Virendra Kapoor

Pretty lady Ghauri, coming all the way from Pakistan Premier Nawaz Sharif's stable, gives Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee nary a sleepless night. But another lady does.

Yes, AIADMK supremo Jayalalitha Jayaram aka the Caped One.

Before the Buta Singh drama somewhat ended with the minister's dismissal, she was all set to order her nominees in the Union government to put in their papers. At the peak of the crisis had come a dreaded call from Madras for Vajpayee.

I, announced the Caped One, will be forced to pull out of the government unless you act on my letter by Monday evening.

So shall it be, O, Caped One, agreed Vajpayee, who immediately summoned the villain, Singh, and told him to quit immediately.

"Give me time," begged Singh, "I want to file a fresh appeal before the Supreme Court."

However, a few hours before the deadline ran out Singh was yet to file the revision petition. It was then that BJP troubleshooter and Vajpayee's political advisor Pramod Mahajan got into action. He rushed to Singh's house, only to find him missing. He left word with Singh's private secretary to get him to send in his resignation 'immediately.' After which, Mahajan rushed back to hold Vajpayee's hand.

But two hours later, there was no sight of Singh's resignation. Vajpayee sighed, told himself to be brave, and pronounced manfully:

"Buta Singh is sacked!"

Jaya acted under duress

Now there is another side to the story. And this is how it goes:

Jayalalitha had no option but do what she did. It was that, or a split in the party.

The revelation is by an AIADMK minister. The said man, in the very short time he has been in New Delhi, has cultivated a good relation with BJP leaders.

"Jayalalitha's ultimatum was meant to foil a split in the party," he claims.

As per our man, Union Shipping and Transport Minister Sedapatti R Muthiah, whom Vajpayee ordered to resign after a Madras court framed corruption charges against him, was the villain. Muthiah, who belongs to an electorally-important caste, and seven party MPs threatened to quit if the other chargesheeted ministers with Vajpayee were not made to resign.

Jayalalitha's ultimatum, our ministerial source claims, foiled the split. She further appeased Muthiah by naming him the leader of the AIADMK group in Lok Sabha.

For Amma's voice only

While on the imperious empress of Poes Garden, a lil' birdie tells us that the AIADMK ministers carry two sets of cellular phones. One for the hoi polloi and the other exclusively for Jayalalitha.

The number of the second cellular phone is kept a secret by the ministers even from their wives -- Amma, you see, might get angry if she couldn't get through to her men!

Unwise friend pays the price

Ambition was Ashok Kumar's undoing.

All that the former special secretary in Union home ministry -- yep, the one who gave the M Karunanidhi government in Tamil Nadu a clean chit on the law and order front -- wanted was step into Home Secretary B P Singh's shoes. But all that he got for his efforts was a transfer to the backwaters of the Planning Commission!

Keen on his ambition, Kumar was advised by a BJP-friendly scribe, a member of the party's media cell in the recent parliamentary poll, that it could help get Jayalalitha off Vajpayee's back if he pronounced there was no ground for sacking Karunanidhi. Little did he realise that his suo moto announcement to the media in Madras would invite the wrath of both Home Minister L K Advani and Jayalalitha.

When a very livid Advani berated Kumar and sought his explanation for his public indiscretion, he meekly volunteered, "I was surrounded by 100-odd journalists when I emerged from the office of the TN chief secretary. I felt pressured to say something to them..."

Which he did, grandly. And blew his ambition skyhigh.

At it, again!

The secularists are at it again.

A new avowedly secular front is proposed to be formed next month under the aegis of that perennial prime ministerial aspirant, Chandra Shekhar. The one-man band can now rely on the solid support of another one-man band -- namely, that of Subramanian Swamy, president and lone MP of the Janata Party.

Chandra Shekhar plans to call all anti-BJP elements on the loose to attend his convention, scheduled in the latter half of May. Swamy, though technically part of the AIADMK-led alliance, is working overtime to rope in such diverse elements as Kanshi Ram and Mayawati of the Bahujan Samaj Party, and Om Parkash Chauthala of the Haryana Lok Dal whose four MPs support the BJP-led government.

A mutual tantric-friend of the two, Chandra Swami, has blessed the new project. Incidentally, Chandra Swami was conspicuous at Chandra Shekhar's recent birthday bash.

Madame is above protocol...

Brought up on a strong diet of anti-Congressism, hardcore BJP leaders are puzzled as to how Sonia Gandhi still occupies the pride of place at official functions now that the Vajpayee government is in power.

That foreign dignitaries continue to call on the Italian-born president of the Congress party as before, too, is unacceptable to them.

At the recent civil and defence investiture ceremonies, Sonia was seated next to Vajpayee, ahead of Home Minister Advani. When a correspondent pointed this out to a BJP leader, he gave the benefit of doubt to his colleagues.

"The President's writ," he explained, "runs at functions in Rashtrapati Bhavan. There is nothing Vajpayee and Advani can to about it..."

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