The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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If wishes were horses

You have to hand it to the news channels for trying to replicate Bollywood’s saccharine family reunions. Some private channels reported that Maneka Gandhi had personally congratulated her estranged sister-in-law, Sonia Gandhi, for the latter’s completion of ten years as the Congress president. This fuelled rumours about the possibility of a bittersweet coming together of the two Gandhi bahus after decades of ‘fighting like cats and dogs’ — a rather apt term when you come to think of Maneka’s life-long dedication to cats, dogs and other animals. With such material in their hands, the Ekta Kapoors of the world could make a thousand K-serials bloom. But like a true, vapid K-serial melodrama, there was no substance to the story. All that had happened was this. Maneka Gandhi, caught unawares by scribes who asked her to comment on Sonia’s “achievement”, had replied dryly that she wished “her well”. So much for the Great Indian Family Reunion that never was.

Here comes another son

In Indian classical music, skills are passed down the generations. Or that is how it used to be once upon a time. Before its place was taken by politics and films. Nowadays every politician or filmstar worth his salt is busy passing down their ‘skills’ to sons and daughters. It is not known whether the finance minister, P. Chidambaram, has done the same, but rumour has it that his son, Karthik, is keen to join active politics. Chidambaram junior is spotted once a year in Parliament, on Budget Day, bundhgala and beautiful wife in place, watching Papa recite Tamil poetry between announcing taxes and sops. However, if Karthik Chidambaram becomes the president of the Tamil Nadu youth Congress, as he seems to be wanting to, it might just make him one of the younger youth Congress presidents around.

Farm friend

Former Union minister Jagdish Tytler is yet to recover from the heat of the allegations of his involvement in the 1984 riots. To show that he is an honourable man, Tytler turned up at Sonia Gandhi’s residence recently, arguing the cause of farmers who had decided to forfeit the loan waiver offered to them. The amount written off was too small, said Tytler. Madam was quick to put him in his place, pointing out that it was funny that farmers should choose Tytler as their spokesperson, given that the constituency he represented (Sadar in Delhi) was entirely urban. Tytler would do well to pick his battles more carefully in future.

Air is foul

The air is about to be cleared on environmental clearance. If the proposed change to environmental laws comes through, there will be no need to obtain clearance from the environment ministry for the expansion and modernization of existing projects, such as airports. The ministry in question is currently headed by the DMK’s TR Baalu. Those who come to obtain clearance for their projects speak of the pains of “satisfying” officials in the ministry, and it is unlikely that Baalu himself is unaware of this. At last count, some 700-odd projects were awaiting the nod from Baalu’s ministry. The wisdom of the proposal is open to debate, of course, since expansion and modernization of existing projects can harm the environment as much as new projects can. But corporate circles are just happy that their files will no longer stagnate interminably in a certain government department. Needless to say, Baalu and his men spare as much thought — or as little — for the environment as real estate developers do. But then, maybe everyone in the end is worried about a few square-metres around their chairs.

Princess diaries

Is the BJP MP, Yashodhara Raje Scindia, aiming for an invitation to business schools, à la Lalu Prasad? In her speech in the Lok Sabha, the Gwalior-princess-turned-politician wondered aloud why the railways ministry could not raise funds by issuing IPOs, as its Chinese counterpart has done. Turns out that the speech met with loud applause even from the Congress benches. An elated Scindia has since been circulating copies of her speech to everyone she knows. Whatever her ideas about adding to the coffers of Indian Railways, the lady prefers to keep her own purse strings tightly closed. Or so say her socialite friends, who are miffed because Ms Scindia did not throw them a party to celebrate her success in the House.

Blow hot, blow cold

Does Brajesh Mishra’s views on the Indo-US nuke deal change depending on which way his car is parked in the morning? His vehement opposition to the deal has now turned into acquiescent praise. But could that be because, as Mishra says, he has “nothing to do with the BJP any longer”?



Carrots and hockey sticks

Indian hockey has one real star — supercop KPS Gill. Look at the way he makes the hockey federation dance to his baton: booting out the deserving (such as players who won the country an Asian Games gold after 32 years), and rewarding yes-men with carrots. One of Gill’s boys even ended up as a top official with the hockey team that went to the Sydney Olympics. He travelled with the team and, reportedly, earned much more than the players. There is more to Gill’s benevolence. The same man got a handsome cut from the telecast fees that the IHF received from Doordarshan when the then I&B minister had decided to popularize the game through live telecasts. But then, years later, the favourite pulled a fast one on the supercop himself, swindling Gill of lakhs. Ever since, Gill has been biding his time plotting revenge. With so much on his mind, surely one cannot blame Gill for failing to resolve the threat to Indian hockey?

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