The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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In house drama

Seen and heard at the inauguration of the Trinamool party office in the capital’s Mahabir Road:

Ranjit Panja: Does this mean we are on the defensive' (at George Fernandes’s doing the honours)

A Trinamool MP, best left unnamed (advising a colleague on how to handle a freak cold): If you’re short of money, you can try one of those pills. But if you don’t mind spending a bit, try rum with hot water or better still, brandy — ask the BJP!

Sundry voices (in loud whispers): Wonder how didi overcame this Advani'

[The rather unkind reference is to Purnima Advani, chief of the National Women’s Commission, who had for long refused to budge from the Mahabir Road house to make way for Mamata Banerjee’s party. The even unkinder innuendo is directed at the Bengal leader’s less-than-cordial relations with the better-known Advani — Lal Krishna — who has supposedly kept her out of the cabinet.]

All star cast, comprising M Venkaiah Naidu and Yerran Naidu, besides Fernandes. Sideshow, that threatens to assume centrestage, featuring a strangely subdued and silent Sudip Bandopadhyay, minus significant other Nayana, and various constituency side-kicks, who despite being in New Delhi, didn’t do duty at didi’s do.

So what shall we call the drama — “New Order in the Palace”'

Under a security cover

There’s something about Mamata Banerjee that makes other politicians — be they allies or foes — wary. Perhaps it is her penchant for histrionics. Remember how she is always telling the media that she does not care for security, that she would rather live like any other common citizen' So what is the Bengal tigress doing asking the Union home minister, LK Advani, to elevate her security cover to Z plus category' Apparently, she is afraid that the security personnel provided her by the state government are keeping tabs on her movements. If that isn’t double standards, wonder what is.

Iron lady in kid gloves

But to be fair to Mamata, she is a babe in the woods compared to what the UP chief minister Mayavati has turned out to be. Not only did the lady emerge unscathed from the video tape exposé, but she even managed to floor Mumbai’s rich and powerful with her charm on a recent visit to the city. Top industrialists like Kumaramangalam Birla, Anand Mahendra, OP Kasliwal, Nusli Wadia were so impressed they sent her back with letters of intent worth Rs 20,000 crore. But behenji’s more notable conquests were among film fraternity — Mahesh Bhatt, Smita Thackeray, Shatrughan Sinha and Tabu. Perhaps, they’ll now ask her to act in a film.

It’s time for some hard decisions

The war clouds in distant Iraq are hovering over Indore, threatening to postpone or simply put off the BJP’s national executive to be held in that city. That, at any rate, is the official version of things. The unofficial and for that reason, more believable, version is that it is a ploy to skirt the tricky issue of party discipline. To be more precise, what to do about Shanta Kumar and his role in the Himachal election debacle. Already the issue has led to a clash among the acolytes of Arun Jaitley and Pramod Mahajan. Jaitley has sought to cover his back saying that after his induction into the Union cabinet, he couldn’t give his best. Mahajan’s cronies discount such excuses and say that the party lost because tickets were given to people who had not a ghost of a chance of winning. Besides, there are also the factional feuds in the other states where elections will be held this year — Delhi, Chattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh.

Those who want the national pow-wow to be postponed feel that a post mortem will achieve nothing, that it is far better for the tempers to cool down before a future agenda is chalked out. That’s one side of the story, of course, the other being that it is precisely by letting things slide indefinitely that the mess in Himachal came about.

No reason for celebration

Firebrand sadhu Acharya Dharmendra is miffed. Why did Digvijay Singh have to arrest him on the eve of Holi' It meant he had to spend the festival of colours in the company of petty criminals in Ujjain jail. Then, the bandh called by the Bajrang Dal in protest at his arrest turned out to be a damp squib because BJP and VHP activists were busy with Holi bandobast. Singh of course offered the acharya a way out of his misery — apologize for the remarks against the minority community and get amnesty. But he was turned down. To make matters worse, both AB Vajpayee and LK Advani are peeved with him for his remarks against them at the VHP’s dharma sansad. And so there was no respite Acharya Dharmendra.

Old wine in old bottle

Heard from the opposition benches as Asim Dasgupta was entering the state legislature to present the state budget: Wah Asimbabu, naya shirt, naya pant, purana budget! Badiya hai!

Lessons from a father

Is the tiger finally changing its spots' Sanjay Nirupam, the Shiv Sena’s pointsman in the Rajya Sabha and the man who had once abused Dilip Kumar and reduced Shabana Azmi to tears, thinks Muslims are as patriotic as anyone else. Miracles will never cease.

It all began with Nirupam’s daughter coming home one day and telling her father that a “Pakistani” in her class was supporting the Indian cricket team. Initially taken aback to know that a Pakistani boy was studying with his daughter in an upmarket public school in Mumbai, Nirupam probed further, only to discover that his daughter had mistaken a Muslim for a Pakistani. “But all Muslims are not Pakistanis,” the concerned father explained to his daughter, adding “Muslims in India love the country and the cricket team just like us.” Very creditable and secular of Nirupam, who must be the only politician not to preach what he practises. But wonder what his leader, Bal Thackeray — who lays the blame for all the ills affecting India — from poverty to traffic snarls — on Pakistan, thinks of it'

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