Rahul Gandhi’s remark that he agreed with the view that outsiders in the Congress should not be given preference over old loyalists has created a flutter in the party. Those who joined the party more than a decade ago feel they can no longer be branded outsiders. Madhusudan Mistry, for one, points out that it is over 13 years since he joined Congress and only his rivals in the party still rake up the charge that he is a carpetbagger. Shankersinh Vaghela, who is now leader of the Congress in the Gujarat Assembly, similarly feels that he now counts as a loyalist after his many years of service to the party. Jaipal Reddy and Renuka Chowdhury also fall in the category of having migrated more than a decade ago. The relative new-comers in the Congress are Sanjay Nirupam (2005), Beni Prasad Verma (2009), Raj Babbar (2008) and Rashid Alvi (2004).
The President is hamstrung by the rigid security regulations at his Republic Day tea at Rashtrapati Bhavan’s Mughal Gardens. These do not permit him to mingle freely with all his guests. According to the security drill, there is an enclosure which is cordoned off and reserved only for ministers and foreign diplomats. In addition there is a separate seating space just for the prime minister, president, vice president, speaker, former presidents and their wives. Unlike last year, this year, chairperson of the NDA, L K Advani, and his wife were permitted to enter the VVIP enclosure, although daughter Pratibha had to remain outside. However, when Advani got up from his seat to mingle with the other guests, an overzealous guard denied him re-entry. An alert Mukherjee rushed to intervene. Pranab Mukherjee also moved out of the cordoned area more than once to mix with his guests and chat. Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh did not leave the restricted area but they did walk to the rope and stretched out their hands across the cordon to greet some of the invitees. Rahul Gandhi and most of the younger ministers and MPs were missing from the tea party.
Post retirement benefits
The controversy over the allegation that General V K Singh’s phones were tapped has brought attention to the fact that some retired army chiefs remained for long periods in fully furnished army bungalows in Delhi with nearly the same facilities as they had received when they headed the force. Technically, the earmarked house can be retained only for three months after retirement, but some generals extended their stay for almost a year with one continuing for a year and a half. The practice of a post-retirement bungalow in Delhi for a retired army chief was introduced two decades ago. Not only does the retiring general get his own telephone exchange set up by the armed forces communication network but he has a large staff working for him round the clock and also retains high level security. A former army chief had even spent over a crore on furnishing the house.
Politics vs finance
The Rs 200-crore package to bail out the sick PSU, Scooters India ,which was cleared by the Cabinet on Thursday, is part of Rahul Gandhi’s project for reviving industry in Uttar Pradesh. Earlier Minister for Heavy Industry, Praful Patel, had put forward a plan for disinvesting the Lucknow based factory, which has been in the red since 2003, but Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had vetoed the proposal. Surprisingly, at the Cabinet meeting, Finance Minister P Chidambaram resisted the revival package saying he was against such measures in principle. Patel threw up his hands and observed that they seemed to be a division within the Congress. The prime minister had the last word, remarking that one could not keep closing down factories.