Off the record

Pranab for presidency?

Union finance minister Pranab Mukherjee is being tipped to be the Congress nominee for the august office of president, going by the latest grapevine in party circles in Chennai. The present incumbent Prathiba Devi Singh Patil’s tenure in Rashtrapathi Bhavan is scheduled to end by July 2012.

The first hint of Pranabda, as he is affectionately called, being considered by the Congress high command for this topmost post came after he recently offered prayers at the Sri Venkateshwara Temple at Tirumala near Tirupati, sources here say.

Seen as the most apt choice in party circles for the presidency at this critical juncture the country has been going through, Mukherjee, if elected, would also perhaps be the first leader from the eastern region to adorn the highest office, with the ‘east’ having a strong feeling of having been ‘neglected’ for long by the Centre ever since the erstwhile British rulers moved the imperial capital from Calcutta to New Delhi in 1911, sources said.

If this scenario plays out well for the Congress-led UPA in the coming months, then the forthcoming Union budget may be the last that Mukherjee would be presenting to parliament before his constitutional elevation.

M R Venkatesh, Chennai

Adding some glamour

The differences between Nitish Kumar and Narendra Modi are well known. However what is less known to many is their affinity towards superstar Amitabh Bachchan.

So if Modi can roll out a red carpet for the Big B in an attempt to make him the brand ambassador of Gujarat tourism, how can Nitish be far behind? The JD(U) strongman, therefore, extended an special invitation to senior Bachchan to grace the Bihar Diwas celebrations next month which has been organised to mark the 100 years of existence of the State.

It was on March 22, 1912 when the British carved out Bihar from Bengal presidency. The Nitish regime has made elaborate arrangements for the three-day function (March 22 to 24) marking the end of year-long celebrations.

Though Bachchan, who originally hails from Allahabad in UP, has no connection with Bihar, still Nitish wants him to grace the event. It is learnt that he personally extended the prior invitation to Big B when the latter came to Patna last year for promotion of his movie Aarakshan.

While other film personalities from Bihar like Shatrughan Sinha, Shekhar Suman, Manoj Bajpai, Prakash Jha, Udit Narayan and Neetu Chandra have also been invited for the mega event, the buzz here is that the presence of “most valued guest”, who at present is recuperating from a surgery, will dwarf others, particularly Big B’s rival and BJP MP from Patna Sahib, Shatru Bhaiya.

Abhay Kumar, Patna

Martyring for a seat

People may wonder why Salman Khurshid has created such great trouble for the Congress by taking on the Election Commission. Despite his failure in getting any success, law minister Salman Khurshid has been time and again trying to become a potent voice of Muslims and taking resort of such gimmicks. This is well known that to become a leader of any particular community, the common practice has been to comment harshly against other communities. Khurshid never does that. This time too, he has tried to be aggressive but not against any community. He opted to defy Election Commission and landed in trouble.

But people are ignoring that Khurshid only tried to impress upon Muslims that Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi care for them and he is a mediator. He can sacrifice his post for mediating between Gandhi family and the community. This is his message.

He is not alone in showing readiness to sacrifice his ministerial career. Steels minister Beni Prasad Verma has also done the same thing. To uphold the idea that Rahul should take the control, in one of his election speeches, he went to the extent of declaring prime minister Manmohan Singh an old man. This simply implies that he is ready to give up his ministerial post.

This may seem impractical to many, actually it is not so. Both of them are serious about only one thing that their family members should get  elected to the assembly. Khurshid is trying hard for his wife and Verma for his son.

“To win elections, you need such drama,” said a political pundit. “These leaders are ready to take risks for long-term gain,” he says.

Anil Sinha, New Delhi

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