Serious politicians are getting ready for elections in 2014. The time servers and bureaucrats who surround the prime minister - and who realise they have little stake in the Congress after the next election - are busy making plans of another kind. Manmohan Singh himself is desperate for some sort of a legacy and achievement to showcase by this winter. With the economy sinking and corruption as his government's calling card, all he can hope for is applause overseas.
He is keen on a breakthrough with Pakistan but is about the only person left in Lutyens' Delhi who thinks this is possible. He is travelling to China to sign up some sort of border stabilisation agreement that will be touted as making peace for all time. In reality, it will do no such thing and will only keep the borders quiet, Singh hopes, till he is ready to move out of 7 Racecourse Road in the summer of 2014. His successor can clean up the mess.
The real concern for Singh is America, the country he courted so assiduously in his first term. Relations are so bad that Singh has been lobbying for a visit to Washington, DC, and the Barack Obama administration has agreed only reluctantly. It has placed a whole host of preconditions, including greater access to the Indian market for American companies. Some of these points were raised by Vice-President Joe Biden during his visit to New Delhi and reflect the American disenchantment with Singh.
While what Western capitals think of him obsesses Singh, his coterie has other priorities. Montek Singh Ahluwalia is mulling a career beyond the Planning Commission and is certain the Congress will blame him and Singh for the tanking of the economy, following the expected defeat in 2014. Ahluwalia is trying to get himself shoehorned into an international agency but is past age limits at the World Bank and the IMF. He has bought himself a house in New Delhi because he will need to vacate his government bungalow.
Shiv Shankar Menon, the prime minister's foreign policy hand and national security adviser, has been running the Foreign Ministry directly or by proxy for seven years now. Even after he retired as foreign secretary, he imposed three lightweights in a row as his successors. The foreign policy blunders of this government are going to be pinned on him by the Congress, though Menon believes he can be useful to the Crown Prince even after Singh goes into oblivion.
T.K. Nair, the controversial adviser and former principal secretary to Singh, is embroiled in a series of scandals - related to coal, mining, aviation, telecom, space. He hopes to go quietly into the sunset and not be troubled by court cases and the next government. Right now he is securing and securitising his future.
As for Manmohan Singh's favourite ministers, Pawan Bansal and Ashwini Kumar are already out of the government. This has broken up the so-called "Kaur group". According to Congress spin doctors themselves, the two are close to Gursharan Kaur, Mrs Prime Minister. Bansal is unlikely to be re-nominated by the Congress for the Chandigarh seat. Kumar is periodically spotted at his favourite Delhi restaurant, 360 at the Oberoi, sitting alone and hiding behind a newspaper, presumably editing it mentally for poor English.
As for Salman Khurshid, another prime ministerial favourite and current foreign minister, internal surveys conducted by the Congress indicate he is set to lose his Farrukhabad Lok Sabha seat in Uttar Pradesh.
A year from now these people - members and adopted members of the (Manmohan) Singh Parivar - are likely to be living very different lives. They can enjoy their final months in the sun.
Till next time, meow!