The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Birdís eye view

Amarinder Singh does it again, and royally. The Punjab chief minister and former Maharaja of Patiala was in Madhya Pradesh recently to solicit support for Digvijay Singh. A habitual late-riser, allegedly, Singh had the unpleasant task of addressing a press meet at 10 in the morning. The question-answer session, quite naturally, went along predictable lines. Sample this. Q: What do you say say about the power crisis in Madhya Pradesh' A: Punjab is worse and so are many other states. Q: What about the roads' A: Some roads in Punjab are worse. Q: What are the Congressís prospects' A: It will sweep the MP polls. I see a wave building up in its favour. Q: Where did you see the wave building up' A: From the helicopter when I was touring parts of the state!

Enough for the role

The Dalit queen is a politician with a difference. While other parties are dying to rope in Bollywood stars to campaign for them, Mayavati reportedly turned down Bharat, sorry, Manoj Kumarís offer of his services for his weaker brethren. Even earlier, the BSP leader, is reputed to have spurned Ashutosh Ranaís feelers, which is supposed to have prompted the star to head straight for the Congress camp. The reason offered for the snub is that the BSP, apparently, has no money to waste on the stars who are also likely to demand five-star treatment. There is also another reason, however. Mayavati herself is an ace crowd-puller. And if her recent histrionics are to be trusted (she wept extempore in Bhopal last week, alleging a saffron gameplan to kill the manyavar, Kanshi Ram), she has more talent than entire Bollywood put together.

UP, UP and away

More of Bollywood. In fact, Mulayam Singh Yadav seems like he cannot have enough of it. About two weeks ago, Mulayam reportedly took along his family, friends and the entire bureaucracy to see Bachchanís latest release, Baghban, in Lucknow. The film has been exempted of tax in the state. The Samajwadi Party leader is also allegedly toying with the idea of putting up Jaya Bachchan against Sonia in Amethi. But will the Bachchans take on the Nehru-Gandhis so openly'

Believe it or not

You have the presidentís word for it. At a recent meeting with senior health ministry officials who had gone to discuss the need for more stringent laws to curb sex-determination tests, APJ Abdul Kalam was often referred to as a ďbachelorĒ till the president thought it was time to step in. He did, but not to stop the official from making a totally irrelevant observation, but to put the facts straight. Abdul Kalam is supposed to have told the gathering that he was not only a bachelor, but also a brahmachari. So we have another claimant to that rare fame after Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

Larger game plan

Hoping against hope perhaps. But the saffron leadership believes that the cash-on-camera cameo involving its star campaigner in Madhya Pradesh, Dilip Singh Judeo, will prove counter-productive for the Congress. The BJP alleges that Judeo was ďtrappedĒ by Ajit Jogi only to divert peopleís attention from his own various acts of omission and commission. Hope there are people to buy the argument.

Racing ahead

Arun Jaitley was heard speaking eloquently about the rule of law, probity in public life and so on in Bhopal. When he got ready to board a Sumo that would take him to another meeting, someone pointed out to the minister that the vehicle was without the requisite number plate. The minister is supposed to have virtually jumped out of the Sumo and dive into a lowly Indica. Perhaps a wish to escape controversy. But itís still a matter of choice alright!

Donít get into his hair

How much does it cost to have a haircut' Ask Suresh Kalmadi, the high-profile MP, who is alleged to have had his hairstylist airlifted twice to Hyderabad, where he is overseeing arrangements for the Afro-Asian games, to have his hair trimmed. Some people have all the luck.

Not party to the principle

There were several things reportedly absent in Sonia Gandhiís iftar bash. First the politicos. Except for the grand presence of VP Singh, most leaders seem to have given it a miss. The CPM gen-sec AB Bardhan was in Chhattisgarh, the other lefties were in Bengal and Sharad Pawar was in New York. There were none of the two Yadavs, Mulayam or Laloo. Most prominently, there was no Najma Heptullah. Another notable absence was that of TV cameras. Various Muslim organizations had apparently written to the Congress chief protesting against the exploitation of the iftar for political goals and the ritualís degenerating into a page three event. Which is probably why the media had been banned from the Congress party. However, not every one resisted the temptation. At the iftar party of the BJPís lone Muslim member of the cabinet, Shahnawaz Hussain, the prime minister was the star guest and was all there donning the de rigueur cap in the company of the host. The image was invariably splashed on newspapers and on television screens soon after. Amen!

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