Isn't it natural to do as the Romans do when in Rome' Then why is the good doctor being seen to have suddenly metamorphosed into a wily politico, and only because he suggested to Arjun Singh that he also officially represent the country in Germany instead of just taking his wife for treatment there on a private visit' Manmohan's masterstroke is supposed to have won him the friendship of one of the most astute politicians in the Congress camp, feared by partymen and political allies alike. At the Congress headquarters, the change of chemistry between the Thakur and the gentleman prime minister is the subject of much debate. Some believe that Singh has done a right thing by trying to humour madam's 'Bairam Khan'. The reference is to the famous Mughal noble who groomed young Akbar before he became the emperor of Hindustan. There are also others who recall Bairam Khan's sidelining and his being sent off to Mecca after Akbar consolidated his position. But the last group probably also need to be reminded that Singh, ahem, is no Akbar.
A brief case
Talking about being packed off, our home minister, Shivraj Patil, seems to be desperately trying to avoid that fate for himself after he so unceremoniously lost ground following the bomb blast prior to the Muzaffarabad bus journey. However, even a cursory look at his PR exercise will show that he may not be able to stave that off for too long. All that his spin-doctors could think of in order to salvage his image was upgrade the quality of the kit handed over to chief minister and other bigwigs at a meeting to discuss internal security. Instead of the leather-folder containing all information, the guests were given sleek Samsonite briefcases. A sad case, we must say.
In a day's work
If one is eager to hear about strokes that politicos play, then it is dear old Natwar's that one should be interested in. The external affairs minister seems to have effectively silenced his critics and rubbed the nose of his adversaries with his Oval Office conquest. We can explain. Prior to him, none of the foreign ministers had managed a full-fledged audience with the US president. When as deputy PM, LK Advani went calling, he was invited to Bush's office for a quick sound bite. In Natwar's case, there was a full half-an-hour sit-down meeting with the man. Bravo!
For the braveheart
When President Pervez Musharraf was in India during the Agra summit in 2001, he could not make it to Ajmer, possibly because the summit ended on a sour note. The caretakers of the dargah were not happy about the turn of events either. They alleged that the president did not have the 'moral courage' to face Baba Garib Nawaz. Apart from Musharraf's courage, what had escaped the mujawirs and sajjadanasheens were the wonderful photo-op and the promised Rs 50 lakh from the Pakistanis. Let us hope the Baba gives the General enough moral courage this time round.
Black and white
Meanwhile, given a generous backing by the UPA government, Narendra Modi, seems to have discovered enough moral courage to go in for the publication of a booklet that has his own photo on one side, and the PM's on the other. There are captions like 'India stands united' and an excerpt from Manmohan Singh's lambasting of the US government in the Rajya Sabha. That the sanghwallahs are themselves on a moral high seems to be evident from rumours that Modi might be projected as the sangh's prime ministerial candidate in the next elections. But then the UPA asked for it!
Time to remember
The art of forgetting. Learn it from the urban development ministry, which now and then passes edicts dedicating houses to senior positions in the police and army, and forgets them. Take this case. Years ago, when MB Kaushal became the Delhi police commissioner, the ministry spent a sizeable amount to modify and modernize the Lodhi estate bungalow. It was to be christened the Delhi Police House and given exclusively to heads of the Delhi police, only the ministry soon forgot about its honest intentions. Four commissioners of police followed in a stream, but none occupied the designated house. Now the ministry seems to have woken up again. A newspaper recently quoted a senior ministry official talking about a 'new' scheme to dedicate houses to organizational heads.
Not a cool scene
Congress spokesperson Anand Sharma's cool comments about how a change of guard in the left will have no 'bearing' on the UPA is no barometer for the rising temperatures in the Congress camp over the issue. The topiwallahs had expected the more genial, moderate Sitaram Yechury to have made it to the top slot. There was total panic when the left choice became known. So worried was the party leadership after the transfer of power that 10 Janpath is supposed to have sent emissary, Ahmad Patel, to Harkishen Singh Surjeet's house to get an assurance that it would have no effect on the government. Surjeet's word to Patel seems to have ill-sufficed, for there was soon Natwar Singh dropping in at his residence again to attend the tea party hosted by Surjeet for the foreign delegates to the party congress. Earlier, when Sonia had met Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, the change in leadership had figured prominently in the discussions. Naturally, since both have as much to fear from this unkind god.