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Capital Buzz / Virendra Kapoor

Kesri too needs to be saved

Sitaram Kesri Congress president Sitaram Kesri (right) is miffed with Attorney General Ashok Desai. Kesri believes Desai is not doing enough to save him and other Congress leaders embroiled in the JMM MPs bribery case.

Former petroleum minister Satish Sharma's aide, B N Sataya, it seems, has told the Central Bureau of Investigation that a part of the money allegedly given as bribes to the four Jharkhand Mukti Morcha MPs in July 1993 in order to save the Narasimha Rao government in Parliament had come from the Congress treasurer, that is, Kesri himself.

The rest of the money the captain had managed to secure from a group of industrialists who were given lucrative contracts by the petroleum ministry. Kesri recently expressed his ire against Desai to an intermediary. On his part, the attorney general is neither in a position to intervene in Kesri's favour nor did he appear to be so inclined.

In his quieter moments, Desai is given to ruminate whether he was right to have accepted the official assignment. After all, he had a roaring practice as a senior Supreme Court lawyer . The honour and recognition that comes with being the AG was well worth the monetary sacrifice, but Desai had not reckoned that he would face flak from his fraternity for the acts of the H D Deve Gowda government which intervened recently to save Rao from his legal problems.

Leaking like a sieve

Satish Sharma While on the JMM case, a section in the CBI is hopping mad that someone among their senior bosses tipped off Satish Sharma about the impending raids on his farmhouse in south Delhi and his opulent bungalow in the Mussoorie hills in Uttar Pradesh. The finger of suspicion points to a senior official who recently took charge of all court-directed investigations.

It seems the raid was planned two days before it was actually conducted. The said official called it off at the last moment. Sharma, who was planning to leave for Czechoslovakia a few days later, advanced his visit, but not before he had fully sanitised his MP's home on Safdarjung Road and his private properties in Delhi and Mussoorie.

The CBI official is believed to have softpedalled investigations in the Bofors case during the Rajiv Gandhi regime. He was replaced at the helm of the investigation when V P Singh became prime minister.

In spite of being warned about the raid, Sharma may be prosecuted under the anti-corruption act for having amassed wealth disproportionate to his known sources of income. Before Rajiv picked him up as his Man Friday in the early 1980s, Sharma lived in a two-room rented house in south Delhi. His farmhouse and his summer home in Mussoorie alone would be worth Rs 300 million at today’s prices.

Confirmation by denial

A H Ahmadi In order to still the controversy sparked off by the prime minister’s unscheduled, nocturnal meeting with the Chief Justice of India at the latter’s home, the government appointed the new chairman of the National Human Rights Commission with supersonic speed.

Retired Chief Justice of India M N Venkatchalliah was not even consulted before his name was announced as the NHRC's chairman-designate in place of Justice Ranganath Misra who is due to retire next month. Ironically, a section of the legal community in the capital found further proof of a conspiracy in the very attempts by the government to deny that there was anything afoot when Deve Gowda called unannounced to meet Chief Justice A H Ahmadi a few days ago.

That the clarification from the government about the actual time of the meeting came two days before the crucial meeting of the Supreme Court Bar Association was one such piece of evidence. The SC Bar Association was to take up a resolution by a large section of its members expressing its misgivings about the midnight Ahmadi-Deve Gowda pow-wow. But the clincher came when the government rushed to announce Justice Venkatachalliah’s appointment as the next NHRC chairman without securing his consent.

This was clearly aimed at smothering the hush-hush talk in legal circles that Justice Ahmadi would replace Justice Misra and that Justice J S Verma would be superseded and instead Justice M M Punchchi appointed the next Chief Justice of India. Premature leakage and the adverse reaction of the press and the SC Bar torpedoed the plan.

Believers all

H D Deve Gowda Prime Minister Deve Gowda is deeply religious. For years he had made a point to be personally present at the inaugural of the Mysore Dasshera festival. Thanks to his preoccupation with politics, the honour of opening the festival this year went to famous Kannada film star Raj Kumar. But like every year, Deve Gowda has given up eating onions and garlic for the period of Navarathras and performs his pooja dutifully every morning.

Former prime minister P V Narasimha Rao too is observing Navrathras with added religious fervour this year. A priest performs special prayers in the afternoon at 9, Motilal Nehru Marg. He is invariably joined by Rao's second daughter who has been staying with her father ever since his legal troubles mounted in recent months.

Another former PM Chandra Shekhar has taken to wearing the rudrakasha given to him by the Kanchi shankaracharya. He hardly stirs out of his sprawling Bhondsi ashram while he sports the rudraksha for the period.

Finally, another former premier, the 'communal' Atal Behari Vajpayee behaves during Navarathras just as he does round the year.

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