Rahul Gandhi’s Kerala adviser on a vipassana trip
In the Congress, it is not just former president Rahul Gandhi who likes his meditation retreats. Party sources say a member of Gandhi’s core team — former civil servant K. Raju — has also been going on vipassana trips for sometime now. He is slated to return by the month-end. Raju handles the Wayanad MP’s affairs in his new constituency, organising events and liaising with the government in Kerala.
Gandhi has drawn flak for his vipassana breaks, some of which came at crucial political junctures. His absence from the Jamia Millia protests led by Congress’ interim president Sonia Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra unsettled many party leaders, who feared he had taken off for yet another meditation course. Gandhi, however, clarified on Twitter Tuesday that he was part of an official visit to the PM of South Korea.
HRD likely to break from tradition, have 1 secretary handle 2 depts
Days after Higher Education Secretary R. Subrahmanyam was transferred to the relatively low-key Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, it emerges that the Ministry of Human Resource Development could move away from tradition and have just one secretary.
Until now, there have been separate secretaries to handle school education and higher education departments.
While officials in the ministry say this has been conveyed to them verbally, there is no written order so far.
This was decided after the recent reshuffle of secretaries across ministries last week. After Subrahmanyam was transferred from HRD, Amit Khare — who was handling the charge of Secretary, School Education, has also been given charge of higher education. It seems the Prime Minister’s Office felt that the two departments were going in different directions and there was a need for greater synergy, thus laying the groundwork for opting for just one secretary in the ministry.
Delhi Police in firefighting mode — on social media
Tackling unverified information and claims on social media has become a task in itself for the government and various authorities. While investigating cases of rioting registered after clashes in Delhi’s Jamia Nagar and Seelampur, the Delhi Police has been busy issuing clarifications and counters on information being circulated and shared on social media, especially Twitter. There has been a spate of videos and claims being circulated, much of which is turning out to be fake.
Such is the volume of information being floated that senior officers have now deputed one policeman only to check what is being said about the police online and inform them, so that action can be taken.
In one such instance, many on social media accused police personnel of setting a bus on fire after a video clip of a policeman throwing some liquid on the bus from a canister went viral. It was claimed that the liquid was petrol, but police later clarified that it was actually water. The force also had to release photos of the bus parked safely in a parking bay.
A senior officer said, “The misinformation being spread on Twitter by irresponsible people has engaged the police more than the actual case.”
Why Sitharaman’s claims of being unaware of GST rate hike talk seem unlikely
Responding to a question on possible increase in rates in the Goods and Services Tax (GST) regime, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in a press conference on 13 December said there have been no discussions on any rate hikes in the ministry.
“The buzz is everywhere else other than my office. I don’t know where this is coming from? We have not had any conversations on this among ourselves yet,” she had said.
But, in fact, the proposal for a relook on the GST rates and cess was floated by the GST council secretariat, the administrative office manning the GST council — the representative body constituting central and state governments.
A look at the organisational structure of the GST council secretariat reveals that the body has central government appointees at its helm, making it difficult for such a proposal to go to the states without the knowledge of the finance ministry. Revenue Secretary Ajay Bhushan Pandey is the ex-officio secretary of the GST council. Rajeev Ranjan, the special secretary who heads the GST council secretariat, is also a central government appointee. The council has four joint secretaries of which two are central government representatives and two are state government representatives.
A quiet birthday for former Karnataka CM HD Kumaraswamy
Former Karnataka chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy’s 60th birthday celebration on 16 December was a low-key affair in Goa with his wife Anitha and son Nikhil. Those close to Kumaraswamy say he was insistent on having a quiet birthday after losing his position as chief minster and the miserable performance of the JD(S) in the recent by-elections. However, sources in the party claim the real reason was he feared that many of his party MLAs and well-wishers would not turn up, embarrassing him further.
The ‘young’ Mr Raj Babbar
Senior Congress leader Raj Babbar was spotted in Parliament after a long time in the just-concluded Winter Session. After he resigned as president of the Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee, the party had appointed Ajay Kumar. Missing in action for a while, despite being Rajya Sabha MP, Babbar was seen in the House recently, but in a new look. The actor’s hair style was evidently new, and more ‘youthful’. When journalists asked him about his ‘younger’ look, he disclosed his secret — Babbar said he had to earn to run his house and hence, in his free time, was working in movies again. The actor is shooting For Karan Johar’s Dostana 2, as well as another film with superstar Salman Khan.
(Contributors: Ananya Bhardwaj, Rohini Swamy, Shanker Arnimesh, Deeksha Bhardwaj and Kritika Sharma)