The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Blood price

Our fairy tale continues. Apart from her quarrelling dwarfs, our Snow White also has to make do with some old warhorses in her stables, especially because they neigh quite loudly. The sound emanating from Arjun Singh about Sonia being surrounded by sycophants has, justifiably, created ripples in the party. Singh, madam’s knight who fought her proxy battles against PV Narasimha Rao and Sitaram Kesri, obviously is not very happy with the goings on and is said to be sounding her out with his repeated missives. His supporters have added to the war effort with their little story about (guess what!) Laila-Majnu. Here is the story — Laila, having heard that her beloved Majnu was wandering about in the streets hungry, sent her maid with some milk. A greedy beggar, his eye on the milk, started shouting, “Hai Laila”, pretending to be Majnu. On hearing that the actual Majnu’s condition had deteriorated further, Laila sent out her maid again, to get a bowl of blood in exchange for the milk. This time, the beggar pointed to the real Majnu, saying, “Hum doodh wale Majnu hai, khoon wala woh raha” (I am Majnu for the milk, the one for blood is over there). The tale has apparently been narrated to madam, with pious hopes that it would help her decide about who were her genuine loyalists. But shouldn’t the milk of kindness flow before the blood'

Take a break

Holidays maketh the man. That seems to be a cardinal truth for our prime minister. Usually a loner, vacations bring out a different AB Vajpayee. On May 15, the PM took his information advisor, Ashok Tandon, by complete surprise in Manali. The premier and the PMO officials got together on Tandon’s birthday and invited him to cut his cake. Overwhelmed, Tandon, a former scribe, offered the first piece of the sinful cake to Vajpayee. The patriarch, without thinking twice, waived his medical advice and dug confidently into the creamy cake. Dinner followed shortly. And probably some more musings after that.

Cutting them to size

Madam apparently continues to punish all those who defied her directive not to question the defence minister, George Fernandes, in Parliament. The Faridkot MP, Jagmeet Singh Brar, was first stripped of his position as deputy whip in the Lok Sabha and then replaced by Sarfaraz Ahmad from Jharkhand. Brar is now AICC secretary in charge of the elections in Chattisgarh — quite definitely dwarved.

And quiet flows the liquor

Not long ago, Punjab and Haryana used to auction licences for the sale of country liquor for exorbitant sums of money. But Uttar Pradesh may set new rules for the game. The grapevine has it that the manufacturer of desi liquor can have the entire excise policy of the state modified to suit his interests, if he cuts a deal with the powers that be. This is apparently how things were proceeding recently when babus in the excise department got wind of the arrangement and approached the liquor lobby directly to see that they did not miss their share of the loot. Maybe that is for now. Next time, the politicos might account for the pitfalls and take “steps” accordingly. So get ready, CID!

Stay Indian

Saas bhi kabhi bahu thi. That is probably why Mama Sonia Gandhi is so keen on preventing another foreigner from re-entering the Nehru-Gandhi threshold. With the Columbian menace out of the way, that seems easy. The family is now supposed to be busy looking for an Indian bride for the most eligible bachelor in India today — Rahul Gandhi. The family is expected to get together some time this summer in Italy to discuss marriage plans. Priyanka is apparently already there, while Mama Sonia will join her later in June. Satish Sharma, with wife and daughter in tow, may also visit Italy from Amsterdam, although one is not too certain if that has anything to do with the marriage party. Happy hunting folks!

Name of the game

It is easier to land on the moon than become a member of the Delhi Golf club. For ordinary mortals, that fact remains constant. Given the waiting list, it would still take at least a quarter of a century to get a call from the club for an evaluation of golfing skills and table manners. For the lalas who rake in the moolah from real-estate or other deals, it sometimes doesn’t suffice to pay Rs 15 lakh for a five-year membership. There are exceptions to that now. In return for the extension of the lease of the land the club occupies, the latter has allowed the government nearly 150 memberships to be conferred on people at its discretion. So from judges, MPs, ministers, bureaucrats to journos, DGC membership has been bestowed on people depending on their proximity to the urban welfare minister or nuisance value to the regime. It goes without saying that the game is only of secondary importance.

Saying it with a smile

Nothing wrong on the face of it. Sushil Kumar Shinde, known for his pro-Sharad Pawar stance, is quite comfortably placed in Maharashtra since he was made chief minister by the high command in January this year. But politicians and political workers in the state are supposed to be baffled by the apparently non-serious attitude of the CM. In answer to any question posed to him, Shinde seems to break into smiles, or worse, even laughter. The Shiv Sena mouthpiece, Saamna, in a recent editorial has gone to the extent of ridiculing the Congress CM. It has said that the previous chief minister of the state was (Vilas Rao) “Deshmukh”, and the new one is “hasnatmukh” (one who keeps laughing). That, unfortunately, sounds like desperation given that Shinde, within a very short span of time, has taken over one prominent plank of the former Shiv Sena-BJP government’s project — slum development. In fact, this is Shinde’s answer to their recent campaign of “Mee Mumbaikar”, and quite evidently, has greater electoral weightage in the crucial battle for the city. So keep smiling, Shinde.

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