The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Starting anew

The babu in one popular advertisement for a major paint company who gets congratulated for his “new car, new house and new wife”, could be replaced by a bibi, sorry didi, although the last factor would have to be dropped for obvious reasons. This Bengali new year, our indefatigable Mamata Banerjee is supposed to step into her new party office off the Science City, and ride her new red Qualis shortly after. The house, which is to become the Trinamooli haunt, came up on a piece of land donated by a party member, Javed Khan, and the car from a bank loan and the hardearned money of Trinamoolis (sic). Fair enough. The only problem is that a concrete roof above does not mean the Trinamoolis will not remain a divided house. The rough patches that had to be smoothened out before the house grew are enough evidence of this. For one, the donation of the land has not immediately improved matters for a much-cornered Khan, who is a major advocate of the anti-mayor lobby in the Calcutta corporation. And then there is the mayor himself. Subrata Mukherjee is said to have given in, all too easily and all in the name of fairness, to the left’s clamour for an inquiry into the deal. Looks like didi’s brand new car won’t carry her too far.

Bahu in a politician’s garb

Amid the BJP hysteria over AB Vajpayee’s five years in office, what went unnoticed was the fact that the Congress president too had completed the same number of years in her chair. Many believe that like the typical Indian bahu who believes in thrift, Sonia Gandhi must have made sure that there was little money wasted from the coffers of a party which is experiencing a financial crunch. There are others who argue that Congressmen actually forgot the occasion. Anyway, there is enough reason to believe Sonia has proved a fast learner. With elections approaching in Congress ruled states, she has made sure her CMs deferred the VAT decision. Which means seniors like Manmohan Singh, who are supportive of VAT, have had to shut up. Not quite the typical bahu, eh'

Colour blind

Drowned yet again. Chhattisgarh CM Ajit Jogi’s claim that the Union government was trying to fix chief ministers in Congress ruled states had few takers even within his own party. A Congress CM stoutly denied Jogi’s allegation that the IB had launched Operation Black Sea, saying that he was not aware of any Operation Black Sea or Red Sea. “The whole idea seems to be to see us red”, he added angrily. Lets add, “in the red” to that.

Make the most of a war

Habits die hard. Despite its own policy to not commission outside producers and the I&B minister’s strong objection, bigwigs at Prasar Bharati sanctioned a daily half-an-hour programme on the Iraq war for Rs 5 lakh a day to a mediaperson who knew which strings to pull. Never mind even if the DD itself has an army of cameramen, correspondondents and technicians on its payroll. The quality of the programme was atrocious compared to the other world channels. But that was little reason to stop the telecast, which in fact was extended beyond the stipulated 20 days. Worse, now it seems that the actual cost might soar since the Iraqi promise of extending hospitality and provide free uplinking facility remains unfulfilled. Add to that the loss of ad revenue. War time, folks. Have fun!

Was that check mate'

It’s election time, and the Venkaiah Naidu-LK Advani team had chosen Indore to project their favourite, Uma Bharti, as the BJP candidate for the CM’s chair. But they should have bargained for Vajpayee, who surprised everyone by going out of his way to praise the minister of state for telecommunications, Sumitra Mahajan. He also had a one-to-one meeting with her. His last throes'

His own reasons

MM Joshi ko gussa kyon ata hai' No one seems to have an answer to that in the party. But no one is denying that he is upset and protesting since last month. He has met journalists to air his differences with Advani. He has also boycotted high-level meetings and party rallies. And recently refused to grace the podium at the party meet at Indore. But why' Joshi insists that he should be included in the cabinet committee on security while Advani’s men ask what HRD has got to do with security. Indeed reason to feel insecure.

Canine troubles

Mandira Bedi of Shanti fame has the Akali world in storm by naming her two dogs, “Sardar Raghuwinder Singh” and Junior Kaushal (her husband’s the senior). The Akalis want to boycott her products and slap a fatwa on her. Go on a peace march, Bedi.

Take their word for it

War of words. The Iraqi situation seems to have landed the entire subcontinent in a quandary about how to describe the US aggression. The opposition in Pakistan wanted to muzammat or condemn it, although the government softened the stance by expressing absos or regret over the matter. Back home, it was more complicated, with the BJP changing its initial stance and the Congress sending confusing signals. The Congress in fact was much embarassed by Pranab Mukherjee’s unconvincingly soft draft on the issue which wished the government to avoid the word “condemn”. Priya Ranjan Das Munshi, who had been pressing the BJP to do the opposite, immediately distanced himself from Pranabda, forcing an anti-US Congress MP to jokingly say that only those who had green cards were opposing the war. To save the day, the BJP ultimately decided to use Hindi — a language alien to both the leftists and the Congress president — and settled for ninda. Meanwhile, the dictionary had to be carried to the speaker’s chamber at least thrice to differentiate between “condemn” and “deplore”.

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