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