The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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When Laloo went to Gujarat

Laloo Prasad Yadav has been going places of late. Scripted into the Gujarat campaign on the side of the secularists, Bihar’s rustic charmer put the fear of Ram into the BJP by using the latter’s rhetoric against it. Matching Narendra Modi, provocation for provocation, Laloo said he was Lord Krishna on the way to Dwarka to rid the state of Kansa (Modi), and that Sushma Swaraj and Uma Bharti were Soorpanakhas. The mythology was a bit confused, but the crowds assembled to hear his Bhojpuri-tinged harangue weren’t complaining. It hasn’t, however, been entirely a cakewalk for the Bihari leader. He landed in Ahmedabad airport to a crowded reception arranged by his local acolytes. The rented crowd began dutifully shouting, “Desh ka neta kaisa ho — Laloo Prasad jaisa ho”, as the visiting VIP walked into the lounge. But the people who put together the crowd must have gone wrong somewhere, or perhaps the crowd had its own sense of humour, for some of them soon began chanting — “Jis ke jeb mein paisa ho”. But Gujarat has not been the limit of Laloo’s explorations — he has also been learning all about information technology lately. Taken in by the wonders of the web, Laloo dashed off an e-mail to all MPs. In answer, however, he got a big lecture from a Karnataka MP on the finer points of governance in Bihar. Taken aback, Laloo however, did not lose his wit. But I am no longer the chief minister of Bihar, the state’s first husband said plaintively, adding that he had expected better general knowledge from net-savvy MPs.

Once a chief minister

If you have been chief minister once, it’s difficult to be satisfied being a mere agriculture minister. Ask Rajinder Kaur Bhattal. But the lady has now found a simple method of getting back at her successor, Amarinder Singh. All invitations, banners, posters, going out in her name describe her as a former CM — nowhere is her current office mentioned. Amarinder is miffed and has even complained to the party high command — only Sonia Gandhi was too amused to intervene.

For madame’s attention

Sonia Gandhi however does not seem too good at keeping her own house in order. On December 9, her birthday, the quiet of the corridors of 10 Janpath was broken by a shrill argument between two women — Saroj Khaparde, a former MP and a blue-eyed girl of Indira Gandhi, and Archana Dalmiya, her assistant. The issue — who should walk with Sonia Gandhi when she held court at 10 Janpath. Catfights again'

To serve his own interest

Hotelier Lalit Suri, newly elected to the Rajya Sabha, has already made his presence felt. Call it the enthusiasm of a first-timer, Suri made a few telling contributions to the debate on disinvestment. Carpers, of course, were of the opinion that as one of the beneficiaries of divestment, Suri should have kept his mouth firmly shut. A few days later, he did it again. This time he interrupted Jaswant Singh, as he was answering questions, to ask when the FM would grant the hotel industry some tax relief. The former armyman, turning his patrician nose at the distraction, bellowed, “I cannot answer this question”, and sat down. Serves Suri right. It does not help to dress up self-interest, at least quite so blatantly, as public service, does it'

Beware of the envelope

Scribes covering the Gujarat elections were shocked when they reached Mehsana to cover an important rally. Enthusiastic partyworkers gave them an entry pass and an envelope — in which were four crisp Rs 100 notes. Some of them protested at such blatant bribery, but were assured by the local journos that it was standard practice. Unconvinced, some Delhi-based reporters even went to the party office in Gandhinagar to lodge a protest. The office-bearer there was extremely apologetic. “But how can that be. There should have been five notes there. Someone has cheated us,” he moaned. The complainants could barely keep a straight face.

Fortune in his voice

An up-and-coming singer in Bollywood is spending sleepless nights these days, worried that he might be losing his voice. The Kumar Sanu-clone cannot afford to do that since he is booked until the middle of next year. He has consulted doctors in Mumbai, but the medicines do not seem to be working. Desperate, he now wants to consult an ENT specialist in home town Calcutta, only he does not have the time to come here. And so he has been calling up doctors, and asking for help. But the doctors plead that they can hardly treat him over the telephone, and anyway the reason is probably stress and he had better stop singing for a while. Now that’s one thing our singer cannot afford to do.

Flattery always works

Priya Ranjan Das Munshi has quite a persuasive air about him. He recently rubbed HD Deve Gowda the wrong way when he pipped the former prime minister to ask a question about sugarcane farmers. But the smooth-tongued Priyada soon managed to convince the sulking Gowda that it was beneath his dignity to ask questions in Parliament — he should instead take them up directly with the prime minister. The simple soul that he is, Gowda was convinced.

Al Qaida speaks Bengali

The newly-appointed state BJP chief, Tathagata Roy, is not leaving any stone unturned to be accepted by both the rank and file as well as the party bosses who have propped him up. For example, his campwallahs have been spreading the word about how Roy is a sangh parivar guy (in the mould of Swami Vivekananda, perhaps), so deeply religious that he has given up fish.

But Roy, whose pet theme has always been “ally with the Trinamool to fight the CPI(M)”, has been lately making rather frequent visits to the administration. The reason — he says he figures on al Qaida’s hit list. Roy has apparently even produced letters — in Bengali — to support his demand for greater security for himself and his family. Left leaders are flummoxed. For one, the police can hardly afford to accede to all such requests. And given the recent, rather cosy relation between Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and LK Advani, the left doesn’t want to do anything to antagonize Roy. But the entire idea of the al Qaida writing a letter in Bengali is just too hilarious to be taken seriously.

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