Off the record

Off the record

Pranab Da’s dose

When Anna Hazare was on fast at Jantar Mantar, most people found it a major threat to the ruling UPA which includes Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress Chief Sonia Gandhi. The formation of the joint Lokpal bill drafting committee with civil society members came almost as a shock to the opposition parties and other believers of parliamentary norms.

Civil society rpresenatives considered their inclusion on the panel a bowing down of the government to the people’s pressure against corruption. The committee started its work with all fanfare. But all on a sudden, things changed to the surprise of every one. 

Civil society members think that it is Home Minister P Chidambaram who has blocked the process. Kapil Sibal is also being seen as a troublemaker. But very few could realise the strength of the government’s main troubleshooter, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee. In fact, Mukherjee is the real architect of the government’s stand on contentious issues like bringing the prime minister in ambit of the Lokpal.  Mukherjee has given his dose to the civil society representatives who are now left with no option but to take it.

Anil Sinha, New Delhi

Sibal revisits 1857 history

Kapil Sibal, the emergent trouble shooter of the UPA-II, recently managed to wriggle himself out of what could have been fresh trouble for the government.

The uninvited trouble emerged not because of any new scam at the Centre, but the human resource development minister’s own inadvertent mistake in terming the 1857 uprising against British Raj as “mutiny”.

While delivering the inaugural speech at a meeting of the Central Advisory Board on Education here, Sibal was outlining a brief history of affiliation system in Indian universities when he said “it (affiliation system) started in 1856, before the mutiny”. The (East India) Company started the system of affiliation as it wanted to control the education system in India, Sibal said. He was totally unaware that the BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh education minister Archana Chitnis had taken note of his remarks.

When her turn came, Chitnis sought to take a dig at Sibal by pointing out his mistake.  Chintis said: “I want to point out that it was not a mutiny”, Sibal turned furious, saying ”please, don’t raise such unnecessary issues here...”. At the end of the programme Sibal admitted that 1857 was not a mutiny but India’s “first war of independence”.

Prakash Kumar, New Delhi

Bhatt naturally

Whenever and wherever atrocities on minorities take place, one celebrity from Bollywood – Mahesh Bhatt -- could always be seen championing the cause of the victims. The film-maker,was in Patna to urge CM Nitish Kumar not to allow Bihar go the Gujarat way.

He was referring to the firing incident in Araria last week in which four persons were shot dead while protesting the setting up of a factory there.

Bhatt became all the more concerned when a TV footage showed a constable jumping on the face and body of a victim (from minority community) who was lying unconscious after receiving bullet injuries. “Is Bihar going the Gujarat way? If this happens, we will be destroyed,” said the film director. Making a call to protect State institutions from communal bias, he asked Nitish:“If Bihar police acts in such partisan and barbaric manner, who will protect the innocent and helpless.”

Though the state government has already ordered a probe into the incident and the accused cop given the boot, Bhatt said an uneasy calm prevailed in the area. “To instil confidence among the minorities, security personnel with communal mindset should be immediately removed from the force,” suggested Bhatt, as a recipe for peace.

Abhay Kumar, Patna

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