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A Mahotsav of battles

Published : Jan 18, 2016, 5:37 am IST
Updated : Jan 18, 2016, 5:37 am IST

Tech-Savvy Government

RAMAN SINGH1.jpg
 RAMAN SINGH1.jpg

Tech-Savvy Government

With a lot of focus on the usage of social media tools to convey their views and ideas by the National Democratic Alliance government, especially by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, his Cabinet colleagues too have their own social media accounts, which they are asked to regularly update by posting important announcements related to their departments for public consumption.

While some NDA ministers are tech-savvy as well as excessively verbose with the capacity to speak endlessly (and mostly about their “achievements”), the zameen se jude neta types — who are not so tech-savvy — have hired PR professionals to constantly update their social media accounts with catchy quotes.

However, what takes the cake are “talkathon” sessions which the ministers have been asked to organise from time to time, where they record a live talk session highlighting the policy decisions related to their ministries. On such occasions, an entire army of ministry officials and private PR persons are seen to be accompanying the ministers. Some PR exercise, one must say.

Raman’s Missing Smile A public figure, sometimes, is robbed of his or her very persona as the price of power. Chhattisgarh chief minister Raman Singh perhaps bears testimony to this.

Mr Singh seems to have lost his precious possession — his trademark charming smile — as he completed two controversy-ridden years of his third term in power in the state in December 2015.

The “missing” smile has, in fact, become a subject of intense discussion in the state.

Mr Singh, known to win even his bitterest rival with his charming smile and a friendly hug, has invariably come out unscathed whenever a controversy surfaced during his 11-year-old tenure as chief minister. But the recent controversies have been of an unsavoury nature, leaving the Ayurvedic doctor-turned-politician disturbed.

The saffron icon of Chhattisgarh appeared aghast at the attempts by the Opposition Congress to drag his family members into controversies that dogged his government.

“My family members have unnecessarily been dragged into controversies by the Congress. It is most unfortunate that politics has been brought to such low level”, has been Mr Singh’s constant refrain.

Embarrassment writ large on his face each time he fielded questions from scribes regarding the controversies, be it the multi-crore scam in the public distribution system (PDS) or the latest cash-for-seat expose where the Opposition has alleged the involvement of his kin.

“Mr Singh looks stranger with his demeanour sans his trademark smile. It appears he has been robbed of his prized possession,” one of his ardent followers says. The price of power!

SHORTAGE OF MANPOWER Should there be a probe against the country’s premier investigation agency — the Central Bureau of Investigation — to imquire into its manpower shortage

In 2015, the CBI had filed a petition in which it said that due to shortage of officers, the agency would not be able to probe Saradha and other chit-fund cases.

The CBI is facing an acute shortage of “specialised” manpower in key technical areas that are crucial to its functioning. It has already requested the Centre to sanction additional posts in the agency to tackle manpower crunch. The agency has also written to the department of personnel and training (DoPT) for creation of additional posts in the agency.

Reacting to this a senior CBI official said, “The manpower crunch is an age-old handicap for the agency and government must take the matter seriously. The agency requires 13 DIGs, 34 SPs and more than 113 inspectors. Out of the total 4,544 sanctioned posts at executive officers level, around 3,911 have been filled till October 1, 2015.”

The agency also requires 177 sub-inspectors, 165 constables and 24 additional SPs, said the official adding that the shortage of manpower is certainly affecting agency’s ongoing probe. So next time there’s a delay in investigating a case, blame it on the CBI’s severe manpower shortage.

Yadavs clash The annual Saifai Mahotsav in the native village of Samajwadi president Mulayam Singh Yadav is getting bigger with every passing year.

The Mahotsav is a time when the entire Yadav clan gets together for a fortnight of bonhomie and renewing of family ties. This year, however, the Saifai Mahotsav turned into a stage show for family and party battles. The Mahotsav began with Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav staying away from the inaugural ceremony and not attending it for the first five days. The reason was that his two close aides — Sunil Sajan and Anand Bhadauria — had been suspended for anti-party activities by the party leadership. Mr Akhilesh Yadav went to the Mahotsav on the sixth day only after the two aides were taken back into the party. Jaya Bachchan, also a SP MP, stayed away from the Mahotsav, reportedly in protest against the growing proximity between Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav and Amar Singh. Azam Khan was also conspicuous by his absence for similar reasons.

