Off the Record

Sharp retort

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj recounted her experience at the UN General Assembly at a recent Cabinet meeting. Her earlier remark at the UNGA, “We made IITs, IIMs, Pakistan made LeT and Hizbul Mujahideen,” went viral, inviting tweets of praise from Prime Minister Modi, Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.

Sushma, who writes her own speeches, also used the opportunity at the UN to recount the development measures of the Modi government while slamming Pakistan for incubating terrorism. Sushma’s retort to Pakistan PM Shahid Khaqan Abbasi’s address, in which he called on India to stop “fuelling terror” in his country, was sharp. While senior ministers congratulated Sushma, Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi thanked her for “recognising the Congress’s great vision and legacy” in her speech.

Shekhar Iyer, New Delhi

Changing track?

Eyebrows were raised when Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar struck a discordant note with the Centre’s reported move to wind up Marhaura diesel locomotive factory in Saran district. The project was earlier proposed by Lalu Prasad, when he was the Railway Minister under UPA-I, to be set up at his erstwhile Lok Sabha constituency.

The Centre wants to wind up the diesel project so as to give way to electrification. “It will take time for Railways to ensure complete electrification. Till that time, diesel engines cannot be discarded. There is a market for them throughout the world,” said Nitish. An amused Lalu, cornered of late, must be pleased over his arch-rival Nitish batting for his pet project.

Abhay Kumar, Patna

Shotgun’s salvo

Having backed former finance minister Yashwant Sinha to the hilt on the issue of economic crisis, Lok Sabha MP Shatrughan Sinha, had a word of advice for Narendra Modi too. “It’s high time and the right time for the Prime Minister to face people as well as media and answer questions at a real press conference,” suggested Shotgun. Known to be too frank and outspoken, Shatru asked Modi to “take care of the problems being faced by the middle class, the traders, small businesses....throughout the country.”

“Yashwant Sinha has shown the mirror to the government and has hit the nail right on the head. It would be childish to be dismissive of or make light of his utterances,” said Shatru who, of late, has made more shatrus (enemies) than friends within the BJP.

AK, Patna

Saffronised holidays

Education institutions, including government schools and state-run universities, in Rajasthan will not observe a holiday on the occasion of Gandhi Jayanti (October 2) this year. Instead, the state government has directed teachers and students to clean up their schools. For state universities, the holiday calendar has been issued by the Raj Bhavan according to which, the universities will be closed on October 1 for Muharram and from October 13 to 21 for Diwali.

Interestingly, the state has also declared holidays on the birth anniversaries of Ramdev (folk deity of Rajasthan), Guru Nanak Dev, B R Ambedkar, Mahavira Jayanti and Maharana Pratap Jayanti. Even as the state government is going out of its way to promote PM Modi’s ambitious Swachh Bharat Abhiyan in education institutions, the state Congress has accused the Vasundhara Raje-led BJP government of saffronising the educational setup, including textbooks and activities.

Tabeenah Anjum, Jaipur

Once a VIP...

A senior officer of the Human Resource Development Ministry faced the ire of a BJP MP from Uttar Pradesh as he “failed to pay due attention” to the leader when he passed by him on the corridors of the ministry. “How dare you ignore an MP. I am passing by and you do not even bother to acknowledge me,” the BJP leader fumed. “I am sorry, sir. I did not see you, sir. I am sorry...” the officer kept apologising until other ministry staff pacified the BJP leader.

Interestingly, the incident comes months after the coveted “lal batti” atop cars of the President, the prime minister and down to the bureaucrats were banned by the government. Prime Minister Narendra Modi then called it as a move to replace VIP culture with “EPI (Every Person is Important) culture.”

Prakash Kumar, New Delhi

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