The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Court rituals

Old habits die hard. Despite having made it big, Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, our vice-president, is yet to forget his initial calling as a grassroots-level neta. At Jodhpur, where the VP had gone to participate in Maharaja Ummed Singh’s centenary celebrations, he was found discussing politics with a gusto that would shame even the most inspired of political speakers. The blame however did not lie entirely with his habits. For most of the time he was present in the city, he was mobbed by hundreds of ticket-seekers to the BJP for the forthcoming assembly polls in the state who came for a darshan and more. And Baba Bhairon did not disappoint. The vice-president is supposed to have kept responding to all the enthusiasm with a smile and occasional repartees like, “Achcha aap bhi” (Oh, you too), or “Arre bahut dinon baad” (Seeing you after a long time). For some others, he had sage advice — “Do not contest from there”. His soothsaying left many gaping, for Shekhawat still seems to have at his fingertips the caste break-up of several assembly segments. Playing kingmaker at a king’s court'

The lady doesn’t protest at all

Sharad Pawar might no longer be the strongman he used to be, but he still carries a lot of weight. Which explains Congressmen’s reaction — rather, the lack of it — to Pawar’s dredging up of the foreign-origins issue yet again. Why has no one brought down the roof in protest' And more mystifying, why hasn’t Ambika Soni, who once tried to bodily evict BJP women protestors from 10 Janpath, said anything' Is it, as some Congress leaders are suggesting, a case of dual loyalties' Remember Soni once left the mother party to join Pawar’s Congress (S). She, say gossips, is a Pawar mole in the party. As evidence, they point to the unjustified removal of Vilas Rao Deshmukh, a known Pawar-baiter, from the chief minister’s chair, as well as Murli Deora’s replacement with Gurudas Kamath as chief of the party’s state unit. Is there anything in their insinuations, or are they, as usual, imagining things'

Together at last

Every cloud, they say, has a silver lining — so N Chandrababu Naidu has found, to his happiness. The PWG attack on him has had the rather wonderful effect of bringing about a rapprochement with his estranged brother, Ramamurthy. The two brothers had apparently not spoken to each other for the last couple of years. Worse, Ramamurthy had been organizing demonstrations and holding rallies against the chief minister. But news of Naidu’s narrow miss was enough to bring Ramamurthy rushing to his brother’s bedside, where he remained throughout the CM’s stay in the hospital. The two have decided to forget and forgive, with Ramamurthy agreeing to come back to the TDP fold.

Tough battle ahead

One state where the assembly elections promises to be a tough battle is Madhya Pradesh. The BJP knows this, which is why it is marshalling all the weapons in its arsenal. The star of the show will be Narendra Modi who will be astride the same rath he used for his campaign in Gujarat. Gopinath Munde will come in from Maharashtra and from Uttar Pradesh, there will be Vinay Katiyar of Babri-demolition case (in)famy as well as Rajnath Singh. About 20,000 BJP workers, plus 2,000 kar sevaks and 50 cabinet ministers will attempt to shore up behenji Uma Bharti’s chances at the hustings. Providing the glamour will be Shatrughan Sinha, Vinod Khanna, and Hema Malini, as well as Anupam Kher and Dara Singh. There are two ways of reading all this frenetic activity. One, as a compliment to Digvijay Singh and two, as an indication of how strong is the internal dissidence in the state BJP. So which one is it'

Moment in the sun

Kamal Nath had one very good reason to look a picture of joy on his son’s wedding. While being congratulated by all and sundry on the occasion, the proud father was also told by a guest that despite his age, he looked better than the groom. On his part, Nath munched on his chewing gum more furiously, showing that the compliment had mightily pleased him. Witness to the little drama, a lady journo apparently couldn’t help commenting on how Nath had taken the comment “personally”. So typical, isn’t it'

Some boys and some men

Vasundhara Raje has incurred the wrath of the Rajasthan CM, Ashok Gehlot, and for not merely getting in his way. She is supposed to have got “boys from Mumbai and Delhi” into the state. The reference was to the IT-savvy aides and followers of Pramod Mahajan, the BJP in-charge of the state elections. They were apparently there to get Raje get her act together. Incidentally, Pramod’s boys have also homed in on Chhattisgarh. But the usually alert Congress boss, Ajit Jogi, is taking no notice of them. Is there a story there'

When beggars turn king

A world turned upside down. Come election time in India, beggars become king, and literally so. In Jeshpur, Chhattisgarh, angry organizers of an inter-state football tournament invited a beggar to cut the ribbon for the inauguration ceremony after the chief guest and state home minister, Nand Kumar Patel, failed to show up. The beggar, Matha Prasad, was beside himself with joy. Apart from snapping the ribbon and setting free pigeons,the man of the moment was asked to make a brief speech too. Prasad willingly obliged, and soon had the massive crowd that had gathered, including the 55 teams from Orissa, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh, in splits. Matha had his own logic to justify his presence. He was there because the actual “beggars (read politicians) had gone to fetch votes for their political masters”. In election-bound Chhattisgarh, wise Matha went on, it was ordinary people like him who were the “real rulers” as everyone else, from politicians to bureaucrats, were busy seeking votes. The problem is, Matha, every time is not election time. Election over, beggars will have to remain beggars.

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