The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Time travel

The travel bug that bit our first citizen, APJ Abdul Kalam, has quite evidently undergone an unhealthy mutation. That alone explains his preference to travel by rail (in these days of unexplained fires and broken bridges!) to Patna, the heart of Lalooland. What is worrying is that the same bug seems to have bitten Kalam’s deputy as well. Bhairon Singh Shekhawat is now known to have decided to use a horse-drawn carriage to visit the Dwarka temple in Gujarat. The vice-president’s gesture has naturally gladdened the hearts of the faithful as it is considered auspicious to visit the temple in horse-drawn carts. Never mind if the decision has created havoc among his security who will still be expected to provide foolproof protection to their boss in a tonga (with the beeper on'). However, there seems to have been no serious change in the mad dog which has bitten Arjun Singh again, almost a decade after it had prompted the Thakur to defy the then prime minister, PV Narasimha Rao, to show his loyalty to madam. The only problem this time is that Singh is now rebelling against madam herself — to once again show his loyalty to her. That is why, like before, he once again took a helicopter to do his parikrama of Chitrakoot. A wicked AICC functionary tells us that last time he was forced to quit the government and then the party. Maybe, Singh should really consider doing his rounds on foot, as customary. What' That could be bugging'

Quelling a rebellion

What is most bugging is that at a time the opposition is working overtime to stitch a coalition against Mayavati, madam has committed the cardinal sin of appointing Jagdambika Pal as head of Uttar Pradesh Congress. Only a year ago, he had lost out to a lightweight like Arun Kumar Singh Munna — another flop promoted by Sonia which had prompted a party leader to say sarcastically, “Hindustan ki tamanna, UP mein Munna” (aspiring for Hindustan, yet placing Munna in UP). Sonia’s move this time is seen to be a major sop to rebel Arjun Singh since Pal, a Singh crony. What, Singh’s penance on the helicopter working already' Where’s our wicked AICC man'

In all likeness

During a visit to the INS building, the BJP president, M Venkaiah Naidu, is supposed to have recalled how as a student he had bitterly opposed the burning of Hindi posters. With time, he said, he realized the importance of the language and learnt it as party spokesman. The “ultimate” compliment, Naidu went on, came from LK Advani when the minister, admiring his proficiency, said that Naidu reminded him of Shyama Prosad Mookerjee. Hopefully, the comparison stopped at that.

For a place to sit

Apart from its usual game of dethroning kings and making princes out of paupers, the cabinet expansion this time has created an acute shortage of space in the government. Two ministers looking for a place to sit are Prahlad Patel and Kailash Meghwal from Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan respectively. The bureaucracy however dismisses the problem with the excuse that both will be busy with the assembly polls in their states and will not need their rooms in a hurry. They forget to mention that given the pace of cabinet shuffling, in two months’ time they might not even find themselves in the ministry.

Grudgingly yours

The Uttaranchal CM, Narain Dutt Tiwari, has not met madam in the last six months nor attended the last two party conclaves. Yet, he has apparently been seeing the PM regularly to discuss his state. Tiwari is supposed to be extremely unhappy with Sonia for shunting him to the hills and retaining Harish Rawat as state Congress chief. There is another problem — his dream of becoming PM, and one which is supposedly being fed by the saffronites. Last week both Praveen Togadia and Ashok Singhal were reportedly found praising Tiwari. Even LK Advani apparently went to personally meet Tiwari. What’s up old man'

Change of uniform

There is some reason Shahnawaz Hussain was shifted to the textiles ministry. He was apparently spotted lately wearing designer clothes, so much so that even the PM is supposed to have asked him about his attire. Hussain can now either blame his dress sense for his current status, or improve on it.

Sibling ribaldry

Karisma Kapoor was stumped recently when scribes asked her if sister Kareina was getting married before her. “Where did that come from'”, asked Karisma. Heaven, should we say, since most of the transactions are supposed to be made there!

That’s what friends are for

Formerly Congress, now a devoted home-maker and proud mother of two, a friend is supposed to have gone to express her concerns for another having rejected her ministership for the nth time. We are talking of didi and her saheli. A clipping of an ailing Ajit Panja on the telly news is supposed to have prompted this dear friend to suggest to Mamata that she go and see him before he left for London for treatment the next day. The idea hit hard. Yes, what better way to spite a rebellious Sudip Bandopadhyay' Off went didi with her friends in tow and barged into Panja’s room to express her “feelings”. A lot of histrionics followed — moist eyes, choking voices. The sister asked the brother to look after his health for he had such a lot to give to the country and the brother tearfully promised that he would when he got time off quarrelling with her. The meeting ended with more sweet nothings. Back home, pro-Sudip Trinamoolis waited patiently to jump on the friend for prompting the little meeting. But the meeting had been suggested in right earnest. Truly a friend in deed!

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