Nora Chopra is a senior journalist with a finger on the pulse of the Indian political scene

Khurshid book claims anna was ready to campaign for Congress

In his upcoming book, The Other Side of the Mountain, former Union minister Salman Khurshid of the Congress claims that Arvind Kejriwal broke off ties with Anna Hazare after finding out the latter's secret deal to campaign for the Congress. Khurshid writes that as law minister, he had approached Anna for a meeting. Anna agreed to the meeting on the condition that nobody was to know about it. When Kiran Bedi wanted to go with Anna, the anti-corruption crusader apparently told her that he was going to meet a saint, and that he had been told to come alone. Khurshid claims that when he asked about this, Anna simply said, "There is no harm in sometimes lying for the sake of the nation." Khurshid too apparently was economical with the truth to get rid of his SPG. He told them his wife's aunt had died and he did not want to take the SPG to the funeral. At the meeting, Khurshid claims, Anna agreed to campaign for the Congress, provided Prime Minister Manmohan Singh invited him to do so in writing. Since Singh was reluctant, V. Narayanasamy, the Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office, wrote the letter. However, the letter was delivered to Arvind Kejriwal by mistake. An infuriated Kejriwal went on to break ties with Anna, claims Khurshid. Salman Khurshid himself narrated all this to journalists covering the Congress.

Jay Panda lobbies for railway to Paradip

Biju Janata Dal MP Baijayant "Jay" Panda met Environment and Forests Minister Prakash Javadekar twice in the last month. It seems that Panda is keen to get the Paradip-Haridaspur railway track completed as that will help carry raw materials to the proposed Posco plant near Paradip. Panda has played a role in bringing Posco to Orissa. His family business of Indian Metals and Ferro Alloys will also benefit from the track. Of late, Panda has been making overtures to BJP leaders, to the consternation of Naveen Patnaik. According to BJD watchers, the Orissa CM is watching closely and waiting to strike.

Amit Mitra lacks authority

West Bengal Finance Minister Amit Mitra is a frustrated man. He does not have any authority and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee does not seem to have any faith in him. Her government's poor policy-making and the state's unruly labour are pushing investors away, officials say. Currently the Finance Department is busy figuring out how to waive the stamp duty on the registration of the privatised Lake Market Complex in South Kolkata. Mamata's government had scrapped the lease model put in place by the CPI(M) and sold the market to a private builder, who is now demanding that the government waive the stamp duty, worth Rs 10 cr.

Congress upset over Kuka Paray links

The Congress leadership in Jammu and Kashmir is upset with the party high command for giving tickets to Usman Majeed and Imtiaz Paray. Majeed is an ex militant and an associate of militant-turned-politician Kuka Paray. Imtiaz is Kuka Paray's son and is fighting from Sonawari. Majeed is being fielded from Bandipora. The state leaders feel that when the BJP is making inroads in J&K and has not given any tickets to people with controversial backgrounds, the Congress should be more careful. Meanwhile the BJP is toying with the idea of projecting Union minister Jitendra Singh as its chief ministerial candidate.

Ranjit trying for an extension

CBI chief Ranjit Sinha is looking to get a two-three-month extension, until a Leader of the Opposition is chosen in the Lok Sabha and a new CBI chief is selected. Sinha is likely to be replaced by Rajasthan-cadre 1977 batch IPS officer Omendra Bhardwaj,who is reported to be backed by the RSS.

Karan Singh’s dilemma

Congress leaders have been taunting Karan Singh about his son Ajatshatru's decision to join the BJP. Karan Singh made matters worse for himself by telling the Congress high command that they should invite the BJP to participate in Jawaharlal Nehru's 125th birth anniversary celebrations. Congress insiders claim that Karan Singh is now left with only two options: join the BJP or retire.

Media seeks out Vadakkan

AICC media secretary Tom Vadakkan is more sought after by the media than even the party's general secretaries. At Rajdeep Sardesai's recent book launch, several senior general secretaries such as Digvijaya Singh had to stand outside because the hall was packed. But when Vadakkan arrived, he was ushered right in, and Sardesai's wife Sagarika Ghose vacated her chair for him. Last week, when a prominent news anchor visited the Congress headquarters in Delhi, he went straight to Vadakkan's room, without meeting any of the general secretaries. The two were closeted for a whole hour. Still, the media department is under the scanner for failing to get much coverage of the Congress' celebration of Jawaharlal Nehru's 125th birth anniversary.

Governors’ conference ahead

The Governors' Conference will be held at the Rashtrapati Bhawan in February. This will be the first such conference under the Narendra Modi government. The conference will be held before the presentation of the Union Budget, so that the Governors get a chance to discuss the economic issues of their respective states. The scheduling is a smart move by President Pranab Mukherjee, as the conference will have the full attention of the Prime Minister as well.

Pranab’s daughter may contest from GK
President Pranab Mukherjee (second from left), PM Narendra Modi , Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan and Sharmistha Mukherjee (standing) interact on Independence Day in Rashtrapati Bhawan in New Delhi. PTI

President Pranab Mukherjee's daughter Sharmistha is likely to be the Congress candidate from the Greater Kailash Assembly segment, which includes the Bengali-dominated CR Park. If she contests, party leaders feel, she is sure to win. The Trinamool Congress is unlikely to put up a candidate against her and the BJP too is unlikely to attack her. The Congress has told all its Delhi Lok Sabha candidates to contest the Assembly elections. Ajay Maken, who contested the Lok Sabha election from New Delhi, is reluctant to contest from any Assembly seat in this constituency. He may instead contest from Rajouri Garden. Former Delhi Congress chief J.P. Agarwal wants to be fielded from Babarpur. Jagdish Tytler may contest from Sadar Bazar. Five-time Matia Mahal MLA, Shoaib Iqbal, who joined the Congress this week will contest on a party ticket. Other Lok Sabha losers likely to contest are Krishna Tirath (Karol Bagh) and Mahabal Mishra (Nasirpur). Sandeep Dikshit and Kapil Sibal are said to be unwilling to contest.

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