Capital Buzz/Virendra Kapoor
When in the wrong, blame the press. The Narasimha Rao faction
in the Congress party blames the media, especially the New Delhi-based
newspapers, for their leader's sorry plight. His aides accuse
the press of demonising him. And of glorifying Sitaram Kesri,
the Congress party president and his bete noire.
A senior minister in the Rao government, still loyal to the former
prime minister, was so worked up against the press that, at a
recent banquet to honour Chinese President Jiang
Zemin, he buttonholed a veteran journalist to complain against
what he called the pro-Kesri and anti-Rao coverage of Congress
"You are biased against Rao because he hails from the south.
And you write in favour of Kesri because he has had very good
relations with newspaper owners. And is known to keep journalists
happy. Rao is never seen in the central hall (of Parliament) whereas
Kesri has been a regular fixture there, buying you journalists
endless cups of coffee and gulab jamuns over the decades..."
After he had abused the media, the
former minister sought the scribe's help in 'correcting' the media
perception of Rao. "Will it help if I took a group of senior
journalists to Rao for a face-to-face chat?" asked the
The journalist retorted that the media could no longer rescue Rao.
"He can be saved from political oblivion only if he is acquitted
honourably in all court cases. And in the not-so-distant future,
While on the Kesri-Rao divide in the Congress party, it is interesting
that, despite his mounting legal and political troubles, the former
prime minister continues to behave in a rather haughty manner.
He is inaccessible as always to the press as also to a large section
of his partymen. Kesri, in sharp contrast, is easily accessible
even after becoming Congress president.
Rao avoids the press like plague. Kesri loves the press. And woos
it with nuggets of inside information. But the Kesri camp has
a ready explanation for Rao's show of unflappability. "Deve
Gowda knows that he can continue as prime minister only so long
as Rao is the leader of the Congress Parliamentary Party. Once
we remove him as the CPP leader, Deve Gowda too will go. That
explains why he was so keen for Rao to get some respite from his
Kesri loyalists concede, at the same time, that it will not be
easy to remove Rao as CPP leader.
Switched and saved
Orissa Chief Minister J B Patnaik may yet retain his job, despite
rumours to the contrary. The recent removal of Harcharan Singh Brar as Punjab's chief minister by Sitaram Kesri had fueled speculation that the axe would soon fall on Narasimha Rao's loyalist in Orissa.
The state youth Congress president, Sharad Patnaik, a second term
member of the Lok Sabha, performed the rescue act on behalf of
the beleaguered chief minister. With Kesri assured of the chief
minister's loyalty to him, he pronounced him safe for the moment.
Apparently, Patnaik had come to the rescue of the Rao-led AICC
whenever it faced internal problems. Similar assistance has been assured
to Kesri. For public consumption, the Patnaik government
will not be disturbed because "it is truly secular. Two
Sikhs, two Muslims and two Christians are ministers in the Orissa
government. There are no atrocities on the weaker sections..."
Federal Minister of state for Personnel S R Balasubramaniam
and his 85-year-old mother were recently on a thanksgiving pilgrimage
in Uttar Pradesh. On
his return, some DMK members noticed that Balasubramanian was
wearing black and red threads on his right forearm.
A senior Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam MP could not help ribbing the
minister who was elected to the Lok Sabha on a Tamil Maanila
Congress ticket. "Hey, are you joining the DMK? Otherwise,
why do you wear the red and black colours of our party?"
For once, Balasubramaniam was stumped for an answer.
Bhandari's colourful past
The Bharatiya Janata Party is hopping mad at UP Governor Romesh Bhandari. And not without reason. For the controversial Bhandari refuses to invite the largest party in the state assembly to try its hand at government-formation.
Given Bhandari's rather colourful and controversial past, the
BJP has prepared a dossier of sorts on the UP governor. And one
of the several retired foreign service officials who joined the
BJP in the wake of the Ram temple movement has this interesting
tale to tell.
It seems when he was foreign secretary, Bhandari would often
ring up Indian ambassadors and gently suggest to them to lay the
red carpet for Chandra Swami. The embassies
on Chandra Swami's itinerary were encouraged to organise receptions
for him by prominent non-resident Indians. "It was at these
get-togethers that Chandra Swami picked up rich NRIs and took
them on a merry ride..."
Who do you think was foreign minister when Bhandari was foreign
secretary? Who else but Chandra Swami devotee, P V Narasimha Rao?
And the prime minister was none other than Rajiv Gandhi who stood
to gain from the St Kitts scam.
Incidentally, Chandra Swami's friend, international arms dealer
Adnan Khashoggi, had specially flown in to attend Bhandari's son's
wedding. The newly-weds spent their honeymoon on Khashoggi's
Laloo's foreign policy
Just as well the beleaguered Janata Dal president and chief minister of Bihar, Laloo Prasad Yadav, missed the opportunity to be prime minister. Had the BJP-Samata Party combine not done as well as it did in the recent parliamentary poll in Bihar, that catastrophe would have been hard to avert.
Yadav was recently in the capital to preside over the Surajkund
talkathon of the Janata Dal. There he buttonholed External
Affairs Minister I K Gujral of the Leninesque goatee fame. Asked
Yadav, ";Koi treaty-breaty kiya? Koi astar kharida?
(Did you sign any treaty? Did you buy any armaments?)" The
JD chief was inspired to ask these questions in view of the recent
visit of Chinese President Jiang Zemin to this country.