A promise fulfilled
Five years ago, when she came to power, Mamata Banerjee had promised that she would turn Darjeeling into Switzerland, Digha into Goa and Kolkata into London. Over the months and years, the first two promises virtually escaped the collective memory of the people of West Bengal. However, Ms Banerjee’s vow to make West Bengal’s capital into the British capital has remained a topic of discussion in the city, sometimes evoking levity, and sometimes derision.
Not only Ms Banerjee, even her detractors would not have imagined that her promise to make Kolkata into London of the East would boomerang so badly.
On March 31, the Vivekananda Road flyover came crashing down, killing over two dozen innocent people.
Ms Banerjee did not waste time in blaming the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the predecessor Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government during whose tenure the contract for the construction of the ill-fated flyover was given to the Hyderabad-based company IVRCL.
However, very soon it became clear that the use of sub-standard construction material and the rush to complete the flyover before the polls were the main reasons for the collapse. “I don’t understand what all this outcry is about. Why do we not realise that Didi has fulfilled her promise and turned Kolkata into London and that is the reason why bridges are falling down,” a wag quipped, referring to the famous nursery rhyme London Bridge is falling down.
Achche din Prem Chand Prasad, the former private secretary of Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, has “resurfaced” in Lutyens’ Delhi.
Mr Prasad, whose name had also cropped up in the multi-crore Vyapam scam, has been “missing in action” in Madhya Pradesh for almost two years now and the buzz in state Bharatiya Janata Party circles and the state secretariat was that he was “lying low”.
The alleged scam had brought a “bad name” to the BJP government as well as Mr Chouhan, who, along with some of his family members, was accused of being involved in the scam by the Opposition Congress. But lately Mr Prasad, who was considered a close confidant of Mr Chouhan, has been seen by many in Lutyens’ Delhi, which has given rise to speculation that he has got some indication that perhaps his “achche din” have arrived.
Stumped by Swarup A recent weekly briefing by the ministry of external affairs (MEA) had its lighter moments. It all started when one journalist wanted to put two questions to MEA spokesperson Vikas Swarup. Mr Swarup then replied that only one question per person was allowed.
“But I didn’t attend the last briefing. So can I ask two questions,” joked the journalist. “No. You can’t. Questions can’t be carried forward,” said Mr Swarup with a broad smile. It was then that another journalist jumped in, saying, “You can always have a second innings,” implying that permission should be granted to all to ask a second question.
But it was the MEA spokesperson who had the last word. “This isn’t a Test match. This is T20,” replied Mr Swarup. It was an answer that left the journalist stumped.
COOKING UP DREAMS Sundar Lal Maurya, a cook by profession, is enjoying the glory that has come his way because of Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav.
Mr Maurya, who works as a cook in the Yadav household, has asked “Tipu Bhaiyya” — as Mr Yadav is fondly called at home — to get a bridge that would link his village Sunva in Faizabad district to the main road over the river Saryu.
This week, Mr Yadav went to Faizabad to inaugurate the bridge and in his speech he said that it was on the insistence of Mr Maurya that he got the bridge constructed. Mr Yadav also laid the foundation stone for setting up a government girl’s intermediate college as well as a community health centre in Mr Maurya’s native village.
With Mr Yadav acknowledging Mr Maurya’s contribution to the development in his village, the sun now refuses to set in the Maurya household.
Sher Bahadur Singh, the head of the Sunva village, says, “Maurya could have asked for something for himself or his family but chose development over his personal gains and that is what makes him a good neta.”
The people of Sunva are already planning to ask Mr Maurya to contest the next Assembly elections from their area and, if that happens, it will be another addition to the Yadav clan in politics because the cook proudly says that he is treated like a family member.
A sweet beginning The bitterness between the Delhi police and the Aam Aadmi Party government is gradually coming to an end thanks to newly-appointed police chief Alok Kumar Verma who is taking a series of measures to ensure timely redressal is provided by the men in khaki to the grievances of the elected representatives in the national capital.
Unlike his predecessor B.S. Bassi, who was engaged in a bitter verbal war with the AAP leadership over a host of contentious issues, Mr Verma has not interacted with the media so far. Instead, he has told his officers to be in regular touch with AAP legislators and Bharatiya Janata Party MPs and ensure their complaints are well attended to on time.
Not only this, Mr Verma has given standing instructions to the joint commissioner of traffic police to also take the help of the local police during the second phase of the 15-day odd-even car rationing scheme that will come to an end on April 30.
Some within police circles feel that Mr Verma’s focus is to ensure that law and order prevails in the city. “That’s precisely why he wants to help legislators at the local level, so that there is no social disorder in the city. Also, he was overwhelmed when the AAP government had announced compensation of `1 crore for those policemen who end up losing their lives while on duty.”
Let’s see what the new police chief has to offer in future in order to change the Delhi police’s unfriendly equation with the AAP.
The jhadu story Chhattisgarh agriculture minister Brijmohan Agrawal, a close associate-turned-rival of chief minister Raman Singh, has created a ripple in ruling Bharatiya Janata Party circles in the state by making a “carefully crafted” bizarre remark while addressing partymen in Raipur on the occasion of the BJP’s foundation day on April 6.
“I started my political career with a jhadu (broom),” he had observed while narrating how he did not hesitate to sweep the floors of the party office in his initial days in the BJP.
His remarks had compelled many in the gathering to read between the lines.
With rumours of his growing proximity to Chhattisgarh Aam Aadmi Party convenor Sanket Thakur making the rounds in the BJP, some wondered if Mr Agrawal was looking for greener pastures in the Arvind Kejriwal-led party by narrating the jhadu story. Some others saw it as a last-ditch effort by him to catch Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s attention by cultivating a sweeper’s image for him to relate to Mr Modi’s “tea-seller to PM” story.
Mr Singh’s followers appeared unfazed. “It was, after all, a saffron broom, not the Kejriwal jhadu that Mr Agrawal sought to brandish,” they quipped.