The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Every underdog has his day

For Subrata Mukherjee, things couldn’t get much better. So what if the bulk of the Trinamoolis would rather see the back of him, the mayor has made his peace with the CPI(M)-wallahs, the CM, and even his mercurial party chief. But for one thorn in the flesh that keeps pricking now and again — Javed Khan, councillor and mayor-in-council with charge of health affairs. The man’s just too independent for Subrata’s liking. For example, he was the one who devised a grading system for hotels and restaurants in the city on the basis of the cleanliness of their kitchens. The scheme might have fallen through (worried hoteliers succeeded in “humouring” the mayor). Khan got into the bad books of his leader again when he played spoilsport over the CMC’s move to set up a private malaria hospital in the city — it didn’t make sense to hand over a large slice of prime property to private players, was his contention. Subrata, for his part, has done his best to clip the wings of his junior, and he has succeeded — but he hasn’t been able to get rid of Khan. For, Khan might be a lowly councillor but he has the ear of the boss lady. Khan was the only one to respond to her call to build a grand party office in the city with the gesture of donating a plot on the EM Bypass. Mamata Banerjee was impressed, especially because the mayor hadn’t so much as lifted a little finger to help her. Recently, she vetoed Subrata’s proposed reshuffle of his MICs — she could see that the only head on the chopping block would be Khan, and she wanted none of that. A few thorns in the flesh, she must have calculated, were good for the soul — they would keep the mayor quiet and loyal.

Dance like a man

Politicians are supposed to be leading everyone — mainly their hapless constituencies — a merry dance, they aren’t supposed to be dancing themselves. But there is that one exception to prove the rule — Oscar Fernandes, Congress gen-sec in charge of Bihar. The rumour is that Fernandes has been afflicted by some condition for which the doctors have advised him to do vigorous physical exercise. And so the Goanese politician has started learning Kuchipudi. So far so good, but Brother Oscar has developed a rather disconcerting habit of posing in a mudra before journalists and visitors. That’s not quite in keeping with the gravitas of a senior politician, is it'

To each man his own...tent

Everything was set for M Venkaiah Naidu’s lunch, when the rain gods decided to play up. The host being busy at the party’s national executive, Ananth Kumar was deployed to rustle up plastic tents to cover the tables stacked with food, and the 300-odd guests. Obviously, the arrangements were inadequate because a guest could be heard asking why Sitangshu Mittal, a close aide of Pramod Mahajan who runs a flourishing tent business, wasn’t asked to do the honours. A question of core competency, after all.

Winners take all

Talking of LK Advani, the modern Sardar Patel’s fortunes are on the up and up. And the one really worried at this is the prof, Murli Manohar Joshi, whose name once used to be uttered in the same breath as the deputy PM’s, in the second rung of leaders after Vajpayee. Giving Joshi sleepless nights is the fact that his protégé and industrialist, Ravi Bhishan Wadhavan, threw a grand party to celebrate the election of Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, an Advani campwallah, to the Rajya Sabha. Joshi of course, has no one but himself to blame for Wadhavan’s defection. He had enticed the latter, who began his political career as president of the Amitabh Bachchan Fans Association, into the saffron party by promising him a Rajya Sabha ticket — a promise that he did not keep. But there’s nothing surprising in that. What has got the tongues wagging is the scale of the celebrations at a five star hotel — with food and wine on the free flow and a guest-list numbering filmstars, businessmen, ministers, politicians and journalists and all the who’s whos.

The wages of victory

But lavish parties are not the only thing new to the BJP. Many saffron-party old-timers are shocked at the way the party has allowed Narendra Modi to run away with all the credit for the Gujarat victory. To them, the goggle-eyed adoration of the chhote sardar is much-too disconcertingly akin to the Congress’s personality-cult, or what AB Vajpayee calls adhinayakabad in his Sanskritized Hindi. So much for being the party with a difference.

When things go right

The only man who can legitimately claim to share some part of the limelight with Narendra Modi is Arun Jaitley. For nearly a month before polling day, the former Union minister camped in Gandhinagar, ignoring a flourishing legal practice in New Delhi and braving much ridicule from his friends in the Page 3 set who thought he had sold out to the devil.

But success has been enough to shut up his detractors, and the capital’s chattering classes were back in full force to celebrate Jaitley’s birthday this Saturday. Revenge couldn’t possibly have been any sweeter.

One defeat too many

Even as Narendra Modi basks in glory, Ashok Gehlot across the northern borders in Rajasthan is in danger of losing his job. Sonia Gandhi is apparently furious at having lost in the three assembly constituencies to which byelections were held, one of them the party had held uninterrupted since 1952. Apparently, she doesn’t grudge losing Gujarat so much as she does the bypoll losses. She is also afraid that this loss might reverse all the advances the party had made in winning elections in 14 states. Well, a change in the leadership might not be the best answer to the problem, but in the absence of better ideas, it is the only thing to do. At least, she will be seen as doing something.

Gehlot however does not seem concerned at all. Even as the assembly elections were being held, the CM at Ranthambhor was playing host to two of the country’s topmost industrialists and their families. The joke doing the rounds in state Congress circles is that Gehlot is laying plans for his life after chief ministership. Now why does that sound likely'

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