The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Change at the green signal

If there are strong red lights barring Mamata Banerjee’s way in West Bengal’s villages, the saffron at the other end is gradually turning green. Not only for her, but for the deposed ruler of Kashmir as well. God and the sangh willing, both didi and Farooq Abdullah may be inducted into the Union council of ministers soon after the prime minister’s annual vacation in Manali, where the suddenly-friendly Atal Bihari Vajpayee, weighing his cleverness against that of a general next door, will also look into the doings and undoings of his ministers. The grapevine has it that the sangh has prevailed upon Atal to especially review the functioning of his two Aruns — Jaitley and Shourie. Apparently, Jhandewalan has not taken very kindly to Jaitley’s support for the WTO regime and Shourie’s magnificent dream of disinvestment. Last heard, the first and the smarter Arun had succeeded in winning the sangh over, while the latter had still been struggling. Didi and Farooq are also struggling, albeit for a different reason — the plumliness of their portfolio. Mamata is believed to have been tipped for rural development (possibly to spite the left') while Farooq has been sounded out for health (to help Sushma Overworked Swaraj in the midst of SARS'). Quite obviously, neither is satisfied with what’s on offer. Farooq is supposed to be keen on the civil aviation portfolio, though one knows not what didi may have on mind. Murder'

Short story made long

A new role. After the fiasco of the “Ek Chhoti si Love Story”, the Nepalese beauty, Manisha Koirala, is all set for a change of story. Her story, that is. There are rumours that the actress might be campaigning for the BJP and Shiv Sena in the forthcoming parliamentary and assembly polls in recognition of the support Balasahib Thackeray gave her during the ugly row over Ek Chhoti si. Manisha however claims that she is following in the footsteps of her politically famous family in Nepal. But the wagging tongues of the Congress have a different story to tell. Manisha supposedly turned saffron after she was unceremoniously removed from a film produced by a Congress MP where she was expected to play Mrs Gandhi. Tough act!

In the madding crowd

Sonia Gandhi’s reshuffle has left party leaders with no room for manoeuvre, and literally. The AICC headquarters has no space to fit in her jumbo team of managers. Senior CWC members have no room to themselves while scores of newly inducted members of several committees cannot take charge of their offices because there is no room for them. And all because madam, supposedly working according to the directions of wizkid, Sam Pitroda, decided to add before she started subtracting. When will they grow up'

Lost and found in the wild

While touring the remote areas of Chhattisgarh, Ajit Jogi’s chopper lost its way and landed about 10 kilometres away from the scheduled site of a public meeting. Not to be deterred, the chief minister took off for the meeting on a two-wheeler. While he drove into the horizon, the owner of the vehicle took the seat at the back. A little later, when organizers were desperately scanning the sky to spot his helicopter, they felt a tap on their shoulders. It was Jogi. The mud and the heat had taken its toll, but it was the chief minister alright. A lota of water later, Jogi took stage, the man of the masses. Gandhiji truly has a competitor in our Jogi.

Rural is that rural was

Habits die hard, especially those of a former rural development minister like M Venkaiah Naidu. Last week, the BJP chief apparently shocked all and sundry when he sent a circular to the ministry, asking all officials to report at his residence. Realizing the adverse impact it may have, the secretary of the department quickly withdrew the circular, although he could not prevent the meeting from taking place. Naidu is said to have discussed the schemes he had introduced as minister, though one still cannot fathom in what capacity. For the ministry, though without a head, has a minister in additional charge, Ananth Kumar. Maybe Naidu is getting things in order for didi!

Keep it up

Looks like the PM has made up his mind about doing some regular exercise. For his muscle-flexing was not limited only to Pakistan recently, but it extended to getting some of his men into the government as well. Three from the Vaishya Bania community have been made governors, apparently overriding the wishes of L.K. Advani, to appease this section which, of late, was feeling let down by some developments. Ramdas Aggarwal was replaced in Rajasthan as party chief by Vasundhara Raje Scindia; Ved Prakash Goyal was dropped from the cabinet and Vijay Goel cut down to size in the PMO. The present strategy apparently has RSS blessings. Which is why the Vajpayee men have come marching in — Ram Prakash Gupta in Madhya Pradesh, Nirmal Jain in Rajasthan and VS Kokje in Himachal Pradesh.

Why renew a friendship

Beginning of the end of a great hostility' During one of her many return trips from Delhi, our indefatigable didi was found talking seriously with, hold your breath, her young MP, Sudip Bandopadhyay, who had recently strayed from her fold and the bad blood between the two had deteriorated beyond the possibility of being revived by a transfusion. Although the ice was still there for all to see, both seemed to be thawing a little. What could have prompted both to reconsider their stances' Too many things actually. There could possibly be pressures from the BJP on Mamata to forgive Sudip, who, during his stay in Delhi, is believed to have touched many saffron bases (and feet). Didi is probably also apprehensive of Sudip’s status as a party MP and the fact that he is already reported to be cosying up with Congresswallah P.R. Das Munshi. Another reason: Sudip could be a better asset than the free-wheeling Ajit Panja. And Sudip’s reasons' Well, there is always something to be gained from the association with didi. Problem is we still don’t know how Subratada will like the developments.

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