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The cap doesn’t fit

His political career may be a non-starter, but at least the scion of the Nehru-Gandhi family can laugh at himself. Rahul Gandhi was at the Russian Circus last weekend, with his far more politically-confident sister Priyanka and her family, when the clown gave him a cap and asked him to throw it so that it fell on his head. Now this is a standard trick clowns resort to to raise a few laughs and it was Rahul’s turn to be the scapegoat in the audience. Unfortunately, try as he might, he just couldn’t get his aim right. Instead of landing on the clown’s head, the cap landed in places so far off the mark that the audience kept breaking out in peals of laughter. To his credit, Rahul too joined in the laughter. Uncharitable carpers, of course, were quick to seize on this as evidence of what a poor marksman Rahul is in the political arena. Poor fellows, what would they, dry and unsimiling politicians, know of a sense of fun' And after all, it is preferable to be a better human being than a good neta. What say you, Rahul'


Mobile man

Sudhanshu Mittal is a very busy man indeed these days with assembly elections round the corner. The high-profile man-for-all-seasons of the high-profile man-for-all-seasons, Pramod Mahajan, has no less than four mobile phones, alternating between pocket and ear. Each has a distinct ringtone, so Mittal knows which one’s ringing. The busiest is the hot line to “Vasu” — Vasundhara Raje Scindia. There is one where disgruntled MPs, who have got the wrong end of Uma Bharti’s tongue, call. The third one is strictly for friends and family. But no prizes for guessing who is it on the fourth, tiny phone, with which Mittal can be seen huddling in a corner. It’s the master himself.


A tide in the affairs

Even an assassination attempt has its uses. N Chandrababu Naidu is apparently planning to delink the state’s assembly polls from the general elections and to bring them forward to February 2004. The brainwave seems to have been prompted by the unsuccessful Naxalite attack on him, which, the Andhra CM has been led to believe, has created a sympathy wave for him. So why not ride on it'


Crumbling wall

The unmaking of another myth about the sangh parivar. So long believed to be a monolith, the fissures were there for all to see recently at the condolence meeting of the lieutenant governor of Pondicherry, KR Malkani, held at the instance of the deputy prime minister on the sprawling lawns of the Vithalbhai Patel House. The morning papers had carried big notices, prominently announcing the venue and the time of the gathering. Yet, despite the publicity, just about a hundred mourners had trooped in. The vast enclosure that evening was only filled to a quarter of its capacity. Is this then the sorry beginning to a glorious end'


Angry woman in saffron

If there was a prize for rudeness and rubbing people the wrong way, then Uma Bharti would surely win it hands-down. The other day, she offended a senior leader like Sumitra Mahajan, when she challenged her at an election commission meeting — was she the chief ministerial candidate, or was Bharti' Some time later, Bharti had to formally apologize to Union minister, Vikram Verma, for comparing his cerebral faculties to cow fodder. But Uma Bharti ko gussa kyon ata hai' Is it just a case of election nerves or can she smell defeat already'


Elections are a time for parties

g suspended her iftar parties last Ramadan, Sonia Gandhi is once again at her secular best. She is all set to resume the do’s from the middle of November, and orders have reportedly been placed for two dozen vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes. The iftar bash last Ramadan had been cancelled in view of the Gujarat elections when her advisors — Ambika Soni, Shankersinh Vaghela and Kamal Nath — had been afraid that such “secular” shows would upset the party’s Hindu constituency. So what is different this time round' Well, elections are approaching in five states again and, presumably, iftars have their own function. Right'


Be a good sport

It was a mere slip of tongue, but Suresh Kalmadi was thrilled that N Chandrababu Naidu had called him “Khelmadi”. Naidu can hardly be blamed for the mistake since Kalmadi, besides being on the organizing committees of various national and international sports meets, has quite monopolized the presidentship of the Indian Olympic Association. Now that’s what they call a Freudian slip.


Best face forward

With television around, the best face always wins — even if it is the elections to the state assembly. Which puts solid, but untelegenic, politicians like Madan Lal Khurana at a distinct disadvantage. Those who were present at a recent debate organized between Sheila Dikshit and her BJP rival felt that Khurana got the better of her. But those who saw it on TV felt the articulate CM of Delhi came tops. That is probably a matter of personal opinion, but BJP spin-doctors are taking no chances. They have fielded younger and more eloquent spokespersons for Khurana and asked the veteran politician to keep off the cameras. He has also been asked to discard his trademark safaris (which went out of fashion about a decade ago) in favour of the kurta-pyjama. He has also been reminded of something the late Congressman, Jag Pravesh Chandra, had once told him, only half in jest, that while “others think with an open mind, Khurana thinks with an open mind”. Now, you may be sure that as the electioneering picks up, Khurana will be doing his best to keep his mouth firmly shut.


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