The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Still sitting out

An avid watcher of the Uttar Pradesh circus has been a young Nehru-Gandhi — Priyanka, who apparently remained glued to the television as Mayavati relinquished her taj. The mother of two seems to have been delighted by what she saw as she kept recalling how the Dalit queen had dared to make inroads in the family’s pocket-borough in Amethi, changing names of places and enticing Congress workers loyal to the Nehru-Gandhis. The news of Priyanka’s interest leaked out of 10, Janpath, and created a furore among Congresswallahs who saw it as indication that the young Gandhi was ready to draw blood. The carrot was also brandished before power-hungry Congress legislators in the state who kept straining at the leash to join the Mulayam government. All 16 of them were asked to hold on, as the Congress was about to start on a clean slate. The most difficult to restrain was clearly Pramod Tiwari, leader of the UP legislature party, who is said to have kept his finest kurtas and achkans ready for precisely such occasions. Tiwari had reportedly spent hours on the telephone trying to get 37 members of the Congress working committee to resolve their differences. But he hadn’t bargained for the UP Congress chief, Jagdambika Pal, who cherishes similar ambitions at heart. When Pal made a strong case for his “sit out” theory, the two came almost to blows. Maybe Ma Priyanka should really pay these children more attention.

Tearful farewell

Very few cameras, not much light, but plenty of action. That could sum up the sight as the eight nominated members of the Rajya Sabha departed from the house after the end of their term. There were sad faces all around, but none seemed so overwhelmed by their sorrow as Shabana Azmi. The only one to surface in the Central Hall of Parliament after the end of the valedictory speeches, she bid goodbye to friends and acquaintances with a heavy heart. One could see that she was finding it hard to stop tears rolling down her cheeks as the watch and ward staff gathered around her to bid her farewell. Was it that difficult to say goodbye to power'

Fixing a price

One doesn’t know why an Italian should behave so Dutch, but madam has advised the sale of gifts and souvenirs given to her to help her cash-strapped Congress. The wise counsel has been applied to Congress-ruled states not with much success initially as Congresswallahs did not know why they had to buy things that were theirs. But the idea caught on. Gifts were apparently shipped to Maharashtra and a cheque of undisclosed amount despatched to 24, Akbar Road eventually. The honour this time has gone to Himachal Pradesh. AICC treasurer, Motilal Vora, can hardly stop gloating over the financial wizardry of madam.

Grand plans for the future

Another success story. Buoyed by his success of running a Montessori in his ancestral property, Chandan Basu, son of former CM Jyoti Basu, is now toying with the idea of opening a full-fledged high school in Calcutta. He is believed to have already approached the government for a plot of land. Basu senior is supposed to be greatly pleased with his son’s idea. The problem is Trinamoolis are not. They are already thinking of starting an agitation if Chandan is granted land. Perpetual spoilsports!

Aye, aye captain

More news from the land of the Hilsa-eaters. Somen Mitra is destined to be anointed the captain of the Congress’s sinking ship in Bengal. Which in other words means that Pranab Mukherjee’s exile is over. Senior party leaders have indicated that Mukherjee may step down after the Pujas and pave the way for the rehabilitation of Mitra, who had resigned in 1998. That the decision has been finalized was evident from Mitra’s sharing the platform with his bête noire, Priya Ranjan Das Munshi on the foundation day of Chhatra Parishad, the Congress’s student wing. “Somen has won over Priyada”, says a party worker. Hope he can exercise the same powers over the electorate.

A face on hire

Why is Najma Heptullah so pleased with the saffronites' The grapevine has it that the sanghis have kept a Rajya Sabha seat vacant in the presidential nomination category for her just in case she fails to get a Congress nomination. Her relations with the Congressis have undoubtedly soured. She was present at a function to mark the “dark days of Emergency” despite the Congress bar. The BJP also has a lot to gain from her. As a mascot from the minority community, she could be touted as a liberal face of the government. Each to his own.

Natural calamities

Ujjain’s astrologers believe Mars is to be blamed for all calamities — stampede, bombs, Mayavati. Naturally.

Help those who don’t help themselves

With friends like these who needs enemies' That could be Uma Bharti’s outcry if anyone is willing to listen. Opposition from her own saffron kind has beleaguered her candidacy in Madhya Pradesh so much so that she has had to take Congress help in peculiar situations. Witness these. When she landed at Indore airport recently, she was baffled to find that no one had come to receive her. There was, however, a huge Congress crowd for Ambika Soni. Amused Congressmen reportedly helped her get transport. Shortly after, her helicopter in Dhar landed at a place far removed from the venue of her meeting. Transport had to be arranged again. But much to the consternation of the Congress samaritans, the sanyasin launched her usual tirade against the rival party at Dhar. A similar situation cropped up in Bagli, the constituency of Kailash Joshi, the state BJP president. There was no one to receive her and worse, slogan-shouting from party workers prevented her from speaking. Uma has complained against the outrage, but her partymen in MP obviously have other plans for her.

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