The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Do we need this hero'

Hero number one. Shatrughan Sinha has never had it so good even when he was young enough to shoot a Safed Hathi between its two eyes and thin enough to run around trees without meeting himself. For even then he had had to share the screen with another man, usually the hero. Not anymore. As minister of health and family welfare, amid plush red interiors and wife by his side, Shotgun can choose to forget the other man. At least that is what he thought. So when half-page advertisements appeared in newspapers carrying an appeal from the health ministry that parents take their children for the polio vaccine last Sunday, it was Sinha alone who prominently stared back at readers from the pages. The all-important photograph of the prime minister was left out. But ever since Indira Gandhi, it has become de rigeur for all government insertions to carry the PM’s as the main photo and that of the minister as the smaller one. Predictably, it did not take long for people close to AB Vajpayee to notice the slip. And quite predictably another insertion soon occupied newspages — a half-page ad once again from the health ministry, appealing to all healthy persons between 18 to 60 years of age to donate blood. The PM’s photograph this time took centrestage, and accompanying that was a stamp-size picture of Sinha, our hero. He played the supporting actor this time.

On the lookout for role models

The big fight in the NDA over disinvestment is taking its toll on the rank and file. The other day when the deputy prime minister, LK Advani, walked into Parliament House to be present at the unveiling of a statue of Gopinath Bordoloi, he was given a cold shoulder by the BJP MPs.There is something brewing in the RSS cadre also. They talk of Ashok Singhal, Vishnu Hari Dalmia and Narendra Modi as sangh stalwarts, never mentioning Advani, Vajpayee or Murli Manohar Joshi. As for the VHP, it still seems to be on the look out for a mix of Ariel Sharon, George Bush Jr and Shivaji. And we thought they already had them all in Modi!

Anything that will stir them a little

Some activity on the left front as well. The CPI will be celebrating fifty years of its publication of New Age and is trying its best to get in tune with the new century. A debate is on to revitalize the party, to recruit new members. There has also been a suggestion to purge the party at the district level of leaders who have been at the helm for years and have delivered nothing. The proposal has sparked off a row though. A senior district level leader remarked, “Why not start the cleansing at Ajay Bhawan itself where leaders do nothing except watch television'” But that’s their only way to keep up with the times.

Showing who has more power

Having spoilt the pujas for state employees, Bengal’s finance minister, Asim Dasgupta, is trying to spoil another show — that of power. But with less effect. Some vice-chancellors may try to please by giving up their official cars, but other officials are less obliging. The director of the Indian Museum for one, who is also director of the National Library. He has been allotted two cars, one for each office and wherever he goes, he supposedly takes both along — one to travel in, the other to follow. When questioned he pleaded that as a senior government employee he could be ambushed, in which case the second car would help him escape easily. Sound logic. Someone could suggest it to the other VVIPs who need security cover.

Ministry for law and ardour

The law minister is a law unto himself. Having practised law for a few weeks some fifty years ago in a mofussil court in Tamil Nadu, Jana Krishnamurthy reportedly takes as an affront anything that comes as a suggestion. The result is that the appointment of judges in various high courts has come almost to a stop. The Allahabad high court for example has 18 vacancies but given the law minister’s failure to interact with other judicial personages, there is no movement in that sphere. Now that we have law, could we ask for some order, Jana, in matters of law'

Long line of succession

The induction of ace journalist and former foreign secretary, JN Dixit, into the Congress has rattled many, especially claimants to the external affairs ministry in the event the Congress gets back its happy days. The first claimant to the MEA throne would be K Natwar Singh. Then there is Pranab Mukherjee, who has handled it for a short while, and the ubiquitous Mani Shankar Aiyar, besides RL Bhatia, Salman Khurshid and Anand Sharma. Any regrets, Dixit'

Driving Ms Rai

Dear Salman Khan has another problem besides drunken driving. Former girlfriend, Aishwarya Rai, is apparently refusing to sign any film that stars him. Maybe it is time David Dhawan comes up with Public Dushman no 1.

Occasion to remember

A rare occasion. It was the release of two books by the BJP MP, Dinanath Mishra, and the author, sadly, had egg on his face, courtesy his two friends to whom he had dedicated the books and the chief guest himself. One of Mishra’s chums, Balbir Punj, remarked in his speech that he was a Punjabi and Punjabis always kept themselves away from books. But since a book had been dedicated to him, he would read it to the finish. Another, TVR Chenoy, went a step ahead and declared that he could not read Hindi. But since Mishra had dedicated a book in the vernacular to him, it would be the only Hindi book he would keep in his library. The two paled into insignificance by the show the chief guest, Pramod Mahajan, apparently put up. The minister declared that he had never before released a book but he agreed to this one because of the name of one of the books, Chaploos ki Rekha. His wife is named Rekha. In case he refused to come, Mishra could have complained to his Mrs that he had written a book on her but her hubby had declined to release it. He couldn’t risk that, could he'

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