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DIARY 07-06-2009

Together alone Ride to oblivion Sweet promise Open race Changed fate FOOTNOTE The hills are calling

By The Telegraph Online
  • Published 7.06.09

Together alone

While Congress leaders were all smiles on the opening day of the 15th Lok Sabha, some of their allies wore frowns. The Rashtriya Janata Dal supremo, Lalu Prasad, sat glumly, and away from the treasury benches, unhappy with Madam’s decision not to award him a plum ministry this time around. Another Yadav, Mulayam Singh, who once nursed prime ministerial ambitions, cut an even sorrier figure. Before the polls to the 14th Lok Sabha, Mulayam had promised the people of Uttar Pradesh that if they helped him win 40 seats, he would give them the prime minister of India. His party, on that occasion, won over 30 seats but they were not enough to help him bag the top job. Mulayam has been left out in the cold this time as well, with the Samajwadis winning a meagre 23 seats in UP. He has been reduced to giving outside support to the Congress, even though none from the party came knocking on his door. Apparently, he spent the first day roaming Parliament’s winding corridors all alone, even without Amar Singh by his side. Et tu, Amar?

Ride to oblivion

Here’s something more on Lalu Prasad. He set tongues wagging the other day by coming to attend the swearing-in ceremony of parliamentarians in a Mercedes instead of the sarkari white ambassador. The truth is that the fancy car belonged to his trusted aide, Prem Gupta, and Lalu Prasad had to hop in for a ride because his own car was unavailable on that day. Although netas are known to travel in expensive vehicles, a ‘leader’ of the downtrodden is usually associated with the humble ambassador. Thus, seeing Lalu Prasad moving around in a Merc, some people were left wondering whether he too has lost touch with the aam admi.

Sweet promise

The Congress leadership is extremely pleased with Adhir Chowdhury, the party MP from Behrampore, for helping the Congress win all the three Lok Sabha seats in the Murshidabad district. After taking oath as member of parliament, Chowdhury met Rahul Gandhi and reportedly thanked him for coming to campaign in his constituency. The young Congress leader, in turn, thanked Chowdhury for keeping his word of winning Behrampore, Murshidabad and Jangipur from where Pranab Mukherjee contested successfully. But even amidst the exchange of pleasantries, Chowdhury managed to slip in a complaint. He carped that Rahul had not carried back the box of chhanabara (a Bengali sweetmeat), which he had been given, back to Delhi. Hearing this, Rahul apologized profusely, but added that the airline had not permitted him to fly with the sweets because of their syrupy content. And then came his request for another box of chhanabara from Chowdhury, who, undoubtedly, will only be too happy to oblige. But will the loyal Chowdhury be able to keep his word, considering the fact that it is nearly impossible to fly with delicacies of this nature?

Open race

The rush to Delhi by members of parliament is understandable. The new House is in session, after all. But what explains the arrival in Delhi of some governors, even though they don’t have any pressing engagements? Perhaps it has to do with the fact that their tenures are coming to an end. This may explain the urgency behind the visits to the capital by Balram Jakhar, RL Bhatia and AR Kidwai, governors who are now seeking yet another term in office. But space is at a premium with Madam and her team having to dispense gubernatorial posts to a number of loyalists and political discards such as Shivraj Patil, ML Fotedar and Ajit Jogi. It remains to be seen whether the likes of Jakhar and Kidwai triumph over Messrs Patil and Fotedar.

Changed fate

It isn’t as if governors are only making a mad dash to the corridors of power. There is also a rush to meet the newly-appointed minister for corporate and minority affairs, Salman Khursheed. What has amused Khursheed is the fact that a fair number of those seeking an appointment with him with bouquets in hand belonged to the faction that had been throwing brickbats at him during the election to Delhi’s Indian Islamic Cultural Centre only a few months ago. Khursheed had contested the IICC president’s post but some bureaucrats and businessmen had got him defeated, many of whom are now busy in humouring him. But then, in the ever-changing world of politics, a few months is certainly a long time.

The hills are calling

Where is Arjun Singh these days? It is being reported that the former HRD minister is spending his time at the Bhawali hill resort, which is famous for its spectacular natural beauty. A few days in the hills will certainly lift the out-of-work Singh’s spirits, helping him forget the trauma of not being accorded a ministerial berth.

Meanwhile, back in the plains, the news in Delhi is that not many people in the Congress are missing Singh either. Singh’s successor at the ministry, Kapil Sibal, is said to be on a course correction drive. Officially though, Sibal has not uttered a word about the state of affairs that he has inherited. Singh’s supporters are now hoping that the old war horse would at least be given a governor’s post. But Congress insiders are not so sure, pointing to the fact that the Rajya Sabha post represented by Singh will now go into the Bharatiya Janata Party’s kitty. Singh will do well to remain in his perch, given the sorry state of affairs on the ground.