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Down but not out. And that isn’t the only reason why the Congress will continue to worry its head over Natwar Singh. The humbling of the high-profile Jat means his place will have to be filled with another of his castemen, and soon. The AICC gen-sec and media chairperson, Janardhan Dwivedi, and Oscar Fernandes have started the legwork. They have reportedly been speaking to another Jat chieftain, the son of Chaudhary Charan Singh. Madam has apparently been convinced of his usefulness. Unfortunately, Ajit Singh is yet to swallow the bait, and is keeping his options open despite being allegedly offered a ministerial berth. There is even a buzz that he might end up having an alliance with Mayavati in UP. The other larger problem that stares the Congress in the face is to find Natwar’s replacement in the MEA itself. Among the several contenders for the post, the one sending out high-voltage feelers is the former petroleum minister, Mani Shankar Aiyar. And he seems to be using the tiniest cog in the wheel, an AICC secretary who looks after Madam’s appointments, to hit the goal. In the clash of titans, maybe it will be a persevering ant who will carry the day.
The Madhya Pradesh CM, Shivraj Singh Chauhan, has gone back to Ram. It was him that Chauhan had turned to in June, when there seemed to be no sign of the rains visiting the land. Chauhan had then organized recitation of the Ramcharitmanas. His wish was more than fulfilled. There was more rain than necessary. Now that there is widespread death and devastation, Chauhan has sought Ram’s help again. At his 7, Shyamala Hills residence, there is now round-the-clock recitation of the Ramayana. Priests from the temple towns of Ujjain, Maihar, Maheshwar and Datia are taking turns to seek the lord’s intervention. May god help those who help themselves.
No one listens to the colonel
When a delegation of journos went to Atal Bihari Vajpayee recently to press for a new wage board, AB candidly told them a woeful tale of neglect. Apparently, no one listens to this old man nowadays. Vajpayee went on to name top BJP leaders and then the chief ministers of party-ruled states. Having given vent to his anguish, Vajpayee made a long pause (his trademark now), and then promised the newsmen that he would take up the matter with the Congress president, Sonia Gandhi. “Only she listens to me”, said Vajpayee. Are the sanghis listening'
As the elections get closer, the problems seem to be doubling for Mulayam Singh Yadav. At Mainpuri, only days ago, an all-female crowd of college students pelted stones at the CM. He escaped unhurt, but demanded an explanation from lieutenant Amar Singh. The latter comforted him by saying that it was a handiwork of the state Congress chief, Salman Khurshid. Mulayam, however, was unconvinced. If a non-resident chief could organize such a protest, what would his presence mean for the party' queried the CM.
Not many would disagree that Somnath Chatterjee’s idea of a 24-hour Lok Sabha channel has been useful, particularly unemployed and retired scribes for whom it is god-sent. Although the Rajya Sabha channel goes off air when the house is in recess, the Lok Sabha one keeps telecasting old footage of proceedings even through the weekends and public holidays. The other day, the channel was frozen hours on end, showing a left member in mid-sentence. The shot gazed on viewers for more than eight hours. Not that live proceedings are any comfort for viewers. Last Thursday, when the Rajya Sabha debated the nuke deal, Kalraj Mishra was found dozing while cameras focussed on party colleague, Arun Shourie, who inconveniently picked holes in the opponent’s argument.
His master’s voice
Although there is hardly any CM who could match Bhupinder Singh Hooda’s frequency of visiting the capital, there are none like Amarinder Singh, who almost never comes calling. The Punjab CM depends on his finance minister, Surinder Singla, to pay obeisance at the Delhi durbar on his behalf. Not surprisingly, Singla — an able politician who has developed the right contacts in the capital and has even gone abroad as Amarinder’s proxy — was asked recently by Congressmen if he had been appointed Punjab’s non-resident minister. Amarinder Singhji'
At your service
It even pays to be a politician’s cook, provided of course that politico is no less than Lalu Prasad. Naseeruddin, who had spent most of his time making sattu paratha for the RJD royalty, recently decided to make a trip to Ajmer and duly informed his master, who, in turn, promised to make the ‘necessary’ arrangements. But when Naseeruddin reached Ajmer, the railway station authorities refused to provide him any special privileges. No amount of flaunting “connections” did the trick for Naseeruddin. Dejected, our man quietly went about his way to the dargah. But by evening, a massive manhunt had been launched. There was a non-stop six hour announcement for “Janab Naseeruddin Sahib”, and rail officials despatched to hotels and lodges to find the pilgrim. Naseeruddin was finally located, humbly having his roti at a cheap outlet. The next instant, he was in AC accommodation at the rail station. Naseeruddin is supposed to have prayed hard, more for the Prasads than for himself.