The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Picking a fight

It’s that time in the political calendar again. As the assembly elections draw near, the heavyweights, the bantamweights and the featherweights among politicians are all doing their best to trip each other up in a mad scramble for party tickets. And often falling flat on their faces. As happened at a recent meeting of the Congress election committee at 10 Janpath. Sonia Gandhi, looking very serious in glasses, was going through the list of party candidates for the Madhya Pradesh assemblies when Digvijay Singh, on the lookout for a pat on his back, informed her about how painstakingly he had taken everyone into confidence before giving final shape to the list. Sitting in a corner, Arjun Singh wasn’t about to let that pass uncontested and immediately clarified that he, at least, hadn’t been consulted. The chief minister tried to retrieve lost ground saying Arjun’s son, Ajay, was taken into confidence, but the senior leader wasn’t mollified — “Bhai sahib, I and my son are two different entities — please let me have my own identity.” Even as the others assembled held their breath expecting some fun, Sonia, who had finished reading the list of eleven potential nominees, looked up in surprise — everyone on the list was either Arjun Singh’s relative or his associate. What had he been grumbling about' “I said I wasn’t consulted. I did not talk about who was getting tickets and who wasn’t!” was all the thakur leader could mumble, caught on the wrong foot. Indeed, squabbling Congressmen could teach a thing or two to children too.

No gifts please

An embarrassment of riches or simply embarrassed at riches' The young turks in the BJP, out to show how very different they are from the run-of-the-mill politicos of the older generation, had no idea what to do with the mounds of dry fruits, silver crockery, cookies and other gifts that were showered on them during Diwali. Sushma Swaraj found tough words to visitors to take the gifts back did not do the trick. So she drew another one from her sleeve — if the guest insisted on leaving behind the gift, she promptly gave it to the next visitor as a return gift. Her cabinet colleague, Arun Jaitley, was politer, but no less determined. He had his driver carry the gifts back the next day with a note saying that while he was moved by the gesture, ministerial responsibility prevented him from accepting it. It’s very easy to be cynical about such gestures. But that is all the more reason we should be happy Indian politicians are turning a new leaf.

One step to the grave

The death of the governors of Rajasthan and Pondicherry have led many senior BJP leaders to believe that Raj Bhavans are inauspicious. One party leader from Madhya Pradesh, hostile to Uma Bharti, was sounded out for the governorship of Rajasthan. Instead of being flattered, the old man saw red. “I am fine and I do not need frequent medical attention,” he thundered.

Poll surveys and all that bull

What the astrologer was to politicians yesterday, the psephologist is today. After all, today’s politicians are more “scientific” — Murli Manohar Joshi notwithstanding. Especially now, with assembly elections breathing down their necks. So we have one poll survey after another which, depending on who is the paying for them, predict voter behaviour for the asking.

Ajit Jogi has had two done which, naturally, predicted a thumping victory for him. Digvijay Singh, in neighbouring MP, has commissioned one too. But the one study that really takes the cake has been conducted for the BJP. It is a detailed caste- and constituency-wise survey which painstakingly notes voter behaviour in each constituency, depending on the caste composition of each assembly segment. So thorough is the study that it almost renders useless the need for ground-level inputs from senior leaders for the distribution of tickets. And it predicts a huge victory for the party in all four states. Well, if everyone is to win, where will the losers come from'

In pursuit of the authentic

Bollywood is said to go very far to be “authentic”. Directors here regularly blow up expensive cars in pursuit of this ideal. Towards this end, Shah Rukh Khan wants to import replica guns for a fight sequence in his under-production film, Main Hoon Na. These faux weapons come with trigger, sling swivel, magazine, select fire switch, barrel scope rail mount, optional bipod and other such hi-tech facilities. Hope the King Khan also remembers to make a good film.

The cricketer and the hero

Sohan Singh Bisht can barely hide his glee. The man in charge of the outside catering at the Roop Singh Stadium in Gwalior, where the Indian cricket team recently played a one day international against Australia, has a note from Sachin Tendulkar himself, thanking him for his integrity, honesty and sincerity. It so happened that the master blaster had left behind the Rs 35,000 man of the match prize money in the dressing room of the stadium. Bisht found the envelope in a corner while he was tallying the crockery. He immediately rushed to Room 207 at the Central Park Hotel, where the cricketer was staying. An overwhelmed Tendulkar tried to reward him. Sohan declined, saying he only did what was expected of him and that he was more than rewarded at having got the opportunity to shake hands with his idol. Which is when Tendulkar picked up a pen and wrote an appreciative note about how much he appreciated Bisht’s honesty. Bisht is so thrilled he has been showing off the letter to even the most unconcerned passers-by outside his Patan Bazar home.

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