Impending shake up in MEA
Extension for Shringla, Tirumurti
Jawaharlal Nehru Bhawan is abuzz with the possibility of an extension for foreign secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla and permanent representative of India to the United Nations, T S Tirumurti. These two top officers of the Ministry for External Affairs (MEA) are set to retire next month. With international relations entering a sensitive phase, there is a possibility of the government favouring continuity over change. However, names of their possible replacement are also being discussed. There are about half-a-dozen senior officers under consideration to replace Shringla. Among these are the ambassador in US Taranjit Singh Sandhu, Sanjay Chandra (ambassador in Japan), Vinay Kwatra (Nepal), Jaidee Sarkar (South Africa) and Ruchira Kamboj (Bhutan). One of them may also be picked up as a replacement for Tirumurti. Meanwhile, the government has decided to elevate ambassador to Saudi Arabia Ausaf Sayeed to the rank of secretary. He is likely to take charge in the middle of March and will handle the CPV (Consular, Passport, Visa) division. He will also handle the West Asia and North Africa divisions. Sayeed will replace Sanjay Bhattacharyya who has been appointed as ambassador to Switzerland. With the post of ambassador set to fall vacant in Riyadh, intense lobbying has started. Among the frontrunners are India’s ambassador in Lebanon Suhel Ajaz Khan and Principal Secretary in Madhya Pradesh government Faiz Ahmad Kidwai. Both these officers have served in Riyadh as consul general.
Sibal, Bhushan jump into Pioneer potboiler
Battle for the control of Pioneer, the 150-year-old newspaper, has reached the penultimate stage with top lawyers Prashant Bhushan and Kapil Sibal now jumping into the fray. Albeit both are on the same side this time, this tug of war seems to have escalated to a new level altogether. The family of Pioneer’s late oner and editor Chandan Mitra, and the present editor, printer and publisher who had lost the case in NCLT and NCLAT, appealed through two separate petitions in the Supreme Court before the bench of Justice Nageswara Rao, which granted them ex-parte stay. The newspaper has been facing acute shortage of funds for the last few years. It has huge accumulated dues. Payments are pending towards employees, suppliers, franchisees, IT department, Noida authority, and many others. The paper was taken to court by its editorial director Amit Goel for non-payment of dues by way of salaries and unsecured loans. NCLT ruled in favour of Goel on January 19, 2021 and appointed a Resolution Professional. The Mitras and their Printer & Publisher Narender Kumar appealed against the NCLT order in NCLAT. NCLAT again ruled in Goel’s favour dismissing the appeal in December 2021. The entry of Sibal for the Mitras is interesting as it shows his interest in media hasn’t died down.
Back to Booze-ness
Ponty’s son may enter liquor business
One of the most abiding rags-to-riches stories in Delhi-NCR is that of Gurdeep Singh Chadha, better known as Ponty Chadha. The Sardar who came out of nowhere dominated the liquor distribution business in north India and built malls and multiplexes and a real estate empire worth thousands of crores of rupees. His untimely death thrust the mantle on his young son Manpreet Chadha (a.k.a Monty Chadha) and brother Rajinder Chadha (a.k.a Raju Chadha). The two soon parted ways and divided the empire between themselves, with Raju getting film and liquor businesses and Monty taking over real estate, malls and multiplexes. But with the real estate business collapsing and Covid destroying malls and multiplexes, Monty is said to be looking at entering the group’s original money spinner – the liquor business. Insiders say Ajay Bijli’s PVR group is all set to buy Monty Chadha’s multiplexes which run over three dozen screens under the Wave brand. The proceeds of the sale would most likely be used to set up a liquor business. The decision would pit him directly against uncle Raju as both share contacts built by late Ponty Chadha.