The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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What’s in his bag'

Alimuddin Street is perhaps waiting in bated breath for the return of its prodigal child — a Buddha it sent in spotless dhoti-kurta who emerged as an MoU-signing, Gucci-charmer in bush shirt and khaki trousers. But if its brightest boy has failed to net more than a leather giant into his kitty, the blame should squarely be placed on his carrying capacity — he couldn’t have “bagged” anymore than that. Scribes travelling with Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee have time and again expressed their surprise at the CM’s travel kit — a teeny bag that Buddha claimed could hold “everything he ever wanted”. The Gucci study group undoubtedly has something to study real hard. But if party elders have been a trifle disoriented by Buddha’s dress sense, they could rest assured. All is not lost. The chief minister is supposed to have shown his profound dislike for something quintessentially Italian — the pizza. On his last night in Florence, Buddha’s Indian business mates seemingly brought him a pizza for dinner. The CM, by his own admission, went on a hunger strike. He couldn’t eat it, nor could his companion from Ganashakti. The more Bengalis change, the more they remain the same.

Hungry for views

Every dog has his day, and every chief spokesperson of a party his own. Snubbed by Ambika Soni, who hijacked the news conferences in Srinagar, S Jaipal Reddy had decided to take a break in Hyderabad, away from the mad Congress world, till frantic calls from scribes reached him. That is because Anand Sharma, Reddy’s junior, not only thoroughly bored them with his briefings, but also refused to react to the news that mattered. On the PM versus DPM controversy, Sharma apparently responded to the queries with a 10-minute lecture on the behavioural traits of BJP leaders. Exasperated, the scribes complained to Reddy who is supposed to have called up his deputy asking him to feed more meat to the newshounds. Journos were once again summoned to the mediaroom, and they, hungrily, agreed.

Hitting the road

Another shot from our fire-spewing sanyasin. The moment the BJP’s chief ministerial candidate, Uma Bharti, entered Madhya Pradesh from her visit to Kota, where she had gone to launch her rath yatra, she began lamenting on MP’s roads. The roads in Rajasthan were far better, she told journalists accompanying her. A killjoy interrupted, suggesting that Rajasthan too was a Congress-ruled state. Uma, caught on the wrong foot, however remained unfazed. Ashok Gehlot, a mali (gardener) by caste, was any day better than a feudal king like Digvijay Singh, was her argument. Anyone to buy that'

Joint partnership

Doublespeak seems to have become a habit with the saffronites. Take the Union law and commerce minister, Arun Jaitley, for instance. Like Uma Bharti, Jaitley never tires of complaining about how MP has failed on all fronts, particularly in its ability to draw foreign investment and build infrastructure. But that is all part of domestic politics. Jaitley is currently on tour of the US, and is supposed to have handpicked one SR Mohanty, a bureaucrat heading MP’s investment corporation and blue-eyed boy of the Diggy regime. Jaitley-Mohanty seemingly plan to showcase the Indore economic zone as ideal place for foreign investment. Win, win, Diggy.

Back to the valley

Talking of bureaucrats, take the case of Bharat Bhushan Vyas, an IAS of the Jammu and Kashmir cadre, who is supposed to be so good at his work that he never manages to settle down in one post. Former private secretary to Yashwant Sinha in the finance ministry, Vyas was only recently working as assistant resident representative of UNDP in Delhi, supposedly earning tax-free dollars. The J&K chief minister now wants Vyas repatriated to Srinagar along with a couple of other IAS officers. Given that most J&K cadre officers work hard to get themselves posted outside the terror-racked state, Mufti Mohammad’s order has naturally annoyed them. But there is no way to get around. So Vyas is busy packing his bags to return to Srinagar, braving both a salary cut and other attendant dangers. Wish there were some service rules for our politicos too.

Missing out

Some see a science behind Murli Manohar Joshi suddenly joining the fray in the humbling of M Venkaiah Naidu. Together with the vikas and lauh purush, he should have also named the vigyan purush.

Star for thought

The crowd at the inauguration of a pub in Mumbai completely cold-shouldered Kareina Kapoor. Wonder why'

Our man in Simla

Ghulam Nabi Azad may have had dust in his eyes in Rajasthan, but there is nothing fundamentally wrong with his vision. He clearly sees the future, and sees it without a thorn-like Ambika Soni by his side. He may not have bagged the post of an AICC general secretary, but he is back in action. He was in charge of the Himachal Pradesh elections where the Congress recorded a thunderous win. Azad is now keenly watching poll preparations in the election bound states of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, the two states under Soni’s charge. Our man from Kishtwar is believed to have told his close friends that he will start speaking up from November, the month in which the MP and Rajasthan verdicts will be out, and so will that of Soni. But there are other ways Azad is sounding himself out. He apparently first convinced Sonia to hold the chief ministers’ conclave in Srinagar, and now he is the chief organizer of the Simla meet where on July 7 the Congress think tank is supposed to chalk out a road map to lead madam to the Delhi durbar. Quite a good second life, Azad!

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