The agenda at the Governors’ Conference at Rashtrapati Bhavan last week focused on weighty matters such as internal and external security, education, improving services for delivering development and how to bring green revolution to the eastern region. However, a number of governors also had a personal agenda in mind. They discussed the need for pension for retired governors and positions for themselves in order of precedence by which retired governors sit in front rows at functions. President Pranab Mukherjee took a sympathetic view. He recommended that retired governors receive a monthly allowance of Rs 25,000 for secretarial assistance. However, the demand to sit in the front row at all functions was turned down as this would involve too many agencies.
Thorn in Modi’s side
VHP president Ashok Singhal may have announced his support for Narendra Modi as BJP prime ministerial candidate, but Praveen Togadia is not ready to bury the hatchet. Once fast friends, Togadia and Modi are now at daggers drawn and Modi has even questioned Togadia’s mental stability. Interestingly, Togadia is not included when talks between the RSS and senior VHP representatives are held, even though Togadia has the grand sounding title of international working president of the VHP. Togadia only attends those RSS meetings to which all and sundry from the VHP are called. Last week, at a meeting, BJP representatives urged the RSS to ensure that Togadia did not shoot off his mouth.
Congress General Secretary Digvijay Singh was the one who reportedly advised Sonia and Rahul Gandhi to hang Afzal Guru. Singh’s calculation was that the hanging would take the wind out of the BJP’s sails and negate Modi’s assertion that the Congress government was soft on terror. Singh had made his view known not just in interactions with the media but also on Twitter. However, seeing the negative reaction to the haste with which the hanging was carried out, Singh has washed his hands of this and publicly deplored the fact that Guru’s relatives were kept in the dark. Singh’s assumption is that after Guru’s hanging, the government will go ahead with the hanging of the killers of Rajiv Gandhi and Beant Singh and thus embarrass the BJP. The BJP would not like to counter the Akali Dal which is against the execution of Beant Singh’s killer, Balwant Singh Rajoana. As per rules, a death warrant is serviced by the government of the state in which the crime was committed. Neither Parkash Singh Badal’s government nor the government of Jayalalithaa is likely to co-operate in clearing the formalities for an execution.
Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde pulled up the Delhi police for permitting the media to take pictures of Ukrainian sex workers. Shinde’s reprimand was during a discussion in the ministry on the cabinet note on amendments to the Immoral Trafficking Prevention Act which seeks to punish a person visiting a brothel to buy sex. The definition of brothel under the new proposal is very wide and a person can even be arrested from his own home. Home Ministry officials pointed out at the meeting that while the police were quick to arrest sex workers, the clients generally managed to go scot free. The cabinet note proposes that clients visiting brothels be recognised as offenders who can face jail terms from three months to one year.
Message for mother
Bangladesh president Sheikh Hasina’s daughter Saima Wazed Putul was in Delhi last week to attend a conference on autism at Vigyan Bhawan. Putul, who lives in Canada, is friendly with Priyanka Gandhi. She met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi separately during her visit. Sonia is believed to have assured her that despite Mamata Bannerjee’s objection, the Indian government will clear the agreement for sharing of the Teesta waters. Since Bangladesh goes to polls by the end of 2013, this will be welcome news to Hasina.
President Pranab Mukherjee kept governors on their toes at the recent conference at Rashtrapati Bhavan last week. At times, Mukherjee’s impatience surfaced. When Gujarat governor Kamla Beniwal read slowly and inaudibly from her 36-page speech, the president ended her dreary oration by announcing that the speech would be taken as read. When Meghalaya governor, R S Mooshahary, wanted to discuss the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, Mukherjee cut him short and asked him to stick to the agenda. When Orissa governor, Murli Bhandare failed to respond to the bell twice after he had exceeded the 14-minute time limit, Mukherjee announced over the microphone that he should wind up and the next speaker called.