ODISHA CHIEF Minister Naveen Patnaik’s foreign tour this week – only his second such trip during his 22-year rule – has triggered interest in political circles. When he went out of India last time – to London in 2012 – his party had witnessed a rebellion led by his once-close associate Pyari Mohan Mahapatra, which he managed to control, giving directions over the phone to party leaders on what to do. While no one sees the possibility of a repeat this time, sources said his visit – first to Rome where he is expected to meet the Pope and then to West Asia for a business summit – is a reflection of his political farsightedness. Patnaik has been following a multi-pronged approach in politics – he has been fiercely opposing BJP locally, and backing it at the Centre – but now wants to have a “secular image” for himself at the national level. Incidentally, the Centre has given permission to him to visit Rome and meet the Pope while it had denied the same to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
WHILE THE Opposition is looking for a formidable candidate for the July 18 presidential election, Congress president Sonia Gandhi has received a suggestion from the overseas units of the party. The Indian Overseas Congress units in the US, Europe, UK, Australia, West Asia, Korea and Turkey have “unanimously” called the party to nominate the “multi-faceted and well-respected” Sam Pitroda for the post. According to them, in his various roles Pitroda “has helped in revolutionizing India’s developmental philosophies and policies by focusing on providing better access to technology so as to bring about social change” and that he has been an ardent Gandhian, “adhering to Mahatma Gandhi’s strict and disciplined way of life”. They also said Pitroda had not charged a single rupee as salary for his services to the nation.
Agnipath, The Poem
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AS CONGRESS leaders took the fight against the Centre’s Agnipath scheme to Delhi’s protest square Jantar Mantar on Sunday, late Harivansh Rai Bachchan’s poetry found a mention in several speeches. Even Priyanka Gandhi read out two stanzas of the poem, also titled Agnipath, exhorting the youth to carry out their struggle with perseverance and determination. She said the government has named its scheme, which does disservice to the youth of this country, after the poem.