in education, gets them too!

With Diwali close by, Sibal’s residence at 19, Teen Murti Marg, is flooded with people wishing him and a majority of them are women, including teachers. And it is not only sweets that are coming his way, he is being showered with flowers, especially red roses.

On Saturday, Rahul Gandhi had come to Sibal’s house over the issue of students elections in Uttar Pradesh. There was a surge of people, especially women, holding red roses and bouquets. “Sibal may just give Rahul Gandhi competition,” quipped a by-stander.


Diwali gift for Singhvi?

Diwali may see a speaking gift for Abhishek Manu Singhvi. The gagged Congress spokesperson may be asked to resume his duties after the festival, according to the party grapevine.

Singhvi was gagged after he appeared as lawyer in a lottery case against the wishes of the party’s Kerala state unit. With the civic body polls in the state over and the party having done quite well, Singhvi is now expected to make a comeback.

Though the loquacious Singhvi withdrew from the case, the party decided to take him off the job of spokesperson. Party leaders have studiously refused to respond to queries whether it helped them in the municipal polls.


Sushma rankled by Modi controversy

The Narendra Modi controversy may have died down, but it is still rankling BJP leader Sushma Swaraj no end. At a Diwali Milan of the Delhi BJP, Swaraj was heard discussing the matter with other party leaders like Vani Tripathi, Arti Mehra and Vijendra Gupta.

Not only that, she was even blaming a national daily for the “mischief” over her reported remarks that Narendra Modi’s electoral magic does not work outside Gujarat.

“I was visiting villages in Bihar. I did not get time to talk on these issues. And apart from this, they even wrote that (BJP chief) Nitin Gadkari called me asking for explanation,” she was heard telling those sharing the table with her.

“In reality, Nitinji never called me,” Swaraj said, and took care to repeat the line as many as four times.

Both Swaraj and Modi are seen as contenders for the party’s prime ministerial candidate for the next Lok Sabha polls.


Think of Nitish, vote BJP

In Bihar, there is no getting around the Nitish effect, even for alliance partner Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The BJP is finding its poll campaign in the state quite frustrating with Chief Minister Nitish Kumar running away with the development platform, forcing the party to also campaign on the same lines.

When asked how it asks for votes for development, the main election plank in Bihar, a senior BJP leader quipped: “We ask the voter to think of Nitish Kumar, but give the vote to BJP.”


Mamata’s PR act

It was a sweet attempt all right to woo the journos. Often at the receiving end from the media for being a missing minister in New Delhi, Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee tried to compensate her prolonged absence from Rail Bhavan during the economic editors’ conference. She not only reached the venue at Shastri Bhawan a good half an hour earlier but made it a point to do some smart PR with the media.

Mamata sat with them, indulged in personal chit-chat and even showed some photographs captured by her on her mobile phone. During the conference, she tried to discard the impression that she is often missing from Rail Bhavan and pointed out that she attends all the important meetings in the seat of the railway ministry. And to make sure the good impression lingers for a while, she presented a box of Diwali sweets to all journos present.


Positive stories, no tax

Road Transport and Highways Minister Kamal Nath sure knows how to strike a hard bargain. At the economic editors meet early this week, the minister was approached by a journalist urging him to exempt scribes from paying toll tax on roads. The journo pointed out that even the railway and health ministries offer some monetary concessions to mediapersons. Kamal Nath listened attentively, and made an interesting offer: “You do some good stories on roads and bring them to me. If I like them, I will compensate you.”

Maybe, it is a good way to get some positive press what with his war of words with the Planning Commission on his ambitious road building targets.


Green fashion

While designers were at their creative best flaunting exuberantly coloured hues and flashy textures, the leggy models were making a green statement of their own. At the recently concluded Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week, svelte models, including Tinu Verghese, pledged their support to eco-friendly garments, especially bamboo fabric.

The models showcased their eco love in a novel way - making green paint-dipped palm imprints on a white backdrop and catching all the eyeballs. “It is our way of showing our support,” one of the models said. Sunil Sethi, president of the Fashion Design Council of India (FDCI), was also present.

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