With Mukherjee away...

With Mukherjee away...

To mark the 150th birth anniversary of Rabindranath Tagore in 2012, Pranab Mukherjee, as head of National Implementation Committee, had decided to set up Tagore centres in different parts of the world to promote Indian art and culture. The budget for the proposal was cleared by Mukherjee as finance minister and also by the Planning Commission. One of the centres was to be opened in Melbourne and an announcement was made to this effect. However, when our High Commission in Canberra sent repeated reminders to the Ministry of Culture to release funds for the project, it got no response. The ministry claims that the money earmarked for the Tagore centre has been spent on other heads. It appears that now that Mukherjee is no longer finance minister there has been a change of thinking in the government.

Radia-ting art

Niira Radia figures not just in the world of politics, business and news but also in the art world. One of the exhibits on display at Delhi's National Gallery of Modern Art, which has been shortlisted for the Rs 1 million Skoda prize, revolves around the Radia tapes. A Mumbai-based collective, CAMP, has conceived of an installation where the recording of conversations between the lobbyist and journalists and politicians can be accessed via a telephone number. Act II of the installation has the transcripts of the tapes on the wall. The installation was also part of the US-based New Museum's Triennial show, The Ungovernables.

Joining bandwagon

Narendra Modi's name as BJP's prime ministerial candidate has been mooted by Yashwant Sinha, Maneka Gandhi, Shatrughan Sinha and Ram Jethmalani. Strangely, none of the politicians is considered particularly close to the Gujarat leader. All are on the margins in the party's present power structure and hope to become more relevant by backing Modi, who is seen as the BJP's rising star. Similarly, Ashok Singhal, head of the VHP who has endorsed Modi's candidature, has never had a particularly warm relationship with Modi. In fact, the Gujarat VHP, particularly Pravin Togadia, has been downright hostile to the chief minister. Modi wants to distance himself from the VHP since he seeks to project the platform of development rather than the mandir issue which Singhal has raised once again.

Leaking to the media

Manmohan Singh is unhappy that the media carried a detailed account of the differences in the Cabinet over the Aadhar scheme. The confusion in the government on the issue and duplication of expense because of the failure to harmonise Aadhar and the National Population Register is a source of embarrassment to the prime minister. Singh would like to pull up the minister who leaked the cabinet proceedings to the press. The problem is that the minister is not from the Congress but from a UPA ally.

Home truths err

Home Secretary R K Singh remained in the shadows when P Chidambaram was his boss. Now that Sushilkumar Shinde is minister, Singh has frequently shot off his mouth in public. The Verma Commission pulled him up for giving a pat on the back to the police in the wake of the brutal gang rape in Delhi which outraged public opinion. Singh also raised eyebrows by his indiscreet observation to the media that during the interaction between his boss Shinde and Pakistan Interior Minister Rehman Malik, he had to keep nudging the minister to ensure that he did not go soft. Now the IAF chief N A K Browne has reacted angrily to a letter written by the home secretary to the defence ministry asking it to take action against the IAF crew for abandoning an injured constable in a Naxal-infested region of Chhattisgarh. Browne accused Singh of speaking out of turn publicly without knowing all the facts.

Not such a novice

When he took over as Chief Minister, Prithviraj Chavan was considered a greenhorn who would not be able to handle well-entrenched local politicians and cooperative body heads from NCP and from his own party. But Chavan is not quite as wet behind the ears as is made out by his opponents. For instance, last week, for a by-election to the legislative council, he managed to reach a consensus on the candidature of former Congress MLA Muzaffar Hussain. None of the other political parties, including both factions of the Shiv Sena, the BJP, and the NCP, will be fielding a candidate. In fact, since he became CM two years ago there have been over half-a-dozen contests to either the Rajya Sabha or the Maharashtra Legislative Council and in each case, Chavan has been able to work out a consensus with leaders from other political parties so that candidates are elected unanimously.

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