Capital Buzz/Virendra Kapoor
Rao still on Rex
The Rex (restricted exchange) phone is a hot line connecting central
ministers, secretaries to the government of India and a handful
of other top functionaries. Its allotment is a matter of discretion.
But former prime minister Narasimha Rao
continues to enjoy this privilege, even though he is not entitled to it,
thanks to Prime Minister Deve Gowda's (left)
felt need to keep the Congress boss in good humour.
The Rex phone at Rao's residence, 9 Motilal Nehru Marg, is functional.
The ostensible reason is that it is meant for the assistant director of the
special protection group. The truth, however, is that Rao uses it
whenever he needs to contact Gowda or others in the government.
Last week, Rao asked Gowda to ensure that his private secretary,
R Khandekar, was given access to
confidential documents in the ministry of external affairs.
Rao wanted to buttress his defence by proving that he was not
in New York on the day Lakhubhai Pathak,
who has filed a case of cheating against Rao, said he met him there
with conman Chandra Swami. After
going through the records, Rao's counsel asserted in the Delhi
high court that Rao was not in New York on the said day.
Security to Rao's rescue
A little drama was played out behind the scenes in the Delhi high
court last Tuesday, unknown to most people curious about the fate
of Narasimha Rao (left) in the cheating case.
Minutes before Justice S K Mahajan granted
Rao exemption from personal appearance in the following day's
proceedings before the chief judicial magistrate at Tees Hazari, senior
Delhi police officials approached the registrar of the high court with an
unusual request. The police pleaded their inability to ensure protection
to the former prime minister, should he be constrained to make an
appearance at the Tees Hazari court. They wanted to know if the
high court would, therefore, be kind enough to direct
the chief metropolitan magistrate to shift the venue of his court
somewhere else, say a room in the Delhi high court building itself.
No one in the high court knew how to handle this extraordinary
oral plea and, yet, no one wanted to ignore it either for obvious
reasons. But there was no question of the Tees Hazari court shifting
its venue. Nor was there a room to spare in the high court building.
Informal consultations eventually resolved the ticklish problem.
Rao was, after all, exempted from putting in a personal appearance
at the Tees Hazari Court. If his lawyer Kapil Sibal
did not succeed in getting him that exemption, at least the Delhi police did.
Signs of senility
Dissident Congress leader, K Karunakaran (right)
is so taken up with his mission to oust Narasimha Rao as party president that,
every time he meets an MP in central hall of Parliament, he pushes a paper
under his nose seeking the latter's signature. The paper is a memorandum
he has drafted seeking Rao's removal. But Karunakaran, in his zeal, often
approaches MPs belonging to the Tamil Maanila Congress who are no
longer with the parent Congress.
A messenger in the Rajya Sabha secretariat went to Karunakaran in the
central hall to inform him that his peon had brought his medicine, which
the former Kerala chief minister is supposed to take daily at 12.30 pm. The
naturopathic medicine is brought in a flask, but Karunakaran was so
absent-minded that he forgot all about it. And, instead, insisted that the
messenger who had come to call him should sign the memorandum.
"I will not take no for an answer. First sign here," he told the bewildered
It took two other MPs some effort to convince Karunakaran that the man
whose signature he insisted on procuring was not an MP at all.
A miffed President
Relations between President S D Sharma (left)
and the United Front leaders began on a sour note, what with furious Janata Dal
MPs throwing all sense of decorum to the winds and hurling accusations at the
head of state because he invited BJP leader A B Vajpayee
to form the government.
The installation of the UF government has failed to lend warmth to the
relationship. In fact, there has been a further cooling of relations between
Sharma and the Deve Gowda government. Sharma was keen on an
official visit to a couple of European countries last May but, due to the
Lok Sabha election and its uncertain aftermath, he had to put it
off. He was then assured that he could make the trip at the
end of August or the beginning of September.
But, once again, the Gowda government has had second thoughts
on the ideal time for the President's visit abroad. Now, it wants him
to schedule his visit for late September or early October. External
Affairs Minister I K Gujral (right)
was supposed to meet the President last Monday (June 22). Much to the President's
annoyance, Gujral's office cancelled the appointment because he
had not yet returned from Jakarta.
Caste games in UP
All eyes are on Communications Minister Beni Prasad Verma
(left). Elected on Mulayam Singh Yadav's
Samajwadi Party ticket from Uttar Pradesh, Verma wields considerable influence
among a section of the caste-ridden UP electorate. There are people who feel
that if he is somehow weaned away from Mulayam Singh Yadav, the SP would
be reduced to being a mere MY (Muslim and Yadav) party, as the other backward
castes would desert it en masse.
The Janata Dal is keen for him to lead it in Uttar Pradesh. Verma had had
at least two nocturnal meetings with the JD working president
Sharad Yadav in recent days. The BJP, too, wouldn't
be adverse to the idea of having him should he agree to be a deputy to
So far Verma has only spurned the overtures of the Bahujan Samaj Party supremo
Kanshi Ram, who had sent feelers to him to join the
BSP-Congress combine and become number two to chief minister-designate
Mayawati. But he still has his other options open.
Journalists are a cynical lot. Rarely, if ever, does anyone escape
their acidic wit.
On the day of the annual budget, as Doordarshan and Star Plus
discussed the pros and cons of P Chidamabaram's
(right) maiden offering, scores of scribes huddled close to the television
in press club. Two prominent editors of financial dailies were
making their presence felt on the small box, dissecting the finer
points of the budget. But, as usual, the editor of a third - which also
happens to be the oldest financial daily - was nowhere in sight.
A friendly scribe queried the missing editor's senior colleague
about this lapse on the part of his boss. The retort was quick and
blunt: "Your editors can discuss money but our editor believes in