Capital Buzz/Virendra Kapoor
Past imperfect, future uncertain
By now everyone knows that H D Deve Gowda paid the Rashtriya
Swayamsewak Sangh a glowing tribute. Only minutes before he
announced his resignation on the floor of the House, Prime
Minister A B Vajpayee set the cat among the United Front
pigeons by quoting from Deve Gowda's speech at a function in Bangalore
to mark the 20th anniversary of the imposition of the Emergency.
Bharatiya Janata Party president Lal Kishinchand Advani was on the
dais when Deve Gowda declaimed that the 'RSS is a spotless organisation...
in my long political career I have never said a word against RSS...'
But who gave the BJP leader the incriminating material?
Ramakrishna Hegde, Deve Gowda's old rival,
was one suspect in Janata Dal circles.
Some believed intelligence agencies helped the Vajpayee
government show up Deve Gowda in bad light. But the truth
is rather mundane.
It seems a newly-elected BJP MP mentioned to Dhananjay Kumar,
civil aviation minister in the Vajpayee government, that he had
heard Deve Gowda pay fulsome tribute to the RSS at the Bangalore
function. This was on Monday, the first day of the two-day debate
on the confidence motion. Kumar mentioned this to Parliamentary
Affairs Minister Pramod Mahajan.
The MP was dispatched post haste to Bangalore the same evening
and asked to return the next morning in time for Vajpayee's reply to
the debate on the trust motion. Vajpayee almost forgot
to mention Deve Gowda's clean bill of health to the RSS till a few
moments before he wound up his virtuoso performance. It was Mahajan
who reminded him to do so.
Quirky V P Singh
Former prime minister V P Singh is once again the
darling of the media. No more
does the upper crust media revile him the way it did immediately
in the wake of the anti-Mandal self-immolation cases. Singh is at his endearing
best with scribes. The other day
a group of journos noticed a battered Padmini car parked at Singh's
house. About 20 years old, the car has not been used for some years.
A curious journalist asked the raja why he didn't discard it. Singh said
he was thinking of entering the car in an automobile rally after
doing up the engine. He also talked of painting the car. But when
he led the scribes to the car and wanted to open its door, the
Special Protection Group barred his way.
Unless they first vetted the insides of the abandoned vehicle,
he couldn't go near it, the SPG staff said. Singh was miffed
and cribbed about the "needless restrictions on my life by the SPG. I am their
A crown of thorns
That it will never be smooth sailing for H D Deve Gowda as head
of the United Front requires no soothsayer to
predict. The octogenarian Biju Patnaik's tantrums are already
known. But Ramakrishna Hegde, Deve Gowda's old foe from
Karnataka, is not making
the premier's life easier either.
Hegde was quick to fuel resentment in the 16-member Janata Dal Lok Sabha squad from the state
that none among them had been inducted in the ministry. He
told the MPs at a dinner in Bangalore that
both S R Bommai and C M Ibrahim
were members of the Rajya Sabha. Worse, Bommai was elected from Orissa.
The mandate of the people of Karnataka, Hedge said, had been ignored,
and promised to issue
a statement to this effect the next day. When he heard of Hegde's
move, Deve Gowda despatched Ibrahim to persuade the old troublemaker to hold
Ibrahim assured Hegde that two JD MPs from the state would be made
ministers of state in the next expansion of the Deve Gowda ministry. Hegde
shrewdly realised that whoever became a minister, even he was a Deve Gowda
follower, would be grateful to him.
I K Gujral was not sure about being inducted in the
ministry till half an hour or so before its swearing in. After all, Bihar
Chief Minister and Janata Dal chief Laloo Prasad Yadav is not exactly
enamoured of chhoti dhaddiwala Gujral.
Gujral and Yadav had
veered away from each other once the former was
elected to the Rajya Sabha on a JD ticket from Bihar in 1992.
It was a 'cultural clash,' according to one Gujral friend.
Yadav didn't want Gujral in the ministry, but V P Singh's
intervention made Laloo see reason. "Tell me
who else can hold the foreign portfolio among JD MPs? Where
do we have members who can deal with sensitive matters and foreign
heads of state?" Singh is said to have asked Laloo. CPI-M
General Secretary Harkishan Singh Surjeet too pleaded Gujral's
cause. Yadav relented, just in the nick of time.
Innocent,. but out
Sharad Yadav had set his heart on becoming a senior
minister in the Deve Gowda government. He was fully supported in his
bid by Laloo Prasad Yadav. Deve Gowda had no objection
either. But the CPI-M and CPI were unwilling to go along.
The two Yadavs kept harping on the 'one is innocent unless convicted'
principle. Laloo quoted one or two constitutional experts to
buttress Sharad Yadav's case, but to no avail.
"If that was the case, why did you resign from the last Parliament after
it was known that you figured in the hawala diary?" asked an angry
Leftist leader. Yadav was stumped for a reply, but
remains irreconciled to his exclusion from the ministry.
A new mask
Only a day before he was made general secretary of the Samajwadi
Party, Amar Singh, a director on the
Hindustan Times board, was defending himself against the charge
of being a power broker in the Deve Gowda government.
In an on-the-record
interview, Singh said "people do not call industrialist
Sanjay Dalmia and film star Raj Babbar
power brokers because Mulayam
Singh made them members of Parliament.
But I am a broker because
I am not an MP. Tomorrow I will become a general secretary of the
SP and after the UP elections a member of the Rajya Sabha. Then
you will stop calling me a power broker."'
Whether or not that constituted his defence, he had condemned Dalmia
and Babbar as power brokers!