Off the record

Amma in Delhi

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalitha’s flagship Amma Unavagam (budget canteen), that serves tiffin and meals at subsidised rates, made its appearance in Delhi to mark the Pongal festivities there. At Tamil Nadu Bhavan, enthusiastic state officials opened a canteen to showcase the CM’s trailblazer model for urban food security by selling idlis with sambar for one rupee, and lemon rice and curd rice for Rs 5 a plate. Cooks and provisions were flown in from Chennai to run the canteen for three days.

With Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal deciding to follow her model and open such restaurants in the capital, there was a lot of rush though the Tamil Nadu Bhavan officials had not publicised their show. They also put up stalls to showcase ‘Amma Marundhagam’ (Amma pharmacy) that makes available drugs at a cheap rate, as well as Amma Salt, which sells fortified salt at Rs 10 a kg. With the state going to polls in three months, Amma Unavagam is not just a talking point in Tamil Nadu but also in Delhi, thanks to the festival.
Shekhar Iyer, New Delhi

Flying kites, and rumours

On Makar Sankranti, along with the entire state of Gujarat, political pundits and a section of media too joined in the celebrations by “flying kites”, albeit not literally. They spread the message that the current nati-onal president of the BJP, Amit Shah, would be taking oath as Gujarat CM on Sunday, January 17, replacing Anandiben Patel. RSS man and general secretary of BJP Ram Madhav, was tipped to take over as the BJP president. And Subramanian Swamy – seen by many as trying hard to find a berth in the Modi government – would finally make it as India’s new commerce minister!

What fuelled the fire was the fact that Anandiben Patel has been facing an uphill task in the wake of the Patel quota stir in the state, that saw the BJP lose its rural stronghold in the state after a gap of over two decades. But it seems Anandiben is staying put as CM of Gujarat, after all. At least, for now.
Sunil Raghu, Ahmedabad

Age no bar

A day before Lalu Prasad was elected president of the Rashtriya Janata Dal for the ninth consecutive term, the party amended its constitution to allow even a 15-year-old to become an RJD member. Earlier, the age limit was 18 years, in adherence to the Indian Constitution that has fixed 18 years as the minimum age for voting. The RJD has thus become the first political party in the country to have members at 15 years of age.
Explaining the rationale behind such a move, Bihar’s Deputy CM Tejaswi Yadav said during the Assembly election, he met several youth in the age group of 16-17 who wanted to become RJD members but could not do so due to age bar. “Having watched the eagerness among young budding leaders, we decided to amend our constitution,” he put the record straight.
Abhay Kumar, Patna

Nagpur bond

Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari cannot but recall his association with CPI leader A B Bardhan, who passed away at the age of 92 on January 2. Gadkari not only credits Bardhan’s “inspiring and fiery speech”, which he heard as a schoolboy, as one of the reasons behind his decision to pursue a career in politics, but also recalls that when he became the BJP president, he went to seek Bardhan’s blessings at the CPI office.

“Today, we don’t have many leaders whose feet we would touch for blessings. But Bardhan was one,” said Gadkari. What brought Gadkari and Bardhan together is their fond association with the orange city of Nagpur. If Gadkari began his political life as a boy who pasted posters during the Emergency, Bardhan started with trade union movement out of Nagpur.
SI, New Delhi

Costly mistake

Senior BJP leader and Union Tribal Welfare Minister Joel Oram is known for his critical comments against Naveen Patnaik and the BJD government in Odisha. However, recently one such comment boome-ranged and hit his party hard. “The CBI investigation into the mining and chit fund scams would have consumed the BJD by now but for the mercy of our government at the Centre”, Oram told a local TV channel clearly indicating that the Modi-led NDA government had extended a helping hand to the Patnaik administration on the issue.

The senior tribal leader’s remark gave an excellent opportunity to the main opposition party, the Congress, to reiterate that BJD-BJP were having an under the table deal on the twin scam despite their public opposition to each other. Oram made an attempt to rectify his statement later but the damage had already been done.
S T Beuria, Bhubaneswar

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