The Gujarat stable
Anil Mukim, additional chief secretary, Gujarat government, is soon to be transferred to the Centre and is most likely to be given a high-profile position. Mukim will follow in the footsteps of a string of Gujarat-cadre officers who have been accommodated in powerful posts in Delhi. The roll of honour of the Gujarat cadre includes: additional principal secretary to the PM PK Mishra, finance secretary Hasmukh Adhia, chief election commissioner AK Joti, CBI special director Rakesh Asthana, commerce secretary Rita Teotia, water resources secretary Amarjit Singh, private secretary to the PM Rajiv Topno, OSD to the PM Sanjay Bhavsar, CBI joint director A K Sharma, who is in charge of the key Public Policy Division, joint secretary to the President Bharat Lal and director general of hydrocarbons Atanu Chakraborty.
The unfortunate part about the ugly divisions in the Supreme Court which have become public is that some of those from the Bar leading the crusade for judicial accountability are themselves party to the lack of transparency in their own profession. Some three decades ago, lawyers had an unwritten code fixing a maximum fee limit per hearing in the Supreme Court and the High Court. This rule was broken by some senior lawyers who insisted that they would charge whatever they deemed fit. Now sky is the limit as far as legal fees are concerned. Often, even when the senior counsel does not show up in court, the poor client still has to cough up. Payments are often made in cash.
The Income Tax raids on Sasikala and her nephew T T V Dinakaran were aptly named Operation Elephant. The exercise went on for over a week and is considered among the biggest such operations in the tax department’s history. There were 1,245 senior and junior officials inducted for the operation, including 30 women. Some 142 offices and residences were raided and around 250 bank accounts frozen. According to the political grapevine in the state, Rs 30,000 crore of unaccounted party funds have been recovered. The numbers may be highly exaggerated, but no one doubts that the money uncovered is indeed substantial. Not surprisingly, the raids have sent shock waves through various factions of the AIADMK.
Being a woman in politics is tough as Jaya Jaitly’s recently released and eminently readable book, Life Among The Scorpions, reveals. From slander to setting her up in the Tehelka case, her male counterparts were out to get her, she writes. Jaya writes that even when she was the president of the Samata Party, her male colleagues would shout loudly to drown out her voice. They would expect her to serve tea or offer comments on her looks. She writes that George Fernandes, her mentor, wanted to compensate her for all the sacrifices she had made for the party by trying to get her a Rajya Sabha seat. But she mysteriously lost out each time. Initially, her name was proposed from the Rajya Sabha nominated category but was dropped at the last minute. Then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee claimed that President Abdul Kalam had scuttled the nomination. Kalam in turn said the PM had requested him not to sign on the file as a senior woman ministerial colleague had reservations. Then, Haryana CM Om Prakash Chautala gave the nomination to the very person who had egged Jaya on to try for the same seat. Later, after giving an assurance, Bihar CM Nitish Kumar backed out and instead nominated King Mahendra, a strongman with a checkered career in both business and politics.
Age no barrier
Yashwant Sinha has bitterly criticised finance minister Arun Jaitley and his economic policies. He has now gone to Gujarat to campaign against his own party. Supporters of Sinha are furious with Jaitley for referring to Sinha as a “job applicant at 80”. Sinha’s supporters believe that his background as an IAS officer who has held the finance and defence portfolios makes him ideally suited to head the finance ministry. Age is no barrier, they say, and cite the example of Veer Kunwar Singh, a prince from Jagdishpur in Bihar who fought against the British during the 1857 uprising. Kunwar was over 80 but he put up a valiant fight and was shot in his arm while fleeing British gunfire. Kunwar even cut off his left arm with a sword to prevent the infection from spreading. Kunwar’s story has clearly been an inspiration for Sinha. At his Holi party during his days in government, singers often sang songs in memory of the elderly Bihar icon.