Capital Buzz / Virendra Kapoor
Mystery of the Missing Watches
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.