Delhi Confidential

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  1. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

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    Delhi Confidential


    Ex-NSA in currency
    West Bengal Governor and former NSA M K Narayanan is still a much sought after man by Washington. US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns is said to have made the visit to Kolkata last week just to meet him. Some months back US embassy’s political counsellor Uzra Zeya also went to Kolkata for a meeting with him. The ostensible reason is that American officials want to get a briefing on Left Wing Extremism in India. But there are a host of other hot button issues, which often get discussed in the bargain.

    Big B’s ‘big’ ways

    Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan continues to impress all and sundry on the silver screen as much as he does off-stage. All National Film awardees were invited by the Directorate of Film Festivals (DFF) a day before the actual event on October 22 for a rehearsal. While the ‘Big B’, who was conferred the National Film Award for the fifth time, hardly needs a rehearsal, he duly complied, surprising even DFF officials. Bachchan’s presence at the rehearsals, however, is said to have enthused the rest of the awardees as well as they shared the dais with the superstar.

    A shot at P-5 history

    A Great deal of effort is underway to get Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao to visit India in December. Reason: The visit will mean that heads of government of all P-5 countries would have visited India for the first time in a single calender year, creating a bit of history for India. For the government it is a reflection of India’s growing stature in global politics. However, there is no confirmation yet from Beijing on New Delhi’s suggestion for a visit on December 16-17. To be sure, India has sent out invitations to even Chinese President Hu Jintao and Chinese Vice-President Xi Jinping so that absence of an invite doesn’t come in the way of a high-level visit. Indian diplomats are eagerly looking forward to the meeting between the PM and Wen in Vietnam, where a confirmation is expected.

    Who will wait on Obama?

    There is a bit of jostling going on over who would be US President Barack Obama’s Minister-in-waiting in Delhi. Last heard, Commerce Minister Anand Sharma was making a strong pitch but the fact that he will have to be in Mumbai too for the Indo-US business event means he may not be able to make it back in time to receive Obama in Delhi. The other option could be for the minister to travel with Obama in Air Force One. It’s believed that the US has offered five seats to Indian officials in the flight from Mumbai to Delhi, but it is not clear from a protocol point of view if a minister could occupy one of those seats. Indian Ambassador to US Meera Shankar is, however, expected to be one of the occupants. Incidentally, the Indian Ambassador’s spouse ought to accompany Michelle Obama during the entire visit. This has posed a unique protocol question as the spouse in this case would be retired bureaucrat Ajay Shankar. Now, the name of MoS Preneet Kaur is doing the rounds after the Amritsar leg of the visit was cancelled. She was to be the Minister-in-waiting in Amritsar. But the US Embassy has been testing South Block’s patience by not sharing even a shred of information on Michelle Obama’s itinerary in Delhi, which is being personally handled by US Ambassador Timothy Roemer’s wife.

    Eating crow over CWG

    Mani Shanker Aiyar might have still remained unimpressed, but the rich haul of medals by Indian sportspersons at the Commonwealth Games did shut up quite a few critics. Among them, Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, who had described the Games as one of the legacies of British rule and even called for a boycott of the Games if Prince Charles, and not India’s President, was invited to open the Games. Yadav, however, used complimentary passes for the Rs 50,000 seats to watch the closing ceremony. When reminded of his objections, Yadav is learnt to have told his supporters that he had decided to be present at the closing ceremony only to cheer the Indian contingent, which had done the nation proud by bringing a record number of medals.

    One up on prankster

    Last week, many senior officers of the Law Ministry were surprised to receive calls from an anonymous caller, who offered to push their case for the post of Secretary, Department of Legal Affairs. The caller, who claimed he could ensure that the coveted post went to somebody of his choice — the position falls vacant at the end of this month but the incumbent is most likely to get an extension — asked the officers what they were willing to offer to bag the appointment. While most officers snubbed the caller, one ventured to ask what the expectation was. The officer was told that he could get the job “only for a small sum” of Rs 7 crore. To which, the officer replied in jest that he was willing to resign from his current post if the caller offered him half that sum.

    Left to fend for himself

    During his fight with his own government and party over the issue of a proposed debt-waiver offer from the Centre, former Punjab finance minister Manpreet Badal was asked to show official papers to substantiate his claim that the Union Finance Ministry had indeed offered to waive Rs 35,000-crore debt if the state government agreed to implement fiscal reforms like an end to large-scale subsidies. Manpreet rushed to Delhi and even met Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee to get an offer in writing. But he was politely refused. His attempt to get some senior BJP leaders to support his move also didn’t find much favour. Obviously, the central leadership of the BJP was not too keen to annoy one of its closest and oldest allies, Parkash Singh Badal.

