February 28, 2020
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Deep Throat
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Heard: Of the 60 IAS officers who applied for the TRAI chairman’s post, only eight were called for an interview

Overheard: After getting the UP CM to abandon janata durbars, a bureaucrat who takes orders from Mulayam holds them in his house


Delhi
Not A Suitable Man?

The disappointment is palpable seven months after the appointment of Richard Verma as the Ambassador to India of the United States. The BJP government has never really been happy with Barack Obama’s “farewell gift” to India. Senior diplomats have complained in private that Verma is a letdown for a post that has attracted political heavyweights (like Nancy Powell, David Mulford and Robert Blackwill) or academic greats (John Kenneth Galbraith). Verma, unfortunately, does not fit in either of those categories. And he has not displayed initiative and political outreach that goes beyond his brief. Worse, his Indian origin is viewed as a liability. A senior Indian diplomat recently made his displeasure clear to the Americans by bemoaning their strategy of “sending African-Americans to Africa” as ambassadors.


Uttar Pradesh
Expensive Moves

RTI applicants have been denied information pertaining to expen­ses incurred on prime ministerial visits. Which makes it difficult to ascertain the veracity of the rumour doing the rounds that a sum of Rs 5 crore was spent on the PM’s four-hour visit to Varanasi on Thursday. The expenses include a special waterproof tent for the PM to address a ‘Vikas Sabha.’ On his last visit on June 28, the weather played spoilsport, preventing the PM’s aircraft from landing. This time, a team of engineers was sent from Delhi to oversee the preparations. Prime ministerial visits do cost money because of massive security and other arrangements. With Modi far more mobile than his predecessor, expenses incurred have gone up substantially during the last one year.


Bihar
Friends In Need

Nitish Kumar’s recent meeting with Arvind Kejriwal, the fourth in as many months, has set off speculation. Elections are due in Bihar before November and the grapevine holds that the Bihar CM is trying to persuade his Delhi counterpart to campaign against the BJP in Bihar. It is felt that, in BJP strongholds, candidates put up by the AAP could make the contest closer and so the attempt is to persuade AAP to field around 50 candidates in the state. Following the setback suffered by JD(U) in the recent Council polls, Nitish needs all the help he can muster.


West Bengal
Slippery Stretch

On a visit to her village constituency during the rains, actress-turned-TMC-MLA Debashree Roy found the roads rather too muddy. Deciding that getting down would mean getting her feet really dirty she was deliberating whether to just sit in her car and do the talking from within its safe confines. But the people who voted for her refused to listen. “We told her that she should come down and walk with us to our houses so that she can see for herself the hardships we face during the monsoons,” said one man who was part of the crowd that had gathered around her. Last heard, the disgruntled politician found herself trudging along the slippery narrow pathways through paddy fields, her otherwise smiley visage replaced with a terrible scowl.


Contributed by Sunit Arora, Mihir Srivastava, Uttam Sengupta, Dola Mitra and Sharat Pradhan

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