below the line

Our Bureaus | Updated on January 16, 2018 Published on December 25, 2016

Radha Mohan Singh In Marie Antoinette’s footsteps   -  NAGARA GOPAL

A date with the EC

“Every call is for election dates,” said a senior official associated with the Election Commission, saying that over 100 calls had been received in the last few hours. And what triggered this? News that the PM would announce sops for the rural population and SMEs on January 2 at a rally in UP before the Election Commission’s model code of conduct applies. And when will the dates of the elections be announced? In the next few days, is the answer.

Yes to yes, no to no

Strange as it may sound, the Election Commission has the power to register political parties, but not to deregister them. During its annual stocktaking exercise of political parties registered with it but unrecognised, it found that 255 political parties existed only on paper and many have not even contested local body, Assembly or Lok Sabha elections since 2005. The EC decided to remove these parties from its list. On December 21, it also asked Central Board of Direct Taxes to take action so that these parties do not enjoy tax benefits, especially give the current scenario regarding demonetisation.

Going veg-free

Marie Antoinette supposedly said “Let them eat cake” upon learning that the peasants had no bread. We have Radha Mohan Singh, minister of agriculture and farmers’ welfare, who, when quizzed over the falling prices of vegetables, said: “So, don’t eat vegetables.” While the minister’s pitiful attempt at humour was met with titters by supporters, a reporter made bold to point out that farmers were suffering because of the crashing prices. “Then should the prices go up? You will say that the consumers are suffering,” the Minister muttered. If the interest of consumers is of primary interest to the agriculture and farmers’ welfare ministry, then one wonders whom the distressed farmers should turn to.

Buzz in SEBI

There is great curiosity among market participants and capital market honchos about who will be the next SEBI chief come February. The buzz is that it’s a neck-and-neck between a Gujarat-cadre IAS officer and a Himachal cadre-officer ( in the finance ministry). The bigger buzz, though, is the a Tamil Nadu-cadre bureaucrat, who has a senior position in the finance ministry and is close to the current dispensation, will win the honours.

Low-key’s best

The thundering applause for Power Finance Corporation chairman Rajeev Sharma from rural electrification monitoring staffers at the launch of the GARV-II app led to much leg-pulling. A senior IAS officer quipped, “You’ve got more applause than even the minister will get!” To which Sharma retorted: “Let’s forget this happened, going by the way things are going, you can lose your job just for being applauded.”

Humour rules

Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju surprised participants at an aviation conference by arriving ahead of time and then taking a dig at the government. Asked if his government would lend a helping hand to some of the airlines in trouble, he replied that while it was necessary to throw a lifeline, the economics was best left to the carriers. “The Government tried to work the economics of Air India and look what happened,” he quipped. Cheers! The Modi government needs more doses of self-deprecatory humour.

Power at play?

The public are wondering why Veda Nilayam, the residence of J Jayalalithaa, continues to receive so much police security. After all, only her confidante Sasikala, and family, now live there. Opposition DMK treasurer, MK Stalin, gave voice to this when he tweeted, “When there is no government authority at Poes Garden, involving hundreds of policemen in security there is abuse of power.” Fair enough.

Published on December 25, 2016

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