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

Mission Kashmir over, the indubitable kingmaker, Ghulam Nabi Azad, is said to be training his eyes on something closer to his heart — upstaging Ahmad Patel. The reason Azad can think the unthinkable is because he senses his political fortune to be on the upswing. After all, despite pressure from within the Congress, Azad could manage to trounce the PDP and position the Abdullahs as the Congress’s allies. Besides, his organizational skills are more than well known. Before he quit as AICC gen-sec last time, Azad had made it a point to remind the party high command that his two-decade-old tenure in the post had given him experience to handle party affairs in virtually every state of the country. Now that Azad is in line for the post of gen-sec again, his supporters insist he be excused the indignity of reporting to the political secretary. And why not? Madam willing, Mahomet will go to the mountain.

Face facts

Pranab Mukherjee, the most visible face both inside and outside Parliament post-Mumbai, has competition. P Chidambaram, the Union minister for home, now clearly overshadows Pranabda, given the fact that he has to respond to queries relating to both home and finance, that is, the key areas of governance in the house. Not only that, PC has two ministers of state for finance looking up to him for assistance. It was the Union home, and not finance, minister, who inaugurated the 11,111th SBI branch in Kamrup. No wonder Chidambaram is being described as “Sarkar II” in some circles.

Money is honey

Easy come, easy go, but not easily forgotten. The “missing money” from the Bharatiya Janata Party national headquarters has soured the party’s ties with archrivals Congress, following the dig made by the AICC spokesman, Abhishek Singhvi, at his BJP counterpart, Ravi Shankar Prasad.

Now if you were thinking that Prasad is a man who would take things lying down, think again. He has been reminding Congresswallahs of their ‘management’ of funds, especially those by Sitaram Kesri, who openly boasted, “Na khata, na bahi, hisab wohi so Sitaram kahi (No ledger, no record. That is how, Sitaram says, accounts should be done).” Although questions continue to circulate about how the Rs 1,000 denomination notes, weighing approximately 31 kgs, could have vanished into thin air, a wizened political observer has been asking why such a hoopla should be made about the two-and-a-half crores when no less than Rs 5 crore is blown in contesting each assembly seat.

Power play

LK Advani is supposed to be having sleepless nights ever since the former vice-president, Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, decided to return to active politics. He is likely to contest the Lok Sabha elections from Jaipur, and can emerge as a major political contender for the hot seat since he is thought to represent the soft face of the sangh parivar, much like AB Vajpayee. Meanwhile, the power struggle in the BJP has reached its peak with Rajnath Singh doing everything he can to keep the RSS in good humour, and Advani trying his best to upset Singh’s efforts. But not everything is working out in Advani’s favour, given the fact that all of Rajnath’s men from the Rajya Sabha, from Murli Manohar Joshi to Rajiv Pratap Rudy, have been asked to contest Lok Sabha seats, while Advani’s supporters —Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj among them — have been asked to ‘manage’ elections.

Tight corner

A TV channel started by a tainted politician is now caught in a double bind. It has virtually no viewership and its bosses are considering shutting it down — not an unusual choice, given the fact that even established channels are finding it difficult to survive the present economic slow down. But a chief minister keen to use the channel for the upcoming elections has persuaded the management to postpone its decision. The promoters are now facing a catch-22 situation: if they close the channel they will incur the displeasure of the CM, if they don’t, they pile up further losses.



Head without a crown

Don’t be surprised if you overhear Diggy Raja complain about his crown of thorns. His party was not amused after he suggested that unlike the NDA during the Kandahar crisis, the UPA government did not give in to the ‘demands’ of the terrorists in Mumbai. That was not all. Digvijay Singh, who was being seen as a contender for the top job if the Congress were to win the coming polls, continued with his gaffes. He supported Antulay’s controversial comments on Hemant Karkare’s death. At a rally in MP, he is also reported to have said, “BJP ne ek goonda ko ticket diya hai to humne ek maha goonda ko ticket diya hai (The BJP has given a ticket to a goonda, we have given a ticket to a maha goonda).” Another time, Singh apparently raised slogans in the name of one of his supporters who was denied a ticket. One doesn’t know what Singh has to say about these allegations. But it looks as if after this, his chances of winning the crown are rather slim.

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