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Capital Buzz/Virendra Kapoor

A matter of protocol

Unlike the Janata Dal where every MP considers himself a senior leader, the regional outfits of the south are hierarchy conscious and, therefore, far more disciplined than Laloo Yadav's party. The party boss in the southern outfits towers head-and-shoulders above everyone else.

DMK president and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi (right) joked with two of his newly-inducted ministers of state in the Deve Gowda government, T R Balu and N V N Somu, that he now faced a dilemma as to how to address them in his correspondence with their respective ministries of defence and petroleum. Both DMK ministers were too overawed by their chief to respond to his banter, which took place soon after the third round of swearing-in of the Deve Gowda ministry.

But Kerala Chief Minister E K Nayanar had a suggestion. Karunanidhi could address all his letters concerning matters about ministries manned by DMK members to the prime minister and send a copy to the ministers concerned. Nayanar said that, in that way, he would also counter the possible charge that the DMK ministers at the Centre were remote controlled by him from Madras.

The solution was okay but considering that the Tamil Nadu chief minister was in the habit of writing half a dozen letters almost daily to the central government, Deve Gowda may find time for little else but to attend to Karunanidhi's demands.

Divide and rule

Two Indian Police Service officers have been appointed as special secretaries in the home ministry to fill the breach left by V K Jain who has finally been put to pasture after numerous extensions in service.

N N Singh, a Bihar cadre IPS officer of the 1961 batch is senior to V S Mathur, the U P cadre IPS officer of the 1962 batch. But it is Mathur who has been given the important internal security portfolio, while Singh has been given such inconsequential assignments as freedom fighters cell and national awards, etc. What is more, Home Secretary K Padmanabiah always dispatches files first to the junior special secretary for the simple reason that he happens to be his batch mate.

The IPS cadres are unhappy at the flouting of the seniority principle. In fact, the CBI chief Vijay Rama Rao (left) suggested to Singh that he revert to his old duties at the CBI. But it is the IAS guys who are thoroughly enjoying the breach in the IPS, in the time-honoured British tradition that the art of administration lay in following the divide-and-rule principle.

Blowing hot over cold drinks

Minister of State for Sports R D Athithan had a roomful of visitors last week, including journalists aspiring to travel to Atlanta for the Olympics coverage. He asked his secretary to order cold drinks from the government canteen for all the visitors present in the room.

Much to his chagrin, the minister's private secretary came back crestfallen. The canteen manager had apparently quoted a government rule which said that only Cabinet ministers were entitled to serve cold drinks to their guests. The rules permit a minister of state to order cold drinks at government expense only for a foreign delegation, and that too for not more than a dozen persons.

Athithan was furious at the canteen's snub and ordered a round of cold drinks at his own expense. He has vowed to have the irrational rule scrapped.

A Nehruvian tale for Deve Gowda

The nation's hall of gossip (we refer to the central hall of Parliament), fully bears witness to the multi-faceted woes of the 13-party ruling coalition. Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda is naturally the butt of much derisive talk, more from the members of the not-so-United Front than others.

A senior Janata Dal leader, who found his ministerial ambitions stymied, harked back to the Nehruvian times to illustrate Deve Gowda's lack of stature. He told his small audience of politicos and scribes with malicious relish about how the first prime minister of India was fond of wearing a red rose on the lapel of his jacket.

It seems the gardener at Teen Murti, then the residence of Jawaharlal Nehru, would present him a fresh rose every morning. One day, he asked Panditji to get his son a peon's job. Panditji mumbled something and the matter rested there until the gardener began to pester him about his son's job every morning, even as he presented him with a rose.

"As was bound to happen, Nehru displayed his famous short temper. 'Arre, bhai, mein tumarey bete ko chaprasi to nahin bana sakta. Pradhan mantri ke nate, use mantri jaroor bana sakta hoon (Look, I cannot make him a peon but, as prime minister, I can certainly make him a minister).

The gardener, the story goes, got the message and stopped pestering him. Even before the JD MP's audience had stopped laughing at Nehru's wit, our ministerial aspirant delivered his punch line, "But Deve Gowda is the only prime minister who cannot make anyone a minister. That power has been usurped by Laloo, Mulayam, Karunanidhi, Naidu... anyone but Deve Gowda."

A ministerial pool

Did K Karunakaran (right) build himself a swimming pool at his official residence while he was the industries minister in the Rao government? After a newspaper reported that he had indeed built one at 9, Krishna Menon Marg, Karunakaran has been at pains to pass it off as a 'small tub.'.

But inquiries reveal that the Cement Corporation of India, a public sector unit under the administrative control of industries ministry, spent Rs 1 million to make a swimming pool in the back lawn of Karunakaran's house for his morning 'ablutions', as his aide put it. The pool may not be Olympic-sized, but it is certainly bigger than a small tub. Laid with glazed titles, it has of a regular provision for fresh water and drainage.

It is commonplace for public sector units to provide for the comforts of their ministers-in-charge.

Wealthy leaders, bankrupt party

A well-respected ad agency owner has been running from pillar to post to recover his dues from the Congress party. The long-term treasurer of the party, Sitaram Kesri, (left) pleads shortage of funds as the reason for non-payment.

The party owes the said agency about Rs two million from the time the late Rajiv Gandhi had personally approved the campaign for the 1991 Lok Sabha election. Kesri had promised to pay after the 1996 election. Following the party's rout, Kesri's excuse remains unchanged: "Let us see after the next election."

Meanwhile, the adman has lost all hope of recovering his long-pending dues.

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