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By The Telegraph Online
  • Published 9.10.00
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Brush with the commons It is not often that prime ministers take their security guards by surprise. But AB Vajpayee managed to do just that recently. He simply could not wriggle out of visiting his dentist, who had asked that the PM come to his clinic located in a busy market in the heart of New Delhi. Anxious not to cause ordinary people unnecessary inconvenience, Vajpayee told his aide that he would go to the clinic only on condition that the SPG was not told in advance about it. So when the prime minister got into his car in evening to go to Khan Market, the SPG was in a complete tizzy. The men had neither sanitized the neighbourhood of the clinic nor had they informed the local police so that the PM's route could be free of traffic. Vajpayee was unperturbed. He was determined to go to his dentist without causing a great fuss. He took off for Khan Market with a carful of SPG men in tow. And for the first time after becoming prime minister, he experienced what it was like to be stuck in peak hour traffic in and around Khan Market. The PM was none the worse for his unusual adventure, but he did lose about half and hour as his car wove in and out of the traffic. No entry where unwanted Talking of traffic management, we didn't quite realize it had the potential of becoming somebody's passion. It seems to have become one with West Bengal's finance minister, Asim Dasgupta, who has, scores of times, found it difficult to restrain himself from playing the traffic policeman on clogged roads. He was at it again recently when, much against the wishes of state transport minister Subhas Chakraborty, Dasgupta decided on his own to take over traffic management near some puja pandals in north Calcutta.Senior police officials who protested against Dasgupta's participation were brushed aside. Rumours in the corridors of the Writers' have it that Asim is proving to be autocratic not merely where traffic matters are concerned. Bureaucrats and cabinet colleagues also resent the way he regularly pokes his nose into other departmental matters. Two years ago, the state irrigation minister, Debabrata Bandopadhyay, had decided to stage a dharna to protest against Asim's decision not to disburse funds for the repair of embankments. A year ago, PWD minister Kshiti Goswami had also complained to Jyoti Basu about Dasgupta's interference in the allotment of funds for road repair. Officials feel Asim's closeness to Basu and his deputy, Buddhadev Bhattacharya, is what emboldens him. Aren't they being harsh on a rather passionate minister? Star on the prowl Not exactly a world turned upside down, but a bit lopsided no doubt. Instead of Bollywood stars cutting ribbons we now have politicians attending inaugurations of Bollywood enterprises. When Kajol and hubby Ajay Devgan recently launched a dotcom company, political bigwigs like Arun Jaitley, Pramod Mahajan and Amar Singh were found wallowing in stardust. Singh, as is his wont, tried to show off his Bollywood connections by hugging Devgan in full media glare. Kajol spoilt the show when she was found whispering to Devgan, wanting to know who the fatso falling all over him was. Devgan sheepishly answered her. Kajol was unimpressed, "Amar Singh who?" Perhaps Kajol hasn't seen Hamara Dil Apke Paas Hai. Our politician's brief - lasting barely a minute - but impressive performance could win him a national award any day. Devgan should thank his stars Amar isn't in films. Are they all the king's men? Is Arjun Singh up to something then? While the Congress organizational polls are on, everyone seems to think that Arjun Singh has been pulling strings and planting his favourite men from the erstwhile Congress(T) in key positions. No, says Ram Niwas Mirdha, chairman of AICC's central election panel, Arjun Singh never interferes in matters such as the appointment of returning officers and so on. It is rather the maharaja of Gwalior, Madhavrao Scindia, who seems to have a major say in the picking of DROs and PROs. Scindia got his men in Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. Even Salman Khurshid's successor, Sri Prakash Jaiswal, is his nominee. Quite sure and confident Now that ek do teen girl Madhuri Dixit, and not Rekha, is all set to anchor Zee's version of KBC, the big B is breathing a sigh of relief. He had a close shave when KBC wanted to name the "lifeline" segment as "jeevan rekha". That would have snapped his lifeline. Footnote/Good times, may get better p>It seems suddenly festival time for the moribund Congress. Never mind the party's dismal performance in Uttar Pradesh. It has managed to put quite a number of other feathers in its cap. The Congress won in the Dausa parliamentary seat in Rajasthan with a respectable margin, and did better than expected in the Gujarat and Kerala local body elections. Congressmen are not only looking cheerful, they are also talking - when don't they? - about the party being on a comeback trail. But their reasoning is always weird. In public almost all the leaders swear by Sonia Gandhi and attribute the victories to her flawless leadership. Just like true Congressmen. But off the record, Congressmen find the birth of Priyanka's boy, Rehan Rajiv Vadra Gandhi, the cause of the miracle. "His birth is a good omen. He has brought luck to his didima and to the Congress as well. The Congress is now well on the comeback trail," Ajit Jogi supposedly said. Do politicians get more superstitious as they go up the ladder? All sympathies for the Congress mascot. Couldn't be fun carrying the fortunes of a 115 year old party on four week old shoulders.