Capital Buzz/Virendra Kapoor
Fear of the law, at last
Has former prime minister P V Narasimha Rao lost his nerve? Recent
visitors to his house have come back convinced that, for the first
time, the Congress president is showing signs of desperation.
Rao had retained his equanimity till the Delhi high court rejected
his appeal against the lower court's order, making him an accused
in the Lakhubhai Pathak case. Since then, he breaks into a monologue
about the case without any provocation and says the Supreme Court
cannot uphold the lower court's order.
"I cannot be held responsible for what anyone else did. At
least, I wasn't there in New York when he said I was there. Now,
it is for him (Pathak) to change his statement to the court,"
Rao often tells his visitors who are too polite to refer to the
cheating case. Which is followed by a gratuitous comment or two
on section 319 of the IPC and how it should be interpreted.
Meanwhile, Rao has become so taciturn with the press that he insists
on a written questionnaire before granting an interview.
Much ado about nothing?
Was the telephone tapping controversy the brainwave of a small-time
restaurateur-turned-big-time entrepreneur-politician? The intelligence
community in the capital believes that a Maharashtra Congress
MP was behind the plant in his own newspaper. He was also behind
the report in another newspaper whose correspondent is known to
play ball with thuggish politicians.
The idea was to frighten Prime Minister Deve Gowda into exerting
his considerable energies in the defence of the beleaguered Narasimha
Rao. If, in the process, Deve Gowda glossed over a scandal or two concerning
the said MP while he was a junior minister in the Rao government,
that would be an added bonus. Deve Gowda, of course, failed to see
the trap being laid for him and succumbed to the pressure.
Last Sunday evening, the new CBI chief, Joginder Singh,bumped
into Rao in a seemingly accidental fashion at the wedding reception
for the daughter of former union minister of state for home, Syed
Sibte Razi. He then accompanied Rao to his house for an extended
pow-wow. In order to explain this pre-arranged tryst with Rao,
the CBI boss offered to call on all former prime ministers.
Meanwhile, to lend credence to their phone tapping charade, certain
Congressmen are now dragging in the name of former Intelligence Bureau chief,
D C Pathak. They allege that, to win back Rao's favour, Pathak
tipped off the former PM about the phone taps.
Pathak, of course, did no such thing. He was in Colombo when he
was removed from his post and given the ceremonial sop of
chairman, joint intelligence committee.
CBI chief Joginder Singh is clearly not a run-of-the-mill cop.
He appears to be more of a politician than a government servant.
It took a forthright minister to remind Singh of his true calling
the other day, much to his embarrassment.
It so happened that Singh called on Indrajit Gupta soon after
he took over as the CBI boss, although the CBI is no longer under
the home ministry. He next called on the minister of state for
personnel, S R Balasubramaniam. After the usual exchange of pleasantries,
Singh shed his formal stance and began to gossip about Gupta and
how he had yawned during an official briefing.
Balasubramaniam cut him in mid-sentence. Ticking him off in no
uncertain terms, he told Singh that it was none of his business
if Gupta yawned at his age. In any case, "You should behave
like a government servant and not like a politician."
His mysterious ailment
For several months now, former external affairs minister Pranab
Mukherjee has had a strange skin ailment which resulted reddish
patches on his face. In recent weeks, his skin condition has deteriorated
despite the fact that he has consulted numerous allopathic doctors,
homeopaths and ayurvaids. Even Narasimha Rao and K Karunakaran
offered the services of their special medical advisers, but to
Mukherjee is convinced he contracted this mysterious malady after
he washed his face with soda water in a rural area during the
last Lok Sabha campaign. Since the cause of his ailment still
remains uncertain, many fear it is a contagious disease. And Mukherjee's
detractors, especially Punjab Congressmen seeking the removal
of state chief minister H S Brar, have been spreading the word
that one should keep one's distance from Mukherjee.
Their warning seems to have had an effect. Recently, when Mukherjee
wanted to meet Rao, he was informed that he could instead consult
the party chief over the telephone.
Lal's incognito mission
Former deputy prime minister Devi Lal and former Haryana chief
minister Bhajan Lal are now the best of friends. They have teamed
up to topple the Bansi Lal-led Haryana government.
That both Lals are hurt by the imposition of prohibition in Haryana
by the HVP-BJP government is widely known, since their families
have large stakes in the production and distribution of liquor
in the state. But Devi Lal's secret visit to the US last week,
organised by Bhajan Lal, remains a mystery in political circles.
Bhajan Lal's son personally dropped the former deputy prime minister
at the airport in a gleaming new limousine. Devi Lal's destination
was Orlando, the city famous for Disneyland. Om Parkash Chautala,
Devi Lal's son, wanted to bring Disneyland to Haryana when he
was the state's chief minister.
Lal's US mission was so hush-hush that only a few people in the
government were privy to it.
His day in the sun
Lakhubhai Pathak, the complainant in the cheating case against
Chandra Swami, is thoroughly enjoying his new-found celebrity.
Friends and family members who had no use for him till recently
now crave for his company.
His brother's family in Pune, whom he had not met in decades,
were so impressed that they offered to pay all his expenses in
India. They wanted him to stay in a better hotel in the capital
than the one the CBI had lodged him in.
His son in England, who manages the Pathak pickle and masala empire
had allowed his old father to settle in faraway Mexico. Now, he
too is impressed by all the turmoil Pathak has caused in the Indian
polity and wants him back. "You have achieved your purpose.
Forget the money. You have exacted your revenge against the main
accused. Now leave it and come back."
Even daughter-in-law Meena who flew in from London to persuade
him to give up, failed in her mission. Pathak wants to see the
court case through to the bitter end.