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Capital Buzz / Virendra Kapoor

The Weepy Congress Chief

Sitaram Kesri Congress chief Sitaram Kesri, even at the ripe old age of 78-plus, retains the child-like quality of crying at the drop of a hat. The late newspaper baron, Ram Nath Goenka, too was inclined to weep when overcome with emotion. In Kesri's case, however, one of his detractors in the Congress Working Committee insists, it is his 'second childhood' which causes him to cry like a little baby in front of total strangers for no particular reason.

"How can such a man be trusted to salvage the fortunes of the Congress?" this Kesri foe asked the other day. Kesri, it seems, has done the sob act more than once at CWC meetings. And not just while condoling the deaths of some party leaders, Kesriji has even cried discussing such a routine matter as the challenge of dissidents to P V Narasimha Rao.

Kesri's balancing act

Ever since Sitaram Kesri has become party chief, 10, Janpath has become a little more open and regular in its contacts with the Congress party. V George, an aide to Sonia Gandhi, often talks to Kesri on the phone. Kesri himself is keen to keep Sonia in good humour. But even he baulked when told by 10, Janpath to change the lawyer representing the Congress party before the Jain Commission which is probing Rajiv Gandhi's assassination. Narasimha Rao is likely to appear before the Commission soon.

The lawyer was appointed when Rao was party president, and Kesri did not want to appoint a new advocate for fear of annoying Rao.

Although the Congress lawyer R N Mittal, has been associated with the party for a long time, of late he has identified himself closely with Rao.

Shortage of sleuths

H D Deve Gowda All is not well with the apex intelligence agencies. There are at least 12 senior posts lying unfilled in the Intelligence Bureau and at least eight in the Research and Analysis Wing. But the prime minister seems to have no time to apply his mind to the nitty-gritty of governance.

In the IB even a senior additional director's job has been lying vacant for the last three months. At RAW, which lost quite a fw of its officers to the private sector in the wake of liberalisation, a special secretary's post is among the senior positions lying vacant. A group of secretaries met with the Cabinet secretary last week to consider the problem.

Stagnation in promotion is one of the reasons for lack of manpower. There is another hitch. The Prime Minister's Office is delaying many appointments; H D Deve Gowda has no time to spare from politicking. When the secretaries and the Cabinet secretary met Deve Gowda after their meeting, the prime minister did what comes naturally to him on these occasions: he dozed off.

Later one secrtetary was heard to remark, ''I have worked with three prime ministers, but he is the only one with lead both in his ears as well as in his head!''

Nocturnal misadventure

The adverse reaction from the press and the Supreme Court Bar Association might have forced Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda to issue a clarification about his meeting with the Chief Justice of India. But as they say there is no smoke without a fire.

At least one senior BJP leader from Bihar happened to in the vicinity of Chief Justice A H Ahmadi's home late that night when Deve Gowda emerged from it after an unscheduled meeting with the judge. A day later, the Supreme Court granted P V Narasimha Rao a brief reprieve in the Lakhubhai Pathak cheating case.

Some individuals claim a move to make Justice Ahmadi the next chairman of the National Human Rights Commission misfired because the act establishing the NHRC makes the consent of leaders of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha mandatory for such an appointment.

It is unlikely that BJP veterans A B Vajpayee and Sikandar Bakht, leaders of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha respectively, would agree to Justice Ahmadi's appointment, especially after his controversial nocturnal meeting with Deve Gowda.

The Deve Gowda and Hegde sideshow

Ramakrishna Hegde Former Karnataka chief minister Ramakrishna Hegde is fortunate insofar as he owns a flat in New Delhi from where he conducts his politics, now that he has got no party to call his own. But his bitterness against Deve Gowda, whom he calls do din ka sultan (a two-day wonder) remains undiminished by the passage of time.

While in the capital recently, Hegde met senior Communist leaders to warn them of Deve Gowda's treacherous character. "He is a backstabber. He is using you. He will ditch you the moment it suits his interest. Why are you supporting him when he is embarrassing you every day -- whether on Narasimha Rao or on Bal Thackeray or on the appointment of Romesh Bhandari as UP governor?" The Communist leaders, of course, refused to be drawn into a discussion.

Deve Gowda too misses no opportunity to have a swipe at Hegde. What the prime minister says about Hegde is unfortunately unprintable in a family newspaper like ours.

Paswan lives it up!

Railway Minister Ram Vilas Paswan might want to be the new messiah of the dalits, but he apes the lifestyle of the decadent rich and famous. The minister has the wherewithal to live it up in a manner which a vast majority of dalits can only see in Hindi movies.

A junior Delhi police officer has been cultivating Paswan for a long time. Finding himself transferred to a less lucrative job, the said officer, till recently close to Chandra Swami, sought Paswan's help to stall the move, but in vain.

Recently, Paswan changed his tack. He now wants Delhi Police Commissioner Nikhil Kumar replaced by his favourite officer. The railway minister hasn't had his way yet.


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