Off the Record

Mamata’s left avatar!

Mamata Banerjee was at her best, addressing the running staff convention organised by All India Railwaymen’s Federation — which had played the legendary role of conducting the 1974 railway strike under the leadership of George Fernandes. Mamata wanted to show how friendly she had been to her employees. She asserted how she never allowed privatisation in her department despite pressures.

She had to prove that she is as credible a trade unionist as her left counterparts are. No one can claim to be a firebrand trade union leader unless he gives a call for strike or similar programme; and no minister can give such a call. Obviously she had to invoke memories of her association with labour movements in the past.

Her new avatar is worrying the left leaders. One old trade unionist remarked, “Ideology hardly helps you politically. V P Singh had never been a socialist but he implemented Mandal Commission report. Political compulsions led him to do that. Mamata is doing the same. She has to dislodge a left government, which can only be done by playing left.”
Brinda Karat has written a letter to the prime minister alleging a Trinmool MP’s links with Nandigram Maoists. Are Left leaders too helping her building up a left image by branding her to be a Maoist sympathiser?
Anil Sinha, New Delhi

Tennis or cricket?

External Affairs Minister S M Krishna is well-known for his passion for tennis.
A day before Indo-Pak foreign minister level talks in Islamabad, a journalist asked him if talks with his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mahmood Qureshi could result in resumption of cricket between the two neighbours.

Pat came the reply: “Well, I don’t know if Qureshi loves to play tennis. If he does… we can have a friendly tennis match”.

But what about cricket? The unrelenting scribe made yet another attempt to get a less undiplomatic response from the external affairs minister.

Krishna then said that India and Pakistan could resume playing cricket only after the overall relation between the two neighbours improved.

And, after the spectacular disaster the talks ended in, nobody was in doubt that it was definitely neither time for cricket, nor for tennis.
Anirban Bhaumik, New Delhi

All glitter, but no coal

Union Minister of State for Coal Sriprakash Jaiswal during his Bihar visit rubbished Nitish Kumar’s charge that the Centre was not providing coal linkages for setting up thermal power plants in the state.

“The Centre has already cleared coal linkages for four power plants in Bihar, and provided two coal blocks — Orma Pahari Tola and Saraiya Koyatand in Jharkhand — having coal reserve of 700 million tonnes and 200 million tonnes respectively to Bihar State Mining Development Corporation in 2006 and 2007,” Jaiswal said.

But Deputy Chief Minister and BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi was quick to call Jaiswal’s bluff. “It’s true that coal blocks were provided to us, but they are of no use. Thermal power plants need non-coking coal mines, but the ones which were given to Bihar is coking coal variety, which is more useful for setting up steel industry,” argued Modi.
Modi said another hindrance in extracting coal from Saraiya Koyatand was the delay in getting clearance from the forest and environment department.

The ruling partner JD(U) was more scathing. “For the last five years, the Congress-led UPA never cared for Bihar. Now that Assembly polls are due, these Union ministers are appearing here like monsoon frogs,” said senior JD(U) leader and party spokesperson Shyam Razak.
Abhay Kumar, Patna

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