No raw deal in Pakistan

The abbreviation RAW evokes the same feelings in Pakistan as the term ISI does in India. No one closely associated with RAW has ever visited Pakistan officially in the last 60 years, but the taboo was finally broken in January when former RAW chief AS Dulhat was invited by former Pakistani National Security Adviser Mehmood Durani for a conference. Asked in a TV interview what was India's biggest complaint against Pakistan, Dulhat responded courteously that considering the warmth and hospitality he had received, this was not an appropriate time to discuss the issue.

Straws in the wind

The bad blood amongst siblings in the DMK's first family is out in the open, with M K Alagiri asserting in a recent interview that he only accepts his father, Chief Minister M Karunanidhi, as his leader and no one else. There are other straws in the wind. Alagiri has demanded that he be allotted the huge party conference room next to Karunanidhi's office at the DMK headquarters in Chennai. Alagiri, the party's key organiser during polls, flew to Australia, while the campaigning for a by-election in the state was still on. This is highly unusual as is Deputy Chief Minister M K Stalin's plan to depute for his father before the Planning Commission next month. DMK strategists have suggested that Assembly elections be advanced to October this year, before a full scale war breaks out in the family.

Momentous decision

Former Prime Minister P V Narasimha Rao gave Manmohan Singh, then chairperson of the University Grants Commission, just half a day to make up his mind if he would be his finance minister. Singh, convalescing from a bypass heart surgery, was advised by friends not to accept the job. He took up the challenge after Rao said to him, "What if we get sacked?" Rao's point was that he planned to introduce major economic reforms, which he knew would upset well-entrenched interests. Singh decided that if Rao was bold enough to risk his minority government, he should be willing to risk his health.

Rao recounted this incident to former PTI bureau chief Harihar Swarup years later to explain how he got into politics. It is one of many anecdotes Swarup has included in his just released book, Power Profiles. Another interesting nugget is that RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat has an affinity with L K Advani, because the latter was trained by his father, Madhukar Bhagwat.

Jaya Jaya hai

In a candid interaction at the Indian Women's Press Corps, Jaya Bachchan admitted that the only actor she regarded as an icon was not her husband Amitabh Bachan but Dilip Kumar. In fact, Jaya does not care for the term "superstar" coined by the media. She joked, "There are three stars in our family and I am just a super (visor). I provide them the bread."

Jaya, who is officially still an MP from the Samajwadi Party, made it clear that there was little chance of a reconciliation with the Gandhis, but refused to divulge why the two families, who were once very close, fell out.

Jaya, the daughter of a journalist, has several bones to pick with the media. Her most recent grievance is that a tabloid refused to print a retraction after publishing false news about the Bachchans, even though the woman editor apologised privately. "It is not just women MPs who needed to be sensitive on the gender issue, lady journalists should show greater fairness when reporting about other women," she said.

Quoting Sachar

The Sachar Committee report is quoted not only by Muslims demanding reservations for the community, but also, ironically, by the Gujarat BJP. The party has brought out a glossy publication citing Sachar's statistics to make the point that Gujarat's minorities are among the most well-placed in the country. The literacy rate, per capita income, savings rate and positions in government among Muslims are higher than the national average. And states like West Bengal and Kerala, which boast of their secular credentials, come out poorly in contrast. The problem for the BJP is that some of its Hindu supporters are not pleased to discover that Gujarati Muslims are actually better placed than the Hindus on many counts. For instance, the literacy rate for Hindus in Gujarat is 68.3 per cent compared to 73.5 per cent for Muslims.

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