The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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No one remembers him

Poor Sitaram Kesri, neglected in death as he was slighted in life. His second death anniversary came and went on October 24, but Congress bigwigs were too busy sparring over Jammu and Kashmir to remember. Thus there were no functions, no memorial services or even any flowers for the late lamented chacha at the AICC headquarters. That’s not surprising, since most non-Nehru-Gandhi presidents of the Congress — including much bigger names like Lal Bahadur Shastri and Vallabhbhai Patel — have been similarly relegated to the dustbins of history. But what was surprising was that many of Kesri’s favourite bhatijas too forgot all about the occasion. Among them was one Ghulam Nabi Azad, who was in the thick of intrigues in Srinagar. This was the same man who had organized and distributed laddoos and even published a booklet to mark Kesri’s b’day in 1997. The old man had then been tickled pink — “Are jub hamein apna janam din nahin maloom, to Ghulam ko kaise pata'”, he had giggled. The only faithful who did remember Kesri’s death anniversary this year was Tariq Anwar — now in the Nationalist Congress Party — who organized a memorial function to mark the day. But then Anwar had been the only one to side with Kesri at the CWC meet at which Pranab Mukherjee had peremptorily asked chacha to make room for Sonia Gandhi.

Let’s start at the temple

Who will they side with' The Patels are said to hold one of the crucial keys to the Gujarat outcome, and neither of the parties in the fray is leaving matters to chance. A Congress team consisting of Shankersinh Vaghela, Amar Sinh Chowdhury and Kamal Nath apparently called on the chief priest of the Akshardham temple recently to seek his blessings. While the meeting was in progress, Nath received information that the elections had been announced for December 12. The AICC gen-sec is said to have promptly retorted, “Swamiji, it is a good sign, as the election date coincides with your birthday. With your blessings, we would win the polls”. Smart move. One however still doesn’t know if that would move the head priest and the Patel community with him.

Some way to go places

Come what may, Nazafgarh will be Virender Sehwag’s, India’s ace batsman who has made this urbanized village in west Delhi famous overnight. Christened chhota Sachin, Sehwag is said to be rapidly following in the footsteps of his more talented colleague from Mumbai not only in matters of cricket, but also in matters of lucre. After playing in the team for a little more than a year, Sehwag has apparently earned so much that his family is thinking of moving out of the house they have lived for as long as he can remember. Besides, there are the endorsements that give him crores every year. Nice beginning. Hope it ends just as well.

The headache persists

J&K now has a head, but that does not mean it has ceased worrying heads. Both the Congress and the PDP for example are greatly exercised over who should get the two Rajya Sabha seats that will fall vacant this month. The PDP thinks it should have at least one berth. The Congress, meanwhile, is brimming over with aspirants, and desperate ones at that. Ghulam Nabi Azad, to take one, will soon end his term in the upper house and is naturally eyeing the post. ML Fotedar thinks he will do Soniaji a great honour by being in the Rajya Sabha. Mohammad Shafi Qureshi as also prominent leaders from Jammu, Leh and Ladakh are vying for the slot. Add to that the Panther Party chief, Bhim Singh, who is leaving no stone unturned in his quest for this post. With his four MLAs who are providing the crutch on which the PDP-Congress government rests in J&K, Singh can turn quite nasty if angered. Especially since he is reputed to have already begun mobilizing Muammar Qaddafi and Saddam Hussein for his cause.

A breath of hot AIR

Politicians invariably disburse patronage to their favourites. But sometimes they do go horribly wrong, as in this case. I&B ministers have always used Doordarshan and AIR as their pet dogs. So a recent FM discussion on October 28, which had a journalist and a Delhi University don taking the BJP apart on the Supreme Court’s verdict on Gujarat, came as a shock to the sanghwallahs. What is the world coming to really, Sushma Swaraj'

Has he sung his swan song'

The Durga Pujas are a busy time for all, except maybe a few. Like our man in Bengal who promised a Bengali association down South that he would reach there on time, with his cache of jibonmukhi songs, provided he was given a lakh of rupees and six plane tickets. The appointed day came and went by, without the singer showing up. He had reportedly left Calcutta for some other destination where he held another show. Disgusted, the association has reportedly moved court, asking for a compensation of Rs 10 lakh. Last heard, the singer had also decided not to go it alone anymore, but opted for serious legal help.

You say goodbye, he says hello

Never say die. Every time his detractors in the Congress start to believe that they have managed to say the final goodbye to Arjun Singh, he is back with a bang. This time, too, it was Kashmir which brought back Arjun from the wilderness. When the Manmohan Singhs and Ambika Sonis had failed to solve the stalemate, Sonia apparently summoned Arjun to the capital. The veteran drove straight to the house of another veteran, ML Fotedar, reputed to be close to Mufti Sayeed, and allegedly also the chief reason why the mufti had stuck to his guns. Arjun’s straight-talking apparently made Fotedar talk to Sayeed, who agreed to meet madam. The Arjun-Fotedar duo is also believed to have convinced Sonia to allow the mufti to have the first go. That Arjun has risen like a phoenix again is also obvious from the fact that at the crucial meeting between the Sayeed, Arjun and Manmohan, the two other heavyweights, Soni and Ahmad Patel, stood outside and were allowed to be present only at another meeting at Manmohan’s house. The old horses still run!

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