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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 them.

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 president.

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.

Taslimuddin's commission

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 commission.

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 other."

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 politics.

Policing tipplers

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.

Capital Buzz

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