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Capital Buzz/Virendra Kapoor

A jinxed leader

A couple of months before he stepped down as Kerala's chief minister, one of K Karunakaran's (left) more enterprising supporters, the Malayali film comedian Bahadur, decided to make a television serial based on the politician's life. Appropriately titled Leader,the project was given all help by the state government. Even a video camera belonging to the Kerala information department was loaned to the producer.

Unfortunately, a few months later, Karunakaran was replaced by A K Antony as chief minister. The latter refused to extend special favours to the TV serial. Bahadur's unit then moved to Delhi where Karunakaran had taken over as the federal industries minister. And, with a borrowed camera from the films division of the information and broadcasting ministry, he continued to shoot Leader. Even after Karunakaran's defeat in the recent parliamentary election, Bahadur was not perturbed; he adapted the script to focus on how the leader had overcome yet another setback.

But another little snag has cropped up for the producer of the celluloid tribute to Karunakaran's supposed greatness. With Karunakaran no longer in power, the films division has served Bahadur a notice seeking the return of its equipment. Worse still, he has been slapped with a bill of Rs 2.42 million for the use of its equipment. The producer has been threatened with legal action, should he fail to make the due payment. Information and Broadcasting Minister C M Ibrahim is, however, devising ways to help the producer.

Househunters all

One of the first preoccupations of new ministers and MPs is house hunting. With the deadline for the former ministers and MPs to vacate drawing near, the new hopefuls are going around inspecting bungalows that are still occupied by the earlier tenants. Most sought after is former civil aviation minister Ghulam Nabi Azad's (right) residence, 22 Akbar Road. It has a prize-winning garden and a mini golf course. But Azad says he cannot quit before September.

Also high on the priority list is former minister Krishan Kumar's bungalow, which has been done up in great style by his wife, Usha.

V C Shukla's house at 9 Janpath, too, is considered one of the best bargains with a well kept lawn where Shukla often used to hold high tea sessions. Minister for Tourism Srikant Jena is believed to have already reserved Shukla's house for himself.

Industries Minister Murasoli Maran hopes to move into Manmohan Singh's house on 5, Krishna Menon Marg.

Since Minister for Urban Development M Arunachalam is moving to 5 Janpath from his present bungalow (which faces the Meridien hotel), two prospective tenants came to examine the premises. But they were taken aback to find rats crawling all over the place. Arunachalam explained that he had, per force, lived with the rodents and a leaking roof since his children's school was nearby. But he was sure that whoever moved in next would have to put up with minor nuisances.

Recovery from illness

Cabinet Minister for Steel and Mines Birendra Baishya, of the Asom Gana Parishad, has a rather interesting background. He is supposed to have created a record of sorts by claiming compensation from the state government for illness as Baishya and his family members seem to have suffered ill-health on an unusually large number of occasions.

The Hiteshwar Saikia government had devised the scheme to reimburse, in special circumstances, the treatment costs of major illness for legislators. Meant for emergency cases, a lump sum of Rs 5,000 per illness was paid to legislators who sought help under the scheme.

With Baishya, though, it became a surprisingly regular feature. He availed of the emergency medical grant practically every year and, sometimes, twice a year. He claimed it in the name of his wife, three sisters-in-law and, of course, his mother-in-law. Over two dozen such claims were made by him.

Extension service

It is now the turn of the Deve Gowda government to grant extension-in-service to all and sundry bureaucrats. The list of government servants who have got extension since Gowda took over as prime minister is rather long. Here are some notable cases.

N N Singh, special director, Central Bureau of Investigation, who had told the Patna High Court that the CBI could not probe the Rs 6.5 billion fodder scam because its hands were full with other cases, has earned another six month extension for his effort to let Laloo Yadav off the hook. It is another matter that the court still ordered the CBI to investigate the fodder scam. Singh has now been made a special secretary in the federal home ministry.

P S Bawa, director general of police, Sikkim, who ought to have retired last month, has got a year's extension. As have R V Pillai, secretary-general, National Human Rights Commission and Sankar Sen, director-general (investigations), in the same commission. Foreign Secretary Salman Haider, too, was given a year's extension.And cabinet secretary Surinder Singh, already on a year's extension,is pressing hard for further one year extension. Singh had tried in vain to get the Vajpayee cabinet to extend the retirement of age of government servants from 58 to 60 years.

The two-faced Alphonos

The controversial Delhi development official, K J Alphonos, I A S, now under suspension for breach of his service rules, has clearly learnt a thing or two from the very politicians he so freely reviles. Following his suspension, he asserted in press interviews that he had said nothing wrong in "making predictions about the post-poll scenario, all of which have come true". The press lapped it up without bothering to go through his signed article in a Delhi newspaper in which, inter alia, he had said that the then prime minister Narasimha Rao "was most corrupt and wore khaki knickers under his dhoti". No one recalled that remark while giving the publicity-hungry Alphonos front-page coverage on his suspension.

But the same Alphonos, far from being defiant, had responded to the show-cause notice in supplicatory terms blaming it all on journalists who twisted his stray remarks. His reply did not, for once, fool his seniors.

A Bihari tale

Phoolan Devi may be in news, considering the unconventional methods she is using to assert her position as a member of parliament. But it is Kanti Singh, (left) minister of state with the independent charge of coal, who has caused much heartburn in the ranks of the United Front.

Her reported proximity to Janata Dal president and Bihar Chief Minister Laloo Yadav is the subject of much salacious comment. It seems that soon after she had become a state legislator, Yadav took her in a helicopter to another part of the state. While boarding the chopper, Yadav told the pilot, "Khub gummiaya ihi ko. Hum ko kuch dekhva to mili hai hawa maien (Take us for a spin. In the swirling wind, may be I will get to see something.)."

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