The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Love story in fast forward

Mizoram chief minister Zoramthanga is extremely plain spoken. Now, that quality, which is something of a mixed blessing in the best of circumstances, can be quite a liability if you are a politician. And if you are part of the team assisting the Union government in its negotiations with the Naga insurgent group, the NSCN (I-M), plain-speaking can well be suicidal. Recently, it was Atal Bihari Vajpayee who was at the receiving end of Zoramthanga’s bluntness. The Mizoram CM had called on him, and the prime minister was eager to know exactly what it was that the Nagas wanted from him. But even before Vajpayee had finished speaking, Zoramthanga impatiently butted in, saying that when a boy falls in love with a girl, intially all he can say is “I love you”. It would hardly do, said the northeatern leader, tongue firmly in cheek, for the boy to say, “Will you marry me' If so, when' What will be the bride price' How many guests will there be at the wedding reception and what will be the menu'” The bachelor PM was quick to catch Zoramthan-ga’s drift and smiled in approval. Politics is a serious business indeed but it is good to see that it hasn’t deprived our leaders of their sense of humour. Thankfully!

To launch a hundred brands

Ever since he made his debut, he has been the cynosure of all eyes — as much for his skill behind the stumps as for his baby face. Strangely however, for all his popularity, Parthiv Patel has not already been snapped up to endorse toothpastes and motorcycles on the telly. Sensing a business opportunity here that others were yet to see, an enterprising executive of a sports sponsorship firm landed up in Ahmedabad to meet the young man and to persuade him to sign a contract. The young lad turned up for the appointment riding a scooter, with an uncle on the pillion. But hey, isn’t Parthiv, only about “17 going on 14”, not eligible for a driving licence yet' Apparently, this is one licence that the city police —who know his face by now — have allowed him. But that raises a question, do Parthiv’s guardians sign his endorsement contracts since, as a minor, he can’t do so himself'

Little love lost

The more things change, the more they remain the same. Mrs Indira Gandhi is long dead and gone, and both their husbands too, even the political climate has undergone a sea change, but the relations between the two Gandhi bahus, Sonia and Maneka, do not seem to have improved. Last month, the Congress president, returning to the capital after her by-now-famous trip to Kashmir, apparently found herself on the same flight as Feroze Varun. While the aunt travelled executive class, the nephew sat in economy class and no amount of insistence by the airlines staff that they upgrade his ticket could budge him from his seat. Stuck to his ground perhaps'

To protect one’s own turf

If one of the two “star” members of the Vajpayee cabinet has earned a reputation for his “starry” ways, the other, Vinod Khanna, has thought it wiser not to provoke any such complaints by staying well out of the limelight. But lately he seems to be making up for lost time. Khanna has crossed swords with his senior in the ministry of tourism and culture, the crusty Jagmohan, over the Centre for Cultural Research and Training. Or rather its director general, Surendra Kaul, and chairman, Ravi Wadhwan. The trouble started when Wadhwan suspended Kaul for financial irregularities. Jagmohan, a Kashmiri Pandit, was furious at the affront to Kaul, a jaat bhai. Taking advantage of Khanna’s absence, he revoked Kaul’s suspension and denied an extension to Wadhwan, who retired on September 12. Now Wadhwan is a close confidante of the actor-politician, besides being a protégé of Murli Manohar Joshi whose constituency, Allahabad, he manages. The Union HRD minister is now worried sick because Wadhwan, incensed at the insult, is said to be thinking of leaving the BJP and throwing in his weight behind the Congress. Talk of the many wheels within a wheel.

On the comeback trail

George is back. No, it isn’t George Fernandes whose fortunes are taking a turn for the better (his presumably have risen as high as they will go), but another who was once no less influential — Vincent George. The clout of Sonia Gandhi’s former secretary seems to be growing proportionate to the line of cars in front of his Chanakyapuri residence. The first pointer to George’s rehabilitation was the re-entry of Meira Kumar into the party fold, less than three years after she left, describing Sonia as “immature and insensitive”. George, it might be added, prevailed over the all powerful Ambika Soni over the issue of Meira’s re-induction. Next on George’s list is Ram Vilas Paswan, apparently. Best of luck, George!

Right of first refusal

From the richest Indian to chancellor of a university' Aligarh Muslim University authorities, on the lookout for a chancellor for this once premier centre for Islamic studies and now a hotbed of student politics, have set their eyes on Wipro chief, Azim Premji. Not that Premji seems much interested in the post, but neither has he declined it. And so the Rafiq Zakarias and the AM Khusros will have to wait to be asked second. The power of pelf after all.

All in a day’s work

Didi for ever. Trying to play big sister to her Man Friday, Mukul Ray, Mamata Banerjee apparently expressed her wish to buy him a T-shirt this puja. Fair enough. The problem was, as she told her cronies, a person like Ray who smoked expensive cigarettes would be satisfied by no less than a branded shirt as well. Didi, more versed in railway expenses than consumer goodies, asked the prices of both cigarettes and T-shirts of good make. A deep silence descended over her after hearing the extent of burn each could inflict on pockets. We don’t know if the T-shirt reached Mukul. Anyway, his worry is different now — mounting telephone bills. Often mocked by party members that he had adjusted his body clock to be at the beck and call of the insomniac didi (which meant he would be unavailable in the mornings), Ray is now reportedly keeping his mobile on throughout the day just to prove to didi that he is always there to help her. Trinamoolis apparently are calling him up any time of the day just to prove to didi that her watchdog also sleeps. How cruel!

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