The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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A busful for the TV

At the best of times, the Delhi police have a tough job. Morchas, dharnas, protest marches, VVIP security ó life is a constant merry-go-round. Even so, September 26 was particularly bad on the frayed nerves of the capitalís police force. First of all there was the all-India bandh called by the VHP-Shiv Sena over the Akshardham massacre. Some troops also had to be spared for the BJPís dharna outside the Pakistan high commission. Stretched as tight as they could go, the Delhi police didnít need Punjab chief minister, Amarinder Singh, to organize a dharna outside the prime ministerís residence for higher minimum support price for paddy. They even asked him to defer his agitation by a day, but the high profile maharajah of Patiala wasnít about to listen to them. And so, even as hordes of Congress MPs and MLAs marched on the PMís residence, there was not a single policeman in sight to bar their way. Which really was quite humiliating, for the Punjab CMís troubles couldnít possibly not be crowned with the success of a token arrest. Frantic calls were made to the Tughlaq Road police station but the policemen, understandably, refused to waste time and energy on the ďpolitical stuntĒ. Finally, an SOS to the PMO later, a handful of khakhivardi-wallahs was spared. A DTC bus was stopped, its passengers told to get off pronto and the maharajah and his entourage told to get on it ó for the benefit of the television cameras. Allís well that ends well, but wonder what happened to the minimum support price'

The sound of sirens

Ambika Soniís stock in the Congress party seems to be rising ever higher. Now that she is dabbling in Kashmir affairs, she has been given high security cover. These days, everywhere she goes, she is followed by loud sirens blaring from Gypsy vans that rattle everyone.

Party oldtimers say Soni is now almost as powerful as she had been during Sanjay Gandhiís time. The irony has possibly eluded Sonia Gandhi, but not Kamal Nath, another Sanjay acolyte. Soni recently upbraided the AICC general secretary for not keeping her informed about the Akshardham tragedy in Gujarat. Itís a different matter though that when first informed about it, Soni thought they were referring to the Gandhinagar locality of Jammu!

Wisdom in a minority

Thereís advice on the minorities question for Sonia Gandhi from an unlikely source. Keralaís Christian CM, AK Antony, has asked his party high command not to keep harping on minorities, or the Congress would get votes only from the minorities. Coming from Mr Clean, the advice must carry some weight with Sonia. But for a member of a minority community himself, isnít it a strangely saffron note that Antony has struck'

Quick changes

The colour saffron brings to mind, but naturally, Uma Bharti, who seems all set to take over as the president of the BJPís Madhya Pradesh unit. Much to the dismay of the other state leaders who have tried to bring to the notice of the national leadership their concerns about the sanyasin-politicianís style of functioning, especially her propensity for changing private secretaries. Over the last three years, Bharti has changed secretaries three times, a phenomenon that her detractors feel is proof of her incompetence to head the state unit. They might well have a point there.

Strength in togetherness

Rashtrapati Bhavan and the PMO have come to realize the need to work in tandem, at least as far as responding to new books sent for endorsement, invitations to exhibitions and such are concerned. A few unscrupulous people had started taking advantage of the lack of communication between the two offices to get the patronage of both the president and prime minister. They would tell the PMO that the rashtrapati had agreed to come and, having got the PMís go-ahead, pressurize the president to oblige. Or vice versa. Well, they canít act smart any longer.

Will they toll for him'

Subrata Mukherjee may have changed parties, changed faces, but one thing he has remained constant with is his commitment to the Bengal unit of the INTUC. In fact he realized early in life that labour held the key to his success. The unionism also paid its dividends ó Subrata was Indiaís nominee at the ILO, Geneva for a while. All that may change now. Our grapevine has it that Sonia Gandhi is definite about no longer wanting Subrata to head INTUCís Bengal unit, a Congress bastion. On the other hand, the Trinamoolís didi seems to be planning to have the mayor as the president of her party. How will the bells toll for Sougata Ray then'

Love in the time of market strategy

Love is in the air, this pollution-grey autumn. The city of the dream-merchants, Mumbai, is agog with rumours of the sweet passion between the daughter of dream girl, Hema Malini, and the son of Mr Twinkle Toes, Jeetendra ó Esha Deol and Tushar Kapoor, respectively. But is it Cupid or, banish the thought, merely a publicity stunt to salvage the careers of the two brats'

Much, too much praise

We have become so inured to politicians bickering all the time that we canít help looking askance when they have only good things to say about each other. No wonder then that the national media seems to have picked on the jamboree recently organized in Patna to celebrate 75 years of Chandra Shekharís eventful life. For one it brought together a wide range of political players on one platform ófrom Laloo Prasad Yadav and the BJPís Sushil Modi to the Samata Partyís Digvijay Singh and even vice-president BS Shekhawat. And wonder of wonders, they all had nice things to say about Chandra Shekhar and were united in their opinion that the former PM should claim his place again at the Centre stage. The recipient of the adulation was however anything but gracious. Despite the presence of several NDA heavyweights on the platform, Chandra Shekhar didnít desist from taking potshots at the Vajpayee government. Surprisingly, the one man he had fulsome praise and pledged undying support for was Biharís First Man Laloo Yadav. A mutual admiration society, no less.

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