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Capital Buzz/Virendra Kapoor

A solemn Sangma now

Purno Sangma The Lok Sabha Speaker, Purno Sangma, is undergoing a personality change. In his new job, he is trying hard to shed his earlier loud and loquacious persona in favour of a more taciturn one. Sangma has been advised in recent days by no less than the President, S D Sharma, to be less informal while presiding over the proceedings in the house. Last week when Sangma had an occasion to meet the President at a function in the Rashtrapati Bhawan, Sharma had a gentle dig at the Hon'ble speaker. "Oh, yes, I have seen you perform in the Lok Sabha. Come on, yaar, clam down... this is how they used to behave in the British days... I think we are different now..." it seems even the Vice President and the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, K R Narayanan, gave a polite hint or two to Sangma to tone down his conduct. Sangma's hail-fellow-well-met manner seems to hurt those who have traditionally associated solemnity with a tight upper lip and a stand-offish conduct. His free-wheeling manner seen during the nation-wide televised proceedings of the recent confidence motions moved by Prime Ministers A B Vajpayee and Deve Gowda was in sharp contrat to his immediate predecessor, Shivraj Patil's prim and proper behaviour. Even the way Patil and Sangma dressed sets them apart. For Patil always wore a Churidar Pajama and Nehru Jacket or a Sherwani, where as Sangma feels comfortable in informal half-sleeved safari suits. Sangma has now succumbed to tradition in order to be formal and correct.

Withering party, expanding estate

Sonia Gandhi With the courts breathing down their necks, more and more politicians are having to give up their wicked old days. The case in point is the misuse of government housing. While former ministers and MPs are being ejected out of government houses on court orders, there is growing apprehension that soon the focus might shift to the grant of Palatial Bungalows to political parties. Last week the accommodation committee of the cabinet, decided to send a notice to the All India Congress Committee to explain why it still continued to occupy 24 Akbar Road in spite of the party having been allotted a huge piece of land to build its headquarters in the heart of Lutyen's city. The Congress Party was given a huge plot on Raisina Road when Rajiv Gandhi was the Prime Minister. An imposing Building named Jawahar Bhawan, was built through large donations by industrialists, but the AICC Bhawan was commandeered by his widow, Sonia, who turned it into the Hqs of the multi-crore Rajiv Gandhi Foundation. Fearing the court might question the basis on which 24 Akbar Road continued to be the Congress Office, the Housing ministry decided to send a notice to the AICC. The problem however is that none in the Congress can so much as suggest edgeways to Sonia Gandhi to make way for the rightful owners of the Jawahar Bhawan. Maybe the courts will help do just that by ordering the eviction of AICC from 24 Akbar Road unless, of course, some senior party MP offers to help by getting the Bungalow allotted in his name.

A working commission, at last

Rajiv Gandhi Here is some good news for the hard-pressed tax-payers. At last the one-man commission of inquiry, headed by Justice (Retd.) Milap Chand Jain, set up to investigate the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi shows signs of finishing its task. The longest running show in political Delhi, the commission was recently given the nth extension till the end of March next year, but not before the Union Home Minister Indrajeet Gupta had made his displeasure known for the inordinate delay in its failure to complete its work. Justice Jain has been at the receiving end of criticism for perpetuating the life of the commission far beyond its original term. After the latest extension, he came down heavily on the Congress Party Counsel, R N Mittal, for dilly-dallying in furnishing the list of witnesses whom he wanted to examine. When the counsel demurred that the party President had to approve the list, Justice Jain interjected to say that he could not wait till the Congress solved its problems." If you don't submit the list by 16th of September I will have to summon Narasimha Rao to give the list to me on October 7." Justice Jain also did not take kindly to Mittal's plea that former Prime Minister V P Singh should be summoned on October 4 instead of September 24 and October 7 as decided earlier. "How many times can I accommodate you? I cannot jeopardise my work because of your internal politics. The commission has become a laughing stock. The government does not provide information. You do not co-operate...." It does seem that Inderjeet Gupta's coming to the Home Ministry has injected an element of urgency in the Jain Commission. About time too.

Selective enforcement

Dinesh Singh While they pull down the top four illegally built floors of the White House building in the heart of the New Delhi, no attention is paid to the illegal residential colony that had come up on a private dairy land in R K Puram. The scam had first come to notice in mid-eighties. Senior Bureaucrats, cops and politicians were co-opted into the scam by the illegal developer who bought their protection by giving them plots of land almost free. Anant Ram Diary Colony now boasts of former Union Cabinet Secretary, Surinder Singh, late Foreign Minister Dinesh Singh's daughter now a member of the Lok Sabha and quite a few Union territory IAS and IPS officers as its house-owners. Singh, reportedly is now keen to sell his house. The asking price? Rs 75 lakhs. The owners of the flats on the illegal floors of White House are miffed that they are being singled out for a punitive enforcement of law.

Two for the Price of one

Some Airlines, including Air India, offer one ticket free for each first class, or in some cases, full-paid business class ticket. A spoilsport in the Finance ministry mooted the idea some time ago that the complimentary ticket should be given to the government since the latter was paying, in the first place, for the regular ticket. Nothing came of the proposal with the result that senior bureaucrats continued to take their spouses with them almost gratis. Delhi's Lt. Governor, P K Dave, is the latest to benefit from Air India's generosity. He left for South Korea on Tuesday with his wife in tow. The government paid his first class passage where Mrs. Dave tagged along free courtesy the national carrier.

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