Off the record

Off the record

Life and death

A gaffe by doctors in Punjab left the State government red-faced. A former Punjab minister, Satpal Saini, 74, was declared “dead” on Thursday. The minister’s “body” was  transported in a van to his native place for burial. The Punjab government wasted no time and was quick to issue a press release expressing deep condolences.
Then suddenly things changed. On the way, the minister came “alive”. He started breathing and was rushed to a local hospital by shocked family members. Senior Punjab ministers led by Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal were left clearly embarrassed for expressing condolences for a living person. But the wrong had been inadvertently done. The press release was withdrawn later in the day. Two days later on Saturday, Saini died. This time, the condolences were apt, and needed.

Gautham Dheer, Chandigarh

Dignity intact

Leading by personal example,  Justice K Chandru of the Madras High Court (MHC), stunned his legal peers, both in the bench and in the bar, by signing off on his retirement day on Friday with a Gandhian-like simplicity that won him many more hearts.

On his last working day at the MHC, the progressive judge gave up his formal attire as well. He changed over into his dhoti and shirt. Justice Chandru, who a few years back was the first judge of the MHC to put up his assets statement on the High Court’s website when the cry was for greater transparency, had created a record of sorts in disposing of nearly 96,000 cases in his tenure as judge since July 31, 2006.  Before leaving, Justice Chandru submitted a final declaration of his assets to the acting Chief Justice R K Agarwal, and then had a brief chat with the media. More surprisingly, he ambled across the NSC Bose Road to have coffee with his old friends and then took a suburban train back home.

M R Venkatesh, Chennai

Opening up

In Kerala, last week a local daily reported that a minister had been slapped by the husband of his girlfriend. On the day the report appeared, government chief whip P C George hurriedly called a press conference at his home and disclosed the minister is K B Ganesh Kumar who holds the forest portfolio. His justification for the voluntary disclosure was that he could not tolerate womanisers.

 The sex scandal has put the UDF which enjoys only wafer-thin majority in the Assembly, in a fix. Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and other senior UDF leaders immediately started fire fighting operations. But George continued to keep alive the political drama by dropping more beans. He was settling a score with Kumar for rejecting his plea to repeal the forest department decision to take over the plantations whose lease period had expired. But to his utter shock, George found himself landed in a sex scandal.

 KR Gowri, one of the senior most political leaders in the State said that when George, was a greenhorn in the Assembly in the early eighties, a woman carrying a child came to the Assembly complex searching for him. Finally, Gowri settled the issue by paying the woman Rs 2,000.  Bullying George shielded himself accusing Gowri’s memory, but not much loose talk now.  

Jayaprakash K,

Strong support

The sudden transfer of Bihar Governor Devanand Konwar to Tripura has not surprised many as he had always been at loggerheads with the Nitish regime throughout his controversial 44-month tenure in the State. But after being asked to swap charges with Tripura Governor D Y Patil, he will now serve the north-eastern State for the remaining period of his five-year term.

By appointing Patil the Bihar Governor, the Congress has extended another olive branch to JD (U) strongman Nitish Kumar, who had strained ties with Konwar over the appointments of eight vice-chancellors in different universities. The Congress, which sees Nitish as a potential ally in the 2014 post-poll scenario, had earlier agreed to “evolve a new criterion for determining the backwardness of the states”, a demand constantly made by the Bihar Chief Minister. Signalling further cementing of ties between the two rivals, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh last week praised Nitish for the fast growth rate in Bihar.

Of all the help pouring in from the Congress-led UPA, a lot of discomfort must have gripped the BJP, which is veering around Narendra Modi – a bete noire of Nitish – for the main battle in 2014. With the trust deficit between the two allies of the NDA increasing fast, the saffron party can now surely make out which way the wind is blowing.

Abhay Kumar, Patna