Capital Buzz/Virendra Kapoor
Vaghela's midnight call
Shankarsinh Vaghela (left) was in Bombay early this month, ostensibly for a couple of public engagements. But his real
purpose was to call on an ailing businessman
and thank him for having provided the necessary wherewithal
to fulfill Vaghela's ambition of becoming chief minister of
The controversial businessman is no enemy of
the BJP. What had irked him was that Vaghela, his favourite candidate for
ruling Gujarat, was bypassed by his favourite party in preference
to men who were not particularly protective of his many
interests in the state.
The industrialist, it is said, called BJP president L K Advani, during last year's Khajuraho escapade by the Vaghela group, to offer his services as a
peacemaker. Advani spurned the offer disdainfully, but that
resulted in Vaghela taking his revolt to its logical conclusion. Last month, the BJP renegade
was sworn in as chief minister with the help of the Congress party.
The man who accompanied Vaghela to the businessman's home that night was
Kashiram Rana. The former chief of the BJP's Gujarat
unit is is still with the parent party. Though everyone knows where his sympathies lie,
none in the BJP's central leadership is willing to take
action against him. Such is the paralysis in the Hindutva party of late.
Mr Fixer '96
Who is the second most powerful man in the capital after Prime Minister
H D Deve Gowda? Without doubt, Amar Singh, the
recently- appointed general secretary of Defence Minister Mulayam
Singh Yadav's Samajwadi Party.
Indeed, in political circles,
there are some who rate him even more powerful than Deve Gowda
because of his uncanny ability to make the prime minister do his
It was Amar Singh who had the defence ministry bail out Amitabh Bachchan's (left) Miss World show by placing the facilities of the Indian Air Force and
the army at the disposal of the controversial organisers.
Unmindful of the criticism that was bound to follow the
commandeering of defence facilities for commercial exploitation
by Bachchan, a not-so-clever ploy was devised whereby the
Karnataka home minister wrote to the defence ministry which, in
turn, promptly pulled out all stops to make the Bangalore-based
IAF base and the army virtual co-hosts of the Miss World extravaganza.
The small contributions to the army and IAF welfare funds are unlikely to
still the controversy resulting from the misuse of defence
establishments for commercial ends.
Digging for gold
After Prannoy Roy
took his programmes to Rupert Murdoch's
Star TV and the state-owned Doordarshan promptly spiked his
Tonight newscast, several producers have been
wooing Information and Broadcasting Minister
Chand Mahal Ibrahim. (right)
But Ibrahim has decided not to assign news programmes to private producers,
even though he has been stringing them along. Such is his disdain for
non-DD news programmes that should he have his way TV Today's
Aaj Tak may soon be terminated.
The rationale behind the I&B ministry's decision cannot be faulted. DD has
the largest network of correspondents in the
country. None can match its infrastructural and technical
facilities. What is lacking is a courageous leadership able to
give DD staffers autonomy. Ibrahim is keen to prove that DD can
create better news programmes than any private producer.
All this may be unexceptionable, but why does he then keep
wannabe producers in suspense? Why doesn't he end
their misery by announcing the ministry's decision? Or
can the decision be changed depending on the pressures that can
be brought to bear on him?
Self-praise at taxpayers's cost
Railway Minister Ram Vilas Paswan (left) has emerged as a true
friend of the newspaper industry. No other minister in the Deve
Gowda government has bought so much advertising space in recent
months as Paswan has.
Whether it is to relaunch a particular
railway line or to re-open for the nth time a rail bridge or to
re-christen an old train, Paswan can be relied upon to issue the
mandatory full page ad complete with his photograph along with
the regulation mug shot of the prime minister in newspapers
across the country.
Now it seems the Paswan bug has bitten some
of his ministerial colleagues too. Federal Minister of
State for Petroleum T R Balu was at odds with the Directorate
of Audio-Visual Publicity when he insisted that a
photograph of Deve Gowda be inserted in an advertisement announcing
the inauguration of the third phase of the Hazira gas processing
complex in Gujarat.
Balu was to inaugurate the complex. Gujarat Chief
Minister Shankarsinh Vaghela was to preside over the function.
DAVP officials pointed out it was not its practice to carry the
PM's photograph in such ads. Balu not only insisted the DAVP do so, but to
ingratiate himself with Deve Gowda, he asked for a message from the premier for the
inaugural function. Then he insisted that the ads be released to
newspapers in his home state, Tamil Nadu. The DAVP had
only budgeted for releasing the ads in the Gujarat-based press.
Racketeering as usual
What goes on in the Central Bureau of Investigation needs to
be watched carefully as the country's apex investigative agency
probes the more sordid doings of the high
Satish Sharma (right) is one of the accused in the JMM bribes-for-vote
case. The CBI raided his homes in Delhi and
Mussoorie last month in connection with the case. Assets far in
excess of his known sources of income were found by the agency.
Now a notorious liaison man close to the United Front government
is exerting considerable influence to save Sharma's skin. He
interceded on Sharma's behalf with a senior CBI official. The
two were closeted together in the latter's home for over an hour
The income tax authorities are yet to move against
Sharma for possessing assets far in excess of his known sources
Incidentally, this liaison man had earlier
brokered a deal between Sharma and Mulayam Singh Yadav whose
Samajwadi Party did not field a candidate against the then petroleum minister
in Amethi in the 1996 general election.