Off the record

No respite for Pawar

Once again, NCP supremo and agriculture minister Sharad Pawar failed to keep himself away from controversies. His efforts to follow the advice of his confidants to avoid controversial statements, because of his alleged association with 2G scam accused and DB Realty promoter Shaid Balwa, could not work.

It was not so much that his statement caused the controversy. It was the controversy which compelled him to make a statement — that he did not have any relationship with Balwa — which did not sit well with NCP leaders some of whom believe that Pawar should be more cautious.

But with a host of political leaders from Maharashtra — Ashok Chavan, Vilas Rao Deshmukh, Sushil Kumar Shinde and even the newly-appointed chief minister Prithviraj Chavan — landing themselves in, some Pawar supporters are apprehensive how far the minister’s caution will work.

Anil Sinha, New Delhi

Centre’s short shrift to LDF

The inauguration of two mega projects by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in Kerala was accompanied by petty politics which saw the state government being sidelined at the functions. There were a number of instances of this short shrift given by the Congress to the left dispensation blamed conveniently on the norms set by the prime minister’s office.

Chief Minister V Achhuthanandan’s name was missing from the plaque unveiled by Singh at the Vallarpadom Container Transshipment Terminal (ICTT) in Kochi and at the new international terminal building of Trivandrum airport. The newspaper advertisements put up by the Centre claimed both projects as its own whereas it is common knowledge that the state had also contributed.

The state government also did its bit to retaliate. It cancelled full page ads in leading newspapers on the airport terminal opening in protest against the ‘humiliation’ of the CM at Vallarpadom. The cancelled ads had also carried the pictures of A K Antony and Vayalar Ravi.

Opposition leader Oommen Chandy who pointed out that he was also kept out of the ICTT function said that the PMO’s norms on functions attended by the PM needed to change. However, the LDF government has blamed the Union ministers from the state — read Vayalar Ravi — for playing petty politics rather than the PMO.

R Gopakumar, Thiru’puram

No more cribbing

Guess what did the MPs from Bihar ask for when the East Central Railway (ECR) organised a pre-railway budget meeting with the parliamentarians from the state. Two new trains: A ‘garib rath’ between Patna and Bangalore, and a Duronto from Patna to Delhi.

Other than these two demands, there was no major wish-list from the MPs. Though 53 Bihar MPs from Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha were invited for the meet, only 29 turned up. But all those who attended the pre-budget exercise were unanimous that the ongoing 19 railway projects, including mega bridges over Ganga in Patna and Munger, Kosi bridge, wheel manufacturing unit in Chapra, diesel locomotive factory at Marhoura and electric loco manufacturing unit at Madhepura, should be put on fast track.

The MPs rued that after Lalu’s departure from Rail Bhavan, some of the railway projects in Bihar have been deliberately shunted on the plea of paucity of fund.

But ECR mandarins argued that Bihar has already got more than its due. “From 1996 to 2009, the railway minister has been from Bihar except for a brief period in 1999-2000. The railway budgets presented by Ram Vilas Paswan, Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad gave Bihar more than its share in the last 15 years,” said a top railway official and explained why MPs from the state need not crib anymore.

Abhay Kumar, Patna

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