The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Face lift

Here a nip, there a tuck...For 10 Janpath, the surgeries will get tougher after the assembly elections, especially now that a major operation on the AICC is being considered, particularly a makeover of its media cell. Waiting patiently in the wings is Ambika Soni, for whom this could be the chance to recover lost face. At a recent electoral rally in Bihar she more than exemplified that intention (and quite literally). When Sonia Gandhi called out to veteran party worker and ousted AICC member, Mohsina Kidwai (now observer of the Bihar elections), to sit beside her, Soni, who had accompanied madam to the rally, kept quietly standing behind the two. When she was chairperson of the party's media department, Soni tried to make sure not a word was spoken without her knowledge. Now with the present chairperson, Girija Vyas, all set to take charge of the National Commission for Women, Soni might well be rehearsing her old lines again. But has she ever considered the fact that the department might actually be needing an infusion of fresh blood and possibly a new face'

No fullstops

There's always something up the sadhvi's saffron sleeve. Done with Karnataka, Uma Bharti is now turning her attention to neighbouring Andhra Pradesh. She has apparently announced her decision to undertake a massive padayatra in the state to champion the cause of the suicidal farmers, and not surprisingly has upset a lot of family members. For one, it has not made LK Advani happy as the BJP's Kisan Morcha has already launched a movement to highlight the plight of cotton growers in Andhra. There is another factor. The BJP chief, M Venkaiah Naidu, hails from Andhra and given the bad blood with Uma, is not too pleased with the decision either. Another doomed yatra'

Fair name

The Congress has one Waseem Bhindi as media manager for Bihar. The man is actually Waseem Ahmad, and owes his name to a quick-witted youth. Ahmad, in order to woo a particular section of voters, had once decided to get a green sherwani. The moment he stepped out his residence in his new sherwani, he heard someone call out to him, 'Waseem bhindi'. Waseem eventually got out of his sherwani, but not his name.

World beneath their feet

Politicians must have a finger in every pie, even in the appointment of an imam, that of the 'Jama Masjid', New Delhi. Something very close to a war has broken out between Delhi's big shots and the Delhi Waqf Board on the appointment after the death of the old imam, Qari Idris Mian, a much respected figure who offered spiritual solutions to politicians' worldly problems. Politicians like AR Antulay and Ahmad Patel who go to the mosque to pray every Friday think they should be consulted, while the waqf obviously doesn't think so, and quite rightly. Will someone please drill some sense into our honchos'

Holding out

In a coalition, the ally is king. The RJD minister, Prem Gupta, seems hell-bent on proving that. He is supposedly sitting on the appointment of the chairman of the Competition Commission of India. It was the Vajpayee government which had instituted the commission and Deepak Chatterjee, who was then secretary, commerce, had been appointed its chairman. A petition which argued that the commission was quasi-judicial and could not have a bureaucrat at its head, had the appointment quashed till the matter was sorted out later. But Gupta is adamant. He believes that Chatterjee was a saffron choice and could not have a place in a secular government. Couldn't we go colour blind for once'

Man Friday

Talk about obstinacy. The textiles minister, Shankersinh Vaghela, is so keen to retain his PS, who is a Gujarat cadre officer, that he has decided to ignore the PMO directive nixing the proposal. What complicates matters is that neither has the Gujarat government released the officer for Central deputation. Vaghela carries on, unfazed.

Look who's watching

A little bird says it isn't just Dayanidhi Maran whose neck is on the line for being interested in the dealings of a controversial company. There is another cabinet minister as well. God help them, now that 10 Janpath is watching keenly.

Price of success

Heavyweight politicians in Bihar are not so worried about their rivals as their own party-workers and those of their allies. Take Arun Jaitley, who is being constantly harangued by JD (U) candidates and their workers for money to meet poll expenses. Some have been brazen enough to land up at the BJP headquarters on Ashoka Road, asking for money to fund posters or even chai-pani for political workers. The scene is not much different in the Congress camp either, and it is not chai-pani issues that are worrying it. Anil Shastri, appointed media manager for the Congress, for example demands land for laying the foundation of the Lal Bahadur management institute. There is also the redoubtable Waseem Bhindi who is keeping his hotline with the RJD alive. When a disgruntled Congress worker complained against the RJD to Bhindi, the latter shooed him away saying Laloo could do no wrong. Little wonder they say, 'Soniaji ko dedo taar, Congress ki ho gai haar.'

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