Rahul, the Games volunteer? (Capital Buzz)

August 15th, 2010 - 2:04 pm ICT by IANS  

Rahul Gandhi New Delhi, Aug 15 (IANS) When allegations of corruption in the Commonwealth Games started heating up parliament, Congress MPs conjured up a quick-fix solution - Rahul Gandhi. But the Gandhi family scion might steer clear.
Rahul, some party MPs said, should be put on the job to clean up the mess. It will brighten the image of the Games and give him international exposure, they told the party managers. Others counselled that the Games’ organisation had become so murky in public perception that it would be better for Rahul to stay out of it at this late stage and not risk dirtying his fingers and staining his image.

The young leader’s advisors disclosed that a “Rahul role” in the Games was suggested as early as five years ago. Then, some leaders wanted the young leader to be the sports minister.

Now, it is too late for Rahul to get involved in the Games, they told the disappointed MPs. At the most, he could join the Games as a volunteer, the aides have advised Rahul.

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Longer wait for foreign office mandarins

With the space in the Lutyens’ era South Block not enough to accommodate the ambitions of the external affairs ministry, many diplomats sitting in cramped rooms are looking forward to moving to the new building of the foreign office that’s coming up opposite the National Museum. But they will have to wait.

Like with all such mega projects, things are running behind schedule and now it seems that the Nov 14 inauguration is virtually impossible. The reason: the Central Public Works Department (CPWD) that is constructing the new abode of the foreign office is also involved in the Commonwealth Games projects and, with the latter now a priority for completion, every other project takes a backseat.

“We’ll be lucky if we can now move by early next year,” rues a senior official who is having to make do with sparse facilities not so befitting for a divisional head.

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What BlackBerry?

Home Minister P. Chidambaram may not avoid journalists but he certainly can evade taxing questions deftly, even if it’s an issue that’s making it to the front pages of newspapers every day.

This week, North Block was swarming with journalists - all eager to hear what the government was proposing on the BlackBerry security issue. Predictably, when Chidambaram emerged from his chambers, this question was promptly posed to him.

“What BlackBerry?” the home minister, in turn, asked the reporters poker-faced, hiding the fact that a decision had already been taken to set Aug 31 as the deadline for access to the security features of the smart-phone.

“I’m not even able to handle this basic mobile phone,” said Chidambaram, flashing his rather modest handset and disarming the scribes.

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Diplomatic brainstorming

Preparations are on for the Heads of Mission meeting of the external affairs ministry Aug 26-28 here. Officials from the level of joint secretary upwards are busy preparing presentations for the annual meeting that is used as a brainstorming forum on major policy issues.

Ambassadors, high commissioners and others are encouraged to speak out freely in closed-door sessions which will kick off with an address by External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna. The sessions are either chaired by the foreign secretary or one of the secretary level officials.

On the agenda, among a host of contemporary subjects dealing with foreign policy challenges, are ties with Pakistan and neighbours, big powers and ties with the US, relations with Africa and the competition with China and strategic communication and digital diplomacy.

Perhaps the ministry is finally realising the value of reaching out to the people through new media in order to sell its line of thinking on key policy issues and give a better image of India to a domestic and foreign audience.

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Why Satish Mishra lay low

BSP general secretary and new Rajya Sabha member Satish Chandra Mishra is back in the reckoning, with party workers in the Indian capital saying that one and a half years of his absence from active political work has now come to an end.

Political circles in the capital are abuzz with gossip that prospective candidates of the party for the 2012 elections in Uttar Pradesh are now making all attempts to keep him in good humour. Clearly, those who wrote off Mishra after state chief minister Mayawati asked him to concentrate on legal work only, are now living in dread.

He is now learnt to be calling all the shots again in the party, of course with the blessings of Mayawati. Senior BSP leaders now explain that Mayawati’s move to keep Mishra out of political work was part of a strategy to mollify the Dalits in the state who had started thinking that the Brahmins in the party were calling the shots.

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Maruti versus Ambassador

Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh perhaps feels bureaucrats wield more power than ministers. During the launch of Maruti-Suzuki’s eco-friendly vehicles in the capital Friday, he was all praise for cars that run on compressed natural gas (CNG).

His ministry, at least, will only buy such vehicles, he said, while taking a dig at the old government war horse, the Ambassador, which he called fuel inefficient and environmentally unfriendly.

But when asked if he would recommend this to other ministers, Ramesh smiled and turned his face towards Maruti-Suzuki chairman R.C. Bhargav, who was a career bureaucrat.

“Well you know what! Maruti, with its deep links with the government, is in a much better position to do that than I am,” replied Ramesh.

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Hard bargain for Bihar

Even as they have launched a joint campaign for the Bihar assembly elections, both the Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) are locked in a hard bargain over distribution of seats in the 243-member assembly.

RJD leaders say the LJP wants to contest around 100 seats, but it should settle for around 60 seats. They say the RJD’s claim is based on the results of the last assembly polls when it won or stood second on 158 seats while the figure for LJP was far less.

But despite wrangling over seats, a reluctant RJD is ready to settle for a compromise formula as it does not want the third party - read BJP-Samata alliance - to gain.

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All in letter ‘M’

The political battle in West Bengal revolves around the letter ‘M.’

“For (Mamata) Banerjee, it is Ma, Mati, Manush and the Marxists,” said someone in parliament after a massive furore over the Trinamool Congress chief’s rally that sparked charges of mollycoddling the Maoists.

The he added, “For the ruling Left Front, it is Mamata and the Maoists.”

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In holiday mode

There are still two weeks to go for the monsoon session of parliament to end, but MPs are already in holiday mode.

There was very little business transacted in the monsoon session with the opposition turning the heat on price rise. Now, the opposition is hinting at another spell of impasse as it plans to raise the Commonwealth Games issues through an adjournment motion Monday.

Not in a mood to endure a fresh spell of sound and fury, several MPs have booked tickets for a trip back home in the last week of the session. Coming up after all are Onam on Aug 23 and Raksha Bandhan on Aug 24 - time for festivities and family re-unions.

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