The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Succession battle

Snowless Shimla. But Snow White was determined not only to do the right things, but also to do “a thing right”. That was obviously to clinch the leadership question, which had been left hanging in the Srinagar air since it was raised at the last chief ministers’ meet by old horse, Arjun Singh. With the elections coming at it with galloping speed, the party could no longer afford the freeze on it. The problem with the answer, now that it is out of the bag, is that it has almost aborted all chances of having a designer alliance to take on the saffronites. The assertion of the boss at the Shimla shivir (camp) is bound to have set off consternation in other shivirs, particularly the Sharad Pawar led Nationalist Congress Party and Mulayam Yadav’s Samajwadi Party. Both parties have reservations about the Italian-born, but had kept mum because the Congress did not press the issue. There was however the tacit understanding that in case the anti-BJP front emerged victorious, the leader of the largest party would stake claim to the Delhi throne. Madam’s dwarves would however leave nothing to chance, especially given that she wanted their assurance that her prime ministerial ambitions would be preserved and projected, that she was destined to lead the world’s largest democracy. Which is probably why the Congress mirror had to lie again.

Changing direction

Journey’s end' Maybe. For S Jaipal Reddy, does not seem to be the same fire-spitting spokesperson he once used to be. In the Congress, he seems to be running for cover when uncomfortable questions are raised. When a scribe recently asked his views on the BJP’s demand of an apology for Emergency from the party, he is said to have merely stated that he did not wish to join issues with the saffronwallahs. Naidu-watchers bet that they sense his soft corner for southern heroes like N Chandrababu Naidu and M Venkaiah Naidu, who, the Congress spokesman reportedly refuses to criticize even in private. There’s a buzz that Reddy might be replaced soon. If he emerges the unlikely winner in the marathon Andhra struggle for the state Congress committee chief, it would do him fine.

Bridge the divide

His thunder stolen, the Kanchi sankaracharya might have returned a broken man, not so the members of the all India Muslim personal law board. The Lucknow session seems to have done them a lot of good. It was a rare sight to see the Shia cleric pray at a Sunni mosque in Nadwa. In a community divided on sharp sectarian lines, this is a unique feat. Let’s hope the saffronites stoke the Ayodhya fire a little more.

Hero at sub-zero

The socialist hero, George Fernandes, has emerged the darling of the armed forces, especially after he became a regular visitor to the Siachen heights. Till date, Fernandes is supposed to have touched base at the Siachen 32 times, every time flying with the troops who replace those guarding the peaks at sub-zero temperatures. Jawans claim that with Fernandes, medical facilities have improved, the base camp has been upgraded, and there is a helicopter ready to ferry them to safety in an emergency. And Fernandes' Should we call it love’s labour found'

Credit line

The BJP president, M Venkaiah Naidu, has been in the firing line for quite some time now. The latest reason to face bullets is his eight-page note of the BJP achievements. Apart from showcasing his ability to have arranged a three-hour meeting with the Andhra Pradesh CM, N Chandrababu Naidu, the party chief has credited himself with having arranged for “younger leaders” like Pramod Mahajan and Sushma Swaraj to regularly share the dais with the prime minister. Naturally, both the “younger” souls mentioned have hit the ceiling. Both have pointed out that they were general secretaries when Naidu was merely a member of the BJP national executive. Quite obviously, Naidu seems to be in need of a refresher course.

Hidden science

Looks like the vigyan purush, Murli Manohar Joshi, is coming on a bit too fast. There are reportedly pressures from Jhandewalan to reward the sangh’s only man who has lived up to expectations. Which is why the North Block may soon be welcoming a new finance minister. Jaswant Singh might once again move to the South Block and Yashwant Sinha may be headed to Jharkhand to fight the elections two years from now.

Because she dares

At Shimla, the Himachal CM Veerbhadra Singh offered Sonia his royal palace. The house is allegedly haunted. Madam not only stay put despite fears about her safety, but spent three days in it. Whoever doubted her courage'

Old is still gold

While Calcutta readies itself for another massive traffic dislocation that will accompany the PM’s visit to the city on occasion of the Bengal Chambers of Commerce’s 150 years, some major decisions are being made and unmade at the Writers’. AB Vajpayee is supposed to have asked to see veteran Marxist, Jyoti Basu, at the function and Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s government has not the heart to refuse him that. The problem is with Jyotibabu, who is extremely conscious of the message his presence will send off. For one, he seems to have a lot to say about the ABV government which, if said in such a social do, would embarrass the Buddha government. If he did not speak up, it would convey a bad signal to left supporters in the state who, he believes, are dying to hear the Jyoti-speak again. While the horns of dilemma goaded the government, Basu himself is supposed to have come up with the solution. He has reportedly agreed to meet ABV over lunch — which saves Buddha from a corner, Basu himself from opening his mouth, and us from listening to his prattle again.

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