    Ahead of the pack

    Newly appointed Director General of CRPF K Vijay Kumar recently took his force by surprise when he decided to cycle down the stretch of road from the toll plaza on the Delhi-Gurgaon Expressway to the Force’s Group Centre at Kadarpur in Gurgaon. Kumar, who is fast acquiring the reputation of an unpredictable leader, used his official car to commute from his office in the CGO Complex to the toll plaza. His staff had already directed the personnel in Gurgaon to keep a bicycle ready near the toll plaza but no one knew what exactly was on Kumar’s mind. Once he got down at the plaza, Kumar asked for the cycle and then rode a good 5-6 km to reach Kadarpur, leaving the CRPF men scurrying to ensure his security. Kumar, a visibly fit cop who goes to gym and plays badminton daily, did not stop at that and decided to cycle on the return journey to the toll plaza as well.

    ‘Caught’ in CWG muck

    Railway Ministry’s seniormost spokesperson Anil Kumar Saxena had a tough time last week as friends and family started calling him up after spotting his name on television channels amongst the list of officers who were being probed by various agencies for alleged malpractices during the Commonwealth Games. As it turned out, the A K Saxena being mentioned in the news reports was Organising Committee’s Joint Director General (Overlays) and not the Rail Bhavan official, who in his capacity as a senior PIB official was also involved in setting up the media-centre for the Games. The Railway PR man had a difficult time explaining his innocence.

    Kharge’s day in the sun

    Labour Minister Mallikarjun Kharge — not exactly the most popular of ministers in the government — had the entire Cabinet nodding in approval when he proposed a health insurance scheme for street vendors at a Cabinet meeting last week. Roads Minister Kamal Nath thought that the scheme would send out a “good message” while Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation Minister Kumari Selja gave her enthusiastic support. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh wanted to know how the street vendors would be identified, to which Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh suggested that UID numbers could be used. Elated with the response, Kharge enthusiastically went ahead to inform the Cabinet about the details of the scheme like setting up committees in municipalities and municipal corporations to identify street vendors. Outside the meeting, however, many ministers were circumspect about the proposed move.

    Springing a Soni surprise

    Congress party’s Pradesh Returning Officer for Punjab Usha Thakkar has suggested three names for the post of state PCC president — Union Information & Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni, former chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh and senior leader and former MP Jagmeet Brar. While the former CM has always been in the reckoning for the job in the state, Soni’s name on the list came as a surprise to many, especially since the party is already debating one-man, one-post principle and there is a growing demand in the party to divest Union ministers-cum-general secretaries of one of their responsibilities since they are unable to focus attention on either.

    ‘Lame duck’ Malhotra in OC

    The BJP has always been uncomfortable with the presence of its senior leader V K Malhotra in the Commonwealth Organising Committee as questions were invariably asked about his role and why he has chosen not to resign whenever the party trained its guns at Suresh Kalmadi and Co. Party leaders have been maintaining that Malhotra regularly recorded his dissent to the various initiatives of the OC. Now that the BJP is in an attack mode, the party is making an effort to make everyone believe that Malhotra did not have any say in the OC. BJP chief Nitin Gadkari himself went to the extent of pointing out that Malhotra was unable to even upgrade his pass for the opening ceremony of the Games. The buzz in the party was that Gadkari got a simple pass while his party MPs and other leaders got VIP passes. Gadkari’s office wanted his pass to be upgraded but Malhotra could not do much. The BJP, it seems, is going the extra mile to prove that its own leader was so weak that he was sidelined.

    Well connected in HRD

    The 1992 batch IAS officer from Manipur-Tripura cadre Vineet Joshi seems to have influential friends in the HRD Ministry. That should explain how he has managed to stay on central deputation for over a decade now. While his current tenure as CBSE Chairman comes to an end in May 2011, Joshi is all set to get an extension till 2014. It is learnt that the Kapil Sibal-headed ministry has now sent a proposal to the DoPT seeking yet another extension for Joshi to ensure continuity at the school board. Joshi has been on central deputation since 1999 and has been serving as acting Chairman CBSE since August 2008. His appointment as CBSE chairman was formalised in February this year and with Sibal impressed, he looks headed for a longer stint.
     
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