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Virender Kapoor | May 26, 2005
The next step in the anointment of another Gandhi as the ruler of India is about to be unveiled.
It is now almost certain that Congress President Sonia Gandhi will appoint Rahul Gandhi as a general secretary of the party. She reckons her son's one year in Parliament has prepared him sufficiently for the role.
Sonia indicated as much at a recent informal press meet with a few scribes. Rahul's induction as a general secretary is most likely to be announced in the next round of organisational changes, expected sometime in June.
The revamp of the Congress set-up might be accompanied by a reshuffle of the Union Cabinet.
A couple of relatively young Congress members of Parliament are likely to be given junior ministerial berths. While Rahul Gandhi will become a key functionary in the party, Sachin Pilot, Milind Deora and Ajay Maken, Congress members of the Lok Sabha, may be made ministers.
When the BCCI chief ran like Kaif
Dr Manmohan Singh might have completed one year as prime minister, but the contrasting manner in which Congressmen react to the presence of him and Sonia Gandhi is a pointer to who is more powerful.
Even casual visitors have noticed how Congressmen virtually ignore Singh whenever he moves through the Central Hall of Parliament to go from one House to the other.
Barring a kindly Congressman or two who happens to be sitting on the aisle seats next to which the prime minister moves unobtrusively accompanied by a couple of officials, hardly any one acknowledges his presence.
In sharp contrast, whenever Sonia enters the Hall -- to walk briskly through to her office in the outer corridor of Parliament House virtually ignoring her obsequious followers -- a frisson runs through it. Those who have morsels of food in their mouths stand in their seats while others hotfoot to the path she is bound to take on her way to office and half-bend in salutation.
The other day, the president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India, Ranbir Singh Mahendra, who is a Congress member of the Haryana assembly, was learning a thing or two in man management from BCCI Vice-President and Rajya Sabha member Rajiv Shukla when he caught a glimpse of Sonia entering.
He suddenly upped and ran 20 odd paces a la Mohammed Kaif, to stand in the farthest aisle so that he could bow before her. She did not even nod in acknowledgement.
Uncertainty in ITDC, again
The Prime Minister's Office has ticked off the tourism ministry yet again.
This time for not appointing the ITDC chairman-cum-managing director from the panel drawn up by a committee headed by the Cabinet secretary.
Instead, the ministry appointed an ad hoc CMD, M S Manchanda, a couple of months ago when it removed Amitabh Kant following the controversy over the sale of Johnny Walker Black Label Scotch and other imported liquor through ITDC duty-free outlets.
Kant was replaced by Rajeev Talwar as the ITDC boss who lost no time in amending the purchase manual in order to source Black Label and other foreign-made liquor from agents rather than directly from the manufacturers.
The CVC is said to have ticked off Talwar, saying the move to buy the liquor from agents rather than directly from manufacturers could result in 'Black Label Scotch made In Paharganj (in New Delhi)' flooding ITDC outlets.
Soon Talwar was removed and Manchanda made ITDC boss. Apparently, Tourism Minister Renuka Chowdhary has not made any effort to appoint a regular CMD. She has been sitting on a panel of names furnished by the committee headed by Cabinet Secretary B K Chaturvedi.
Have pen, will fly
Not only ministers but a whole lot of journalists are headed for cooler climes abroad to beat the summer heat in the national capital.
Consider the number of junkets on offer for the media. More than a score of journalists were on the Air-India inaugural Amritsar-London-Toronto flight, along with a host of MPs and politician friends of Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel.
Commerce and foreign ministers routinely take a retinue of scribes on visits abroad. Kamal Nath took five journos to Australia and Paris.
Petroleum Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar is set to visit Pakistan in the next couple of weeks. Accompanying him will be a media team whose tab, one is told, will be picked up by the public sector oil companies.
Next month, when Finance Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram leaves for Washington, DC for the annual meeting of the International Monetary Fund, he will have a group of journalists on hand to report on his exertions, courtesy a couple of public sector banks.
Then there is a group of 18 journalists looking forward to a three day, all-expenses-paid trip to the European Union headquarters in Brussels sometime next month.
And, the above list of minimal-work-maximum-pleasure trips for members of the Fourth Estate is by no means exhaustive.
Like father, like daughter
What will you do if your junior in a uniformed force happens to be a close relative of your boss? Treat him as a junior or kowtow to him?
Tough question, given the times we live in.
At the India-Pakistan one-day cricket match last month in Delhi, a senior Special Protection Group official was seen fetching cold drinks for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's daughter and her husband.
Nothing wrong in that, except that Singh's son-in-law is a serving Indian Police Service officer who is currently posted in the Intelligence Bureau.
Since the SPG official who served the refreshments during the match to him was his senior in service, his colleagues ribbed him about him 'kowtowing to his junior.'
The SPG officer took the remark in his stride, saying he was serving the prime minister's son-in-law, and not an IPS officer.
It must be noted that both Singh's daughter and her husband behave impeccably and do not throw their weight around.
They even go to some lengths to hide their relationship with the prime minister.
Illustrations: Uttam Ghosh