Off the record

Ladies’ lessons

Five ladies at a round table can be devastating, more so when they discuss “Women and Politics”. An initiative by the US Consulate in Chennai last week brought this rare treat to the city.

The distinguished panelists group comprised a mini who-is-who of contemporary politics. Dr Poongothai Aladi Aruna, a former DMK minister, good friend of Kanimozhi and daughter of the late DMK veteran Aladi Aruna, Lalitha Kumaramangalam, a BJP national executive member, who hails from a very famous political family of the ‘Zamindars of Kumaramangalam’ in Salem district that gave a political leader over three generations to virtually every political party- Justice party, CPI, Congress to the BJP-, Bader Sayeed, a lawyer and a very articulate former AIADMK MLA who was roped into politics by ‘Puratchi Thalaivi’ J Jayalalithaa, Wendy Singer, a Fullbright-Nehru Senior Researcher who spent considerable years studying Bihar politics, and last but not the least the moderator, Alexis Haftvani, Vice-Consul at the Consulate.

Their political baptism was colourfully different. But the ladies were amazingly unanimous on some “lessons” they learnt.

They all love exercising power, wanted woman-aspirants to be ‘early birds’, and to develop a ‘rhino’s skin’ to rough it out in the male-dominated world of politics!

M R Venkatesh, Chennai

Age no bar

Guess who hogged the maximum limelight during the three-day Bihar Diwas centenary celebration here? It was none other than veteran actress and BJP Rajya Sabha member from Karnataka, Hema Malini, who even today looks quite graceful and elegant.

Thousands of people, who had gathered to attend a musical soiree in the state capital, drained their lung power while calling Hema to come on stage. She obliged with a big smile and a wave, before Shatrughan Sinha, who was accompanying her, roared in his trademark style: Khamosh!!!

Teenage girls, who were not even born when Shatru made his debut in tinsel town shouted: “Shatru, we love you. You are the best”.

An embarrassed Shatrughan then sang paeans to Nitish, who was sitting just next to him. “The JD (U)-BJP coalition government under chief minister Nitish Kumar has succeeded in shedding the ‘bad image’ of Bihar and carved out a new place for the state through its progressive activities,” said Shotgun, while recalling how Bihar gave first Republic to the world (in Lichvi dynasty in Vaishali), first President (Dr Rajendra Prasad), and first international seat of learning (Nalanda University).

The crowd was still yearning for Hema, who eventually made a short address and appreciated Bihar for making rapid strides in the last few years.

Throughout the programme, Shatru remained over-protective (read: held her hand) of his party colleague whose charm even after five decades in Bollywood remains unmatched.

Abhay Kumar, Patna


Keeping rivals close

Unlike many of his cabinet colleagues, rural development minister Jairam Ramesh seems to have belief in keeping his political rivals close in order to ward off troubles by using his personal good-will and persuasive communication skills.

This was apparent when Ramesh had an unusual meeting with former president of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Rajnath Singh on Friday morning.

Although, the officials refused to give details of the rural minister’s breakfast meeting with Singh, the grapewine had it that Ramesh tried to garner the BJP support to the controversial Land Acquisition, resettlement and Rehabilitation Bill of his ministry.

Besides other Opposition parties including UPA ally Trinamool Congress, the BJP has reservations to some of the provisions of the Bill.

The controversial Bill is expected to be tabled in Parliament in this budget session. Parliamentary Standing Committee which is examining the Bill is likely to table its report very soon.

Singh has been at the forefront of his party’s land-related agitations. He also is considered to be an important leader in shaping the BJP’s position on the issues of farmers.

If Ramesh succeeds in getting the main Opposition on board through Singh, he would be able to surmount the biggest hurdle lying in the passage of the Bill.

Prakash Kumar, New Delhi

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