Capital Buzz/Virendra Kapoor
Once bitten, twice shy
Federal Finance Minister P Chidambaram, (left) who had to resign from the Narasimha Rao government following allegations that he and his wife had
bought privately placed shares of a stock scam-tainted
company, is careful these days to avoid any taint of wrongdoing.
He is at pains to ensure that no charge of corruption is levelled
against anyone in his ministry. All gazetted officers in the ministry
have been asked to submit records of their annual income. His
private secretary is expected to keep tabs on the movements of
Even the peons in the finance ministry are victims of Chidambaram's
cleansing zeal. The strength of the peons in the finance minister's
office has been cut from eight to six. What is worse, the
finance minister has asked for the removal of the bench on which
peons traditionally sat outside his office.
Also, visitors enter his office directly and
not through his personal assistant's office. This was to ensure that well-heeled
visitors did not feel obliged to tip the peons lavishly and to
leave gifts, ranging from simple calendars and diaries to suit-lengths
and wristwatches, for the minister's staff.
The odd-bod Cabinet
Federal Home Minister Indrajit Gupta is fast becoming something of a joke. Till he became a minister, no one had suspected that
the veteran leader suffered from foot-in-the-mouth disease.
His complaint, that the proposal to set up the state of Uttarakhand
was not discussed in the Cabinet, is not borne out by the record.
Not only did the Cabinet discuss it at length, Cabinet Secretary
T R S Subramaniam (right) even advised all ministers to keep the decision a secret till after the prime minister had announced it in his
Independence Day address.
A young Cabinet minister from Andhra Pradesh, unfamiliar with
the need for secrecy in official matters, blurted out the Uttarakhand
decision at a meeting of Telugu Desam Party MPs with Chief
Minister N Chandrababu Naidu. Fortunately, no TDP MP realised the significance of the disclosure.
At the next Cabinet meeting, when Subramaniam mentioned that Cabinet
secrets were being leaked out, the TDP minister protested that
he was not the only one speaking out of turn. "What,"
he asked, "about Indrajit Gupta?"
Targetting Jaswant Singh
The deputy leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party in the Lok Sabha,
Jaswant Singh, (left) became the target of a concerted smear campaign ever since he ordered an inquiry into the share switch scandal
of a controversial Bombay-based industrial group.
Soon after the short-lived Atal Behari Vajpayee government
bowed out, influential people in politics, bureaucracy and the print
media were sent a 10-page cyclostyled 'backgrounder' on Singh.
The anonymous letter, though full of innuendoes about his dark
past, was vague. It was clearly a preliminary report filed by
a private detective agency hired to dig up dirt on Singh, who
had refused to soften his stand against India's most unscrupulous
Recently, the same company's PR managers succeeded in enlisting
the services of a section of the media to publish reports, alleging
that Singh had got round the rigours of the land ceiling laws
by holding some benami land in his maid servant's name.
Doubtless, the report embarrassed Singh. But the BJP circles argue
that it was like "highly-paid journalists claiming three-fourths
of their salary in voucher payments to avoid paying income
Trouble over money
Now it can be told. The break between Bahujan Samaj Party
supremo, Kanshi Ram, (right) and his one-time man Friday, Jayant Malhoutra,who was elected to the Rajya Sabha on a BSP ticket from Uttar Pradesh, was not because of any ideological differences. Nor was
it over a clash over personalities.
Kanshi Ram was honest enough to admit as much the other day, when
asked by a common friend as to why he and Malhoutra had fallen
out. "He was pushing the case of a Delhi builder for the
allotment of over 100 acres of land in Greater Noida with the
chairman of that body behind my and Mayawati's back. This was
perfidious. I thought he would do this by, at least, taking me
into confidence. When I learnt of this, we immediately transferred
the officer and distanced ourselves from Malhoutra."
Expensive toys for MPs
It is those wretched computers again. Now that the new set of
MPs are in place, the Lok Sabha secretariat, in tandem with the
department of science and technology, is engaged in distributing
expensive laptop computers to the hon'ble members.
But, unlike Shivraj Patil, the present Speaker Purno Sangma (left) is unenthusiastic about the scheme. It was quite a task
for the secretariat to recall these 'toys' from the MPs in the
last house. But, because billions of rupees have been spent on
acquiring them, the laptops cannot be allowed to rot in the government
Defence Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav was asked to take one for himself. He wanted to know if it "works in Hindi." Assured
that they had software in Hindi, he wanted one to be given to
his PA and "teach him how to use it." As for himself,
a fax machine would do just as well which, of course, the defence
ministry provided immediately at his residence.
When the minister of state for science and technology, Professor Y P Alagh,met MPs in connection with the distribution of computers he found thatfax machines were more in demand than laptops. Given that the
likes of Phoolan Devi, Pappu Yadav, Anand Mohan, et al dominate
the House, a fax, of course, made more sense than sophisticated
While Janata Dal president Laloo Prasad Yadav was quick to criticise
Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda for meeting Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray in Bombay, the Dal leaders were puzzled by the silence of Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav, (right) especially since he likes to pose as the foremost warrior of secularism.
But a general secretary of the Dal was quick to point out the
reason for the defence minister's silence. "Deve Gowda's going
to Amitabh Bachchan's house and his meeting Thackeray was the handiwork of Mulayam Singh's man Friday, Amar Singh. When Yadav was chief minister of UP, the same middleman had taken him to Bachchan's
house. How can Mulayam Singh run down his own fixer?"