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Since 1st March, 1999
 
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DIARY


Starting point

You scratch my back, Iíll scratch yours. Those who remember this governing principle of politics should not be scratching their heads over why the father-son duo of the Samajwadi Party are bending over backwards to accommodate the wishes of the Shahi Imam of Delhiís Jama Masjid. Syed Ahmed Bukhari has had a part to play in Akhilesh Yadavís magnificent win over Rahul Gandhi in Uttar Pradesh. The imam had come out in open support of the SP during the campaign. Although the imamís son-in-law was made the partyís candidate in Behat, that, apparently, was not enough. Hence Mulayamjiís recent acceptance of Bukhariís demand for greater representation of Muslims in the cabinet and administration. So is all fair and square now? No. Many feel it is the opening move of a much greater game that justified small upsets such as the sidelining of Mohammad Azam Khan, who was trying hard himself to sideline the imam. Unlike Khan, Bukhari has a pan-Indian reach that would be an asset if Mulayam Singh Yadav made a bid for the prime ministerial chair. Chalo Delhi!


Funny bone

Lighter moments during the post mortem conducted on the Congressís disastrous results in UP have somewhat eased the burden of the partyís loss for Rahul baba. A number of Congress candidates who did not win have put the blame on Union ministers such as Sriprakash Jaiswal, Salman Khurshid and Beni Prasad Verma, for their Ďrecklessí statements during election time. When Jaiswal was summoned by Rahul to explain why he had remarked that the young Gandhi would be running the state with the help of a ďremote controlĒ, the Union minister for coal readily reeled out statistics. He argued that his remark during the fourth phase of polling had actually increased the Congressís voting percentage from 8 to 9.5 per cent. A close associate of Rahul, who couldnít help smiling while others burst out laughing, told Jaiswal that in that case, he should have made the comment before the first phase of polling began.


Stay put

Call it a jinx or a coincidence, but every time the prime minister, Manmohan Singh, makes a foreign visit, a controversy hits the nation. A big debate erupted in Parliament when Singh failed to react over the Pakistan prime ministerís reference to Balochistan at Sharm el-Sheikh a few years back. Then, when Singh was in New York last year, a controversy over a finance ministry note, suggesting P Chidambaramís role in the 2G scam, broke out. Recently, when the PM was in Seoul to attend the nuclear summit, all hell broke loose over General VK Singhís allegation that he was offered a bribe over a defence deal. Should the PM stop travelling when Parliament is in session?

Added spark

The Union ministry of external affairs seems to have undergone a subtle change. While ministers such as SM Krishna, Preneet Kaur and E Ahmad continue to be lacklustre, a new spark has been added by the presence of the new spokesperson, Syed Akbaruddin. Unlike his predecessors, Akbaruddin has ushered in a certain degree of openness on tricky matters of foreign policy. He has also introduced weekly background meetings for scribes who cover the foreign office. In keeping with the newly implemented system, there was a thorough briefing on Syria. Africa was next on the agenda. Will the ripple reach the upper echelons of power?

Shine on

Most stars are believed to lose their shine once they enter politics. Many of these film and television personalities remain tongue-tied in and outside Parliament since they understand very little about public issues. Smriti Irani, once Indiaís favourite bahu, seems to be a class apart and the Bharatiya Janata Party is not complaining. Unlike other stars who are now members of parliament, she is well-versed in current affairs and can hold her own in any discussion on major public issues. Iraniís performance on television talkathons has pummelled male egos both in the BJP and in the rival Congress camp. The party leadership is apparently so impressed with her dedication and her capacity to absorb facts and figures that it has decided to make her a major party spokesperson. A thinking bahu and now a thinking MP ó looks like Sushma Swaraj may soon have competition.

Footnote
Controversy calls twice

There is also a price to be paid for non-performance. The filmmaker, Prakash Jha, can attest to that. Apparently, Jha had to pay Rs 25,000 to a group of tribal dancers from Madhya Pradesh after they failed to figure in a dance sequence in his upcoming film, Chakravyuh. Jha, who is shooting the film on the outskirts of Bhopal, is believed to have received a phone call from the chief minister, Shivraj Singh Chauhan, seeking an explanation. Apparently, a dance troupe of Baiga tribal people called on the CM and accused Jha of going back on his promise of giving them work in his film. The filmmaker blamed the lapse on a Ďcommunication gapí between the troupe and his production unit. After Aarakshan, though, he wasnít taking his chances with politicians. A man with an envelope was quickly dispatched to the CMís bungalow.