Capital Buzz/Virendra Kapoor
Breakfast with the President
President Shankar Dayal Sharma (left)
has been hosting a series of breakfast
meetings with MPs from different states. Whether or not the exercise
is aimed at improving his chances for a second term in Rashtrapati
Bhavan, it would certainly help remove the unpleasantness in
the United Front caused by Sharma's decision to install the first
BJP government in New Delhi.
The menu for the breakfast is carefully
decided with an eye on the culinary tastes of the MPs. For example,
the Tamil Nadu contingent was treated to a vast buffet of dosas,
sambhars, idlis etc, with the cook from the Tamil Nadu Bhavan
lending a helping hand in Sharma's kitchen.
For the Karnataka contingent --
which included the prime minister --
Sharma had specially ordered H D Deve
Gowda's favourite good rahi balls. The point about rahi balls
is that one dips them in coconut juice and then swallows them
whole. When Sharma crunched one, he found that it stuck to his
teeth. The President had a tough time regaining his composure
after this adventure. He marvelled how Deve Gowda could effortlessly
swallow a dozen rahi balls one after another without choking on
A remark does it
Former Andhra Pradesh chief minister Janardhan Reddy, as one of the Congress party observers
to Madhya Pradesh for the recent
Lok Sabha election, had developed a good rapport with state
Chief Minister Digvijay Singh (right). Some time ago, in one of his weak
moments, Singh confided to Reddy that given Narasimha Rao's mounting
troubles and his own excellent credentials, he was best suited to
lead the Congress. Should Rao finally step down, Singh volunteered
to gladly give up the chief ministership to become the Congress
Reddy promptly went and reported the remark to Rao
who did not take kindly to the thought of Singh harbouring the
ambition to replace him. Since then, the AICC has been hassling
Singh. A junior AICC functionary sought his explanation for the
dinner he had hosted for the members of the BJP national executive
in Bhopal. Then the AICC observer for MP issued an ultimatum to
Singh to drop seven members of his ministry who had allegedly
worked against the party in the Lok Sabha poll. All this was aimed
at cutting Singh to size.
A pool of contention
Former industries minister K Karunakaran(right) is in an unforgiving
mood ever since news about the small swimming pool
built on the back lawns of his official bungalow leaked out. He was so incensed
with the ministry of urban development for seeking his explanation
for the unauthorised pool that he wanted the secretary in the
ministry, C Ramachandran, sacked. The ministry was also examining
how the unauthorised construction ordered by Karunakaran and paid
for by the Cement Corporation of India, a public undertaking under
his administrative control, had gone unchecked for so long.
Strictly going by the rules, Karunakaran will not only have to have the
pool filled up, but may be called upon to pay a penalty for the
illegal construction. But nothing of the sort is likely to happen.
Within 15 days of Karunakaran's demand for the transfer of Ramachandran,
he was duly transferred. Although appointed secretary (expenditure)
in the finance ministry, the transfer of Ramachandran nonetheless
will dissuade others in the urban development ministry from pursuing
vigorously the swimming pool issue any further.
A couple of days before he was obliged to resign, federal minister
of state for home Mohammad Taslimuddin (left) asked the chairman of
a nationalised bank to meet him urgently. It was a Sunday. The
chairman pleaded illness but the minister said "No, come down
to see me just now." The bank chief demurred and politely ended
the conversation. Not the one to give up, the personal staff of
the minister continued to harass the banker throughout that Sunday
calling him to meet "the home minister immediately,"
Fearing the worst, he finally went to Bihar Bhavan in the evening and found
Taslimuddin lying on his bed surrounded by half of dozen hangers
on. The banker inquired if the minister too was unwell and was
told that the great man suffered from piles. The bank official
helpfully mentioned a couple of home-made remedies for the ailment.
The minister then asked the banker to purchase Rs 500 million worth
of bonds of a public financial institution through our men. "What
was his interest?"
"My men will earn Rs 200,000 to Rs 250,000 in commission."
The banker promised to put the matter before his board due to
meet the next day. The board, of course, rejected it. Taslimuddin
being new to matters of high finance wasn't aware that banks buy
bonds for large amounts directly, thus saving on the payment of
Her terror still works
It was a chance encounter with the Bandit Queen, Phoolan Devi(left),
which did the trick. The other day, a Delhi citizen spotted the
Samajwadi MP in a market in south Delhi doing her shopping
with her husband Umed Singh. A hesitant namaste led to the impressed
citizen offering the controversial couple cold drinks. Phoolan
Devi, enjoying her new found celebrity status, asked if she could do
something for the citizen.
"Yes, would you be so kind to get me my phone connection?
Even the orders for the installation of the phone were issued
two months ago, but they are dilly-dallying on one excuse or the
She thrust her card in the stranger's hands who had accosted
her a few moments earlier and asked him to meet her the next morning.
At the appointed hour, Phoolan Devi was ready to do the task.
The general manager of the Delhi telephones was left in no doubt
that his job depended on the installation of just one number.
And before the evening was out, it was duly installed. The proud
owner of the new telephone is now rooting for more Phoolan Devis
In dry Hyderabad, a former federal finance secretary who had
also done a stint as an ambassador, was a little indiscreet
in quenching his thirst for the ritual evening tipple with a swig
or two from his bottle of Scotch. The former official, now on the
board of a host of private companies, was staying at a leading
hotel in the Andhra Pradesh capital when someone found him breaking
the prohibition law.
A minor scandal would have erupted
but for the errant tippler's old bureaucratic connections.