Off the record

Varanasi in frame

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley was silent in his Budget on many projects that the Narendra Modi government has had in mind. This was due to the Election Commission’s fiat not to make any mention of poll-bound states.

Though Uttar Pradesh, where Modi’s Lok Sabha constituency of Varanasi is situated, did not figure anywhere,  officials say a mega plan to integrate various modes of transport will start being executed in the holy city. Modi has put Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari on the job.

Varanasi is also the starting point of a plan to develop 1,620 km of the Ganga inland waterway. The river’s stretch up to Haldia in Bengal will have 30 ports. Recently, when visiting Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, was told about Gadkari's work, he apparently asked for his services to be spared for some of his ideas in Abu Dhabi.

Shekhar Iyer, New Delhi

Note ban impact

The effects of note ban appear to have taken a toll on electioneering in Uttarakhand. A drive through rural parts of the state are a giveaway - very few banners and party flags have been put up in villages in the plains as well as the hills.

Political functionaries also put part of the blame on the tight monitoring by the Election Commission. No matter how many flags were put up, the poll authority removes them. You will find party flags dumped in the collector's office, said a Congress leader. Others blame it on note ban and strict RBI regulations on cash withdrawal. With restrictions eased after some tough talk by the EC, leaders are hoping colour will return to campaign in its final leg. 

Sagar Kulkarni, Dehradun

Candid admission

Contestants in the elections are known for promising moon to the electorate. It is another matter that they forget about their promises once elected. But this independent candidate in the UP polls, who is contesting from Agra (South), was quite candid when he quipped he had taken a plunge into electoral politics to “make money”.

“I have joined politics because I want to become rich,” he said. On how he proposed to make money, Chaudhary said, “I will find ways to fool the people,” he said. “That's what the politicians do.” The poll officials have taken note of the remarks. Now that he has made his intention clear, it remains to be seen if the people give him a chance to fool them.

Sanjay Pandey, Lucknow

Saying goodbye

Before signing off as US ambassador, Richard Verma organised a meet for alumni of Pennsylvania-based Lehigh University on January 17.  Verma, who landed in New Delhi in 2014, was an undergraduate student at Lehigh nearly about three decades ago. Among the list of 40 alma mater who are who’s who in their own fields, were at least two invitees from India.

One was Ritu Raj Patil and the other Ajinkya Naik - both owners of educational institutes in Maharastra. The alumni meet which took place inside the highly fortified US embassy in Chanakyapuri was aimed at providing opportunities for networking, with Lehigh University shopping for opportunity to open its campus in India, said sources who participated in the event. The foreign university has a tie-up with the academic institution of Naik for providing content and faculty backup.

Dalip Singh, New Delhi

Opposition bonhomie

The Opposition has a strategy in place to tackle the government during the discussion on Motion of Thanks to the President's Address in Rajya Sabha. They are not firing all cylinders at the same time as they spaced out their speakers on three days. While Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad and Leader of Trinamool Congress (TMC) Derek O’Brien spoke on Thursday, the Opposition will field JD(U)’ s Sharad Yadav and CPM’ s Sitaram Yechury on Monday. Tuesday will also see heavyweights being fielded.

The opposition did not want all its effective speakers to finish speeches in a single day and yield space to the government. Also, the Rajya Sabha is witnessing increasing bonhomie between the Congress and the TMC.

Shemin Joy, New Delhi

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