The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Ugly reflections

Snow-white and her many dwarfs. The only twist in this fairy tale is that the dwarfs quarrel too much. Sonia Gandhi’s reshuffle of the CWC seems to have provided her men with one more occasion to show who is taller than the other. Take her gen-sec, Kamal Nath, in charge of party affairs in West Bengal, Orissa, Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry. Made nervous by Gujarat and Delhi being taken away from him, Nath seems to have embarked on a damage limitation exercise. To his pet journos, the gen-sec is supposed to have boasted that he is still madam’s blue-eyed boy, which is why he retains the charge of “hopeless” states like Bengal and the bulk of the work. Nath went a step further and is believed to have suggested to party workers in Indore that although Digvijay Singh was the sole campaigner in Madhya Pradesh, the question of chief ministership was still open and legislators might still elect him as their leader. Enough! Diggy Raja, having no wish to lie low, has apparently complained against Nath’s attempt to disrupt party unity. Meanwhile, Diggy is also making sure Snow-white wakes up to all that is happening in MP, especially his kind of diplomacy. The party, which is already marvelling at the raja’s saffron ways, was astounded by Diggy’s offer of his official aeroplane to Uma Bharti for a BJP function in Khargone, and then the holding of the funeral of the prime minister’s sister at state expense and his presence at the ceremony. Digvijay was also present to receive the new governor, Ram Prakash Gupta, having got Bhai Mahavir out of his way. Madam, who is the tallest of them all'

Roll him back

A man cut short. The disinvestment minister, Arun Shourie, has made himself even more unpopular as minister for telecommunications. Fixed in his ideas, Shourie never sees any reason other than his own. Which is why it took no less than LK Advani to force him into rolling back his telephone tariff. The move, apart from satisfying people in the party, must have delighted telecom bureaucrats no less. They are believed to be smarting under Shourie, not only because of his autocratic ways, but also because he has unceremoniously stalled their frequent foreign visits. So any minus point for Shourie is a plus point for them. They are also focussing on subtracting Shourie from the ministry.

Musing again

Manali is supposed to be doing wonders to our dear old prime minister. Between his morning and evening walks, when he takes out his favourite dog, Blacky, AB Vajpayee is believed to be reading books of Nicholas Roerich, particularly Heart of Asia and Realm of Light. Like Vajpayee, Roerich had a personal liking for Nehru. So on whom will the next musings be, Roerich or Nehru'

God speed, cried the MEA

The speed at which the name of India’s new high commissioner to Pakistan was approved has got many worried, especially since the PM’s China visit is still due and it is abnormal for such changes to be made at such times. Besides, Shiv Shankar Menon was doing a commendable job in China. This was done, the grapevine has it, because MEA bosses were determined to stall the posting of another bureaucrat, currently high commissioner of another neighbouring country. This gentleman would have made an excellent ambassador to Pakistan given his previous experience of Karachi, but Menon’s name was rushed through to close the selection process. All because our bureaucrat had not been suitably deferential.

Join the gang

Pray, why does the Indian government fix a retirement age for its bureaucrats when it has no intention of following it' The Vajpayee government is particularly partial to these superannuated men. Several of them have served as governors and lieutenant governors, and there are at least two former foreign secretaries currently occupying ambassadorial posts in Washington and Moscow. The latest to join this august circle is Savitri Kunadi, Indian ambassador in Paris, who has been given a year’s extension. The regular IFS cadre hates the interlopers, but there is nothing much they can do, especially if the appointee has powerful friends. Kunadi has them too'

Enviable exception

High-profile Congress MP, T Subbirami Reddy, has the largest number (159) of starred and unstarred questions to his credit (the former get oral replies in Parliament, while the latter get written ones). Other MPs believe this is a fraud as many do not manage even one starred question of theirs to be accepted by the secretariat. Reddy'

A girl for Mr Khan

Post-Ash, Salman Khan’s parents, on the advice of one maulvi, are believed to have found a starlet for their son who has wanted two years’ time to establish her career. Anybody willing to vouch that she’ll stick on for that long'

All’s well that ends well

No one will deny that the panchayat polls this time were a cakewalk for the CPI(M). Most of all those who were present at the meeting between Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and LK Advani. There is no doubt that the poll violence had presented Buddha with a problem before the meet. But midnight oil was burnt at the Writers’ and a list made that enumerated all members killed of all parties. This proved to be a masterstroke, for the members of the left cadre who had fallen clearly outnumbered those of other parties. With numbers to back him, Buddha easily overrode all allegations of violence against his rival. Advani, apparently, took one look at the list and let it lie by the wayside. The bonhomie that followed was remarkable. Back home, the bonhomie within the left, however, is much shattered as Amar Chowdhury continues to be a nag. The CPI(M) prestige now hinges on whether the old, ailing RSP leader could have at all managed the 1 km sprint he alleges to have made to flee party goons. CPI(M) insists that he could not have, while the RSP argues otherwise. Where’s the third umpire'

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