Follow the leader
The earth may shake, or the heavens open up, but Congressmen will not forsake their leader. It's an admirable sentiment at most times, no doubt, but on Saturday last it was plain funny to see Sonia Gandhi's tin soldiers stuck to their seats, even as the quake struck and people ran helter-skelter outside Punjab Bhavan where Congress chief ministers were gathered. Their eyes were fixed on madam, watching to see whether she sat it out, as if nothing was happening, or ran for the safety of outdoors. In those few seconds ' which must have seemed like hours to a few like Ashok Gehlot whose pale face reflected his anxiety ' the prime minister remained his usual calm self while Digvijay Singh on the podium wisecracked, 'Pradhan mantriji, jab aap jaise mahaan vyakti aaye hai to bhukamp to ayega hi.' Finally, putting everyone out of their misery, the SPG barged in and signalled Sonia to move out, a directive she immediately obeyed. But as her brood followed her out, did Sonia even realize the import of her partymen's restraint'
Heart of the matter
Everyone agrees that Manmohan Singh is a good man, but then he or, as is more likely, his spin doctors, cannot keep talking about what a good man he is and expect that the people will make allowances for him every time. Indeed the PMO is starting to sound like a broken record. Sample, the sound bites from Singh's office after the Supreme Court verdict on Bihar ' it was with a heavy heart that he had agreed to the dissolution of the state assembly. Much the same had been said after the action taken report on the Nanavati commission and on the controversy over the inclusion of 'tainted' ministers like Laloo Prasad Yadav in the cabinet. Clearly, the PMO's media managers must change their line before the people decide they do not want a PM with too heavy a heart.
The say-nothing policy
Even as the PMO wonders what story to feed the newshounds, the MEA has found a simpler way round the problem ' keep them starved. Not only have the daily briefings of K. Natwar Singh's ministry been discontinued, but journalists must now also disclose in advance which officer they want to meet and why. By this ruse, MEA mandarins have spared their brains the trouble of thinking of answers to probing questions every day, and most importantly, pre-empted getting on the wrong side of the PMO if they say anything out of turn. But, hey, don't we have a Right to Information Act'
No action replay
The first phase of the assembly polls in Bihar is just two days away but you'd never guess from looking at the Congress. Perhaps its leaders can feel the voter fatigue, or want to keep their distance from the 'tainted' Laloo Prasad Yadav, or they have a sinking feeling that after the Supreme Court's ruling, voters will direct all their anger at the Congress for foisting yet another round of elections on them in six months. But Congressmen, at least the star campaigners among them, are staying away from the state. The only partymen of any standing wooing Biharis are Digvijay Singh, Jagadambika Pal, and Shankar Singh Vaghela. But to add spice to the proceedings are a battery of former chief ministers ' Laloo Yadav, Nitish Kumar and Jagannath Mishra. And for the seasoning there are NCP chief, Sharad Pawar, the BSP's Mayavati, and Uma Bharti, Sushma Swaraj, Rajnath Singh and Kalyan Singh of the BJP. Let's hope the multiplicity of cooks doesn't spoil the dish yet again.
Spoilsports at work
A party pooper may be heading the UPA's way, at least as far as the Congress is concerned. A 14-man morcha has been formed, with members culled from the Samajwadi Party, Janata Dal (Secular), CPI(M), CPI, RSP and Forward Block; ex-prime ministers VP Singh, IK Gujral and HD Deve Gowda; and a few intellectuals like Seema Mustafa and VR Krishna Iyer thrown in to lend apolitical legitimacy, to protest against the government's vote on Iran. A third front in the making, no less and about time too, since people were actually beginning to think this government would last the full term.
In son-shine and rain
Why is Digvijay Singh wooing Rahul Singh, the son of his long-time rival, Arjun Singh' Well, he's only covering his back. Diggy raja knows that there's no surer way into Singh's good books than to advance the career of his son. And after the Bihar election results, who knows Digvijay may need the help of the Union HRD minister to fend off the Suresh Pachauris and the Kamal Naths'
Wooing big brother
One man's meat is another man's poison. The only one who seems to be thriving in the general gloom in the BJP is Pramod Mahajan. The BJP gen-sec, who was given the dubious credit of introducing 'five-star culture' in the party, is now busy salvaging his reputation. And the canny politician that he is, he's decided that the only way to do this is to align himself with the RSS. Thus his statements that he was in the party not because of the 'big two' but because of party 'ideology'. Earlier, Mahajan's implied criticism of LK Advani in his comment that the BJP had ceased to function in a consensual manner had been sweet music to the RSS. He's also supposed to have reflected the RSS's desires when he said that the next BJP president should be chosen after 'wider consultations' ' meaning that it shouldn't be Jaswant Singh, who's recently been seen cosying up to Advani. Now if only Mahajan can bring back Bihar to the BJP fold, won't his troubles be over'