The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Whichever way you see it

Murphy’s law, should we say' What else could affect sullen faces in the BJP and the subterranean jubilation in the Congress camp when Narendra Modi rode astride the saffron rath last Sunday' Although the Gujarat victory has raised the political stocks of several like M Venkaiah Naidu and Arun Jaitley, it has already ensured the sidelining of leaders like Pramod Mahajan and Sushma Swaraj. The BJP glamour boy’s discomfiture in fact was plainly visible when a beaming Jayanti Mehta, minister in the Vajpayee cabinet, walked into the prime minister’s parliamentary office with a box of sweets the other day. Pramod quickly excused himself, saying he was diabetic. Congresswallah Subbirami Reddy, who was also there, however could not say no to the lady out of courtesy. This sweet gesture on his part was blown out of proportions in the Congress HQ, where madam was promptly reported that while she mourned, her men were partaking of sweets in the BJP office. Although Reddy has been apologetic ever since, many in the Congress top brass would perhaps have had less qualms in the sweet exchange. Senior leaders like Sheila Dixit, Digvijay Singh, Natwar Singh, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Arjun Singh and Pranab Mukherjee, in fact, are having problems trying to hide their glee at the Congress defeat. Many are simply happy that Kamal Nath has had to bite dust and that it may cut down his wings as AICC gen-sec in charge of Delhi, his clout in Madhya Pradesh or lead to his removal as party functionary. A host of possibilities, let’s say, for the backbenchers to jump seats to the front. But are the old bones strong enough to hold aloft the Congress flag'

Keep them on a tight leash

Following the Congress’s drubbing in Gujarat, the party high command is finding it difficult to hold its UP brood in check. With Mayavati beckoning them in no uncertain terms to help her prove her majority in the assembly, the task is becoming more onerous. Earlier this week, at least 12 Congress MLAs were reported to be all set to bite the Mayavati bait when word leaked out. But despite the entreaties, the lure of ministry and the promise of BSP tickets in the next elections, which might be soon if Mayavati fails to break into the Congress house, might prove a stronger lolly than the oral blandishments of a “better Congress future in UP”.

Liberalizing Jaswant

On Friday, Jaswant Singh organized a party for journos covering the finance ministry to showcase his achievements (already'). He declared that since he took over, the ministry had mopped up Rs 6,000 crore in taxes. A witty scribe asked if they had been called in to share the booty. “That’s a good one”, said an otherwise tight-lipped Singh. Perhaps the ministry is doing things to him. Should we hope for some shairi this budget, Mr Singh'

Time to change party

First the Congress refused to back her candidature for the office of the vice-president, and now another party member, the Maharashtra CM, Vilasrao Deshmukh, has let her down. Najma Heptullah allegedly believes that Deshmukh is purposely sitting on her request for a piece of land in south Mumbai for a trust set up in the name of her late grand-uncle, Maulana Azad. Which is probably why Heptullah could be trying to make her presence felt in saffron circles. She was the surprise guest Vijay Goel’s party last week. Was that a statement'

The writ still runs

This is for the doubting Thomases who think the Gujarat debacle will make Sonia Gandhi pack her bags and leave for Italy. The other day, some Congress MPs in the Lok Sabha saw merit in the amendments proposed by Maneka Gandhi in a bill relating to animal welfare. They therefore raised their hands to support the other Nehru-Gandhi bahu. But the Congress’s floor managers who wanted the bill to sail smoothly, clamped down immediately. Someone from the treasury benches crossed over and whispered to KP Singh Deo and others about the possibility of the matter being reported back to madam. The impact was instant and the government had its way.

It pays to be an MLA

A former Haryana chief minister, benami owner of a five-star hotel in Gurgaon along with his son, successfully used his influence with a senior BJP minister to pressure a finanical institution into writing off a Rs 12 crore loan. Guess what ex-PMs do!

Meeting their match

At the last mega-wedding of 2002 between a Koirala son and daughter of a noted Indian industrialist, Bollywood beauties Lolo and sister Kareina regaled the tourists cum guests with their live dance performance. The tinsel crowd was as much because of Manisha as the bahu’s father. The reel world’s then closer than we guessed.

To clean up a mess

God gets ready to play devil. Mayor Subrata Mukherjee is apparently planning to cut some 15,000 jobs in the municipal corporation and has got the DFID to pay for the expenses. Trinamoolis are naturally in a spot, with Mamata unwilling to take the mayor head on. Anyway, feelers have been sent through her confidantes about the problems this might create. To this Subrata is supposed to have replied that if there were anyone who had the moral authority to take away jobs, it was he because he was the one who had granted them to most of those who would now find themselves on the chopping block. Nostalgically, he added that in his heyday he had even written out such appointment letters on the back of cigarette packets. The result was some 45,000 employees, some of whom have even fraudulently destroyed the documents to extend their time of service. Mukherjee has a way to deal with them too. He is determined to hold a medical camp to have the bones of employees checked to ascertain their right age. Looks like it’s going to be a mess.

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