The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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All that heat and dust

Beautifully tanned, not by luxurious sun-bathing but earnest campaigning, Vasundhara Raje Scindia, former princess of Gwalior and current chief ministerial candidate of the BJP in Rajasthan, cannot be blamed entirely if the Congress chief minister Ashok Gehlot does not feel his seat is shaking. For the lady, it is partly a matter of too many cooks — or too many friends. Not very sharp in judging man and matters, she tends to leave vital organizational decisions to the vice-president’s son-in-law who is an important functionary in the state unit. Going one better, she sometimes leaves her decisions to Bhairon Singh Shekhawat himself. But the old guard, RSS-Jana Sangh till kingdom come, remains unreconciled to her chief ministerial claims. Raje does fail to project herself as her own boss, and still looks like a puppet in the hands of Shekhawat or Pramod Mahajan, whose blue-eyed boys have taken over her campaign. Just the thing Gehlot wants. Why should people from Delhi or Mumbai set the agenda for Raje in Rajasthan, he continues to ask. So saffron does not look too bright at the moment, although Gehlot was not quite so unworried when Raje first sailed in as the BJP face. But this face left the ordinary Rajasthani cold, Raje’s credentials as a local were not good enough. Now the monsoon has put smiles back on the faces of the farmers, and the rising anti-incumbency graph has begun to fall. So far, Gehlot can rub his hands in anticipation of the assembly elections.

Trouble in her backyard

With Karia Munda refusing to give up his coal portfolio (he evidently has no problem with heat and dust), poor Mamata is stuck in Delhi trying to grab something. Munda is talking hard to top BJP leaders too, bent on impressing them with his loyalty, and his concern for the coal ministry. While Mamata holds on there, her party MP, Sudip Bandopadhyay, is planning to join the Congress. His cabinet dreams have fizzled out. He could not even get a berth there earlier because Didi opted out at a crucial time. Is the sulk for real' That means one more job for the mayor, who will have to calm this Dada down on Didi’s behalf. Without Sudipda, Didi may not find it easy to keep her flock together.

Lunch in progress

But then, when did such small matters keep a good woman down' Mayavati was much pepped to get a call from Uma Bharati. The spark of female bonding caught, and there was Mayavati railing against Rajnath Singh and Lalji Tandon who had spoilt her party. But, she said, the BSP would still campaign against Digvijay Singh in the assembly polls in Madhya Pradesh, in which Bharti is his BJP rival. Thrilled, that saintly lady invited bahenji to a satvik lunch. Good hunting, ladies!

Matters of no importance

Let the BSP lady receive consolation from sisterly lunches, the BJP should have more important things to do. But it has got a bit mixed up in its priorities, even though the coming assembly elections are not looking good. Party leaders are arguing about the very big things, national and international, and forgetting to react when they hear that the BJP student wing, the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, has received a drubbing in the Delhi University Students’ Union elections. The BJP is pretending hard to forget that it had been yelling its heart out a few days ago that the DUSU elections would be a very good indicator of the public mood in the capital. Not that it was not warned. Two days before the DUSU elections, a senior Delhi BJP leader alerted BJP chief Venkaiah Naidu and Delhi BJP chief Madanlal Khurana about the ill wind blowing the ABVP way. He was hoping for some last minute damage control. The leaders present at that meeting responded with what could be called a collective shrug. They could not be bothered. Well, the Delhi assembly elections are hardly far off, any time for damage control there'

Women on their toes

Not that all serious-minded parties refuse to take a hint. Even if the hint takes about five years to sink in. Remember that spirited lady, Brinda Karat, walking out of the CPI(M)’s 16th party congress in Calcutta in 1998 to protest against the poor representation of women in the organization' Here again for the diamond jubilee celebrations of the Paschim Banga Ganatantrik Mahila Samity, she may be happy to find that the point has been taken — at last, at least. Anil Biswas, CPI(M) politburo member and secretary of the party’s Bengal unit, has announced that there should be at least one woman member in every branch committee across the state. (The announcement says it all, doesn’t it') He has been kind enough to add that though women’s participation in the organization has increased by 1.25 per cent, the party has decided to step up the ratio. The very milk of manly kindness!

On your marks, women, just listen for that starting gun...

The actor with a secret wish

There are some names which add lustre to an already distiguished list. And among the many distinguished visitors to Ajmer Urs, the name and face to shine the brightest recently is actor Ajay Devgan’s. He, as any normal mortal would, had a wish, and came to ask for a mannat from Khwaja Garib Nawaz Moinuddin Chisti. Inevitably, this wish was interpreted to be one for a son. Poor Ajay. In vain he tried to convince people that he was perfectly happy with the “bundle of joy” that the beautiful Kajol had borne him. But speculation did not stop there. Some felt Ajay was into more serious matters than babies and nappies. He must have come to ask for success in his political career. He is quite close to the Samajwadi Party and has friends in high places in it. This is not the first time he is thinking of politics. In the 2000 assembly polls, the actor had almost decided to test the waters for the first time from Kanpur, by running against a sitting BJP minister there. He pulled out at the last minute, but the dream has lingered. Is that what his visit was about' What is it about him that leaves everyone dying to know'

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