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Video games for politicians

In retrospect, the latest political drama in UP seems like something straight out of Hindi movies — a rival party makes a video of a chief minister in the middle of a politically-compromising act and shows it at a press conference, leading to the latter’s downfall. The last act of play may not have played out quite according to script, but the question is, how did the Samajwadi Party get hold of the video showing its bête noire, behn Mayavati, saying something so daft' The buzz is that it was someone in the BSP itself — probably an MP who was more than a little resentful at having to part with what someone jokingly called “hafta” (protection money, in Mumbai slang), or even someone who was sick of sitting back on his haunches while BMW, as she is called, lorded it over him, perched on a chair. For, believe it or not, at BSP meetings, everyone, no matter how powerful or important they fancy themselves to be, sits on the ground, while Mayavati, and possibly Kanshi Ram, are the only two allowed the luxury of sitting on a chair. This unspoken rule has been one reason the party lost out on Arif Mohammad Khan and Akbar “Dumpy” Ahmed, two leaders whose self-respect rebelled at the slight. Now it seems someone else is unhappy about the seating arrangements. But the question is, who'


Oblivious to Lara’s theme

Good food and beautiful women — Atal Bihari Vajpayee is known for his appreciation of the good things in life. Thus it was that his eye was caught by the beautiful Ms Lara Dutta at a saffron-sponsored conference on international terrorism to which she (for reasons unknown) had been invited. But while our septuagenarian PM has an eye for beauty, he cannot be expected to know the names of all of them, even if they are one-time Miss Universes. He turned to M Venkaiah Naidu, sitting next to him, but the BJP president wasn’t much help. Thankfully, the person sitting next to Naidu was better clued in and supplied the maiden’s name. But that wasn’t much help either: “Lara...who'” asked the PM, while Naidu could be heard remarking blankly that the only Lara he had heard of was Brian Lara.


A friend from across the hills

If Rabindranath Tagore’s kabuliwallah was a poor, itinerant peddler, the quintessential image of today’s kabuliwallah is the designer-clad Hamid Karzai. The dapper Afghan president, on a tour of India currently, had a gala time at a banquet in his honour in Rashtrapati Bhavan. Talking of the long tradition of cordial relations between the two countries, Karzai couldn’t thank the Indian leadership enough for coming forward to reconstruct Afghanistan. “I’m enjoying my visit to India so much that I don’t want to go back,” Karzai told him hosts effusively. Careful, sir, what you ask for!


Hang them and forget them

The controversy over the Veer Savarkar painting may have raised political tempers all around. But it has finally made our MPs take a second look at the paintings they hang on the walls of the Central Hall of Parliament whenever the need to fête someone takes their fancy, and then promptly forget. They are now discovering how very arbitrarily the portraits have been hung. For example, three Nehru-Gandhis — Rajiv, Indira and Motilal — stand together and next to a portrait of Sardar Patel, while Jawaharlal Nehru keeps the company of Rajendra Prasad, Ram Manohar Lohia and Lal Bahadur Shastri. But whoever decided where Savarkar’s portrait should go did well since it hangs exactly opposite that of Mahatma Gandhi’s —even though the latter occupies pride of place above the podium while the former is tucked away on the wall of an alcove fringing the main hall.


Seeing saffron everywhere

PN Oak — the sangh parivar’s resident historian, for those who are entirely forgivably ignorant of his existence— is at it again. Going by Iraqi postal stamps of Krishna playing the flute, the man who once claimed that the Taj was a Hindu mausoleum now has it that Baghdad is actually the ancient Bhagwat Nagar, mispronounced. He has written to Saddam Hussein asking him to take the country to its Vedic roots to save his country from the wrath of the Western powers. Heaven help Saddam!


Firmly in the central seat

Along with his health ministry, Sushma Swaraj seems to have also inherited Shatrughan Sinha’s superstitious ways. She has refused to sit on the corner seat in the large room next to her office in Parliament, from where she addresses the press meets. Her predecessor in the parliamentary affairs ministry, Pramod Mahajan, had favoured this seat because it was close to the phone. But that’s not good enough for Sushma. Guided by vaastu, the minister sits daintily on the sofa right in the middle of the room. This is one lady who is determined not to be cornered.


The minister’s right-hand man

As Jeeves to Wooster, there is no end to the advantages a good secretary can bring to a political leader. And Murli Manohar Joshi is uniquely blessed to have the enterprising Atanu Bhattacharya as his OSD. You can attribute at least some part of the good press Joshi has been getting lately to this former journalist. For instance, when AB Vajpayee sought Joshi’s opinions on the problems with the BSP in UP, or the VHP’s dharma sansad, Bhattacharya made it a point to put in a word in the ears of a few influential journos. That helped because when the party dithered about whether to include the HRD minister in the official talks with Mayavati, Bhattacharya could turn around and tell his media friends that both the PM and the UP CM had absolutely insisted on the importance of Joshi’s presence, owing to his “special rapport” with the latter. Also, when the belligerent sadhus backed off over the Ayodhya issue, Bhattacharya spread the word around that it was the result of Joshi’s deft handling of the situation. Next, he will probably claim the sun rises out of Joshi.


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