THE TELEGRAPH DIARY 

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By The Telegraph Online
  • Published 2.09.01
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Cake with the icing With Bollywood such a remarkable and enduring presence in Indian culture, it is no wonder that Delhi is aiming to be ...well, "Dollywood"? It is definitely becoming quite a throbbing centre for Hindi cinema. Delhi doesn't quite represent the acme of scenic beauty. Neither have filmmakers been seized with the urge to excavate its historic past on celluloid. There is a far greater incentive than these: political patronage. Everyone's interested, whether it be Madhuri Dixit, Subhash Ghai, Jackie Shroff or Manisha Koirala. It's the big men in Delhi who are hooked, right up to the top. We'd already heard how our prime minister and our home minister pass the time in constructive criticism and appreciation of Bollywood's "serious entertainment". Now the other day an aide of the PM asked him what he would like to do after Parliament broke up. "Watch a Hindi movie," is what the PM is supposed to have said. So the PMO and Sushma Swaraj have shortlisted Lajja. It's new and it's got the M-club Vajpayee is reportedly sold on. That is, Madhuri Dixit, Manisha Koirala and Mahima Chowdhury. Lajja has Rekha too - that's the icing, Mr PM. Who's the unspeakable in the woodpile? Diggy raja is puzzled by the way a Lok Ayukta report found its way to a Delhi based paper. He wants to lodge a formal protest with "good friend" Yashwant Sinha. How could secret papers under IT scrutiny find their way to a newspaper office? Sources close to the Madhya Pradesh chief minister said he's convinced that it was not the Vajpayee regime's handiwork. Since the evidence is based upon diary entries, Diggy thinks it is some hawala pirit who wants to settle scores. From the Congress, V.C. Shukla, Kamal Nath and Madhavrao Scindia had had a rough deal in the controversy. Now Diggy is doing some eliminating. It can't be VC: his favourite target is Ajit Jogi since Chhattisgarh's birth. Kamal Nath just has too many skeletons. And, Diggy is wondering, why should a good maharaja harass his subject? Diggy's Raghaugarh falls under Gwalior. Perhaps the CM is paying the price of siding with disgraced MPCC chief RK Malviya who was involved in a shoot out. One down and no speech to go Mani Shankar Aiyar was upset. He was complaining that his speeches in the Lok Sabha on earth-shaking issues such as telecom, UTI, Tehelka and so on were seldom carried in the newspapers. The fault was not in him, but in his stars. "The problem with me is that I come one down and by the time I speak, it's past seven pm and press galleries are deserted," he lamented. Madhavrao Scindia had a word of comfort, "But Mani, you shouldn't forget that Sachin Tendulkar comes one down!" For once, Mani was speechless. Powers of prayer, pals and the purse Ramesh Gandhi of Rainbow Productions believes in supernatural deliverance. He complained of heart problems when the CBI arrested him, and has been residing in a well known nursing home in Calcutta for more than a couple of months. To satisfy his worshipful urges, a whole floor has been turned into a virtual temple. The key deities of the Hindu pantheon are represented here and there's a regular priest to do the honours. And devoted hangers-on provide more deities for Ramesh's devotions. But the CBI, led in this case by untiring bloodhound Upen Biswas is not impressed. Our hero's troubleshooters are busy exploring ways to get a favourable judgment out of the powers that be and to muzzle the bloodhound. Well, prayers might still pay off, it seems. A mysterious apparition has promised to do both. And heart ailments disappear mysteriously too - every night, at party time. The lamp of unforgiveness It was a mega show. It was a Suresh Kalmadi show. Sonia Gandhi was guest of honour at the Pune festival along with the likes of Hema Malini, Jackie Shroff, Rahul Bajaj, Subhash Ghai and Ritu Beri. And the sparks glittered and flashed. Faced with a smiling Sonia, the fashion designer refused to acknowledge her. But an innocent Kalmadi offered the offended lady a chance to return the compliment. He asked Sonia to light the lamp to inaugurate the festival and requested Ritu to "assist Sonia". Onstage, Sonia knew exactly what to do. As a smiling Ritu gave a knowing glance to the Congress supremo, Sonia asked Kalmadi's wife Meera to "assist her". The result was instantaneous. Ritu was out of frame and madame had her way. Incidentally, Ritu is close to BJP circles, having gained the status of a cultural ambassador. Such sleekly kept talons, m'lady! Bouncers might just spin off The CPI(M) veteran, Somnath Chatterjee, leader of the party in Lok Sabha, managed to have the entire opposition walk out of Lok Sabha on the issue of the appointment of RSS functionary BK Agnihotri as ambassador to the US. He raised the issue in zero hour. Parliamentary affairs minister Pramod Mahajan objected that it was not a crime to be an RSS member. But his main objection was to senior members like Somnathda raising issues during zero hour without prior notice. The former cricketer and BJP MP Kirti Azad interrupted: "These senior leaders like Somnath Chatterjee take undue advantage of their seniority. They should not be given this privilege." At this Madhavrao Scindia piped up, "Kirti, as far as I know you have always been an off spinner. Since when have you started throwing bouncers?" Footnote /I sent a letter through my friend and on the way... Poor Priya Ranjan Das Munshi! Led astray by a letter he brandished in the Lok Sabha. The Congress chief whip had produced a copy of what he insisted was a letter written by the Union cabinet secretary to the PM's principal secretary. The letter made out a strong case against disinvestment in Air India. Arun Shourie felt that the letter was forged and referred the matter to the CBI for inquiry. The CBI tended to agree. It was not written on the letterhead of the cabinet secretary. No cabinet secretary would use the kind of language used in it. Letters despatched from the cabinet secretary's office are duly numbered and docketed. No such evidence was available. And there was no evidence that it was received in the PMO which too follows the same procedure. As to the real motive behind the letter, there is near agreement that it was the handiwork of the owner of a private domestic airline who feared the privatization of the national carrier, particularly its sale to the Tata-Singapore Airlines venture. The letter may have been routed through a friend in an opposition party which is on the best of terms with the PMO.