Off the record

Twitter friends

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, both cannot resist using Twitter to tell the world their often politically loaded exchanges even if it is just a New Year greeting. Modi chose the microblogging site to say he had received “very touching” New Year greetings from “Didi”, that too in Gujarati.  “Received very touching New Year greetings from @MamataOfficial ji & that too in Gujarati! I thank Mamata Didi & wish her a great 2016,” Modi tweeted.

Mamata was no doubt happy that Modi liked it. Soon after, she tweeted, “Glad you liked the New Year greetings I sent you in Gujarati. Thanks too @narendramodi ji for the greetings you sent me in Bengali.” Mind you, when this exchange was on, the leaders of both the parties were at each other’s throat in TV debates over the recent violence in Malda, close to Bangladesh border.
Shekhar Iyer, New Delhi

Next in line

An impending Cabinet reshuffle is a perennial and speculative subject for the news-hungry media but Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s plans are best known to him. Nevertheless, a foreign news agency chose to run a story about the possibility of a new finance minister, that too with a hardly a month left for the Budget. There were not just red faces in the North Block and the PM’s Office.

An annoyed Power and Coal Minister Piyush Goyal, who was named the likely successor to Arun Jaitley, had a hard time convincing some TV editors to take off the story. Some BJP leaders, however, could not help wondering whether inspiration for the story came from Goyal himself, which named him as one the who would be rewarded for his performance as he was “being groomed for his next big role.”
SI, New Delhi

No laughing matter

For anyone looking to gauge the creative freedom Kerala offers its artists, the state’s mimicry performers could be a good starting point. Many of them have made careers mimicking prominent political leaders, often giving funny but biting, unflattering takes on the physical and ideological patterns of these leaders. Some of the leaders have also acknowledged that they enjoyed watching their mimicked versions.

This is precisely why a recent row involving Minister for Transport and Cinema Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan and trolls, over his alleged tendency to mispronounce names and words, could be a first of sorts. When mimicry artistes took on Radhakrishnan over this tendency, at an event which had him in the audience, it did not leave the minister amused. La-ter, Radhakrishnan reacted to another round of trolls saying that they couldn’t find anything else about him to criticise. The mimicry artist in question has since made an apology. The trolls haven’t stopped.
R Krishnakumar, Thiruvananthapuram

Cut short

NITI Aayog member Ramesh Chand appeared visibly surprised when he was asked by Agriculture Minister Radha-mohan Singh to keep his key-note address short at the national conference in Gangtok. The three-day conference was deliberating challenges faced by farmers and Chand was suggesting some solutions to tackle the same. As Chand dwelt on improving water use efficiency, Singh – through a messenger – indicated the expert to wind up, which the former promptly did. While Chand flagged key issues faced by farmers, the minister spoke at length about steps taken by the Modi government to improve agriculture in the past 20 months.
Sagar Kulkarni, Gangtok.

Students’ might

College and university campuses are places where students take part in political movements, honing their skills for a future in politics, mainstream or otherwise. Jadavpur University, known as a hotbed of political activities and active participation in the Naxalite movement  since the 1960s, is one such campus. Couple of weeks ago, its students took to a new form of movement when some of them got into an argument with a few auto rickshaw drivers right outside the campus at south Kolkata, which falls at the intersection of a long route.

Much to the chagrin of commuters, auto rickshaw drivers had decided within themselves to break the route in front of the campus and let their compatriots from the next stretch take up passengers, instead of running the total stretch. Peev-ed with this, some Jadavpur University students hijacked four auto rickshaws, along with their drivers, for more than 10 hours to teach the errant and high-handed men a lesson. Even though the driver's union is affiliated to the ruling party, all they could do was fume in frustration with party not willing to rein in the might of the students in view of the forthcoming Assembly elections.
Drimi Chaudhuri, Kolkata

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