The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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In Tagore’s name

The Diary is cynical enough not to be self-congratulatory. But now and then it hits the bull’s eye as it recently did when it reported on the Rabindra Puroshkar and how one of the awards had been given to two books (Princely Impostor' by Partha Chatterjee, and Carving Block by PK Dutta) when the award committee had voted 5 to 3 in favour of the Princely Impostor'. The Diary had good reason to suspect that something was rotten since the three — Jasodhara Bagchi (now chairperson of the State Women’s Commission), Mihir Bhattacharya (academic but better known as the husband of the former MP, Malini Bhattacharya) and Tirthankar Chatterjee (no claim to fame) — who voted for the other book are all well known CPI(M) loyalists. The Diary has since learnt that both awardees were distressed by the manner in which the award had been manipulated. Chatterjee and Dutta (away in South Africa while all this was happening) conferred and decided that they would both donate the money value of the award to the chief minister’s relief fund. The Diary salutes this decision of the two academics to rise above the kind of pettiness and crass impropriety displayed by the trio. The trio should also know that the argument that the award committee is only a recommending body is so weak that it does not even raise a hollow laugh.

Anything but music

Why the entire top brass of the BJP gave the concert of the shehnai maestro, Bismillah Khan, a miss will remain a thing to mull over. The prime minister may have absented himself for being ill, but what reason could his deputy have for not turning up' Again, although the president was there to pay the old man his respects, the vice-president, Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, was conspicuous by his absence. However, what most scribes missed was the fact that the opposition was there in full force. Probably as proof of their new-found bonhomie, Sonia Gandhi was seen to be sitting in the same row as the Marxist veteran, Somnath Chatterjee, and the Samajwadi Party supremo, Mulayam Singh Yadav. We, however, still don’t know if that show was stage-managed.

House for Mr Dhindsa

The woe of Union minister for chemicals and fertilizers, Sukhdeo Singh Dhindsa, has struck the same note as the shipping minister, Shatrughan Sinha. Dhindsa is unhappy because despite his cabinet rank, he has not been given a ministerial bungalow. Hearing his sob tale, Shotgun apparently called him to give him some words of comfort. Sinha, he himself insists, is worse off. He has been allotted 6, Krishna Menon House, but nobody has dared to get it vacated as the house, once belonging to Jagjivan Ram, is now destined to be converted into a trust by his family. House that'

Make more room

Talking about housing problems, the former Maharashtra chief minister, Vilasrao Deshmukh, has supposedly earned the reputation of being a “mobile man”. Deshmukh, called Hansmukh in his home state, has been made the AICC incharge of Chhattisgarh and Gujarat, but has no place to sit in 24, Akbar Road, the Congress headquarters. Political workers interested in the electioneering states are most upset since they can contact Vilasrao only on the mobile and they never know where they should leave their political bio-data. The matter has reached 10, Janpath. Sonia is said to have asked Ahmad Patel to arrange for a room for Deshmukh in the Congress headquarters which recently underwent a massive rearrangement to accommodate the ever-increasing Congress brood. Patel is believed to have told madam with folded hands about his inability to help in this matter. He is himself operating from his own residence.

Working on agenda Biswas

Each to his own. The Rashtriya Janata Dal chief, Laloo Yadav, is thinking about the elections even less than his wife. His current obsession is to get Upen Biswas arrested. Every time the opposition raised questions about Ayodhya in the Rajya Sabha, be it the CBI’s dropping of charges against LK Advani, or the PM’s statement at a recent funeral, Yadav persisted with his one-point agenda — Biswas. Laloo is believed to have said that no other politician has had to face CBI wrath as much as he, and this was entirely because of Biswas. Maybe the CBI should also try saving its former hero, Biswas.

Unlawful entry

In summer, cattle from Rajasthan jamming its boundaries found the Digvijay Singh government hiking cattle entry fee to prevent the unwanted guests from coming in. Ashok Gehlot knocked on Sonia’s door, begging for a bit of green in neighbouring Madhya Pradesh. Diggy relented. Now MP is crying foul again. Maharashtra has unleashed its sick pigs which promise to run riot in a state with limited health services. Maybe madam should ask Sushil Kumar Shinde to keep his pigs under control.

Miles to go before they sit

Walk a talk, or walk the elections, the entire political class seems to be in the fray. Soon after the BJP decided on its “Gaon chalo, ghar chalo” campaign in Madhya Pradesh, the Congress tried to give its own spin to the walking race with “Gaon gaon, paon paon” in Uttar Pradesh. In Andhra Pradesh, another Congresswallah, YS Rajshekhar Reddy, has already embarked on his statewide padyatra. The Congress’s walkathons have attracted a lot of attention, but for all the wrong reasons. For one, the decision was apparently taken at a five-star hotel in the capital where hardworking Congressmen and women decided on their rural foray while relishing their tikka kebab and murg biryani. When someone suggested that the walking politicos also touch base at some urban centres, someone suggested the campaign could then be called, “Nagar nagar, dagar dagar”. But matters did not end there, seemingly. There was another high-spirited Congresswallah who had a wiser suggestion. He hummed it out, “Chal chhaiyan...”. Looks like the Congress is going to have some fun walking.

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