Off the record

Two much

Two wives could spoil your show. This is what the JD (U) MP from Bihar’s Jhanjharpur Lok Sabha constituency Mangani Lal Mandal learnt the hard way when the Patna high court set aside his election.

Mandal has been accused of suppressing the fact that he had two wives. He has been charged with concealing the property details of his first wife Sunita while filing the nomination papers during the parliamentary polls. The JD (U) leader, who was suspended last year for anti-party activities, had declared the assets of his second wife Arti Mandal in the affidavit submitted to the Election Commission, but made no mention about Sunita.
This was challenged by a voter Vishnu Lal Bhandari, who filed a writ in the high court.

During 80 hearings of the case, the court examined all the relevant records and witnesses. Eventually, a single judge bench presided over by Justice VN Sinha concluded that Mandal had indeed suppressed facts and thus violated Section 33A and 33B of the Representation of People Act 1951.

“The election of Mandal from Jhanjharpur, which was held on April 23, 2009, is declared void (invalid),” the bench observed. The ruling is a body-blow to the leader against whom the JD (U) had earlier petitioned the Lok Sabha Speaker for his disqualification under the anti-defection law for working against the party during 2010 Assembly polls.

Abhay Kumar, Patna

Friend or foe?

Though Chidambaram did not make any effort, the opposition was divided over the issue. Abiding by their conviction of  not  targeting  individuals to concentrate on issues, the Left rejected the call. Other non-NDA parties also did not show any enthusiasm. But the idea of not making him a target individually was not limited to non-NDA parties. BJP sources claim that many BJP leaders were also opposed to the idea. They tried to dissuade party bosses from taking this decision. Their attempt not only failed, but also drew flak from seniors as it did not have any ideological basis and was primarily inspired by personal reasons.

“We had to commit before the party bosses that friendship will not anyway come into the way of obeying party decision,” revealed a senior leader. “It was somehow embarrassing as everyone in the party was aware of our proximity to the home minister,” he admitted laughingly.

If Chidambaram has friends across the parties, he has foes within his own party, Congress. Party general secretary Digvijay Singh has been his known adversary. His relations with finance minister Pranab Mukheree have also not been good. Insiders say that the list is long. So, they argue, one should not consider him a man without enemies. If he is disliked by his party men, they say, it is only due to his friends from other parties.

Anil Sinha, New Delhi

Pure devotion

These days, the DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi’s Madurai-based elder son and Union fertiliser minister, M K Alagiri, is busy moving heaven and earth to have a statue of Goddess Meenakshi, the presiding deity of the famous temple there, installed at the Madurai Airport.

Alagiri, who is in a political wilderness since his party’s crashing defeat in the Assembly and the more recent panchayat polls, is hopeful of getting the civil aviation ministry’s nod soon for installing the statue of the fish-eyed Goddess in the airport, notwithstanding his Dravidian legacy turning its back to theism. Alagiri rationalises his move as more honouring a ‘cultural icon’ of Tamil Nadu, but whether Goddess Meenakshi will help him turn over his political fortunes remains to be seen.

M R Venkatesh, Chennai

Wedding bells

Notwithstanding the border tension with China and Pakistan and complexities of negotiating tough defence deals, the South Block is in a happy mood these days, thanks to a string of weddings in the number one families of Indian armed forces. While the son of Indian Air Force chief N A K Browne got married recently, Navy chief Nirmal Verma is looking forward to his daughter’s marriage in the first week of December just after the Navy Day.

Not only the two service chiefs, defence secretary Sashikant Sharma’s daughter too is getting married and so is one of the personal secretaries of defence minister A K Antony, who is likely to be present in all occasions. The marriages, however, have not reduced the work load as the officials are burning midnight oil to select the winner of the Rs 42,000 crore medium multi-role combat aircraft deal and smooth conduct of the Presidential Fleet Review in the third week of December.

Kalyan Ray, New Delhi

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