off the record

War of words

“If you can’t make friends, at least don’t make enemies,” goes the age-old saying. But the JD(U) strongman Nitish Kumar is doing exactly the opposite.

Amid speculations that he may ditch the BJP after Assembly polls and join hands with the UPA, the Bihar chief minister shot in his foot when he challenged Sonia Gandhi hours after she said that the Centre had doled out substantial sum for Bihar’s development.

“Which extra fund she is talking about has been released by the Centre? Bihar, like any other state, has got what is admissible to it by the Finance Commission-driven formula,” Nitish shot back. “The Centre’s largesse is a constitutional arrangement and it is not given to Bihar either at the mercy of Manmohan Singh or Sonia Gandhi.”

Any adverse comment on ‘Madam’ was enough for the lesser mortals in Congress to launch a vitriolic diatribe against the Bihar chief minister.

“Under the Rural Development and Panchayat Raj head, the UPA has provided Rs 19,000 crore to Bihar as against Rs 2,957 crore given by Vajpayee regime,” said Union minister and in-charge of Bihar affairs Mukul Wasnik.

Terming Nitish’s claim (that the Centre gave only Rs 1,000 crore during Kosi flood) as a bundle of lies, the Congress leader put the record straight. “The Centre had given Rs 3,800 crore and 1.5 lakh tonnes of foodgrains during Kosi tragedy. Nitish should, therefore, immediately stop this misinformation campaign.” averred Wasnik.

Abhay Kumar, Patna

Two governors

Two recent anecdotes about two governors in Chennai, the present occupant of the Raj Bhavan, Surjit Singh Barnala, and Gopal Krishna Gandhi, former West Bengal governor, who has made Chennai his home after retirement, may go a long way in proving the lingering whiff of ‘Independence’ of the gubernatorial office.

Barnala, a landscape painter, has not only been giving the grand colonial structure a face-lift in his own way like setting up a ‘herbal garden’, but also symbolically driving home a lesson or two to remind regional politicians about the role of national leaders in the making of modern India. It calls for a brave heart in a socio-political milieu known for deifying only its ‘Tamil heroes’.

On Independence Day, Barnala quietly unveiled a statue of late President Rajendra Prasad inside the Raj Bhavan, more than a year after a similar statue for Sardar Patel had been put up inside the complex.

Gandhi did something even more offbeat to drive home his commitment to complete intellectual honesty and independence. When S Pannerselvam, head of Madras University’s philosophy department, requested him to be the chief guest at a symposium being planned for October on ‘Reading Mahatma Gandhi in Post-Modern Times’, he politely turned it down, saying it would not be in the fitness of things for him to come and speak on his own grandfather!

M R Venkatesh, Chennai

What a fall

Not many Congress leaders would envy the present state of Muralidharan, son of former chief minister K Karunakaran. A three-time MP to PCC chief to minister, Murali hopped and jumped from the Congress to NCP to nowhere. The clout that he wielded during his father’s heydays is history.

Karunakaran saw sense and just about managed to return to his parent party. However, Murali stay put for some more time in the NCP and has been in no-man’s land ever since he left it in the hope of returning to the Congress. It has been more than two years since he has been in the  wilderness making all sorts of noises and trips to Delhi to please the AICC bosses, but to no avail. “All I am asking for is a Congress membership for Rs 3,’’ he said sometime last year. Now, he has declared that he will fast unto death in front of the KPCC office if he is not admitted back before March 8.

R Gopakumar, Thiru’puram

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