The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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No pain, no gain

The more things change, the more they remain the same. All that the recent cabinet reshuffle affected seems to be a change of cars. The day after the momentous turning of tables, the ousted saffron prince, Pramod Mahajan, arrived at the BJP office in a black Lancer, and the newly crowned Arun Jaitley discarded his green Lancer for a spotlessly-white official Ambassador. Mahajan, however, got a taste of being out in the streets hours before he was actually removed. The security staff at the prime minister’s residence stopped his car, forcing Pramod to take off his dark glasses and introduce himself. Acutely aware of such hazards of powerlessness, Anant Kumar seems to have announced, “Bachh gaye” (saved!), the moment the axe missed him. Others like Ram Naik and Jagmohan were more successful in hiding their glee. But one of the worst performances came from the sanyasin, Uma Bharti. Reeling under the attack from brother, Swami Prasad, who recently threatened to join the Congress, a bitter Bharti asked Sushma Swaraj why she had agreed to take over an “inauspicious” ministry like health and family welfare when it had turned out to be the nemesis for both CP Thakur and Shatrughan Sinha. Sushma quickly gave it back, saying she opted for the ministry to look after the likes of Uma who weren’t keeping well. “Main apka khayyal rakhungi” (I’ll look after you), said Swaraj, assuring a crestfallen Bharti medical attention for her nagging backache. What about those pains in the neck — Mahajan for example'

Gift of love

It doesn’t help to please everyone all the time. Savvy saffronite, Pramod Mahajan, must have realized that by now. Before being dropped from the ministry, Mahajan was abroad, travelling in Egypt and South Africa among other countries. In South Africa, Mahajan is said to have picked up a nice beer mug the shape of the head of a tiger. The gift was for the tigermark Shiv Sena chief, Balasaheb Thackeray. The chief was apparently not too pleased with the present. Why' Would he have liked wine glasses instead'

Smashing success

Sometime last week, the West Bengal finance minister’s car was attacked close to a cinema hall in central Calcutta. A mentally deranged youth is supposed to have smashed Asim Dasgupta’s windscreen with a stone. The attack immediately set tongues wagging. Some said the lad came from Dasgupta’s own constituency, which gave substance to another allegation — that the minister was trying to impress how important it was to increase his security cover. Senior ministers like Dasgupta have resented the reduction in their security paraphernalia ever since Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee took over. So was this an occasion to settle another old score'

Take it easy

A grand occasion in the backwaters of Kerala. It was the wedding of the daughter of Krishna Kumar, a former Union minister in the PV Narasimha Rao government. True to the local custom, the baraat from north India was accorded a warm welcome by a group of elephnants hired by the bride’s family. Everything was fine till the bride’s father decided to capture this royal treatment on camera. One particular elephant did not like the idea of a tall, turbaned man taking too many liberties. So it went on a rampage, sending the bridegroom’s father to the hospital with multiple injuries. Quite a state of union!

Find a replacement

A person who has withstood all political storms and stuck to his post as state Congress president, Mumbai, is Murli Deora. But all that may change now. Deora is being projected as successor to the party treasurer, Motilal Vora, who is supposed to have failed to garner enough funds for the party. Deora, with his capacity for lobbying and connections with the rich and powerful the world over (a magazine even listed him as one of the 50 most powerful men in the country), is expected to fit in perfectly. That is if he manages to bring in enough moolah for the party.

A lesson from Istanbul

A solution to the Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi fracas may be close at hand. LK Advani was in Istanbul recently, admiring the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia Church opposite it. The Turkish government has declared both as national monuments. The Union minister is supposed to have expressed immense pleasure at this decision and even taken interest in the story about the construction of the mosque. Built between 1609-1616, the architect constructing the mosque had tried to build a bigger dome than Hagia Sophia’s. Having failed to do so, he concentrated on beautifying the domes and minarets of the structure instead. Today, the Blue Mosque is one of the most prominent landmarks of Istanbul with its six minarets, standing next to the church. Will Advani have drawn his lesson from Turkey' Perhaps, but chances are he will spend the rest of his time trying to unlearn it.

Nose in the middle

Used to ministers they can wrap round their little fingers, the babus of North Block are extremely upset with their new boss, Jaswant Singh. They feel his patrician nose is always in the air — which translated means, he has a mind of his own. Also, the contrast with predecessor Yashwant Sinha couldn’t be more marked. While the Bihari ex-babu had an easy and direct equation with everyone from directors to secretaries, the Rajasthani ex-serviceman frequently does not recognize even his top-most officials. No wonder, he is called the “external minister” in the finance ministry. This creates problems, especially now that it’s budget time. It is the North Block menials who always prepare budgets, but they have to be provided the guidelines and the “vision” of the minister. And Singh seems least interested in giving any such directions. On the other hand, neither has he entertained any request or recommendation from his mates in the BJP or its allies. You can’t always please everyone — but Singh has managed to rub almost everyone the wrong way.

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