The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sing praises

State of mind. The only things that bother our chief ministers today are themselves and how to hold on to their respective states. Which is why it is a no-holds barred operation in Ajit Jogi’s Chhattisgarh. All set to face his first ever assembly polls in his jagir, Jogi has Chhattisgarh’s birds cooing for him. Bastar’s Hill Mynas, whose tweet the famous bird-watcher Salim Ali had described as the closest to human voice, have reportedly been trained to sing “Mukhya mantri ka swagat hai” (Welcome, chief minister) each time the “son of the soil” visits Bastar. That might not be music to everyone’s ears, but for a CM who has set his own precedent in human-worship, such chirpings are no novelty. Ever-eager to please the Italian madam of 10, Janpath, Jogi supposedly makes it a point to serve pasta at official dinners (Thy food is my food). Typically, it was also catered to the innumerable scribes who recently landed at his Raipur residence at the invitation of the Chhattisgarh Soochna Kendra, apparently to assess for themselves what a success Jogi had made of Chhattisgarh. And of himself.

Fitting answer

Grapes have never been more sour. For our redoubtable didi, bringing Ajit Panja back into the Trinamooli fold has not been enough to teach the prodigal, Sudip Bandyopadhyay, his lesson. Plans are in full swing to induct Ajitda as joint chairperson of the party. The move apparently follows hints from the Delhiwallahs that Mamata Banerjee might be given her piece of the cabinet cake. Meanwhile, despite the persistent efforts of Sudip and wife Nayana, didi’s snubs at them continue. During last week’s session at Asansol, Mamata answered Sudip’s dig at the meagre attendance of farmers at the rally with, “For those who think that the Trinamool has no substantial base among farmers, I want them to go to the villages to get a feel of the mass support we have”. But Sudip isn’t budging, is he'

Internal matter

A minor improvement. The publicity wing of the ministry of external affairs is trying to liven its image. Apart from providing a new look website, South Bloc mandarins are apparently working on an executive diary which records all numbers of the ministry officials, missions and all those who matter. All in style. Brainchild of Navtej Sarna, joint secretary, external publicity, the revamp is supposed to have been given a go-ahead by the PMO and Yashwant Sinha himself. One still has doubts though on who it will really help — the MEA itself or the people it serves'

Game of the name

Identity crisis. The Union minister for textile and the lone cabinet-rank Muslim minister in the Vajpayee regime, Shahnawaz Hussain, has a problem. The name of his ministry cannot be translated into Urdu. Suggestions from scholarly quarters have it that Hussain could be called “Wazir-e-kapraa” (minister of clothes), but the minister has found the designation too low-brow. He is supposed to have confided in associates that he liked the earlier identity better. “Wazir-e-shahri-hawabazi” (Minister of civil aviation). Alas! that is not to be.

A narrow miss

A man who would have been king. Arif Beg, a habitual party-hopper and former Union minister in the Morarji Desai regime, recently returned to the BJP with profound regrets that he missed the Rashtrapati Bhawan by a mere-13 months. Beg reportedly claims that had he not quit the BJP in 1998, he would have been the obvious choice of the party for the president’s chair. Sikandar Bakht had been too old during the time and other leaders like Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and Shahnawaz Hussain had been too young then. Currently, this would-have- been-prez is seen hunting for an ass- embly ticket from Bhopal north. Bad miss!

Getting a bad deal

No former prime minister seems to have had it so bad. The shabby treatment meted out to him by the NDA has left him fuming. While PV Narasimha Rao has Z plus security and government officials at his beck and call, IK Gujral Y category cover with bullet-proof car and Delhi police drivers, poor Deve Gowda has reportedly been denied all such facilities despite being president of Janata Dal(S) and a member of Parliament. If his allegations are to be believed, he has just one personal security officer, travels in his own car at his own expense and has no government staff. Some people have all the bad luck.

Who’s the enemy'

“Who is this Narain Singh who has been nominated to the Rajya Sabha'” asked a scribe to a cabinet minister. “A prominent social worker who has fought for prohibition”, came the reply. “So he is our dushman (enemy)”, quipped the quintessential journo.

Can but cannot at Cancun

Who is always absent when he is most needed' The description would fit either god almighty or Indian MPs lolling in Central hall of Parliament while the house “debated” on the state of the nation. At the meeting convened by the commerce minister, Arun Jaitley, the other day to discuss the Indian stand at the forthcoming WTO summit at Cancun, only one of 40-odd MPs from both the houses showed up, and that too a good 10 minutes after the scheduled time. Another showed up a good 20 minutes later. All this while a retinue of officials and the minister waited patiently. Jaitley is even believed to have told the lone MP in jest that had Jaitley known that he would be the only one present, he would have interacted with the MP in his chamber instead of convening a full-scale meeting. Though the couple of members were briefed about the Indian stand, there was not much give and take. The two expressed their full confidence in the minister before taking leave. Meanwhile, the media continues to go into convulsions over how the rich nations would have India short-changed at Cancun.

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