The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Desperate for attention

Life has been a desert for poor Pranab Mukherjee this past year and a half, banished to Bengal as state Congress chief. Lately however, Sonia Gandhi is reported to have assured Pranabda that if he manages to do well for the party in the coming panchayat elections in the state, his vanvas from the charmed 10 Janpath circle would come to an end. What the veteran Congressman has missed the most in all this time is his clout with the capital’s journalists as chairperson of the party’s media cell, when he would be pursued by reporters desperate for the hot quote. Exactly how much he misses all that was again brought home to him when he was deputed observer to Rajasthan and then Maharashtra. He was pleased as punch when a few journalists called him to ask about his experiences there. Beaming like a little boy, he served them hot tea and told them how much he had missed them. He then narrated a long spiel about how the airlines had given him a bad time on the return journey from Mumbai. Not once in the course of this animated conversation did he lose his (in)famous temper. Pranabda must be happy to know that he is a serious contender for the post of gen-sec in charge of media affairs, as also Somen Mitra, Priya Ranjan Das Munshi, Adhir Choudhury and assorted disgruntled elements in the Bengal Congress.

Dilemma of youth

The youngest member of the Indian cricket team — described famously as “17 going on 14” by a cricket commentator — has a small problem. Parthiv Patel, who else' How should he prepare for his board examinations in the two days he will get after his return from South Africa' The Indian wicket-keeper wants to play in South Africa, but he is also does not to want to miss his boards and waste an academic year. Well, there may be two ways out for him. One, India doesn’t make it past the super-six stage — as seems most likely — leaving the Gujarati lad lots of time to prepare. Two, India wins, and the resourceful Narendra Modi is persuaded to make special arrangements for him.

Visitations of doom

Poor Vilasrao Deshmukh is yet to work out why he was so summarily sacked. But being only a poor, superstitious politician, he thinks it is to do with his visit to the birthplace of Shivaji’s mother, Jijabai, in remote Buldana district. Apparently the place had proved inauspicious for former chief ministers Vasantdada Patil, AR Antulay and Sudhakarrao Naik. In fact, Deshmukh had been warned by well-wishers against going, but had overruled the advice. He is paying a rather heavy price for defying convention.

A friend in seat

Sushil Shinde, the man who has replaced Vilasrao Deshmukh, has an altogether different problem. Shinde and Deshmukh have always been the best of friends. In fact, in Maharashtra political circles, they were called “do hanson ka jora” (a pair of swans). Also, their children have grown up together and their wives are friends. It has been painful for him to oust his friend from the gaddi. That’s the price of success for you...

Son rises on the horizon

Priyanka or Rahul — speculation continues to rage in Congress circles about which of the two siblings will take over the Nehru-Gandhi legacy. Congressmen, who are quick to read significance in every action of the mater familias, see the mantle falling on the son. All because it was Rahul whom Sonia chose to represent the family at Harivansh Rai Bachchan’s funeral. So when is the coronation'

The minister has a heart

Would you believe it but LK Advani has a bleeding heart, one that he reserves especially for the media. Apparently, the deputy prime minister was to have visited Russia sometime in December. The press party that was to have accompanied him had spent a fortune buying expensive jackets, thermal inner wear and so on to beat the punishing Russian cold. It all went to waste when the trip was cancelled. So when the present visit to Paris was arranged, Advani went to the trouble of including all those journos who were meant to accompany him to Moscow. Taking good care for the press, so the press takes good care of him'

Wake me up when you finish

Speeches by politicians are always boring, ask all those who have to sit through long, rambling ones. But apparently, those who deliver the speeches do not find them very interesting either. Reading out his prepared speech to an assembly of parliamentarians from across the globe, President APJ Abdul Kalam found he had skipped a page. Nobody noticed, and Kalam made up for it by reading relevant passages from it. Nobody noticed — again.

To catch a falling star

She may have given up on films and stardom, more or less, to settle for the more mundane pleasures of marriage and imminent motherhood, but “mad about Mads” is still quite a cliché in Bollywood circles. But the phrase was probably never more apt than in the case of Dhanalal, a poor farmer from Kasrawad in Madhya Pradesh who had lived a peaceful and contented life until goddess Durga appeared in a dream — and directed him to marry Ms Dixit.

Everyone laughed him off his fantasy, but Dhanalal was determined. He sold off his property, packed his bags, and, abandoning wife and two children, made for Mumbai. But then came the difficult part — catching hold of the dhak-dhak girl. Dhanalal wrote several letters — none of which reached the actress. Instead Madhuri’s secretary, without realizing the true motive of the man, wrote back to say that Madhuri had acknowledged his greetings. And so Dhanalal languishes in the big bad city, waiting to contact Madhuri. After all, he has the goddess’s order to fulfil.

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