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Upping the ante

Who’s the man behind the mukhota' It probably doesn’t need too many guesses to hit upon the realization that the prime mover behind India’s sudden blow hot-blow hot policy towards the general next door could be the all-powerful deputy of the prime minister. Pakistan must have understood that long ago. Which is why, the South Block thinks, the Pakis had been so desperate to woo LK Advani. Only a few days ago, Jehangir Qazi, Pakistan’s former ambassador to India and now ambassador to Washington, is supposed to have penned his letter to Advani, dripping with love and nostalgia. In this missive, which was also accompanied by a book, Qazi lamented how much he missed India and talked about the great time he spent as ambassador in the country. Apparently, he also spoke highly of Advani in his letter. Bowled over, Advani sent back feelers. He is said to have decided to meet Qazi when he visits Washington in June. To the MEA, which knew Qazi’s friend circle never extended beyond the Natwar Singhs and Mani Aiyars, the overture had been surprising. They obviously know better now. No beating the Pakis.


Natural remedies

More than a quarter of a century at the pinnacle of power, age is telling on the health of the high profile CPI(M) politburo member and Left Front chairman, Biman Bose. His remedy: a few neem leaves and a piece of turmeric with two glasses of water in the morning. A firm believer in ayurveda, this die-hard Marxist carries his beauty pack with him wherever he goes. The combination was with him even when he went abroad last time. However, with the panchayat campaign in full swing, Bose is apparently finding it increasingly more difficult to keep to his routine, especially when he is touring the remote corners of rural Bengal. That is probably why Bose has instructed his party managers in the districts to have neem and haldi ready for him if they wanted him to campaign for them. That’s a small price to pay!


How Amma sees it

Talking of remedies, Amma has her own against the dreaded SARS. Most must have heard of her recommended dosage of papaya and black pepper daily to keep the disease at bay. To add to that, she is also supposed to have disagreed to a party MLA’s suggestion that Tamil Nadu assembly members in Chennai be allowed to wear the mask. This was important, he argued, because the city faced the sea, and SARS, he was convinced, is coming from the sea. Should we thank Amma for small mercies'


For a lawful entry

The dream girl is dreaming. Hema Malini, who in the past few years has emerged as the BJP’s star campaigner, is hoping she will be nominated to the upper house by the president this August. There is hectic lobbying already. But the going might be tough for the star since a section of the party believes she did not lend her voice to the saffron because of any commitment, but because she had charged it a princely sum. Other than Hema, there are two journos in the fray apart from the several who wish to pitch in for the eight vacancies in the nominated slot. Among them are supercop KPS Gill and Kapil Dev. Quite a ceremonial change of guard there.


Meeting of minds

The not-too-sweet words that went for the government at the CII meet last week could be traced to a tiff of sorts. No minister from AB Vajpayee government made himself available to the industrywallahs to inaugurate the annual session of the body. The PM had excused himself long ago, after which the CII had homed in on the finance minister. When the FM too excused himself, the bigwigs fell for the law and commerce minister, Arun Jaitley, who too played safe. A dejected CII had to settle for the management guru, CK Prahlad, to kick off the session. Naturally, the curses rained on the government.


For your ears only

Star performer. During his crucial meeting with the sangh parivar, AB Vajpayee is supposed to have pre-empted the hawks gunning for him by saying, “Aaj main sirf sunne aaya hun” (Today I have come here only to listen to you). The sangh’s supremacy was restored and Vajpayee got a clean chit.


Seat nothings

At the recent Maharashtra Day celebrations, actress Sonali Bendre is supposed to have got upset in a major way when she found her hubby relegated to the back row. Ms Long Legs protested and went to sit with her husband, that is till she and hubby were seated next to Sunil Gavaskar. Another kissa kursi ka.


Add to the numbers

Looks like statues and portraits will soon outnumber members in the Parliament. Hung up on the past, the BJP has been hoarding life-size pictures of regional chieftains into the august house. The latest entrant is Chhatrapati Shivaji on his horse, Kalyani. The statue has apparently been sculpted by Ram Suttar, who also did the Mahatma’s statue. The entry of Kalyani however sparked off a minor war. When the general purpose committee met last December to decide that Kalyani would be immortalized, it was decided that Chetak, the brave beast of Rana Pratap Singh, Rajasthan’s Thakur warrior, also deserved the same merit. Vice-President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat obviously mooted the proposal. Another statue, that of the Rani of Jhansi, mounted on her horse, is on the pipeline. In all, the general purpose committee has cleared 16 proposals of portraits and statues. Among the numerous projects are Ahalya Bai, the Chapekar brothers, Rabindranath Tagore (who received the thrust of the Marxist veteran Somnath Chatterjee). An august gathering, should we say!


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