Man of the moment
You don't need harsh words to damn a man ' too much of praise can do the job just as well. Arjun Singh's antennae should have alerted him when Sonia Gandhi, Manmohan Singh, Somnath Chatterjee, all fell over themselves to praise him on the occasion of his 'amrit mahotsav' (75th birthday celebrations) at the Siri Fort auditorium. The prime minister released the eight-volume Arjun Singh ' Nehru-Gandhi parampara ke paushak. Sonia too seemed to go overboard with the accolades, so much so that the carpers felt her speech sounded like a farewell to Arjun. Could they be right' The Union HRD minister's Rajya Sabha tenure comes to an end early next year. But even if this isn't the party's not-so-sutble way of easing out the Union HRD minister, there's more to the mahotsav than meets the eye. Why have the birthday bash in April when the birthday is only on November 5' Perhaps the Congress was out to save some money by combining the celebrations for the UPA's first year in office with those of Arjun's B'day. No wonder, when it was his turn to speak, Arjun could barely find the words to address the gathering.
Across the fence
Sheila Dikshit may not be the darling of Congressmen but she has quite a following in the BJP. Arun Jaitley spent a good 15 minutes of a press briefing the other day praising the Delhi CM. He formed his opinion on the basis of his interactions with the lady in the follow-up to the Indo-Pak one-dayer that Pervez Musharraf watched. Not only were her organizing skills top class, Jaitley said, but she was also exceptionally honest. As president of the DDCA, Jaitley had sent her passes for the match, only to be told that her family had bought all the passes it needed. Hacks on the beat had never heard such high praise from Jaitley for Delhi's BJP CMs, Madanlal Khurana and Sahib Singh Verma. But what do the Congress bosses think of praise from such quarters'
No one wants him
Sanjay Nirupam had perhaps thought he had found a safe haven in the Congress after the gruelling time he had in the tiger's den, but it's clear that he's not exactly welcome in the more than one-hundred-year-old party. For one, despite Sonia Gandhi's clearance it took ever and ever for the party to come clean. The formal announcement was to happen last Monday, and the TV channels kept talking about it, but no one in the party knew anything. At first, reporters were told that it would come about in parliament at 4.15 pm and Anand Sharma would do the honours. But 4.15 pm came and went. Next, the buzz was that it would happen at 4.30 pm at the Congress HQs and Margaret Alva, the AICC gen-sec in charge of Maharashtra, would induct him but even that didn't come about. Finally, the event took place at 6 pm at Alva's Lodhi Road residence, without the presence of Alva, and outside, in the portico. Even the cooler climes of the drawing rooms were kept out-of-bounds.
In the business of politics
When Arun Jaitley's not praising opposition CMs these days, he's busy writing articles running down rivals in his party. In a recent write-up on 'youth leadership' in a Hindi daily, he says: 'Whether you talk about me, Pramod, or Venkaiah we have not become leaders overnight. Sushma is the only one who has joined after the Emergency. ' Expectedly, that's raised the hackles of the Sushma lobby. The ideal Hindu nari was the party's all-India secretary in the Eighties and a part of Advani's Camelot from 1992-97, they counter ' unlike some who were too 'busy doing business' to play an active role in the party in the Nineties. Over to Jaitley now.
Out of the reckoning
There might be some uncertainty over the tussle in the BJP, but the war for Orissa has a definite winner, Naveen Patnaik, and loser, JB Patnaik. Of course, last year's drubbing in the Lok Sabha polls has put the latter out of the reckoning. But even so, the defeat of JB's prot'g', Kishore Patel, in the Sundargarh bypolls has meant that the BJD has the field to itself. Now, some Congresswallahs have turned their guns on the three-time CM. There's talk of pensioning him off with a gubernatorial assignment somewhere in the North. The party seems to be definitely over for JB.
A fair transaction
Big B or Badshah Khan ' who's the most gracious of them all' Shah Rukh sent a cheque (sum undisclosed) to the former for his guest appearance in Paheli, Shah Rukh's home production. Amitabh sent it back saying that he would prefer to encash the goodwill some other time. So next time, if you see Shah Rukh in some Bachchan film, you'll know that the payment is being extracted.
Another ball game
Buddha is supposed to have just turned down an offer from Mohun Bagan ' not to play football but to get its house in order. The refusal speaks not so much about the CM's dislike for the ball as for a particular real estate dealer who, he suspects, is trying to veer close to him to get a particular deal cleared. Buddhadeb, in fact, is so livid at the lengthening reach of promoters and their underhand dealings with top policemen (some of whom just helped the promoter in question to get on with an illegal construction near Gariahat) that he has apparently read the riot act to the police administration. With the municipal polls approaching, the situation may soon reach boiling point and not merely because BB is angry. The Trinamoolis have discovered a stick with which they could beat the mayor black and blue. Mohun Bagan is Subrata's territory, so is Gariahat. So, after all this time, they could show how lining the left pocket also meant lining the mayor's. Only Buddha can tell us if it is really so.