The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Warm welcome

No bhadralok would have had to go to the coffee house, family in tow, to find out the matlab of thanda if he had just followed Pranab Mukherjee around Madhya Pradesh. The coldness with which the 2,000 Bengali families in Bhopal welcomed Pranabda could have sent cola companies scurrying to re-chill their soft drink bottles. Since the veteran Congress leader was in the city to boost Congress efforts, it occurred to some smart aleck in the party that he should also meet the non-resident bhadraloks of Bhopal. Having supposed that Pranabda would be a major draw among the Bengalis there, the organizers had promised him a full house. That promise, however, was destined to fall through as the NRBs were in no mood to oblige. While sheepish partywallahs groped for a way to tide over the crisis, a bright one among them had an idea. About three-dozen odd Bengali senior citizens were seated in the front benches of the auditorium, while the few remaining, mingled with the hired crowd, were scattered around filling up the rest of the hall. Pranabda, never suspecting a thing, was elated at seeing the crowd. In chaste Bengali, he regaled the audience with anecdotes about his life and times with Indira and Rajiv Gandhi. Having done his bit, both for his party and his people, the babu left the city happily. All’s well that ends well.

Double trouble

The end justifies the means for Ajit Jogi in Chhattisgarh, as for all others with their neck on the line. So even though the saffronites are pulling out Bollywood stars like Shatrughan Sinha, Dara Singh, Hema Malini and Vinod Khanna from their hat to stun and hold the attention of the state’s electorate, Jogi is unfazed. He is using filmi doubles or lookalikes of Amitabh Bachchan, Govinda, Johnny Walker and Madhuri Dixit to work his own magic on the people. From the reports that are still filtering in, Jogi’s helpers seem to be doing a fine job, especially in remote Bastar and Sarguja. Checkmate again'

Stay away, for your own sake

Advantage Ajit Jogi or not, the sting operation against Dilip Singh Judeo seems to have had an immediate fallout. Ministers in the Vajpayee government are now chary of frequenting five-star hotels. At least two relatively junior ministers in the government, regulars in the five-star circuit, are even believed to have been politely asked to stay off the glitzy premises for the fear of arousing adverse publicity. Let’s hope the curfew continues.

Party politics

Iftar politics in West Bengal has reached unprecedented heights. Ever since Speaker Hashim Abdul Halim began finding it difficult to pay much attention to his iftars given his busy schedule, Muzaffar Khan’s iftars have been the cynosure of secular interest here. Quite naturally, the attention has got the goat of his rival camp in Bengal’s BJP unit. Khan’s opponents apparently used their Delhi connections to make sure that not only the Bengal chief minister, but the Trinamooli didi also stayed out of Khan’s party. Not to be undone, the Khan-Tapan Sikdar duo seemingly worked their own linkages in Delhi. The result was voila! Not only did the CM attend the iftar, even didi relented, by sending in a few of her trusted lieutenants. Last heard, Khan’s rivals were busy convincing the Delhi HQ how Khan’s iftars were creating a bad image of the BJP among Hindus in Bengal.

What’s in the first name'

As you must have noticed, the foreign secretary-designate, Shashank, has no first name. Back in the late Seventies, when he was posted in New York, he is supposed to have approached a leading American bank for a credit card. The lady at the counter asked him his first name, only to be told that there was none. When she insisted, our man protested, telling her that he had no intention of acquiring a first name for the sake of a card. Ok, the lady answered. Within minutes, there was a credit card in the name of NFN Shashank. What were the initials for' You guessed it right, No First Name.

Original sin

Shotgun’s shooting again, but with the gun pointed at his own temple. While the BJP has made Sonia Gandhi’s foreign origin issue part of its poll plank, Shatrughan Sinha has been allegedly going around pooh-poohing the point. Sinha has been telling voters that more than her “origin”, Sonia’s ability to lead the country should be the main concern. One wonders why Shotgun is so suicidal!

Common factor

After RK Sharma (Shivani Bhatnagar), Manu Sharma (Jessica Lall), Sushil Sharma (Tandoor), Romesh Sharma (D-Company), it is the turn of RC Sharma (Telgi). Guess what’s common among them!

Unpleasant exchange

About another bhadralok. Manmohan Singh was at his social best while entertaining a fellow Congresswallah, an MP from Meerut, at his residence. There was light Darjeeling tea and Marie biscuits, and pleasantries were exchanged. Some time later, the veteran economist said goodbye to his guest. Moments later, Dr Singh’s driver returned with a crisp Rs 500 note, which he said the guest had tucked in as a parting gift. A livid Singh asked his driver to rush to his guest’s house, return the money and call Singh up from this house on Janpath. The call came some minutes later, the driver apologized and handed the phone over to Singh’s guest. As Manmohan lodged his protest, the guest expressed surprise, even dismay, adding that he had voluntarily doled out “some change”. When Singh politely and firmly asked his guest not to call on him again, it was the guest’s turn to spring a surprise. He said that what he had done was common custom and that he had been doing exactly the same thing while visiting senior party leaders. Point taken, Sonia'

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