As the Saifai Mahotsav wrapped up, another bout of family war unfolded on the stage. Professor Ram Gopal Yadav levelled several charges of corruption and incompetence on the PWD department that is headed by Shivpal Singh Yadav. Fuming over this, the two cousins did not share a frame on the concluding night of the Mahotsav.

Caught on the wrong foot Orissa chief minister and Biju Janata Dal president Naveen Patnaik surely knows the art of handling criticism. On the day the Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party or the Congress tries to nail him, Mr Patnaik comes up with a lethal counter-attack.

Basant Panda, the newly-elected Orissa state BJP president, in his first press conference launched a vociferous attack on Mr Patnaik, questioning the irregularities in the distribution of ration cards and on the issue of farmers’ suicide.

Mr Patnaik asked his food supplies and consumer welfare minister Sanjay Das Burma to tell the media how the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance government had praised the Orissa government on proper implementation of the National Food Security Act, 2013.

At the same time, he released a press statement saying the NDA government had chosen Orissa to give “Krishi Karman” award recognising the state government’s “excellent” performance in agriculture production and efforts to protect the interests of farmers. When the reporters reached the state secretariat, Mr Patnaik politely asked Mr Panda to first check with the BJP-led NDA at the Centre that praised his government for its commitment to properly implement National Food Security Act and promote agriculture. Clearly, Mr Panda was left speechless.

Showering praise The government was in for a shock when the top head of Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), Soumya Swaminathan, came in full support of the odd-even formula started by the Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal.

While the press conference was called by the ICMR chief to discuss the issues and achievements related to ICMR, Dr Swaminathan discussed a lot about the new formula and how it could help bring down respiratory problems.

She, in fact, asserted she was of the view that the staff of ICMR should be encouraged to cycle to the office and that she was even thinking of installing showers at the office so that those cycling to work could shower at work. Seems like Mr Kejriwal’s “out of the box” idea has inspired the ICMR chief too.

BEZOS FEELS THE HEAT TOO Indian celebrities like comedian Kiku Sharda and cricketer Mahendra Singh Dhoni were not the only one who had to face music for “offending” the religious sentiments. International business magazine, Fortune, too had to face protest for depicting Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos as Lord Vishnu in the cover of its latest magazine on how the company was looking to tackle the next “trillion-dollar market”. Finally, the magazine editor had to apologise saying that it had no intention of parodying a particular deity, or of offending members of the Hindu faith. Clearly, we take our right to protest too seriously.

ON A LIGHTER NOTE A recent briefing of the ministry of external affairs (MEA) in New Delhi on the proposed India-Pak foreign secretary-level talks had its lighter moments as well.

When quizzed repeatedly about why the talks were being “re-scheduled to the very near future” when it was clear that there was no official Pakistani confirmation about terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM’s) chief Maulana Masood Azhar’s detention or arrest, an exasperated MEA spokesperson, Vikas Swarup, said, “Miyan biwi raazi toh kya karega qazi ” (When the husband and wife agree, what will the priest or cleric do )

It was then that one reporter asked, “In that case, is Jaish the qazi ” As everyone present burst out laughing, Mr Swarup couldn’t help smiling too.

A THING OF THE PAST The New Year season is a time for launching calendars and diaries for various government departments and ministries. Among the most awaited calendars is the one printed by the Delhi government. However, the aficionados of Delhi government calendars, made famous during the tenure of then chief minister Sheila Dikshit, have been waiting for its arrival this season.

With the Aam Aadmi Party government at the helm, it seems that the calendar too has been made a thing of the past. While earlier it was launched within the first few days of the New Year, the Arvind Kejriwal government has so far not revealed any plans for the launch of Delhi government’s official calendar.

Silence speaks Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi created a stir by saying that his party was in touch with Prashant Kishor — the person who planned Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar’s election campaign. But this step backfired badly.

Days after Mr Kishor visited the state to study the ground realities, Mr Gogoi suddenly stopped talking about him. While the final outcome of Mr Kishor’s visit was not known, it is said that Mr Kishor suggested that after 15 years in office projecting Mr Gogoi as chief ministerial candidate was not a “foolproof idea”. Also, it is said that Mr Kishor was reluctant to spoil his own success rate by helping Mr Gogoi. Now a seasoned politician like Mr Gogoi maintains a stoic silence over Mr Kishor as he doesn’t want to be grilled by his opponents.