The cold wave sweeping the country may soon put it into a deep freeze, but in one odd corner the ice is melting, and fast. At the Army Day function in the shivering capital, two seniormost leaders of the country, one from the Congress, the other from the BJP, were seen warming up to each other. The camera caught Sonia Gandhi and LK Advani laughing out loud. Given the indifference with which they regard each other, that is rather unusual. The two cross paths ó be it at the Central Hall of Parliament or at the Rajghat or at any other place ó on many occasions, but they seem to immediately stiffen in each otherís presence. They have hardly ever exchanged a smile or a polite word when they have met. But somehow, some time when Sonia was ill and in hospital with a bronchial trouble, Advani called up 10 Janpath to enquire after her health. When Sonia was back home, she is supposed to have returned the call. At the Army Day function, the bonhomie continued. The two talked to each other while standing behind President Pratibha Patil. When she moved ahead, the two sat down and carried on their jovial exchange. Nobody knows what they talked about, but the thaw in relations is unmistakable.
There were no changes in the air in another part of the world. It didnít snow, but the wind atop the Karanjgaon hills near Pune played the spoiler when Rahul Gandhi tried to paraglide. A cheeky Congressmen equated Rahulís failed expedition with his assembly election campaign in Uttar Pradesh. ďThe wind does not seem to be favouring our leader,Ē he quipped. The Congressman probably also noticed that Rahulís visit to the Uksan village had done nothing to enthuse the villagers. The residents, on their part, had their own story to tell about agile SPG guards who severely curtailed their movement. Clearly, Rahul hasnít quite taken off.
Keep the lid on
Never mind the hullabaloo, the UP chief minister is no longer insisting on SPG cover. Mayavati seems to have relented when told that the protective cover would make her susceptible to surveillance by the Central government. For not only her family and her visitors, but also the goods they carry would be scanned. The menacing ring of SPG would deter her supporters from approaching her, and may even discourage those who are said to routinely carry full suitcases as gifts for madam.
Up in smoke
In the national capital, the law forbids smoking in public. One still finds people smoking in public places because the prosecution of offenders is so rare. But smoking in the hallowed precincts of the Rashtrapati Bhavan, and that too in the presence of high dignitaries, is without precedent. But then, the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, isnít your idea of a staid, protocol-bound dignitary. He was short on precedent on a number of occasions on his recent visit. Most notably, he kept the president and prime minister waiting for nearly 40 minutes at the customary Republic Day at-home at the Rashtrapati Bhavan. But what was considered most offensive by guests and the vast retinue of senior officials was that a number of members of the French presidentís party openly lit up in the presence of the dignitaries. Either the MEA did not brief the visitors or they simply chose to disregard it.
Journey to remember
Among the many memorable outings of the Bachchan family, there is one they wouldnít forget easily. Big B was there in Bhopal recently, wife, daughter-in-law and Amar Singh in tow, to attend a wedding. When they reached the airport, they were surprised that none had come to receive the celebrity family. Jaya apparently kept trying to call sister and brother-in-law, whose son was getting married. Finally, a Tavera arrived, but it turned out to be one meant for the pilot of the special aircraft that had brought the Bachchans. The distinguished visitors were plainly edgy, but Ash kept smiling as usual. Meanwhile, the courteous pilot offered them a lift till the country club where the marriage was being held. Inside the Tavera, the sitting arrangement was not without significance. Amitabh sat with the pilot in front, while the ladies occupied the middle seat. Brother Amar made himself comfortable at the back, having the whole seat to himself. The journey began. Given the state of the roads in Bhopal, Amar is likely to remember this one for a long, long time.
Wanted, alive and smiling
These days both Sharad Yadav and Digvijay Singh are unable to wipe the smile off their faces. The veteran politicos have their reasons to feel flattered though. And they may not wait for one to ask them what they are, for they are likely to blurt it all out themselves. They are wanted in the US of A, and no less than Hillary Clinton herself is said to have got in touch with Yadav and Diggy Raja, saying that the Clintons would want to avail themselves of the gentlemenís services in the presidential polls. Hillary thinks the duo can influence NRIs in the US. When the news reached George Fernandes, the ailing leader first frowned at the thought and then burst out laughing. The Janata parivar patriarch is supposed to have wondered aloud how on earth they would fetch votes in America when they couldnít work that miracle in India itself. Yadav took Fernandesís comment in his stride, saying he had long stopped reacting to the old manís remarks.