‘Mamata ko manao’, says Sonia
New Delhi : Congress president Sonia Gandhi continues to take keen interest in the passage of the Women’s Reservation Bill and has been telling activists that they should work on Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee for her support.
Mamata’s turnaround on the bill, after initially pledging support, has been a big setback for its proponents. “Mamata ko manao (persuade Mamata)”, she told a delegation that called on her last week to tell her to try and push the bill in the current monsoon session of parliament.
Its champions think the bill, which has already been passed in the Rajya Sabha, can muster the two-thirds majority in the Lok Sabha if the floor managers of the ruling party are able to lobby well among the UPA allies, the objections from the Yadav trio (Mulayam, Lalu Prasad and Sharad) notwithstanding.
The BJP, they say, will support, despite its current confrontationist stance against the government, as both Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley are firmly committed to it. The bill aims to reserve 33 percent of seats in the Lok Sabha and state assemblies for women.
Rudderless without Sonia-Rahul?
Congress MPs are a confused lot, with the first week of the monsoon session of parliament passing off virtually without any business being transacted . It is being said the absence of party president Sonia Gandhi and son Rahul have slowed down the Congress, if not left it rudderless.
Speculation is rife that Sonia along with Rahul last week went off to the United States to attend to her ailing mother Paola Maino, who has been hospitalised.
When asked about the absence of the duo in parliament, party spokespersons played it safe, saying the reasons “may have been very compelling”. However, they gave enough hints that “if Sonia is absent, it means either she is out of Delhi or indisposed.”
As the political scene became surcharged, with the opposition parties stalling parliament over the price rise issue, it was left to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee to steer the party.
Critics of Congress party’s prince charming Rahul Gandhi say it is high time he got out of his cameo acts and defined his role in the party as a potential national leader.
They say he is heard of only when he does high-profile media appearances in Amethi with some international personality, or when he visits a Dalit home in Bihar or when he appears at some university gathering to speak to students. The rest of the time he is rarely seen or heard.
“Politics is not a film set where he makes a cameo appearance and then disappears. It needs sustained contact with the masses. You cannot be seen or heard only every few months in between trips abroad,” remarked a cynical Uttar Pradesh grassroots politician.
Parliament on and PM present
Think about it. The ongoing monsoon session of parliament is the first time in four sessions when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is not scheduled to travel abroad.
Manmohan Singh has notched up thousands of flying hours on his special Air India One with 46 prime ministerial trips under his belt, eliciting sharp criticism from the opposition for skipping parliament.
In the budget session this year (Feb 22-May 7), Manmohan Singh visited Saudi Arabia and was also in Bhutan for the SAARC summit. During the 2009 winter session, the prime minister visited Russia, the US, Trinidad and Tobago, and Denmark . Similarly, during the July 2-Aug 7 monsoon session of 2009, Manmohan Singh was in Italy for the G8-G5 summit, and then in France and Egypt.
Jadeja bowled out?
Hitting a six off Kapil Dev’s ball was a childhood dream come true for British Prime Minister David Cameron. Bishan Singh Bedi and former hockey captain Ajitpal Singh were among the sports personalities who witnessed that masterstroke. But one former cricket star was missing.
The sports ministry had received a proposal to add the name of Ajay Jadeja to the list of names that would receive Cameron at the National Stadium. The ministry turned down the proposal.
One possible reason: Jadeja is the son-in-law of Jaya Jaitley, leader of the Samata Party that is part of the opposition National Democratic Alliance.
Congress’ Modi dilemma
Amid speculation that Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi could be questioned by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in the 2005 killing of alleged gangster Sohrabuddin Sheikh, the Congress ranks are divided over the issue.
While one section that influences government policies believes questioning Modi would give him a victim’s image, there are others who feel it makes more political sense to keep the pot boiling.
The Congress leadership is also worried over the way Modi treats the CBI, which has earned much disrepute in the way it handled a number of cases.
Better halves stand up
While 350 women’s outfits joined hands at the Jantar Mantar this week to clamour for early passage of the Women’s Reservation Bill in the Lok Sabha, men were also present in large numbers to cheer the fairer sex.
Many women activists had brought in their spouses to lend the cause a cross-gender appeal. Along with actress Shabana Azmi, her lyricist husband Javed Akhtar was seated on the dais. CPI national secretary D. Raja found a seat besides his activist wife Annie Raja.
However, CPI-M politburo member Brinda Karat was alone as her husband Praksh Karat was away busy with party work.
Enemies on and off field
MPs of archrivals CPI-M and Trinamool Congress from West Bengal carry their enmity wherever they go. In parliament, hostility runs so deep that they avoid eye to eye contact, fearing censure from party bosses.
A Trinamool Congress MP, who is a confidant of party chief Mamata Banerjee, was spotted outside Parliament House waiting for a ferry service. But when she saw a West Bengal CPI-M MP inside the vehicle, he preferred to wait rather than share space with the enemy!
New Games, old material
For all the hoopla, the Commonwealth Games Organising Committee had to bank upon recycled publicity material to show its preparedness to a visiting British delegation.
The group that included legendary British athlete Sebastian Coe, chief of the 2012 London Olympic Games Organising Committee, was shown a brief presentation “Delhi Chalo”, which was supposedly shot some years ago.
Organising committee chief Suresh Kalmadi was apparently squirming in embarrassment as the stale video played on. He asked the organisers to fast-forward the film before the Brits caught on.