Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown. Far from oozing happiness on becoming prime minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee is weighed down by the burdens of managing an uneasy coalition.
A romantic at heart, Vajpayee no longer displays the easy affability of a carefree person who would rather write poetry or take a long afternoon snooze than try and counsel patience to a recalcitrant J Jayalalitha or ward off the threat of a stray independent MP rocking his already unsteady boat. Since he has neither the knack nor the patience to cut deals, Pramod Mahajan was brought in post haste to take charge of the fire-fighting operations.
Besides keeping their numerous allies in good humour, the prime minister and his number two, Union Home Minister L K Advani, have to contain the resentment in the BJP. BJP activists are aggrieved they have got a raw deal in the Vajpayee government. None of the front-rankers barring the Vajpayee-Advani-Joshi trio has been accommodated in power -- whereas second-rankers like Ananth Kumar have been made Cabinet ministers!
The fact that he had inducted two of the six BJP MPs from the Capital into his Cabinet has not prevented the remaining four from nursing ministerial ambitions. (Madan Lal Khurana, MP from Delhi Sadar is parliamentary affairs and tourism minister. Sushma Swaraj, MP from south Delhi, is the information and broadcasting minister.)
The youthful BJP MP from Chandni Chowk, Vijay Goel, believes he ought to be a minister if for nothing else. A bania, a community which had all along supported the Hindutva party, he claims that there was not one genuine representative of it in the Vajpayee ministry.
The septuagenarian MP from outer Delhi, Krishan Lal, cites his long spell of service to the RSS-BJP for being made a minister.
Former Jammu and Kashmir governor and second-term MP from New Delhi, Jagmohan, thinks he ought to be a minister because "I can contribute something..."
The BJP MP from east Delhi, Lal Behari Tiwari, thinks fair play demands his inclusion in the Vajpayee ministry since he had resigned as a minister in the Sahib Singh government in Delhi in order to contest the parliamentary poll.
"I was better off as a minister in the Delhi government than being an ordinary MP," he laments.
Shotgun Sinha in shooting mode
Remember Shatrughan Sinha? Well, the Bihari babu, the villain of many a Bombay blockbuster of yore, is hopping mad.
For, Vajpayee didn't make him a minister!
Shotgun Sinha had convinced himself that nothing less than a Cabinet rank would do justice to his public image. Poor fellow, when the call from the prime minister-elect's house did not come, Sinha sulked and didn't show up for the swearing-in ceremony. This was betrayal, no less, groused he. He believed that after Vajpayee and Advani his was the maximum contribution to the emergence of the BJP as the single largest party in the Lok Sabha.
A few days before the ministry was installed, Sinha had Vajpayee over for lunch to his house. Several newly-elected BJP MPs were also there. So was Yashwant Sinha. Shotgun found it doubly painful that someone for whose victory he had to campaign hard should be the finance minister while he cooled his heels outside!
No more Mani-talk
He was billed as India's highest-paid columnist. Reportedly, the sum mentioned for each of his poison-pen articles in a well- known weekly was a phenomenal Rs 20,000.
But alas, these are not very auspicious times for Mani Shankar Aiyar. For, not only did he fail miserably in his bid to re-enter Parliament from his old constituency, Mayiladuthurai in Tamil Nadu, but his arrangement with the said weekly seems to have come unstuck.
By mutual consent, Aiyar would cease to write his column after six months.
Meanwhile, Mani has launched an eight-page Tamil weekly tabloid, Mani Osai (Mani Voice), which will focus on the great man's work and ideas in the political arena.
The recent one-day Congress jamboree in New Delhi, called to anoint Sonia Gandhi as the Super Boss of the party, went off smoothly. But being new to the ways of Congressmen, Sonia proved a spoil-sport for many a delegate who had for long come to treat these meets as no more than a Rotary-Lions club type bash for having a good time all around.
Unlike in the past, Sonia stayed put on the dais for most of the day, thus making it difficult for lesser Congressmen to slink away for fun. The result was that many delegates dozed off through monotonous speechifying.
Former Delhi chief executive councillor, the 83- year-old Jag Pravesh Chandra was seen lying prostrate in a corner of the dais for most part of the day.
And despite Sonia's admonition, sycophancy was the constant theme of almost all speeches. Even big-wigs succumbed to this malaise. The five-member drafting committee, comprising Dr Manmohan Singh, Sharad Pawar, Pranab Mukherjee, Kotla Vijaybhaskara Reddy and Arjun Singh, which framed the political resolution adopted at the special AICC session, paid beautiful tributes to Sonia in anticipation of her opening speech, a good 24 hours before she actually gave it. Copies of the draft resolution, made available to the media a day prior to the session, complimented Sonia for her "eloquent, pragmatic, down-to-earth and stirring presidential address" and invited the delegates to "fully endorse her analysis."
The drafting committee had no idea as to what she would say in her presidential address when it decided to pay tribute to her eloquence and analysis.
A matter of heart
Contrary to reports, the overnight repatriation of a senior Research and Analysis Wing officer to his parent Orissa cadre a couple of weeks ago had nothing to do with the alleged penetration of the cloak-and-dagger agency.
Suchit Dass, a 1971 batch Indian Police Service officer, paid the price for his suspected involvement with a senior woman officer of the Research and Analysis Service. Dass's only unauthorised links were with this colleague -- and it was more of a matter of heart than anything else.
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