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Capital Buzz/Virendra Kapoor

Businessmen in trouble

Satish Sharma Some half a dozen big league industrialists interrogated recently by the CBI in connection with the JMM MPs bribery case are not a little worried that they might have to pay a heavy price for the good turn they did to the then Narasimha Rao government.

Pressed by the CBI sleuths, these industrialists admitted they had indeed paid bagfuls of cash to former petroleum minister Satish Sharma. The CBI was told by Sharma's aide that the minister had collected money for the four JMM MPs from half a dozen industrialists. But each industrialist maintains he was unaware of the purpose for which the funds were deployed.

"Every now and then Captain Sharma would ask for funds and since we deal with his ministry we would give it to him. How are we to know that he would buy MPs with our money?' is more or less the refrain of all the industrialists questioned in the JMM case.

For the present, the CBI has decided not to arraign any of the industrialists in the bribery case, but with the courts breathing down the agency's neck no one can be sure of the fate of these tycoons who have thrived by funding ministers like Sharma.

Another worry is that the income tax department will step in to launch prosecution and penalty proceedings against the businessmen for hiding their income.

The age of the fixers

Kuldip Nayar is probably India's best known journalist. He is neither brash nor needlessly aggressive. Nor for that matter is he involved in hawala or any other scam. In the US recently to receive an amity award constituted by an association of non-resident Indians, Nayar and his wife, Bharati, stopped over in London for a couple of days to renew old contacts and to make a few new ones. Not long ago he was India's high commissioner in London.

On their way back, the Nayars, still loyal to the national carrier, Air- India, requested the airline manager to upgrade them to the first class since there were many seats going abegging. But the airline refused even though the Nayars had business class tickets.

To the veteran journalist's surprise, another scribe with his wife in tow was upgraded to first class even though they had only economy class tickets. The couple is wellknown in the capital's political and press circles for their wheeling and dealing.

The Air-India manager apologised to the Nayars and disclosed that Civil Aviation Minister Chand Mohammad Ibrahim, no less, had directed that the couple be upgraded both ways as they travelled to the US and back via London.

Emerging from Rao's shadows

Sita Ram Kesri By now everyone knows that Congress president Sitaram Kesri is at pains to distance himself from his beleaguered predecessor, Narasimha Rao. He has nominated known Rao-baiters to key positions in the party organisation. But Congressmen in the capital were surprised to see Kesri play master of ceremonies last week at the wedding of former Congress leader Subash Chopra's daughter.

Chopra was treasurer of the Delhi Congress till his expulsion from the party for six years. His crime: He led a demonstration to Rao's house seeking the latter's resignation as Congress president in the wake of his being charged in the Lakhubhai Pathak cheating case.

Not many Delhi Congressmen were at the wedding where Kesri made it a point to stay on for quite some time. Kesri's show of solidarity with Chopra has Delhi Congress chief Deep Chand Bandhu worried. A known Rao loyalist, he might be replaced soon.

Petty malice?

Sushma Swaraj BJP leader Sushma Swaraj's husband is a practising lawyer in the capital. But her detractors, hurt by her growing importance in the party hierarchy, have latched on to the fact that her husband invariably manages to get the brief of BJP state governments.

A hush-hush campaign in party has it that Sushma Swaraj herself lobbies for her husband's appointment as the counsel of BJP-ruled adminstrations. The propaganda may be malicious, but the fact that the BJP governments have lost quite a few important cases for which her husband was the counsel has given it a sharper edge.

There was consternation in BJP circles at the recent court order to transfer all polluting industries out of the capital within seven days. They allege that the Delhi government's case was not properly put across before the court.

Amar Singh's Tall Tales

The Samajwadi Party's high-profile general secretary, Amar Singh, loves to brag. Maybe he does this to further burnish his image as a powerbroker. For it is only as a powerbroker that he has flourished and found Mulayam Singh Yadav relying on him increasingly to pull his irons out of the fire in the capital's murky political world.

Singh, a long time liaison man for the Bharatiyas, claimed recently that he had emerged as the single most important leader of the thakur community, former prime ministers Chandra Shekhar and V P Singh, thakurs both, please note), that he was responsible for giving over 25 thakurs tickets in the recent UP assembly election and that of these 16 emerged victorious.

He also claims that he is helping his friend Amitabh Bachchan sort out his Miss World show problems. And that Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda would join the Miss World pageant over dinner in Bangalore thanks to his efforts. 'We will allow the BJP government in UP to be formed for a short while and then have (UP governor Romesh) Bhandari dismiss it. Yes, Bhandari is my man,' he was heard to boast.

The poor fellow, however, is worried that the UP assembly may be dissolved before it has an opportunity to send him to the Rajya Sabha. Bhandari is trying to sort that out for him, he told an acquaintance over a meal the other day.

Breach among the estates

At a recent VVIP wedding reception in the capital, politicians came face to face with a couple of senior high court and Supreme Court judges. Naturally, the talk veered round to judicial activism.

Surinder Singla, the Congress member of the Rajya Sabha, could not restrain himself and accused the court of poaching into the executive's domain. "Tell me one instance," protested one Supreme Court judge. ''Why, you extended the service of former CBI chief K Vijaya Rama Rao by a month. Was that a judicial function?'' The judge thought it better than to entangle with a rough and ready politician from the heart of Punjab.

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