off the record

Report card ceremony

Have faith in Mamata Banerjee to create a stir not just in public but also behind closed doors. The Chief Minister of West Bengal announced her decision to grade her ministers and asked all of them to be present at a ‘report card’ ceremony, which insiders say, reminded minsters of their school days.

With the average age being 50, the ministers lined up in their Sunday best (even though it was Friday) and waited with bated breath to hear didi announce their names according to their scores.

Those who fared well beamed with pride. The rest stood like errant schoolboys, head bowed down, as ‘class teacher’ Mamata scolded them for poor performance.
A minister, who was graded ‘F’, reportedly looked more embarrassed than the rest after the CM told him to return to a classroom to learn how to manage projects. It’s doubtful, however, that any usual school would teach them how to spend funds according to their budgetary allocations.

Drimi Chaudhuri, Kolkata  
All about the post

It was in a public function earlier this month much after Sumit Bose was promoted as the new finance secretary that the organisers (all government officials) kept addressing him as the revenue secretary. But, the climax came when the chief of Central Board of Excise and Customs kept addressing him repeatedly only as the revenue secretary.

Though Bose continues to hold the post of revenue secretary, the new designation is that of a seniority and for all practical purposes he ought to be called as a finance secretary now.

The confusion was, however, cleared and error rectified when Finance Minister P Chidambaram came up for his key-note address at the function and referred to him as finance secretary.

Annapurna Singh,
New Delhi

Yechury’s US connection

Notwithstanding being one of the front line Left leaders spitting fire against US policies, CPM Polit Bureau member and Rajya Sabha MP Sitaram Yechury has a ten-year multi-entry visa for the USA. This was made public by none other than Yechury himself while participating in a discussion in the House earlier this week.

Yechury said his boarding pass always came with four “S”s printed on it -- fourth level of security – possibly because of Washington's historical mistrust of the communists. But despite being an ardent critic of the US policies, Yechury said he went through the grind every time. “I always convince myself that there have been cabinet ministers of either the NDA regime or the present UPA regime, who have been subjected to this,” Yechury said.
Some of his party seniors and contemporaries like Harkishan Singh Surjeet, Jyoti Basu and Buddhadeb Bhattacharaya barely paid a visit to Uncle Sam in their entire career. Only Basu, as a chief minister, is known to have travelled to the USA once to attract investment.

Kalyan Ray, New Delhi

Little business

Uttarakhand Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna has a long list of ‘well-wishers’ who want him to be out of state soon. It is not without any reason that every now and then talks are there of replacing him.

However, the delicate balance in favour of the Congress in the Uttarakhand Assembly seems to be holding the leadership from affecting any change in the hill state.

Bahuguna’s appointment in March last year was controversial as a majority of the Congress MLAs were backing the amiable Harish Rawat. This is the second time in as many months the political grapevine was abuzz talk of Bahuguna’s replacement but again the AICC had to step in to dub these as mere rumours.

The recently concluded Winter Session of Parliament saw MPs resorting to innovative ways ensure that they are seen and heard amid the pandemonium, which was the order of the day during the 10-day session. Several members chose to read out in detail the papers listed against their name which were to be placed before Parliament whenever the presiding officer called their name. What began as a one off incident soon went viral with a number of members resorting to the method which ensured that the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha TV cameras focussed on them till they read out the details as protests continued in the Well of both the Houses. Barring the passage of the Lokpal Bill, Parliament conducted little legislative business in the brief session.

Sagar Kulkarni, New Delhi

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