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Capital Buzz / Virendra Kapoor

Cash at the back door, please!

Now that former telecommunications minister Sukh Ram (left) hogs centrestage, an interesting facet as to how and where the money was collected has emerged. Investigators have been told by the class IV staff, including the security detail at Sukh Ram's house, that they were instructed to let in vehicles by his personal staff in two distinct manners. These instructions were to be followed even when he was away in his office or outside town.

Those merely visiting him or someone in his family would be allowed to drive up to the main door of the minister's living room. But those bringing in the precious moolah in briefcases or bundles wrapped in old newspapers would not go in through the main entry to the house.

Instead, these vehicles would drive around the sprawling bungalow and approach the back door from where a dutiful confidante of the minister would emerge, take the proffered bundle and disappear into the house. The car, which had come in with the cash, would then drive away as soon as it had delivered its cargo to Sukh Ram's trusted family member. The whole operation would take less than a minute or two.

Gowda's fasting pangs

Not only is Prime Minister Deve Gowda (right) is a firm believer in God, he is also quite supersitious. He wanted to observe a fast every Monday, in order to keep physically fit and also as a mark of respect to the dead. Monday happens to be the day he lost both his parents.

The first Monday, Deve Gowda went without eating or drinking anything with some difficulty. But he was under considerable strain due to his long work schedule and consequent lack of sleep.

On the second Monday, on the advice of his doctor, Deve Gowda settled for light liquid nourishment, so that he would be feel less fatigued.

By the third Monday, the prime minister still had difficulty keeping his fast. At the world poultry conference in New Delhi, he was distinctly restless. Now his doctor has advised him that, in addition to the fresh fruit juice, Deve Gowda should take his dinner on Mondays.

Karnataka's turn now

Karnataka cadre IAS officer Chiranjiv Singh has had a good equation with several former state chief ministers, including Ramakrishna Hegde and S R Bommai.

When Bommai (left) became the human resource development minister in the Deve Gowda government, he recomended Singh for the post of India's permanent representative at UNESCO in Geneva.

The plum post had hitherto been the monopoly of Indian foreign service officials. The foreign ministry spokesman had an eye on the post and went to the Congress (T) leader Arjun Singh when his claim for the same were bypassed in favour of an IAS officer.

Now, an anonymous circular is doing the rounds in bureaucratic circles alleging that Singh was a misfit for the job, particularly since he had violated service discipline by taking part in a demonstration against Operation Blue Star.

When the file went to the prime minister for his approval, Deve Gowda lost no time in okaying the appointment. The anti-Singh lobby did not reckon with Deve Gowda's penchant for Kannada-speaking officers. The IFS is now is miffed at the loss of one of its key posts to an IAS officers.

Market-savvy CBI chief

Whether he is a bumbling fool or an ace sleuth, Joginder Singh's (right) appointment as director of the Central Bureau of Investigation is at least helping him market his books.

The two books, Some Untold Tales and Ways of Success and Happiness in Life were fortituously released around the time he became the CBI chief. And, as he attracted daily mention in the media, the sale of his books picked up.

No doubt the fare is indifferent and uninspiring but, thanks to his aggressive manner of pushing them, the two books might make the best seller list. The first print order of 500 copies of each book has almost been sold out. A second run is on the way.

It seems that Singh is in the habit of greeting his visitors with a copy of the book personally ascribed by him. A large number of visitors end up ordering more copies. A few public sector units like BHEL and a couple of nationalised banks have placed orders for a sizable number of copies.

Bare at the top

All is not well in the BJP. Hawala, Gujarat and faction fights down the line have all dented the party's image. The top brass of the party is now beset with another problem.

Party president L K Advani's second term is due to end early next year. Since the party constitution forbids more than two consecutive terms, the wise men of the Hindutva parivaar are mulling over the choice of a new president.

Murli Manohar Joshi, denied a second term because of his disastrous performance in the first, is keen to replace Advani. But RSS general secretary Rajinder Singh, or Rajju bhaiyya, (right) is dead against Joshi.

The party cannot fall back on Atal Behari Vajpayee yet again, for fear of exposing itself to the charge that it is too much dependent on him. Three names have emerged as front runners, should the presidency go out of the Advani-Vajpayee groove. These are Govindacharya, Pramod Mahajan and Kalyan Singh. Govindacharya, intellectually superior than most in the BJP, is a favourite at the moment but he could be pipped to the post when the time comes, depending on the party's fortunes in UP and Maharashtra.

A low-key Nehru wedding

Arun Nehru, the multinational executive-turned-politician-turned political columnist, will have celebrated the marriage of his second daughter, Avantika, by the time you read this column. The bridegroom is a New York-based Indian whom Avantika met while she was on holiday to the US.

Unlike the marriage of his first daughter with the son of shipping tycoon Ravi Tikoo - the marriage eventually ended in messy divorce proceedings in a Delhi court - celebrations, this time, were rather muted.

Nehru called a couple of personal friends to his farm house on the outskirts of south Delhi for a quiet dinner, two days before the wedding. The wedding itself was celebrated in a five star hotel on Friday. But neither the bridegroom's party, nor the bride's party, commandeered the whole Ashoka hotel this time as the Tikoos had done a couple of years ago.

As Nehru told his guests, he had taken care not to act as the match-maker this time. "It is a love match. I have no role to play in this marriage. And, like any other parent, fervently wish that this is a happy one and for keeps."

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