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Capital Buzz/Virendra Kapoor

The last-minute bench

Former prime minister P V Narasimha Rao's (right) filed a special leave petition in the Supreme Court against the orders of the Delhi high court. The high court had upheld the decision of the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, Delhi, to name him as co-accused in the Lakhubhai Pathak cheating case. The petition, though, has not only seen the change of Rao's counsel but also a last-minute change of the SC bench itself.

While it has been widely noticed that Kapil Sibal was replaced by K Parasaran as Rao's senior counsel in the case, little or no attention has been paid to the switch in the bench. Initially, Rao's petition was listed before the two-member bench of Justice M P Singh and Justice S C Sen. However, the case was eventually given to Justice S C Aggarwal and Justice G T Nanavati.

The case was listed before the earlier bench, before the Chief Justice of India, Justice A H Ahmadi, and his number two, Justice Kuldip Singh, left for Helsinki to attend an international law conference. The supplementary list, which slotted the case before Justices Aggarwal and Nanavati, was drawn up with Justice J S Verma officiating as the Chief Justice of India.

Though a change in the initial list is not entirely unknown, the switch of the bench in such a politically sensitive case has led to much under-the-breath comment in the capital's legal circles.

Missing birthday boy

Birthdays of politicians are important occasions in Tamil Nadu, especially since they allow their fan clubs and followers to shower adulation on them. For Tamil Manila Congress president G K Moopanar's (left) 62nd birthday last week, TMC workers organised prayers in 62 temples across the state.

Giant cardboard cut-outs were put up at busy thoroughfares and processions taken out in his honour. Moopanar, who teamed up with Karunanidhi's DMK to trounce Jayalalitha's AIADMK and Narasimha Rao's Congress in the recent state and parliamentary polls, is hailed by his followers as Tamil Nadu's second Kamraj. A member of the TN assembly went one better and called him the Mahatma Gandhi of Tamil Nadu.

But the only thing missing in all the festivities on August 19 was the birthday boy himself. Moopanar deliberately planned to be neither in Delhi nor in Madras on his birthday. Instead, he chose to be in Ayodhya and returned to the capital late in the evening, only to take the last flight to Madras.

A messenger bearing a congratulatory bouquet of flowers on behalf of President S D Sharma returned without delivering it. He was stymied by a lock on Moopanar's door in the Western Court Hostel. Several other well wishers, including a liaison man of a controversial textile company, returned disappointed from Western Court that day.

Not easy to carve UP

Although Prime Minister Deve Gowda did announce the formation of the Uttarakhand state in his Independence Day address to the nation, it will be quite a while before the mighty Uttar Pradesh is carved out. Defence Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav (right) remains totally irreconciled to the idea.

"Gowda's announcement will certainly help neutralise, to a certain extent, the Uttarkhandis' hostility towards us but, eventually, they will go with the BJP or N D Tiwari and not the Samajwadi Party," Yadav confided to a senior scribe.

Even Congress leader Ajit Singh insists privately that it will fuel the move for a separate Jat-dominated state by carving out what is now western UP. The large UP IAS and IPS cadre, too, is not happy with the idea of a separate state. This would mean that some of them will be alloted to the new cadre.

The new union cabinet secretary, T S R Subramaniam, a UP cadre officer, reckons that not many bureaucrats are keen to go on deputation to another state as it affects their seniority. The personnel department is studying the question of a separate Uttarakhand cadre.

Banking on connections

The Indian Bank which reported a loss of Rs 133.6 billion for 1995-96, has a rather strong Tamil Maanila Congress connection. Its former chairman, M Gopalakrishnan, who ran the bank as his personal fiefdom, was very close to the TMC President, G K Moopanar.

Thanks to Moopanar, Gopalakrishnan was given a three-year extension despite it being known that the bank was involved in the 1992 bank stock scam. A senior bank official and the bank's chauffeur-driven car were at Moopanar's disposal whenever he was in Delhi. This went on for as long as Gopalakrishnan was the chairman.

The bank is known to have disbursed loans of upto Rs five billion to people close to the TMC leaders. But with P Chidambaram (above, left) as the union Finance Minister, it is unlikely that the Indian Bank-TMC nexus would ever be proved.

Fixed by the fixer

R C Sharma, the joint director of the Central Bureau of Investigation, has not allowed the controversy dogging him to cramp his style. As the head of the Bofors case investigations, he made several trips abroad only to ensure that no useful information was given to India.

Recently, a notorious laision man close to former fertiliser minister R S Yadav was raided by the FERA directorate in connection with the urea case, but not before he was tipped off about the raid. The matter was hushed up even as the FERA suspect took off to London with a small-time Delhi fixer.

But unmindful of the antecedents of the fixer, who acting for the FERA suspect for a price, Sharma was openly seen hobnobbing with him the other day. Apparently, Sharma was promised a promotion by the fixer. Even though that has not come about, he remains hopeful.

The fixer in tow with his lady friend and Sharma and his wife were so audacious as to dine publicly in a five star hotel. Both R C Sharma and his fixer friend have now discovered a common Rohtak connection.

Vajpayee's pat for Gowda

Whether or not Prime Minister Deve Gowda's maiden oration in Hindi from the ramparts of the Red Fort on August 15 impressed the Hindi zealots, one man was thoroughly pleased.

Atal Behari Vajpayee (right) , the leader of the opposition and by far the best orator in Hindi the country has known in recent decades has never been one to flinch on praise when it is due. He was among the first to personally compliment Gowda for his extraordinary feat.

Vajpayee felt that it was no mean achievement for Gowda to have continuously read on valiantly for 40 minutes non-stop from the given text. "It was an admirable and courageous feat worthy of praise."

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