The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Selling a birthday

For those already into their second childhood, it is but natural to have birthdays in grand style. So soon after the president came carrying 78 roses on Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s birthday to start off the celebrations on December 25, it was time for another old saffron bone to have his birthday party. The celebration committee for Murli Manohar Joshi organized the function at Vigyan Bhavan with much fanfare. But the bash turned out to be a tame affair, saved if only by the presence and humour of none other than the prime minister himself. Not unexpectedly, LK Advani was conspicuous by his absence — probably another reason why Vajpayee seemed spontaneous. Vajpayee began with a dig at the birthday boy — he had called up Joshi in the morning, only to be told bluntly that he was at puja. He knew Joshi was religious to T but the “puja” had served its purpose in the past by shooing off unwelcome callers. Laughter (canned') followed. The PM also made it a point to insist that his “closeness” to Joshi was often misunderstood (not again!). Joshi must have found it necessary to respond. Which is why in all politeness he had asked Vajpayee, as he struggled to get up to speak, to carry on sitting. Nothing doing. Joshi had insisted time and again that the “nation” stand up on its own feet. Vajpayee could not but oblige. So he stood there, the one-man nation. Any doubts about why it should be tottering'

To club them together

The Party for Democratic Socialism now has the rare distinction of being the smallest party in Bengal to have given the biggest call for bandh. The CPI(M), however, as is its wont, continues to be unimpressed. A politburo member of the party had even described the PDS as a “club”. Both Saifuddin Chowdhury and Samir Putatunda have seemingly taken grave exception to their party being associated with such “whiskey and soda” activities. They apparently were even planning to take matters up when it was conveyed to them that the CPI(M), ahem, was in a position to prove that PDS members, in a fashion typical of all politicos, were far from being saintly. Which is probably why the duo decided to sort it out, politically.

Pray, what is this'

Marxists claim to be godless. But they also probably allow for exceptions to prove this rule. A former CPI(M) member of the Rajya Sabha and one-time pro-vice-chancellor of the Calcutta University recently barged into the Parliament House office of the deputy prime minister while he was at an important meeting to offer him prasad from the Jagannath temple in Puri. The offering was later shared among all those awaiting their turn to see LK Advani. How does mentor Jyoti Basu look at the double sin — public prayers and then sharing the prasad with saffronites'

Hold his tongue

Double headache. Apart from dealing with Uma Bharti as the BJP’s chief ministerial candidate for the state , Digvijay Singh now has the unenviable job of handling Praveen Togadia, who has promised to visit Madhya Pradesh once every month. With the assembly elections round the bend, Diggy simply cannot trust Togadia’s tongue. However, he does not want confrontation with the saffronites at this stage. Last heard, Digvijay had sought the services of the “well-meaning” BJP leaders, requesting them to curtail Togadia’s visits. Wonder what Diggy is willing to give in return!

And the prize goes to...

Come January, it is time for the lobbyings to begin for the Padma Shris and Padma Bhushans. The competition is stiff this time between two premier industrial houses of the country. While friends of one want the Bharat Ratna to be awarded posthumously to the founder of the house, another set is working hard to bag the award for its living legend, who has been giving the people of this country cars of various shapes and sizes. The matter has succeeded in dividing the ruling party as well. One section, however, has its own reasons for backing the posthumous grant of the Bharat Ratna. It would make eligible the sangh’s own fathers — Savarkar, Golwalkar...

Games people play

To seize the decentralization initiative from Diggy Raja, Chattisgarh CM, Ajit Jogi, has also decided to hold cabinet meetings in the tribal areas, never mind the transportation cost of ministers. Jogi has also ordered his men to take regular yoga classes. Could Jogi also start worrying about his state’s financial health'

Change of role

Sweet revenge' Following Kareina Kapoor’s sudden decision to hike up her rates, Preity Zinta and kali billi Bipasa Basu have apparently ganged up. The first takes the sober roles and Basu the daring. Plans must have changed now as Zinta plays crusader, Bollywood.

Fancy their flight

The NRI jamboree at the capital, the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas in other words, had its full share of the spotlight — Sonia Gandhi’s refusal to turn up, the PM’s white lie that India did not want NRI wealth, Amartya Sen’s fervent plea that India kept its door ajar and finally Lady Vidia’s parting shot at the deputy PM. The best part in all this was the jugalbandi between the two Bharat Ratnas — Pandit Ravi Shankar and Ustad Bismillah Khan. Their music was so mesmerizing that it held the otherwise bickering audience spellbound, including some pigeons which had managed to flutter into the venue, seeking reprieve from the bitter cold outside. During the entire concert, the piegons made not a sound, quite obviously in deep appreciation of the great music that was happening before them. Some in the audience however made light of their presence, and definitely of their profound understanding, by quipping that the “unauthorized” entry of the uninvited guests pointed to the fact that there had indeed been a grave “security lapse”. Truly, they were birds of a different feather altogether.

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