The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Enough food for thought

For some its not a season for celebrations. The twin setbacks at Ernakulum and Sholapur have left Sonia Gandhi fuming, so much so that while touring Madhya Pradesh she apparently refused to have lunch and even take a call from the Kerala CM, AK Antony. Word of the fast got around fast. Devout Congresswallahs only needed a signal to jump to the obvious conclusion that would reaffirm Sonia’s bahu persona — the fast was for religious reasons. There were soon people to vouch for the fact that madam observed such fasts every Monday and others to claim that she had been fasting on Mondays for years along with her mom-in-law. Together with the saffron brigade, another person unmoved by a starving Sonia was her bête noire in Kerala — K Karunakaran. Chiefly responsible for madam’s lack of appetite, the oldest surviving AICC member even went ahead to regale his followers by taking a dig at Sonia. Karunakaran recalled an old Malayali proverb which said that a mahout who rides an elephant for more than 12 years is likely to develop a mark on his back, but that did not mean his son, daughter or daughter-in-law would be born with that mark. The last was surely Karunakaran’s addition. But what if the daughter-in-law herself started riding the elephant, Karunakaran'

Gem of an argument

The Congress drubbing in Sholapur has only mildly unsettled Sushil Kumar Shinde, whose seat it was before he was appointed Maharashtra CM. Otherwise, there is almost nothing that can make a dent on this perpetually hansmukh man who is currently busy circulating his own theory about the acquittal of Bharat Shah. According to the CM, Shah had allegedly spent crores of rupees hiring a battery of the best lawyers in the country. In contrast, the Maharashtra government had on its side solicitors who had not even been paid their Rs 10 lakh fee for earlier cases. While Shah’s lawyers flew executive class and stayed in five-star hotels, the government’s legal department remained entitled only to the Rajdhani Express and state guesthouses. A truly unequal battle! One wonders why the government takes it on at all.

Nowhere close to flying

Ever since Mamata Banerjee’s induction into the cabinet, Rajiv Pratap Rudi, minister for civil aviations, has not been able to sleep properly. Rudi apparently fears that didi might take away his prized portfolio. Which is why this once rather nonchalant man has got into the habit of spending time at the BJP headquarters at 11, Ashoka Road. Since he has no direct access to the big honchos, Rudi is supposed to be leaning heavily on M Venkaiah Naidu to keep his seat on the flight. Should we tell Rudi to rest assured as didi, still, looks fairly grounded'

Clean up drive

The Shiv Sena still hopes for a sweeping victory. That is probably why the working president, Udhav Thackeray, now can be seen with a broom in hand. After the “Me-Mumbaikar” campaign, the reconstruction of a 17th century Portuguese church to win over Dalits and Christians and the renovation of the 200-year-old Asiatic library, Udhav has now embarked on cleaning Mumbai’s slums. Assisting him in this insurmountable task, which has started at Dharavi, is the mayor, Mahadeo Deole, and Lok Sabha speaker Manohar Joshi. But doesn’t a clean Mumbai also mean a Mumbai without the Shiv Sena'

The hole picture

The capital’s newest afternoon paper had campaigned long and hard against the gift of membership of the elite Delhi Golf Club to the Vajpayee government’s favourites who couldn’t distinguish between “tee” and tea. Bona fide members of the DGC embraced the newspaper as their own and so did the corporate kind who had paid through their nose to earn the rare privilege. The righteous eveninger even faxed detailed questionairre about the game to newly-nominated members to find out who the actually deserving were. It raised so much hackle that its correspondent was banned from DGC’s premises. Yet the paper chose to remain silent when its own editor got himself nominated in the eminent member category. He was neither asked about his handicap nor the difference between hole and whole. Its all a part of the game you see.

Playing truant

Sanjay Singh, reinducted into the Congress recently, seems to have dug a fresh grave for himself. Last week he committed a blasphemy by allegedly telling mediapersons that Priyanka and Rahul Gandhi were all set to campaign from Rae Bareli and Sultanpur respectively. The Nehru-Gandhis are so peeved over Sanjay’s audacity that the party is apparently rethinking the possibility of entrusting Singh with charge of the state unit, a promise that had been made. Adding to Singh’s trouble is the fact that his wife, Ameeta Singh, continues to be a BJP MLA. But that’s obviously an emergency provision.

A slight change of role

Politics is also art. For those wondering how, we recommend a look at Vijay Goel’s recent activities. This MP from Chandni Chowk has authored a coffee-tabler replete with period photographs of monumental houses and havelis of the Walled City. But most important, he has managed to commandeer the services of both the PM and deputy PM to do the honours at the release of the book. The presence of both the saffron bigwigs was a tribute to Goel’s rising stock in the party. After all, it is grudgingly acknowledged in the party that only Goel could have won repeatedly from Chandni Chowk despite the substantial minority presence. AB Vajpayee, however, was unwilling to let go the occasion without taking a dig at Goel. During his speech he quipped that on first hearing about the book, he had wondered aloud, “Arre, Goel author kab sey ban gaye (When did Goel become an author)'” As if the opening remarks were not enough, Vajpayee ended in an even more hilarious note, “Next I want to see Goel mature into a painter”. Have mercy on us, Goel!

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