The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Those the gods look after

Nothing can save a man whom the gods have damned — is apparently the credo Ram Jethmalani lives by. Recently, the maverick lawyer and politician went on record saying, “If there is a threat to my life, I will be protected by god.” Which, depending on how you look at it, is suitably pious and in keeping with the current political climate, or practical, given the rather perilous experiences of Phoolan Devi and Indira Gandhi with their personal security. But clearly, his many admirers are not about to leave Jethmalani to the doubtful mercies of god almighty. One, Komireddy Krishna Vijay Azad, has filed a public interest litigation in the Supreme Court pleading that the controversial lawyer, who is representing the Hindujas in the Bofors payoff trial and had earlier interceded with the Kashmir militants on behalf of the Centre, be given “Z” category security cover. It being a matter of earth-shattering urgency, the apex court promptly heard the matter and directed Azad to include the Shiv Sena, the party which had elected Jethmalani to the Rajya Sabha, as joint petitioner in the case. But the sainiks clearly do not share Azad’s concern for their MP’s life and limb; they are angry he agreed to do something as unpatriotic as appear in court on behalf of those accused in the December 13 attack on Parliament. Jethmalani, who has his own views in such matters, couldn’t care less about the Sena’s support. And so, the matter languishes...

Mystery of the missing lines

Things are really not going all that well for the Congress recently. Even lady luck seems to have forsaken it, it seems. And quite literally so. With the campaign hotting up for the February 26 assembly elections in Nagaland, party-workers suddenly discovered that the party symbol, the disembodied palm, did not have the fate-line, or even that of fortune or fame. It does not take an astrologer to construe this as a bad omen, and politicians are anyway an extremely superstitious lot. So all the election material — posters, banners, everything, was replaced. Clearly, Sonia Gandhi is taking no chances. If only it were that easy to redraw fate.

Lessons in name-calling

Here’s some advice for Congressmen — from the VHP’s Giriraj Kishore, of all people. The Hindutva ideologue would rather Congressmen did not address their party boss as “madame”; bhabhi, he feels, is more bharatiya . Any takers'

At Sonia’s dinner party

Sonia Gandhi it seems will always be the apprentice-politician. Take her dinner party on the eve of the budget session — supposed to usher in a new era of opposition unity. Most of the invitees came away disappointed with their hostess. For, though the spread was sumptuous and the hospitality gracious, Sonia added not a comment to the heated deliberations going on all round her. All she did, it appears, was point to each leader and ask him to speak. But what hurt most was her announcement later that the opposition would not raise any issue in Parliament without the appro- val of her party. The left, especially, was disappointed since it had wanted to corner the government on Ayodhya. Obviously, the Congress’s new-found love for a soft-Hindutva stand was to blame for her about turn. When will the lady learn that she will get precisely nowhere fighting the BJP on its own turf'

Watch what you ask for

Mamata Banerjee is to finally get her heart’s desire — a berth in the Central cabinet. The prime minister has assured his beti that whenever he next shuffles his pack of ministers, she will be allowed to choose between coal and rural development.

But here’s something that might give pause to any euphoria didi might feel. Ram Vilas Paswan too went from railways to coal to where he is now — out in the cold. In the end, the powerful Dalit leader who raised Hajipur from a lowly town to an important railway headquarter was reduced to fighting for shoes and hamlets for mine workers!

Smooth ride for capital

The Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government seems to have finally realized what a mess the roads in Calcutta are in. Unsurprisingly, it is not the common man’s complaints that have opened its eyes, but the fear that international capital might turn away from the potholes and craters of a typical thoroughfare in the metropolis. Earlier this year, the officers of a British MNC were at their wit’s end when they learnt that the chief of their global operations would be visiting the city, which housed its Indian HQ. Their concern — the stretch of turf along Taratala in front of their office. They tried to get it repaired — but were soon tired of running from port trust to PWD to CMC. Next they tried to divert the man to other cities — but the man was not to be put off. Finally they had to settle for a car with a super-sophisticated shock absorber and police escort to ensure a traffic-free ride. Such drastic measures won’t work always, surely'

Down, but never out

It’s difficult to pull down a good man, they say, though he may be easily fazed for a while. Take Pramod Mahajan. If his detractors in the party (primarily the Advani-Venkaiah Naidu faction) had thought he would be chastened by his removal from the cabinet, then they hadn’t reckoned with the man’s chutzpah. PM, as he likes to be called, is proving to be the most popular man in the party. So what if he does not hold any high-profile ministry, demands for Mahajan to address rallies and party conventions are coming from all over, not merely from the north but also the south of the country.

And why not' Mahajan is articulate, well versed in Hindi and English, has the reputation of being an excellent manager, over and above which there is the attraction of his “Reliance” connection. In fact, some in the party believe that Mahajan agreed to work in the party with the intention of taking over. And the one getting the jitters as a result is the current party president, M. Venkaiah Naidu. But why is Atal Bihari Vajpayee so happy'

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