Off the record

Camera-shy politicos

Things have drastically changed. Earlier, they used to roam around to find out if someone needs a byte. Be it Parliament House or partyheadquarter, every location had plenty of Congress leaders to provide help to mediapersons.

The atmosphere has completely changed. Now, everyone tries to be away from camera. People are missing many camera friendly faces.

After the Anna movement  Kapil Sibal went into hiding. Coalgate and now railgate has sent regulars, including spokespersons, into hibernation and channels are now largely dependent on bytes of those who have been left with no power in the party.

Leaders like Manishankar Aiyar or Jagdambika Pal are the only options. Both Pawan Bansal and Ashwini Kumar are known media-savvy leaders but situation have forced them into hiding.

Anil Sinha, New Delhi

Teacher at 90

This is something as offbeat as parallel, art cinema. A widely respected and veteran Parliamentarian from Tamil Nadu, Era Sezhiyan, who turned 90  recently, is in for another feat.

Sezhiyan is perhaps the first nonagenarian politician and public figure in post-Independent India to be honoured with a University Professorship. “He is now Prof. Sezhiyan and teaches a course on ‘Ethics and Values’ at VIT University, Vellore,” said former MP and the University’s founder G Vishwanathan at a function here to felicitate Sezhiyan turning 90 years.

Starting his political life in the DMK under C N Annadurai’s inspiration, Sezhiyan, was in Parliament for 22 years as member of both its Houses. He opposed the Emergency and joined the Janata Party and the Janata Dal, even while upholding democratic and constitutional values all through.

Known to be an expert ready-reckoner on Constitutional Issues in Parliament and outside, his friends and peers recalled how Sezhiyan, of late, had even unmindful of his advancing age, helped to re-print the “Shah Commission Report” on the “Emergency Excesses”, after the Central Government had maintained that the “original copy was lost”. A rare gentleman politician during turbulent times, Sezhiyan, his friends underscored, was also the “best person now to guide the Youth” through his latest Teaching assignment.
M R Venkatesh, Chennai

Modi-fied Lalu

A day after he sustained head injuries while travelling in his sports utility vehicle (SUV), Lalu Prasad was recuperating at his Patna residence when the telephone operator came running: “Sir, Modi ji’s phone…”

“Modi? Achcha, Sushil Modi?” Lalu remarked.

“No Sir, It’s Narendra Modi,” the operator clarified.

“Kya, Narendra Modi…achcha baat karao (okay, let me talk),” said Lalu as he thanked the Gujarat chief minister for making a courtesy call to inquire after his health.

This set the tongues wagging as Lalu has not missed a single opportunity in deriding Modi in the last one decade. Still, Modi was gracious enough to have called him up and enquired, “How did it (accident) happen? Hope the injuries are not severe.”

Lalu would not have revealed to have received a call from Modi had the Gujarat chief minister not tweeted: “Spoke to Laluji this morning. Hope he gets back to the best of health soon.”

Soon thereafter, Bihar’s own Modi – Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi - too called Lalu. So did Sonia’s political secretary Ahmed Patel, Shatrughan Sinha, Yashwant Sinha and Mamata Banerjee.

But the icing on the cake was a call from the Prime Minister. Lalu was in the midst of addressing a gathering for his proposed May 15 RJD rally when the PM made a phone call on Saturday to ask about his well-being. “Apart from courtesy call, Manmohan Singh must be relieved that not one shred of bribery charge was levelled against Laluji when he was Railway Minister in UPA I, unlike the present incumbent Pawan Bansal who has caused a huge embarrassment to the Congress,” said one of the Lalu’s closest aide.
Abhay Kumar, Patna

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