The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Go, take a walk

What is the Bengal Congress committee chief doing in Bengal' The question would perhaps have sounded incredible had it not been asked about Pranab Mukherjee, the high command’s patchwork over a tattered state Congress. But even Sonia Gandhi — having put the question while signing in the Trinamool-backed Rajya Sabha MP, Jayanto Bhattacharya, into the party, was not prepared for the answer. A sheepish Somen Mitra informed madam that the party in the state was organizing padyatras (the saffronites should have patented their concept of yatras; no use crying now) and that the man leading it, Pranabda, was somewhere in Midnapore. Pleasantly surprised by the fact that the old man was after all doing “something”, madam asked Mitra to quickly get in touch with Mukherjee. The message was relayed to Pranab after considerable delay, given the condition of communication in the state, and Mukherjee obediently called back 10, Janpath. Proud as a child, he told madam that he had already traversed some 125 kilometres on foot on an average of 18 km a day. Bravo! An impressed Sonia added that it was good for his health, too. Ahem, that complicated matters no end for Pranab. Having conveyed his no-objection to Jayanto’s entry, Pranab thought it wise to remind madam that it was probably time to recall him from his exile. “But you are doing such a good work,” argued madam, reminding him of the padyatra. It’s becoming quite a long march, isn’t it, Pranabda'

Seats reserved

It happens at times. Governors give chief ministers a run for their seat, especially when there is no love lost between the two. Sample this. The president, APJ Abdul Kalam, was in Bhopal and the governor, Bhai Mahavir, hosted a breakfast at the Raj Bhavan in his honour. At the appointed hour, however, there were only two chairs for the VVIPs. While Mahavir sat and chatted with Kalam, CM Digvijay Singh stood around like the Raj Bhavan staff. Incidentally, there was another VVIP Mahavir forgot about while trying to show Singh where he stood — BN Kirpal, chief justice of the Supreme Court. Mahavir acted quick though. A chair was ordered for Kirpal. But a close aide of the guv was heard instructing, “Ek hi chair lana (bring only one chair)”. Diggy was apparently amused, but maybe only apparently.

Consolation prize

Always the better half. So even if Krishan Kant failed to reach his goal, his wife has managed to successfully bag 4, Krishna Menon Marg, the sprawling bungalow vacated by the former Union home minister, SB Chavan. One of the larger type-VIII houses, several ministers are said to have had their eyes on it. Suman Kant, however, beat them all, arguing that her late husband before his death had personally selected it once it became clear that he was not being sent to Rashtrapati Bhavan. Settling a compensation claim, then'

Some pressing matters

He may or may not prove to be the baap of Narendra Modi. But what is worrying Congresswallahs about Shankersinh Vaghela now is his decision to meet the press at the Press Club instead of the party headquarters or the Gujarat Bhavan. Worse, the person who acted the host is a noted saffron sympathizer. The booking was also made in the name of the host. That did not end matters. The press conference itself was so badly organized that the AICC later had to accommodate Vaghela at its regular press briefing. Congressmen are also intrigued by the fact that the host of the press meet went to the prime minister’s residence immediately after. Since the PM was not in town, who was it then that he met' But should they really put a million rupees on that question'

Ready for the next posting

Remember BP Singh' The Assam cadre IAS officer who once became the Union home secretary, thanks to political connections' Well, the man is back having spent three forgettable years as India’s nominee executive director of the World Bank. As is his wont, Singh is said to have been spotted hobnobbing with politicos in his quest for another sinecure. And given the propensity of the ruling combine to grant favours to superannuated government servants, Singh might just as well find himself in some Raj Bhavan.

A sour memory game

Socialists are troublemakers. They also have phenomenal memories, part of the trouble actually. The reason why George Fernandes acted so weirdly on the disinvestment issue was because of his objection to HPCL and IBPC going to a particular industrial house. Why' Because its founder is supposed to have told the then industry secretary in the late Seventies that he had no problem winning over socialists. If he could have Madhu Limaye in his pocket, why did he need to worry about Fernandes' The statement was faithfully reported back to Fernandes, who apparently never forgot what was said of him. Now we know socialists are vindictive as well.

Where is the health minister'

When is Shatrughan Sinha visiting India' The question arises because the health minister is never in town, travelling abroad perpetually. Incidentally, his room in Nirman Bhavan was done up in red for Rs 10 lakh. Seeing red'

Back to the future

Game plan for 2004 or whenever it is that the parliamentary elections are held. We have unearthed two already. One, having been humbled by J Jayalalitha’s raking up of the foreign origin issue, Sonia Gandhi has apparently decided to undo her in her own garden. Madam apparently will contest at least one seat from a safe constituency in Tamil Nadu for the elections. Congresswallahs are supposedly trying to convince her that the Tamils loved Indiraamma and that there is no mai ka lal who can defeat her in a state that voted Congress nationally. Sonia will become severely hypertensive if she actually digests that with all the salt it requires.

Two, Sushma Swaraj has also embarked on a seat-hunt, finding her chances of winning from either Uttaranchal or Haryana dimming. She has zeroed in on Mathura, a city she has found some pretext to visit umpteen times recently. She is also ensuring that a lot of development work is done there. She has contenders though in Murli Manohar Joshi, Uma Bharti and Jaibhan Singh Pawaiyya. Whatever, good luck, ladies.

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