Capital Buzz


United they stood behind ‘Thimphu thaw’

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New Delhi : On the face of it, nothing new had happened between India and Pakistan to lead to the dramatic “thaw in Thimphu”. But if Congress sources are to be believed, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh made it a point to garner solid support within the party before embarking on the peace initiative.

Unlike the Sharm-el-Sheikh declaration that whipped up such a political frenzy in July last year, this time there was a quiet acceptance about dialogue as the only way forward.

The reason: the prime minister went this time to Thimphu with a strong backing of his party. “He consulted a lot of us and impressed on us the need to take the dialogue process forward,” said a senior Congress leader.

The party was solidly behind him, he said.


The woman scorned

Madhuri Gupta, who has earned the ignominy of being the first Indian woman diplomat to spy for rival Pakistan, has spawned wild speculation about her motives for turning into one.

“At 53, she was bored, alone and attractive. Single, but definitely one step ahead to mingle,” the man who led the operation to bust Gupta was quoted as saying by The Times.

The favourite theory, of course, is that she did it all to retaliate against the elite IFS cadre who tended to look down on the secondary cadre known as IFS-B as belonging to an inferior class.

But the scorn of the crusty IFS for promotee officers is a fact.

“Oh, she was not one of us. She must be IFS-B,” was the near universal refrain when reporters chasing the story tapped their contacts in the diplomatic corps. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned?


Man in China

Deputy chief of the Indian mission in Beijing is a much coveted posting for ambitious mid-career diplomats. And the man set to take it up next is Rahul Chhabra, the suave spokesperson of the high-profile Indian embassy in the US.

After handling an overcharged media during five prime ministerial visits to the US, Chhabra, who had earlier served as director in the external publicity division in New Delhi, is now heading to China.

Chhabra looks relieved as he does not expect too many prime ministerial visits to Beijing. Incidentally, he will be heading to his new posting after President Pratibha Patil’s visit to China May-end.


Lalu wants a raise

RJD leader Lalu Prasad wants the salaries of MPs raised to Rs.80,000 per month and the pension to Rs.100,000 per month. Guess why?

“We have an apprehension,” said Lalu Prasad. “All of us are going to retire once we have the women’s reservation bill passed. So, please make some arrangements,” he said evoking much laughter in the Lok Sabha.

Later, when Prasad found that Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee was not responding to his demand, he even sent a chit. Mukherjee merely smiled and passed on the same to United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi who was sitting by his side.

The finance minister eventually said there was an institutional mechanism that would look into it. “It is not possible for me, nor is it competent or within my powers to decide. ”


Comrade Karat red-faced

There is more than one reason for CPI-M boss Prakash Karat to be seeing red! First, he may not have foreseen the backstabbing by the Yadav duos – SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and RJD chief Lalu Prasad – on the cut motion in parliament last week.

The Yadav leaders stood with Karat till the very last last moment. They even joined 13 parties to observe a nationwide shutdown against price rise April 27, the very day the cut motion was moved in the Lok Sabha. But in the end they ditched their Red colleagues by staying away from the voting.

In fact there is more to infuriate comrade Karat. The Yadav duos are also said to be flirting with Trinamool Congress chief and Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee, the Left’s enemy number one in West Bengal.


Bargain gone wrong

The UPA government’s managers went into overdrive scouting for allies to defeat the opposition-sponsored cut motion in the Lok Sabha. Now it emerges tha the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), a new entrant to the so-called Third Front, was ready to trade its loyalty – for a price.

Sources say the RLD demanded the lucrative agricultural ministry but was told off! Incidentally, the RLD had won only five seats in the last Lok Sabha elections.


Class attack on cattle!

The bovine species appears to have a special attraction for Indian politicians. A few months ago, Shashi Tharoor, then junior foreign minister, created a splash by dragging cattle into the business of air travel.

This time round, cattle as a class are under attack. Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh, for one, feels strongly that cattle have no business straying in cities.

“We should have a better system for managing free movement of cattle in cities. Cattle have no business straying in cities and eating plastic bags,” he said in the Lok Sabha.


Lingo matters

DMK politico M.K. Alagiri, as grapevine has it, is planning to quit as chemicals and fertiliser minister. He prefers the hurly burly of Tamil Nadu politics – perhaps a great deal owing to the language factor.

The son of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi is not very comfortable speaking in English or Hindi and would prefer any day the familiar sounds of of his mother tongue.

Alagiri did not attend the question hour proceedings in both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha last week as he found it difficult to reply in either Hindu or English.


Diplomats learning not to trust one’s own

A deafening silence has gripped the diplomatic corps after it became known that Madhuri Gupta, a second secretary in the press and information wing, was passing on information to Pakistan spy agencies. “It is scary,” said a worried official who had known the diplomat in the Indian high commission in Islamabad.

When asked more about her, the official told journalists in Thimphu to Google-check. Indian diplomats will have to zip their lips and be careful what to speak where, particulary within the fraternity that is often seen as one large family, he said.