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Capital Buzz/Virendra Kapoor

A sleepy PM

The late chief executive councillor of Delhi, Radha Raman, was known to snooze in the midst of official meetings. He caused much consternation and merriment in the Delhi administration by sleeping through meetings and, on waking up, insisting that those present resume from the moment where he had dozed off. This way half-hour meetings would extend to two or more hours.

Well, Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda is beginning to emulate the late Raman. The other day, four Congress leaders from Punjab, including former minister of state for external affairs R L Bhatia, former minister of state for tourism Sukhbans Kaur (left) and Rajya Sabha member Surinder Singhla, went to meet Deve Gowda in his office at Parliament House about the neglect of their state by successive federal governments.

He welcomed them profusely but was surprisingly at sea about their identities. This was a strange lapse on the part of his office. Even if Deve Gowda did not know who Bhatia or Bhinder or Singhla were, he ought to have been fully briefed about them before the meeting.

After the introductions, when they began to talk business, the prime minister dozed off. When he came to, he mentioned how fed up he already was about the petty bickerings he had to put up with in the Cabinet meetings between Mulayam Singh Yadav (right) and his ministers on the one side and Laloo Yadav's ministers on the other. And, as the Congress leaders began to plead for a new railway line in Punjab, the prime minister again shut his eyes and fell silent a la Radha Raman for long moments.

Several others, including senior government officials, have come back frustrated after their meeting with a snoozing and snoring prime minister in recent days.

Chandra Swami's latest gambit

The threat by Chandra Swami's lawyer, Ashok Arora, to expose politicians and to "cleanse the system" has had the desired effect, at least in one expected quarter. The beleaguered Congress president, P V Narasimha Rao, (right) moved fast to quell the challenge which could land him in big trouble. A proprietor-editor of a Hindi newspaper was sent as an emissary to quieten the conman.

What transpired at the meeting is not known, but the emissary was confident that the latter got the message. The message being, Chandra Swami would have to "spell the beans" at his own cost since Rao was big enough to protect himself.

Educating ministers

Minister for Water Resources Janeshwar Misra had reason to be confused. No sooner did the sensitive matter of water-sharing come up in question hour than a large number of MPs from Tamil Nadu were on their feet, gesticulating and shouting in English.

They demanded that the judgment of the Cauvery water tribunal be implemented in toto and sought to know why a new chairman for the tribunal had not been appointed. A few members muttered angrily in Tamil. Some even remarked that whether or not the ruling alliance lasted, their first priority was to get irrigation water for Tamil Nadu. Curiously, the show of anger by the MPs was being orchestrated by Misra's ministerial colleague.

On cue from the minister, who belonged to the DMK, his party members alternately raised the roof and fell silent. The MPs' noisy performance left Misra flabbergasted. He was at a loss as to the reason for their sudden anger and equally sudden silence. In an aside, he wondered what "these dhotiwallahs wanted".

Later, in the central hall of Parliament, he tried to mollify the Tamil Nadu contingent. And asked more than one of his tormentors whether he belonged to "Moopanar's (left) party" only to be told no. Finally, one MP came to Misra's rescue. And said that all of them were from the DMK. "You can recognise us from our dhotis. We have a red and black border on them."

No TMC member was in the House that day as they were away in Tiruchi to attend the party's first state conference.

A head for prayers

Somvati Amavasya on Monday, July 15, was observed by the deeply religious President, Shankar Dayal Sharma (right) with prayers in Rashtrapati Bhavan from 3.30 pm to 6 pm. The 70-year-old Andavan Swamy from Sri Rangam was called in to bless the 76-year-old President, who prostrated himself before the holy man.

As the prayer hall echoed to the sound of taped bhajans, Sharma took off his cap so that the feet of silver could be placed on his bare head. A conch and wheel were placed on the president's shoulder as part of the elaborate ritual, even as grains of rice dyed yellow were thrown on him like confetti.

Afterwards the priests chanted shlokas, both in Tamil and Sanskrit. Ostensibly the entire exercise was meant to ensure Sharma's moksha (salvation) but if it also helped him in getting a second term at Rashtrapati Bhavan, it could well be the added bonus.

It pays to be dumb

Remember S Jaipal Reddy?(right) The most visible face of the Janata Dal has, of late, disappeared from public view, thanks to the dominant group in the Laloo Yadav-led party.

The man who did a commendable job, rooting for the Dal during the run-up to the last election and a few weeks after that, has been completely sidelined. He is no more the JD spokesman. That is why you don't hear memorable one-liners such as this one about the expelled JD leader Ramakrishna Hegde, "It will be a mistake to confuse manners with morals."

The last one heard was that Reddy might be accommodated as deputy chairman of the planning commission.

United Front football

Opinion was divided in the Samajwadi Party on whether the new U P governor,Romesh Bhandari, (left) would protect the party's interests in the state. SP chief and Defence Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav was persuaded by a couple of Delhi-based fixers that Bhandari was an easy-going person amenable to influence since he had a weakness for "all good things in life".

But Communications Minister Beni Prasad Verma later convinced Yadav that Bhandari would be an "agent" of the BSP-Congress combine. So the two protested to Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda against Bhandari's appointment, but to no avail.

Meanwhile, the official order announcing the appointment of Cabinet Secretary T S R Subramaniam in Surinder Singh's place had also run into trouble. Yadav threatened to quit the government if Subramaniam was given the coveted post. The SP boss fears that Subramaniam, a brahmin whom he had removed as UP chief secretary when he was the chief minister, would be unfriendly towards him and his party.

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