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And the meaningless award goes to...

Last updated on: April 01, 2005 15:03 IST

More often than not, awards are given because they are there.

This is true of several so-called prestigious awards, including the annual Best Parliamentarian Award.

This year the selection committee was most generous.

It picked four leaders for the award -- two each from the ruling Congress and the Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party.

Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, Human Resource Development Minister Arjun Singh, Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha Lal Kishenchand Advani and the Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Jaswant Singh were this year's winners.

The award is marked by a lot of pomp and ceremony. The President presents the award at a solemn function in the Central Hall of Parliament with ministers and members present in full strength.

A straw poll of members cutting across party lines revealed that neither the prime minister nor the HRD minister deserved the award.

The prime minister hardly ever took part in debates. When he did, he came across as schoolmasterish, far removed from the cut and thrust of parliamentary debate, and displayed no humour and wit in his speeches.

As for the HRD minister, the less said the better.

There was consensus that Advani alone among the four was a worthy winner.

Perceptive members like Petroleum Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar, who, by all accounts, makes a better parliamentarian than several award winners, had acknowledged in print that the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha was an able and effective parliamentarian.

Advani hit the nail on the head in his acceptance speech. He said the way members were selected for the honour, it may be time to give it to 'every MP who reaches a certain age.'

Detox that

Speaking of Arjun Singh, the HRD minister seems to have a simple strategy to burnish his secularist image: replace everyone in various boards, educational institutions, councils, et al his predecessor Dr Murli Manohar Joshi had appointed with his own nominees. So much for detoxification.

But Singh has appointed at least two businessmen close to the previous regime as heads of the National Institutes of Technology.

Mukesh Kasliwal of the S Kumars group was a fixture in the Advani household and had a good relationship with Atal Bihari Vajpayee's foster family. He has been made head of NIT-Jaipur. J P Gaur of the JP group is on excellent terms with senior Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh-BJP leaders. He will now head NIT-Hamirpur. Most surprisingly, Hari S Bhartia, an alumnus of Indian Institute of Technology-Delhi, has been removed from the chairmanship of NIT-Allahabad.

Soli solution

India International Centre, the watering hole of superannuated diplomats, bureaucrats and the odd peripatetic scholar in the heart of Lutyens' Delhi, has come up with its own version of the executive versus legislature fight.

In the recent election for IIC's managing body, the contest for the post of trustee has resulted in a tie between former Cabinet Secretary Naresh Chandra and former Himachal Pradesh chief justice Leila Seth.

The IIC constitution empowers its president to decide the issue with his casting vote.

However, former attorney general Soli Sorabjee, who heads the IIC at present, has a tough call to make. That may be why 10 days after the counting of votes he was yet to clinch the issue.

Meanwhile, under the aegis of its new director, IIC has admitted nearly 200 new members.

The old-timers are an aggrieved lot since all manner of people, including petrol pump owners and junior civil servants from Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, have got preference over several more 'deserving' applicants.

FM's fanfare

Finance Minister P Chidambaram may not exactly be his own boss, since the government is top-heavy with economists -- from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia. But that has not curbed Chidambaram's swagger to the outside world, especially the media. Sample this.

Accosted by a Congress-friendly editor of a fortnightly in the Central Hall of Parliament, who asked to see him 'whenever you are free,' Chidambaram shot back, 'Oh, I will not be free till May 23, 2009,' and walked on, leaving the exasperated journalist cursing.

The current Lok Sabha's five-year term is due to end on May 23, 2009.

Splitting hair over eyeballs

Now that the country's hitherto lone business channel CNBC has competition from Prannoy Roy's newly-launched Profit, the buzz in the media circles is that Raghav Bahl, the CNBC promoter, might hit back by starting a current affairs channel to take the fight to the NDTV camp.

The likelihood of a senior political editor from the NDTV stable switching sides to kick-start the new channel cannot be ruled out.

Raising Cain

Who says Bihari politicians do not have a sense of humour?

Since a couple of them had recently featured as performers in a sting operation by a television channel, a senior Bihar politician regaled his colleagues with this nice one over cups of subsidised coffee in the Central Hall of Parliament.

It seems when the channel sent a comely young reporter, the politician in question did not rise to the bait.

Next it followed up with a young boy, hoping he would succeed where the girl had failed.

When that too failed, the channel sent a urologist, so it could get the footage it had been determined to get for giving a leg up to its ratings!

Illustrations: Uttam Ghosh

Virendra Kapoor