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|July 16, 2002|
When Arun Jaitley was appointed BJP spokesman, there was much consternation in the Sushma Swaraj camp, which feared he would use his telegenic ways to win friends and admirers across the country. So Swaraj approached Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee with the request that she be made spokesperson for the Union Cabinet, a job hitherto performed by Information Technology Minister Pramod Mahajan. Vajpayee yielded to her plea; that is why you now see the information and broadcasting minister briefing the media after the weekly Cabinet meetings.
This is a task that traditionally belongs to the Government of India's press information officer. But, under the Vajpayee government, then I&B minister Mahajan undertook the task of briefing the media about Cabinet decisions. He continued to do so even after he moved to the information technology ministry. Now, Swaraj is the government spokesperson while poor N J Krishna, as PIO, continues to be a cipher.
Wheels within wheels
Principal Secretary Brajesh Mishra found his role and powers curtailed following Home Minister L K Advani's appointment as deputy prime minister. With Vajpayee in withdrawal mode, Mishra is seeking to maintain his influence on key central ministries though a few hand-picked secretaries. An apt example is the posthaste appointment of Revenue Secretary S Narayan as the new finance secretary. The appointment is intended to allow Mishra -- many of whose close 'friends' need an influential word here -- a backdoor say in a ministry where he and the minister in charge, Jaswant Singh, are barely on speaking terms.
A matter of choice
Journalist-turned-MP Rajiv Shukla was appointed manager for the entire duration of the Indian cricket team's tour of England. An initially pleased Shukla, however, began to have second thoughts on the eve of his departure. A man of many parts, he could not bear the idea of being away from his home turf for over two months at a stretch. In fact, even during the one-day tri-series, he sought a furlough from his cricketing assignment to lead a goodwill parliamentary delegation to Washington, DC. But India's cricket board boss Jagmohan Dalmiya put his foot down, saying he would be criticised for bunking duty. As it is, there were some who took umbrage at his being appointed team manager in the first place. So a reluctant Shukla skipped the Washington sojourn and requested fellow MP Kapil Sibal to do duty in his stead.
Travelling with the team from one match centre to another soon became a tedious task for Shukla, who craved to be part of the action back home, what with important changes happening in two favourite hunting grounds -- politics and business. The monsoon session of Parliament came in as a handy excuse and he bid goodbye to the Indian team at the end of the one-day series, forcing the cricket board to dispatch a new manager for the Tests against England.
Illustrations: Uttam Ghosh
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