Telangana Chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao is such an ardent believer in vaastu that he hired a full-time vaastu consultant, Suddala Sudhakar Teja, for the government’s Building and Planning department. The Telangana government has been following the vaastu adviser blindly. But one of Rao’s radical proposals—the suggestion to abandon the existing government secretariat and build a new one—is stuck. Rao felt the chief minister’s office block should be higher than all other ministerial office blocks in the complex. This means constructing an entirely new building at a cost of R600 crore. In response to a PIL, the court ordered a halt to such unnecessary extravagance. Old-timers in Hyderabad recall that the late NT Rama Rao, also a great believer in vaastu, had changed his gates, entrances and office spaces to ensure his political survival. Despite all the vaastu precautions, eventually his political career ended on an unhappy note, as he was turfed out by his own son-in-law.
Reluctant to leave
Though he is deputy speaker of the Lok Sabha, M Thambidurai was hesitant to leave Chennai for Delhi to attend to his duties during the current Lok Sabha session. Ever since Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalithaa fell ill on September 22, Thambidurai has parked himself at Apollo Hospital, Chennai. He was at the hospital practically 24×7. Thambidurai skipped crucial briefing meetings about pending Bills and forthcoming discussions taken up by speaker Sumitra Mahajan on Tuesday, leaving everyone in suspense as to whether he would leave Amma’s bedside and show up for the session. Fortunately, he finally arrived in the capital on Wednesday.
Given his almost decade-long experience as finance minister, it was assumed that P Chidambaram would open the debate on demonetisation on behalf of the Congress in the Rajya Sabha. Instead, Anand Sharma, less conversant with economic issues and the finance ministry, was nominated by his party to make the opening remarks. Chidambaram, when asked by a television journalist his views on Sharma’s speech, said he had not heard it since he does not understand Hindi. But since all MPs are provided headphones to access automatic translation of speeches in Parliament, the explanation did not carry much conviction.
Clearly, it runs in the genes. Narendra Modi’s 98-year-old mother happily stood in a queue at the bank to get her old notes exchanged and her photograph taken. Her son is even more energetic. Consider Modi’s schedule last week, on November 13 and 14. He arrived from Japan at 12.30 am and reached his home at 1.15 am. At 7 am, he flew from Delhi to Goa, where he delivered a hard-hitting speech against black money. At noon, he flew from Goa to Belgaum in Karnataka. By 5 pm, he was in Pune, Maharashtra. At 10 pm, he was back in Delhi, chairing a meeting to review demonetisation, where consultations went on for two-and-a-half hours. On November 14, Modi left Delhi for Ghazipur in Uttar Pradesh where he gave an even more hard-hitting speech on demonetisation. He returned to Delhi by 4 pm to attend the BJP parliamentary party meeting. This was followed by an NDA meeting before the Parliament session and a dinner hosted by speaker Sumitra Mahajan. After dinner, the PM held an internal review meeting of the PMO till midnight, to monitor the ongoing demonetisation exercise. Incidentally, every time the PM travels, an Air Force AN-32 cargo plane transports his bulletproof vehicle. On November 13, three planes flew to Belgaum, Pune and Goa transporting three separate bulletproof vehicles.
Even before there was time to figure out whether the demonetisation scheme would work successfully or not, BSP and AIADMK representatives had approached the government to plead for a rollback. The TMC’s Mamata Banerjee put aside her abiding mistrust of the CPI(M) to personally telephone party general secretary Sitaram Yechury, asking him to accompany her to meet the President. Yechury, who was travelling on a train, was taken aback at receiving a call from an unlisted telephone number and then discovering that the caller was the West Bengal chief minister. He had not spoken to Banerjee in a long time. Yechury felt that a joint delegation to President Pranab Mukherjee should be the last resort. But Banerjee felt that any delay would prove fatal. As she put it, medical help can only be given while the body is still alive.