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Capital Buzz / Virendra Kapoor

Mystery of the Missing Watches

Runu Ghosh Remember Runu Ghosh, the middle-level government official who was raided by the CBI and jailed in connection with the telecom scam? The widely reported charge against her was that as an active accomplice of former telcom minister Sukh Ram she had amassed assets disproportionate to her known sources of income.

It seems it is now her turn to ask some embarrassing questions. The media had gone to town about the cache of highly priced wrist watches that the CBI had allegedly found in Ghosh's home in north Delhi. Even the high court judge hearing her plea for bail had inquired about those 13 or 14 valuable watches that the press and television news programmes had freely reported about.

It now turns out that the story about the expensive watches was a myth created by the CBI. And the press lapped it all up willing to believe the worst about politicians and bureaucrats. The CBI counsel told the Delhi high court that the value of Ghosh's watches was no more than Rs 28,000.

Whatever happened to those '13 or 14 priceless watches' which the CBI had spoken of initially. Ghosh, who is now out on bail, has told friends that she did have a couple of expensive Rado watches, but the raiding CBI party took these away without caring to list them in the recovery memo. Someone in the CBI is richer by an expensive watch or two at Ghosh's cost.

New Delhi's new fixers

H D Deve Gowda Judicial activism or not, the political culture in Delhi is hard to change. Following the unexpected ascension of H D Deve Gowda on the throne in Delhi, a new set of fixers from Bangalore have set up shop in the capital. A former Janata Dal legislator from Karnataka who did the prime minister's son a good turn recently is a constant in the mini caucus that has emerged around the latter.

Their base in New Delhi is a well-appointed suite in a five star hotel on Sardar Patel road where the needy and the greedy in search of contracts, appointments and policy changes make a beeline.

While the prime minister's son, who is an MP, is the patron, the caucus includes an aide of the late Karnataka chief minister R Gundu Rao and a former private secretary to a Karnataka IPS officer who now heads a premier investigating agency in the capital.

The Waffling president

Shankar Dayal. Sharma Those who saw on television President Shankar Dayal. Sharma take the customary salute on his arrival in foreign capitals on his recent five nation odyssey could not have failed to notice the way he walked. As one Bombay newspaper commented the only reason for him to have undertaken this trip could be a need to give close relatives an all-expense-paid five-star foreign holiday.

His current tenure in Rashtrapati Bhavan is nearing its end and there appears little or no chance of his getting a second term. It is rare, if at all, for any substantive business to be conducted on presidential visits abroad.

That Sharma was not in the best of health to undertake the arduous two-week long trip even if in the comfort of an Air India jet became clear when he had to cancel an engagement in Poland. The 78-year-old President felt too tired in the southern Polish city of Cracow to attend the event.

No to Sahib's Dinner

All is not well with the BJP. The party leadership is either clueless or unable about how to put its house in order. Events in Gujarat and UP reveal that the BJP is being easily out-manoeuvred by its rivals. Even under its very nose in the national capital, there is total disarray in the local BJP unit.

The BJP government in Delhi led by Sahib Singh Verma is at odds with local party officials. This became clear again when the chief minister hosted a dinner at his official residence for the visiting mayor of Moscow last week. It was a sit-down affair. Which is why the boycott by a majority of the BJP members of the Delhi assembly became clear.

Of the 25 odd tables laid out for the guests, only four were occupied. Former chief minister Madan Lal Khurana, who heads the anti-Sahib Singh faction in the BJP legislature party, was one of those who stayed away. So did most of the legislators loyal to him.

Pleasing God and Deve Gowda

Some people are lucky. M M Jacob, governor of Meghalaya, a devout Catholic, was hand-picked by the President to join his party on his recent foreign tour. Jacob, a former vice-chairman of the Rajya Sabha, has a good rapport with Dr S D Sharma from the days when the latter was chairman of the Rajya Sabha.

Jacob did not want to miss the opportunity of visiting the Vatican in the President's company. But there was a hitch. The prime minister had scheduled a week-long visit to the North-East so Jacob's presence would be necessary when H D Deve Gowda came to Meghalaya. No problem.

Deve Gowda was requested to alter his schedule a little so that Jacob could be on hand to receive him when he landed in Shillong. The PM readily obliged. .

A hands-on president

Sitaram Kesri The Congress headquarters at 24, Akbar road is humming with activity yet again. Party president Sitaram Kesri, is no absentee landlord. Unlike his predecessor, P V Narasimha Rao, who rarely visited the party HQ, Kesri makes it a point to be in his office before noon and is invariably there till about two o'clock when he retires for his lunch and siesta. Often, he retires in the ante room in his party office. His presence at 24, Akbar road has compelled Congress general secretaries to show up regularly.

The other day a Congress worker from Uttar Pradesh embarrassed two general secretaries close to the former prime minister when he ranted against Rao for having ruined the party and praised Kesri for his accessibility to ordinary workers like him.

While the two party secretaries wanted Kesri to leave the angry worker alone, the latter went up to him. With his hand on the worker's shoulder, Kesri told the party general secretaries, ''I need to speak to Congressmen to raise their morale, to restore their faith in the leadership.'' Rao wouldn't be amused by this Kesri cameo, but the latter is giving hints that he may not care anymore.

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