The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Party is judge and jury

In communist West Bengal, what man proposes, the party disposes. In the recent meeting of the Rabindra Puroshkar award committee, the voting for a particular category went 5 to 3 in favour of A Princely Impostor' by Partha Chatterjee . The three persons voting against the book were Jasodhara Bagchi, Mihir Bhattacharya and one Tirthankar Chatterjee (don’t even ask what he was doing on the jury) — all known for their blind loyalty to the CPI(M). The three comrades voted for a book by PK Dutta, a leftist historian from Delhi and known for his particular closeness to two well-known left historians in the capital. Other members of the committee were satisfied that 5 to 3 was a convincing majority in favour of Chatterjee’s book on the Bhawal case. But they had reckoned without the power of the party and the machinations of Bagchi, Bhattacharya and the unknown Chatterjee (T). When the awards were announced, Chatterjee and Dutta were declared as joint awardees. How could this happen when the rules do not provide for a joint award unless a book is co-authored' Party loyalties had triumphed. The Diary knows that if such a thing had happened under a BJP government and by a committee full of saffronites, Bagchi and her ilk would have gone round town collecting signatures for a petition protesting against the decision. O Lord, how long, how long does one go along with this kind of hypocrisy'

Show his colours

Earth has no fury like a painter scorned. Many moons ago, MF Husain dismissed Paritosh Sen as a painter. Sen for a long time has held his horses, or should one say his pique. But when Husain dismissed Bengali painters, save three (Ganesh Pyne, Bikash Bhattacharjee and Somnath Hore), as shallow and superficial, the Sen-Husain spat came out in the open. Sen, with other equally angry artists, has shot off a letter to the chief minister asking him not to inaugurate an exhibition of Husain’s paintings in a Calcutta gallery. The artists would have been better advised to have painted the ageing maestro in his many incarnations. Quarrel would then have aided creativity. But that could have also confirmed Husain’s dismissal.

One for the roads

Bad roads have been a recurring issue in the saffron election campaign in MP. But Uma Bharti has an additional problem with them, which is probably why her cry has been the shrillest. The sanyasin apparently has a chronic back problem which makes her travel on the roads nightmarish. She is said to have promised a Congresswallah that she would never make roads an issue again, but if they were not repaired now, her shav yatra (funeral procession) would come out on it instead of the rath yatra. No wonder Diggy shows no interest to have them mended.

Smooth operator

The vice-president, Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, is gradually building his reputation as a crisis manager. As chairman of the Rajya Sabha, Bhairon Baba has ensured that the house runs smoothly. He almost resolved the deadlock over the defence minister, George Fernandes, till Sushma Swaraj infuriated the opposition by ruling out a debate on Tehelka, although both sides had apparently agreed to talk on it. Swaraj was reacting to the Congress’s additional spokesperson, Satyavrat Chaturvedi, and MPs insist he should have been taken less seriously. Bhairon is however unfazed by all the hullabaloo. He has supposedly got Manmohan Singh, Pranab Mukherjee and Arjun Singh to accept a new formula on Fernandes. So, while Priya Ranjan Das Munshi walks out with his brood of MPs when questions are put to George, the older batch stay put. Priya may believe this to be an indication of the Congress’s tradition of reflecting diverse opinion, but we know it is Bhairon Baba in full sway.

Unmaking an ambition

Our didi is quite sure that it is Sudip Bandopadhyay who is to blame for all her travails. Had he not secured his hotline with the biggies in Delhi, Mamata would not be in wilderness today, having to stage rallies and roadblocks just to be in the news. Didi is apparently planning to deny Sudip a ticket in the coming Lok Sabha elections, and has the full support of her mayor, a known Sudip-hater, in this design. The mayor is meanwhile said to be nursing a quiet ambition to sit in the Lok Sabha. And Sudip' Well, he is said to be carefully weighing his options to switch boats with active help from wife Nayana.

Come as you like

AICC treasurer, Motilal Vohra, is a humble man, with all the attendant problems. He recently called up a political worker in Durg instead of asking his personal staff to make the call, and said, “Bhai, main Motilal Vohra bol raha hoon”. The man at the other end said, “Agar tum Vohra bol rahe ho, to main Ajit Jogi bol raha hoon” (If you are Vohra, I am Jogi).

Of sons and fathers

Come elections, and it is time to make cosmetic changes on the party’s face. The Congress is supposed to be thinking of adding some colour to the leadership of the Youth Congress. Although there is a string of aspirants waiting to take over the mantle of Ranadeep Singh Surjewala, the current chief, two names are jostling with each other to make it to the top — Sachin Pilot and Jyotiraditya Scindia. Both are sons of eminent Congressmen, Rajesh Pilot and Madhavrao Scindia respectively, and Congresswallahs are keen to cash in on the tragic end of both these men. The problem is they do not know which son among the two will draw more sympathy. While the Scindia scion is articulate and has a way with the saffronites, he is seen to belong to royalty. Sachin, on the other hand, son of a Gujjar father, is believed to be more of a man of the masses. A large section of the Congress leadership thinks that the appointment of Sachin will reap the party rich dividends in the form of Gujjar votes in UP, Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana and J&K. Anyone else to prove the calculations wrong'

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