It is three women versus three Yadavs, when it comes to the passing of Women’s Reservation Bill in Parliament. The women are — Sonia Gandhi, Brinda Karat and Sushma Swaraj. They are pitted against — Mulayam Singh Yadav, Lalu Prasad and Sharad Yadav. Besides the number game, which favours the women, these days all of them, though political opponents, have joined hands. While Sushma and Brinda exchange greetings in the Central Hall, Sonia and Sushma are seen making gestures in the Lok Sabha, assuring each other that they will ensure the smooth passage of the bill. In fact, if these two women join hands, they can bring decorum in the House and enable its smooth functioning. It was the same Sushma who contested against Sonia in Bellary in 1999. The foes-turned-friends, the Yadav leaders, have a compulsion to oppose the bill, as they are forced to cater to the OBC votebank. Grapevine has it that Sharad’s daughter is opposing her father on the bill. Seeing her, one feels like repeating the phrase par-katti women, coined by Yadav. She sports short hair, wears jeans and speaks fluent English — factors that the leaders rile against. Likewise, Lalu’s daughters are often seen in trousers. It seems that it is votebank politics that is compelling the leaders to toe the conventional path.
Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen had only recently got her visa extension. Grapevine has it that former minister Mani Shankar Aiyar intervened on her behalf with Union home secretary G K Pillai. There is an uneasy feeling in the government that Taslima is breaching the unstated code that when in exile, she should refrain from dabbling in issues that may result in a controversy. Union finance minister Pranab Mukherjee is reportedly unhappy about the way she has been proving to be controversial. Pranab wanted her to exercise greater restraint, but each time she kicksoff a row, even her well-wishers feel let down.
Villas, farmhouses and luxury apartments could be a thing of the past. A single-apartment concept is gaining ground. Arun Jaitley, who has emerged as an advocate of the single-apartment view, feels a three-bedroom apartment should be good enough. With shrinking acreage under agriculture there is a shortfall in foodgrain production. There is renewed emphasis on stepping up efforts to work out an area-specific strategy to maximise foodgrain production. Reduced emphasis on villas and farmhouses is aimed at making more land available that could be brought under cultivation and thus help improve overall foodgrain production in the country.