off the record...

Birthday trip for PM

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will in fact fly from Frankfurt to Washington on his 81st birthday on September 26. He will cut the cake onboard Air India One – his special aircraft. And the next day he is expected to receive belated birthday greetings from US President Barack Obama.

Singh will leave New Delhi on Wednesday on a five-day tour to Washington and New York for a bilateral visit to the US as well as to attend the 68th session of the United Nations General Assembly. He will have a stopover in Frankfurt on Wednesday and fly to Washington on Thursday, which happens to be his birthday. His wife, Gursharan Kaur, will be accompanying him on the tour, which may be his last to the US in his second term in office.

Singh was born on September 26, 1932, at Gah, which is now in Punjab province of Pakistan.

This is the third time Singh will be flying on his birthday. He had celebrated his 77th birthday in 2009 onboard the Air India One, while returning from G20 Summit in Pittsburgh and heading to Geneva. He had done the same in 2011 while flying from New York to Frankfurt on his way back to New Delhi after attending the 66th session of the UNGA. He had also been in New York to address the UNGA on his 76th birthday in 2008.

Anirban Bhaumik, Delhi

Ajit Singh, the greatest victim

The other day, there was a meeting on Muzaffarnagar riots. Some well meaning people in Delhi sat with concerned people from western Uttar Pradesh to deliberate on peace initiative and rehabilitation of displaced people. All the people from the area spoke on how Mulayam Singh and his son allowed riots and BJP leader pour oil to fuel up it.   
Disappointment was all pervasive.

I was wondering amid this bitter criticism of political parties and leaders, no one referred to Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) leader Ajit Singh as an important player in the area. All of them just mentioned his name here and there. It is not long ago that he was the most important player in the area. Also, there was a time when his father, Charan Singh, was the undisputed leader of the entire area. Ajit Singh inherited the legacy.

“How did he lose so badly?  I asked someone who knew the RLD leader very closely.
“Riots have made him a displaced politician. Others including Mulyam do not depend on western UP, so it may not affect their career so badly. He depends on the area but after these incidents he is bound to face a political exile; neither Jat, nor Muslims  will vote for him. He is the real victim,” the man smiled.

Anil Sinha, New Delhi

Row over Modi bashing

A day after Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar dismissed Narendra Modi’s blitz as hype, the BJP has reacted strongly and said that the JD (U) strongman was not able to read properly which way the wind was blowing.

“Nitish has re-started blog writing, but he is still not aware which way the wind is blowing. He will have to attend Modi’s proposed rally in Patna next month to know exactly which way the tide had turned,” remarked BJP general secretary and Rajya Sabha member Rajiv Pratap Rudy.

Actually, the fresh round of acrimony started when Nitish, after returning from New Delhi, said, “Blower chal raha hai aaj kal. (These days blower is at work). You might think the wind is real, but it is actually coming from a blower.” Though he did not take his Gujarat counterpart’s name, but Nitish’s fresh bout was in an oblique reference to the hype and hoopla created in the name of NaMo by a large section of media and the BJP leaders.

But the scathing criticism by Rudy has found no counter-reaction from Nitish. In fact, Nitish never shared a good working relationship with the BJP MP who was Union Civil Aviation Minister in the same Vajpayee’s ministry in which Nitish was Railway Minister.

“Don’t expect Nitish ji to join issues with junior BJP leaders. When the time comes, he (Nitish) will take the wind out of BJP’s sails,” said one of his key aides.

Abhay Kumar, Patna

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