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Ticket to nowhere

The deluge in Mumbai didn’t stop the Maharashtra CM from staying high and dry. Even as the rains lashed the city, Vilasrao Deshmukh was away visiting America to hard sell Mumbai not just as an investment destination but also as a city with “excellent infrastructure”. Mumbai mayor, Shubha Raul, was not so lucky though. Raul’s plans to visit New Zealand to attend a seminar on “good governance, environment and global warming” later this month was quashed by the Shiv Sena, which stated that the mayor cannot be allowed to abandon the sinking city. Meanwhile, tours were cancelled elsewhere as well, with the prez polls, and not the weather, being the spoiler. Parliamentarians had to call off their scheduled New York visit to participate in a World Hindi Meet because of party whips which stated that electors would not be allowed to travel abroad during the polls. Last heard, the unhappy delegates were grumbling how they were denied an opportunity to promote the rashtra bhasha.


Parrot talk

With the numbers on their side, Congressmen are fairly optimistic about Pratibha Patil winning the presidential polls. Hence, members of the party’s media cell have been busy coaching her for the hot seat. To help hone her skills, Patil’s tutors promised to organize a press meet with the national media, only to change it plans at the last minte. Apparently, despite all the coaching, Patil’s campaign managers realized that their ward was still not confident enough to face questions from the newshounds.Hence the cancellation. In fact, the men in charge have been facing a trying time, protecting the Congress candidate. But one must say that they have been doing a rather good job of it. For instance, ever since they discovered that Patil’s English was as weak as her Hindi, spin doctors in the Congress camp have been issuing carefully-drafted statements under Patil’s name. If Patil were to win the polls, she will have a couple of firsts to her credit. She will be the first woman president in the history of the country. India, in all probability, would also have its first president who only reads out texts prepared by her aides.


Blast from the past

Pratibha Patil may have been busy ducking the media but her opponent has been in a spot of bother as well, thanks to Sushma Swaraj. Swaraj had taken on the responsibility of refuting the allegation that the vice-president and NDA candidate, Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, had once been caught taking a bribe of Rs 15 when he was a constable in the days of the raj. While defending Shekhawat, Swaraj pointed out that the vice-president had served as a sub-inspector, not a constable, and that he had never taken a bribe. On the contrary, Shekhawat had once been awarded a certificate of excellence. The last bit, however, has proved to be costly for the poor man . His critics are now pointing to the fact that in pre-Independence India, policemen got excellence certificates for remaining faithful to their sahibs and for beating freedom-fighters. Shekhawat may now have to prove his patriotic credentials. Hopefully, Swaraj will not be fighting his case this time.


Black magic

The elections in Uttar Pradesh clearly pointed to the fact that Mayavati’s popularity has been on the rise. So has her income, if the figures in her latest file returns are anything to go by. Apparently, there has been a four-fold rise in Mayavati’s personal income in the last three years. The UP chief minister claims that the bounty was the result of her supporters donating ‘small’ amounts of ten- and twenty-rupee notes to her kitty. Now if the sleuths at the IT department have no problems accepting Mayavati’s logic, the rich in the country would heave a sigh of relief. To turn their money white, they would only have to float a political outfit, call it the ‘Chanda Party’ and declare that they grew rich with the help of meagre donations from partymen.


Set the record straight

Lahore has helped Mani Shankar Aiyar rediscover his roots. On a visit to the city, the civic authorities gave the Union minister his birth certificate within hours. Delhi, on the other hand, had taken ages to prepare Pervez Musharraf’s birth certificate when the Pakistan prez had come calling. Mani was also surprised to discover that his original name, according to the records, was Venkata Subramaniam. That was not all. Lahore’s mayor also claimed that his office has stored all data since 1876 in computers. The minister now ought to hire IT professionals to clear the mess in municipalities on this side of the border.


A new job for the jawan

Police and paramilitary bosses have sworn themselves to silence, but the buzz is that the men in uniform now have a new occupation. Fighting crime or quelling riots is certainly passé . These men are now being allotted less dangerous assignments, such as working as domestic help in the houses of bureaucrats. There have been reports of the wife of one such babu employing, while her husband was away, three men from the defence forces to run errands in her house in New Delhi. There are others like her as well and one should not be surprised to see policemen fetching milk and vegetables from the market or washing clothes in the capital’s posh localities. A representation is known to have reached the Union home and cabinet secretaries to identify the guilty babus. But spare a thought for our men in khaki. They might not feel too bad about their new responsibilities. A trip to the market is certainly safer than chasing criminals.


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