The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Unconventional wisdom

The problem with our modern fairy tale is that we have a terribly confused Snow White who asks the same questions to several mirrors at a time and doesn’t know which reflection to believe in. A few days back, a perturbed Sonia had asked her two trusted lieutenants, Ambika Soni and K Natwar Singh, a trick question — the likely impact of the monsoons on the assembly elections in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. While Soni, in charge of the elections in the states, naturally came up with a positive response, Singh sounded a negative note. Turning conventional logic on its head, Natwar said that a good monsoon could prove detrimental to the Congress in Rajasthan. For one, it would render some 70 lakh people, employed in drought relief work, jobless and, consequently, disillusioned with the government. The disillusion would seep into one crore 40 lakh people as each of the workers had at least two dependents, all of them voters. On the other hand, a good monsoon would make farmers too lazy to make their assessment about whether the government was bad or good. A lose-lose situation then. Not so for Madhya Pradesh, however, believes Natwar. With enough rains, Diggy Raja could turn both the power and water situations around. Take heart madam. Mirrors also lie!

Dig deeper

At Shimla, Sonia was surrounded mostly by weathercocks, not the least to forecast snowfall in the hill town, but to gauge the likely temperature next summer (maybe earlier). The subjects of a likely coalition, WTO and the party line on the US came up. While almost the whole of the Uttar Pradesh state committee thought the party had no option but to join hands with Mulayam Yadav, there was a lone voice of dissent coming from the wife of a former UP party chief. The possible consequences of this recalcitrance was driven home later. Priya Ranjan Das Munshi is supposed to have quipped that if the Congress failed to enter into an alliance in UP, the Archeological Survey of India would be required to dig out its remains in the state. Point taken'

Magic rites

Deeper down in Madhya Pradesh, the electoral battle has taken on a sinister, shade. Both Uma Bharti and Digvijay Singh are believed to have taken recourse to tantra. While the sanyasin is supposed to be in constant touch with two women tantriks, Diggy is apparently organizing a tantrik ritual close to Gwalior. That Digvijay is giving the BJP a run for their Hindutva was evident from the fact that he left the Shimla meet a day earlier, apparently on the plea that it was more important for him to be present at a puja at Pandarpur than at the conclave. Keep it up Diggy!

How to steal the thunder

Its not merely government employees who find themselves outsmarted by Amma. The Congress in Tamil Nadu share the same sentiments. Before the party had a chance to celebrate the birth anniversary of the former AICC chief, Kamaraj, on July 15, J Jayalalithaa had done it. In her speech on the occasion, Jayalalithaa reminded that Kamaraj was a king-maker and Tamil Nadu (read Amma) continues to wield that power. O Panneerselvam went a step further, predicting Jaya would be the future prime minister. The next day, the Tamil Nadu Congress put up Punjab chief minister, Amarinder Singh, to speak on Kamaraj. Flop show.

Looked after

It pays to be a VIP. Indian businesses and industrial houses are believed to maintain residential flats or guest houses abroad to extend their hospitality to men who matter in the Indian establishment. So when a chief minister went abroad recently, an industrial house is believed to have entrusted the task of “looking after” to its most suave PR man who accompanied the politician all the way to the West and back. He apparently not only attended all official and unofficial functions together with the CM, but also picked up the tabs when the minister and his family went shopping. Some people have all the luck.

No entry, please

Another luckless soul is supposed to have been barred from entering the Nehru-Gandhi household recently. This one, who hails from Punjab and is considered to be close to the son of the Akali leader, Parkash Singh Badal, was reportedly well-entrenched in Priyanka Gandhi’s circle of friends and often dropped by to have sandwiches prepared by “Sonia Aunty”. Now 10, Janpath is agog with rumours about how the boy misused his proximity to the family and did a “Richard” (remember Priyanka’s infamous brother-in-law')

Encouraging note

One of the lucky seven to have been appointed as Star TV’s shareholder in India received a telegram which read, “Congratulations. You have made it from page three to page one!”

Stars stop shining

Evil hour for the BJP president. First, the background note being prepared for the benefit of the BJP spokespersons on the completion of M Venkaiah Naidu’s one year in office was allegedly pilfered from the typist’s desk and allowed to make its way to newspaper offices and eventually the headlines. That started off speculations about Naidu being replaced by Sushma Swaraj and eventually rumours about Murli Manohar Joshi replacing Jaswant Singh in a possible reshuffle. While the rumour mills continue to churn, there are apparently people lining up, from places as far off as Karnataka, outside the PMO with dossiers on Venkaiah and his corrupt ways. One minister staunchly anti-Naidu is Shanta Kumar. He is believed to have also started an inquiry against a joint secretary who had once been given additional charge by Naidu as rural development minister. Although the inquiry was quashed by Ananth Kumar who succeeded Shanta as rural development minister, Shanta Kumar apparently continues to labour. All that makes Naidu a rather sad purush.

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