The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Jogging to be minister

Golf courses, they say, are the real playground of the corporate types, the place where they cut deals, entertain influential contacts and cultivate friends. But our political class, except for the odd Farooq Abdullah perhaps, does not have a taste for swinging clubs. For politicos, it is the early morning jog at the Lodi Gardens. Everyone who is anyone or wants to be someone frequents these verdant stretches. Take Rashid Alvi, BSP leader in the Lok Sabha. Ever since Mayavati struck an alliance with the BJP in Uttar Pradesh early this year, Alvi started taking a daily turn around the gardens, telling all he met that he would be a Central minister soon and promising help and more to scores of fellow joggers. But Maya memsaheb refused to oblige AB Vajpayee by taking her place in the cabinet and Alvi’s hopes were dashed. Forsaking the Lodi Gardens, Alvi now took to a quiet walk near his residence on North Avenue, for fear of becoming the laughing stock of the Lodi crowd. But lately, Alvi’s fortunes seem to be looking up — he is back among the joggers at the Lodi Gardens. The buzz is that after behenji’s recent cabinet expansion, the saffron party wants her to give the Central coalition the same stability it has given her government in the state. You-scratch-my-back-I-scratch-yours... Fair enough'

Right age to take risks

Life begins at seventy for most Indian politicians, for it is after that age that most of them are considered qualified for government posts they were deemed too “young” to hold earlier. But in a competition of the young-at-heart, the one politician who would win hands down is the Uttaranchal chief minister, ND Tiwari (Tiwari even now heads the Jawaharlal Nehru Youth Club). Having celebrated 50 years in politics recently with a day-long ceremony in Dehradun, followed by another in Delhi, Tiwari obviously feels he has reached an age where he can get away with anything — even rolling out the red carpet for Purno Sangma a few weeks ago. Tiwari did his best to evade the controversy, first by denying that he knew the man and then saying that Sangma was not a state guest, although government records belie him. And Madam Sonia is not amused...

Restricted entry

Madam Sonia will be still less amused if she knew what was happening in Arunachal Bhawan in Delhi. The resident commissioner, T Bogra, reportedly wants journalists covering the northeastern state to submit a copy of their passport, CV and other documents before entering the premises of the Bhawan, almost as if it were a foreign commission. Apparently, this off-putting device was thought up by the chief minister, Mukut Methi, to keep snoopy scribes off disgruntled ministers. But does the high command know'

Family in the spotlight

LK Advani might have the image of being a crusty khakhi shortswallah, but his near and dear ones are not above making the most of his elevation as deputy prime minister. If AB Vajpayee’s family enjoyed the full glare of the media even until a few months ago, it is now the turn of his deputy’s. Advani’s family is suddenly everywhere; they apparently even landed up at a press conference. Wife Kamala, daughter Pratibha, and son, Jayant are now being approached by partyworkers and NDA members who want to get close to Advani. For example, Mamata Banerjee, is known to sob on Kamaladidi’s anchal everytime she wants something from the DPM. That, Mr Advani, is what they call the woman’s touch.

A Haryanvi scorned...

There’s no convincing some people. The Brahmins of Haryana are so angry at the arrest of Shivani Bhatnagar murder accused, RK Sharma, that they have threatened to put up the discredited IPS officer or his shrill wife as a candidate against ID Swamy, minister of state for home affairs, in Karnal, his home constituency. A Brahmin dominated area, this is the first time the BJP has bagged Karnal and don’t want to lose it. But how to bring around the headstrong Haryanvis'

Housing Mr Bandopadhyay

Meet Sudip Bandopadhyay, moving up the political ladder and straight into a posh bungalow in Lutyens’ Delhi. Trinamool’s didi, who suspects saffron hand behind the coup, has naturally turned bottle green with envy. Trinamoolis are questioning the sudden improvement in the lifestyle of a party member who is apparently still working for people’s uplift. Unperturbed, Sudip has also pointed to others’ lifestyles. Which, presumably, also includes that of didi, who has recently vowed not to travel by train. Both are flying high, why the heartburn then'

Star for the times

This pa-in-law promises to be different. Amitabh Bachchan has declared that his daughter-in-law-to-be, Karisma Kapoor, may continue to work after marriage. Not to be outdone at the garciousness stakes, Lolo too has announced that she will be “proud” to add her married name to her surname. Karisma Kapoor-Bachchan, huh'

The minister and the monkeys

Jaswant Singh has a running feud with the simians of Raisina Hill. As external affairs minister, Singh had gone to the extent of hiring a langurwala, for the grand sum of Rs 5,000 a month, to ensure that not one of the cheeky apes got anywhere near his ministry’s offices in South Block. The operation had been so successful that many of the monkeys had learnt to confine themselves to North Block. Now that Singh has himself moved into North Block as finance minister, the monkeys find their habitat threatened. The minister has also managed to extend the contract with the langurwala to cover North Block as well, for a bargain Rs 2,000 extra.

But Raisina Hill mandarins, who do not have anything better to do, have observed how much the langur has imbibed from his surroundings. Whenever the animal grabs a banana, he invariably offers the fruit to his master and then settles down to have the peel himself. Isn’t that very like our corrupt babus who pocket the small change and let their minister-bosses walk away with the bulk of the loot'

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