The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Motley crowd

Any time is party time for the Page 3 set in the capital, but the scene really hots up in November — when the winter is yet to get uncomfortable. The event of the month was a gala do hosted by Amar Singh, to mark the beginning of the winter session of Parliament. It brought together everyone from Kapil Dev, Azharuddin and Ajay Jadeja, to Sridevi, Amitabh and Jaya Bachchan, the Ambanis and Vijay Mallya, and of course, politicians of every kind. Good food and better company loosening their tongue, a great time was had by all...with the exception, perhaps, of K Natwar Singh. The only Congressman at the party, Singh went up to Mulayam Singh Yadav, intending to be polite. He was probably unaware that earlier in the day, the Samajwadi Party chief had lambasted Sonia Gandhi on TV for not siding with his party in the state legislature polls. Singh might be a friend of Amar Singh, snapped Yadav not mollified by the party spirit, but he wanted nothing to do with a party that was hand-in-glove with the BJP-BSP. “Please go and tell your leader what I feel about her.” The cricketers present, a more genial lot, got along better with Kapil paji wondering how Karsan Ghavri, his bowling partner once, would fare in politics, and Ajju bhaiyya (minus Sangeeta Bijlani) talking nineteen to the dozen about his state-of-the-art gym back home in Hyderabad. Jadeja, happy to be back in the limelight — minus the controversy — once more, was passionate about his new film. The best part of films, according to him, were the retakes. “I am used to cricket where there are no retakes. Once you play a bad shot, your fate is in the hands of the selectors,” he joked. But that’s the way of life...

Through the golden gate

It was a scene straight out of the raj when potentates of the princely states would troop down to Delhi to pay homage to visiting royalty. But then Bill Gates is no less than royalty, is he' No wonder then that he had politicians and industrialists of every kind falling all over themselves to woo him during his recent visit to India. Everyone, that is, but the UP chief minister, Mayavati. Despite the noises she has been making lately about wanting UP to become an IT hub, behenji couldn’t be bothered to go to Delhi to meet Gates. As a senior bureaucrat said, “Who is Bill Gate' We are only concerned about Ambedkar Gate. Let the Ambedkar Gate be completed, all roads to progress will emerge from there!!”

Everyone’s sore with Modi

It is the Gujarat polls that has the political set in a tizzy right now. For the BJP in Gujarat, especially, the going has been tough. As if the Narendra Modi-Haren Pandya tussle didn’t make for enough spice, the Gujarat CM has also managed to rub the top leadership the wrong way. LK Advani is sore at Modi’s not seeing him off at Ahmedabad when he last visited the state. AB Vajpayee has never liked Modi, but now he has come to think of the latter as something of a Kalyan Singh in-the-making, who is getting too big for his boots. Modi had better beware.

Tickets to happiness

If the BJP is squirming, then the Congress too looks set to be digging its own grave in Gujarat. Look at the way tickets have been distributed — there are very few Muslims among the recipients, most of whom are the sons, relatives and chamchas of senior leaders.

Among those who got tickets were Mahender Vaghela, son of PCC chief Shankersinh Vaghela, and Tushar Sinh Chaudhury and Bharat Solanki, the sons of Amar Sinh Chaudhury and Madhav Sinh Solanki respectively. Vaghela wants a ticket for his crony in Gandhinagar while Digvijay Singh, of all people, wants one for his son-in-law. On the whole, everyone seems happy with the list, although you can still hear the disgruntled odd grumble. “One has to keep making the right noises and asking for more,” explained Urmilaben Patel.

Party pooper

Sonia Gandhi’s ban on iftaars in view of the drought in many states has dampened the iftaar season in the capital. But Muslim leaders are not amused. Sonia, they allege, has buckled under pressure to shore up the party’s prospects in Gujarat. Lesson of the story: you can’t please everyone.

Mind the gaffe

The distance between the Bengal BJP and the party high command in Delhi seems unbridgeable. That is probably why M Venkaiah Naidu’s writ doesn’t run in the state. Shortly after Naidu asked the Bengal party unit to mend its fences and fast, Tapan Sikdar had allegedly opened a second party office which soon attracted a host of minor party leaders and favour-seekers. The cronies of the new Bengal chief, Tathagata Roy, were immediately put on alert and swore to wreck the office if it tried to pose as another power centre.

Meanwhile, Sikdar reportedly graduated to a different ballgame. Together with Muzaffar Khan, he is supposed to have planned a major iftar bash, to be attended by around a thousand people, including Central leaders. Roy and his followers were also invited, but as they found out, Sikdar played at a different level field altogether.

A place for everyone, everyone in their place

A state’s fair in the capital is supposed to be an occasion for leaders of that state to promote themselves and their achievements. And that is how they are, usually. Except for November 16, Uttar Pradesh Day. The political atmosphere in UP has been volatile lately, and naturally, politics took centre stage, pushing out trade and economics. It’s been like this for a few years now and the scene was no different this year. What was new, however, was the seating arrangement at Mayavati’s press conference. Previously, ministers and secretaries sat flanking the CM at a table. This year, however, there was a solitary chair — for Mayavati — while the rest sat on the floor. Behenji even wanted Kanshi Ramji to share the dais with her — a further break from the fair’s tradition, as well as a political statement. Only the BSP founder couldn’t climb up the steps for health reasons. Never mind the break with protocol, journalists came out full of praise for the vast improvement in the CM and at the way she coolly fielded uncomfortable questions. That’s Dalit power for you!

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