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Capital Buzz/Virendra Kapoor

Advani and the hawala club

But for the holier-than-thou attitude of BJP president L K Advani, (left) the hawala club would have been in place by now. It seems that the hawala accused, including V C Shukla, Balram Jakhar and Madhavrao Scindia, are dying to be rid of those painful fetters on their political careers. The sooner the better.

The prime minister himself has given them the impression that he is keen to end the hawala 'charade'. Typically, Deve Gowda did his humble act when a hawala accused saw him and suggested that he come forward with a unanimous proposal from all the hawala accused to end their misery at the earliest.

Shukla informally sounded a couple of BJP people close to Advani. But the response he got left him cold. Apparently, Madan Lal Khurana and Yashwant Sinha, who also face hawala charges, were willing to play ball with others in a similar predicament. But Advani was adamant to have his honour vindicated only through the due process of law even if it took a decade or more.

With Advani taking that unhelpful line, the hawala club proved a stillborn idea.

Generous at people's cost

After having bestowed a cabinet minister's rank on former prime ministers, Prime Minister Deve Gowda has set his heart on winning over a few others by distributing official largesse. The ever-obliging Gowda is toying with the idea of granting a ministerial rank to the chief whips of major political parties.

If all former prime ministers benefitted from Gowda's need to keep Congress president Narasimha Rao in good humour, the real target of his generosity this time is Santosh Mohan Dev. The Congress party's chief whip in the Lok Sabha will get to enjoy the ministerial comforts if the proposal goes through.

Also benefitting from this policy will be Dev's counterpart in the Rajya Sabha, Pranab Mukherjee (above, left). Naturally, the BJP's chief whips would gain by default.

Yadav's Achilles' heel

Ranjan Prasad Yadav, a follower of the late socialist leader Ram Manohar Lohia and a member of the Rajya Sabha, was long considered Bihar Chief Minister and Janta Dal president Laloo Yadav's (right) political guru. But, of late, the teacher and his pupil have been veering apart. The distance between the two has increased further since Yadav failed to make Prasad a minister in the Gowda government.

Meanwhile, Samta Party leader Nitish Kumar has been playing on Prasad's discontent to win him over to his side.

Recently, in a bid to pacify Prasad, Yadav said he would ensure that his erstwhile guru was made chairman of some important commission. An even more incensed Prasad shot back that a nobody like Kanti Singh could be made a minister with independent charge while Yadav offered him chairmanship of some useless commission. Was this because he had a special relationship with Singh?

Yadav was stung to the quick. And retorted that he was aware Prasad had a 'special relationship' of his own with Nitish Kumar these days.

A new defence dealer

The Russians are keen to sell military hardware and spares to India. The defence ministry, under Mulayam Singh Yadav (left) , is equally keen to buy the hardware from the Russians.

The hitch has been created by the middlemen. It seems that, all these years, Russian deals were routed through a couple of well-heeled fixers in New Delhi who serviced private Indian and Russian interests rather well while helping themselves to hefty cuts.

Ever since Yadav, who has a difficult assembly election ahead in UP, was made the defence minister, these middlemen are a harassed lot for he directs them all to one of his trusted advisers. Said adviser happens to be known in political circles as the biggest liaison men of them all. Also, Yadav's high profile in-house fixer-cum-aide wants to cut out all other middlemen so that he grabs the entire loot.

The same man was recently in Moscow to develop contacts of his own, armed with shopping list that included a couple of trainer MIG aircrafts for the Indian armed forces. It seems London and Paris were on his itinerary too.

Meanwhile, a newspaper group, with which Yadav's fixer is associated, is trying hard to distance itself from him. Unfortunately, the embarrassed group has not had much luck so far.

The bitter-sweet cocktail

There was more than just the contentious Almatti dam discussed at the recent meeting of the steering committee of the United Front. The communist parties raised the issue of disinvestment in public sector undertakings which the government planned to undertake soon.

Commerce Minister Murosali Maran (right) put the blame on Finance Minister P Chidambaram, arguing that his budget provided for revenue deficit to be bridged through disinvestment leaving him with no option. In any case, it was part of the common minimum programme of the Front. The Leftists were left mum with this riposte.

West Bengal Chief Minister Jyoti Basu pleaded that Almatti should not be made a political issue. He also felt that the steering committee meetings were erratic.

Prime Minister Deve Gowda wanted to set up a coordination committee which would meet at the beginning of every month to iron out differences among the Front partners.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister K Karunanidhi injected hilarity into the proceedings by wondering which language he should learn now that Bihar Chief Minister Laloo Yadav was learning English and Prime Minister Gowda was trying his hand at Hindi.

Rotten frame of India!

The department of personnel under the prime minister's office, which manages all India class-I services like the Indian administrative service and the Indian police service, is flooded with complaints against these officials.

Complaints against at least 80 IAS officers are being investigated at present. Of these, as many as 20 are from Tamil Nadu alone. Indiscipline, negligence, etc, figure rarely in these plaints; a vast majority pertain to corrupt activities of the officers. Apparently, the officials decided to follow J Jayalalitha's (left) example under her regime.

Even more shocking is the case of Bihar. Of the 60 complaints against IPS officers from all over the country, as many as 52 concern the Bihar cadre officers. The central vigilance commission has its hands full examining these complaints.

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