The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Mama’s girl

Priyanka Gandhi is a charmer all right and a better politician than all Congressmen put together, her mother included. She has a politician’s inherent knack for doing the very thing that will go down best with the people around her and get her the most attention, and does it at the most opportune moment and place. On December 1, Priyanka and Robert Vadra landed up at the neighbourhood polling booth and stood patiently in queue to caste their votes. They were joined soon after, by Jagmohan, Union minister for tourism, with his family in tow. With the TV cameras looking on, Priyanka knew just what to do — she politely stepped back, allowing the Jagmohans to exercise their voting rights first. Asked to explain the impromptu gesture, Priyanka smiled beautifully and replied, “Meri maa ne mujhe yahi sikhaya hai ki baron ki izzat karo” (My mother has taught me to respect elders). Overwhelmed, peopled could be heard commenting, “After all, she is Indira Gandhi’s grand-daughter.” If Priyanka can do no wrong, Sonia, it seems, can do no right.

Hold that smile

Mamata Banerjee has won this round of the war over water tax, but the entire to-do has left Subrata Mukherjee with a sour taste in his mouth. Sample these recent acerbic comments ascribed to him. Representing the CMC in a court in a case filed by nine casual workers who demanded to be made permanent employees, the mayor told the judge that the panel for employees who would be made permanent this year had already been finalized and so nothing could be done for the next nine months. When he came out, his supporters sniggered at him for having given in. “ nine months, I might not even be in office,” he said.

Then again, when Ashok Bhattacharya asked him what he was thinking of now that he had been beaten hollow over the water tax, Mukherjee’s long-suffering reply was that no one in the party thought any longer, only one person did and the less she thought, the better it would be for everyone. The last instance is from the official function to release didi’s collection of poems, Smile. Mukherjee could be seen smiling, and pointing a finger to the book — the snide indication being that the faithful follower that he is, Mukherjee was smiling, in keeping with the title of his leader’s book. But the question is, how long will he keep smiling'

Victory has a sweet taste

Atal Bihari Vajpayee was probably the happiest man at the BJP victory. He even pushed back his early morning departure for the Commonwealth meet at Abuja to mid-afternoon, when the winning trends had been translated into a landslide. And of course the sweet, but forbidden (for the diabetic PM) taste of laddoos, made of pure glee...sorry, ghee.

A slice of Italy in India

Sonia Gandhi may find her Italian origins an impediment to a political career in India, but in one Indian city at least, her origins make her the prime ministerial candidate of choice — Pushkar. The pilgrim town famous for its eponymous annual fair, is a hot favourite with Italian tourists. Also, it is an important centre for garment-exports to Italy. Pizzas and pastas are household names here and there are plenty of Italian restaurants. By a strange accident, the city’s economy is largely dependent on the European country. How the Congress president must wish the whole of Rajasthan, indeed India, were like Pushkar.

“Third” front in disarray

They were once considered a potent “alternative” political force. When Shabnam Mausi became the first eunuch MLA in 1998, she was thought to have set off a trend. Eunuchs then had talked of Lord Rama’s boon that they would be the ruling class in kaliyug. But mausi seems to have been an exception. This year all 50 eunuchs, who had floated the “Jiti Jitai Party” and registered as candidates in these assembly elections, could not even get 1,000 votes between themselves. Isn’t it kaliyug yet'

Like a bad penny

It is easy to exult in victory, but defeat is harder to digest. Of the three vanquished Congress CMs, Ashok Gehlot has gone into a shell, pondering what went wrong, while Digvijay Singh has publicly announced he will not hold office for the next 10 years. But the most noteworthy is the reaction of Ajit Jogi, who has already begun canvassing for the post of AICC spokesman he held before becoming Chattisgarh CM and which Jaipal Reddy now holds. Really, some people are impossible to suppress!

And the award goes to...

The battle in the political arena has been decided. But not the one brewing over the Dada Saheb Phalke Award between yesteryear’s stars, Pran and Dev Anand. The hero always won on screen but what of real life' Or will it go to dark horse Adoor Gopalakrishnan'

A friend indeed

Amitabh Bachchan has much to be grateful to the Nehru-Gandhis for. If nothing else, he had been one of Rajiv Gandhi’s closest friends and when he contested the elections from Allahabad in 1984, he had famously remarked that he was only helping out a friend in his hour of agony. By all accounts, he continues to be a good friend of the remaining members of the family.

Which makes his closeness to the Samajwadi Party and his recent appointment as the “ambassador” for Mulayam Singh Yadav’s Uttar Pradesh rather mystifying. But even more mystifying is a recent comment he apparently made — that the success of his first film, Zanjeer, was partly explained by the peoples’ anger at the Emergency and that his Angry Young Man caught the general mood of anger. For one, this might be taken as a slight to the late Mrs G, who was the one to impose that dark phase in post-independenc Indian history. And two, the ageing superstar seems to have slipped up on the history a bit — Zanjeer was released in 1973 and the Emergency happened only in 1975.

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