Not so long ago, when there was no election, and no plans for an immediate election, Chief Election Commissioner Manohar Singh Gill used to wake up early morning and play golf. Evenings, the good Dr Gill used to saunter about Delhi's Lodhi Gardens, busy contemplating on things known only to him.
Now there is an election. But Dr Gill still wakes up with the sun and is off golfing. Call it complacency, but evenings, again, are for the Lodhi Gardens...
In the midst of widespread poll-related mayhem throughout the country, Dr Gill diligently stuck to his daily routine and, as he confessed to a television channel, spent a 'boring' Monday when 30 people were killed in election-related violence in Bihar and elsewhere.
Whatever his other faults, Dr Gill's controversial predecessor T N Seshan had come down heavily on the willful distortion of the election process. Going by Dr Gill's reaction to the mayhem on Monday, it seemed he was not unduly bothered about reports of rigging in Bihar or the fallout of the Coimbatore bomb blasts.
In retrospect, Seshan's no-nonsense -- some called it bullying -- approach contributed to his success in holding by and large free and fair polls.
Sadly, Dr Gill neither evokes fear nor respect for the Model Code of Conduct.
More on the man, here is another interesting anecdote:
Dr Gill's nightly appearances on myriad television channels are causing much derisive comment. Followed by a television camera on his recent visit to Bihar, he was in his element playing the clown none had suspected him to be.
For the benefit of the cameras, he claimed that this "is the first time that the CEC has come personally to Bihar to oversee the election process. No CEC before me had taken the trouble to come... "
The crowd didn't buy that. "Seshan saheb had come during the last election," an onlooker pointed out.
The ultimate in Gillspeak was when he visited Muzzafarpur. The camera shows him sitting in a white Ambassador car. And he is apparently talking to the driver:
"No CEC had come to this town before me. In fact, no VIP had come in the last 50 years. You inform me that the last VIP to visit this place was Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. Okay. He too had sat in this very car. Tell me whether Nehru sat -- on the right or left? -- so that some of his greatness can be rubbed off on me, too..."
Such piffle from the great CEC leaves one stone-cold, right?
PM's real estate
Contrary to outgoing Prime Minister Inder Kumar Gujral's claim that his office was not misused for ulterior purposes, the talk of a new controversy involving his immediate family is doing the rounds.
A controversial New Delhi builder, so goes the tale, has arranged to 'sell' a full floor in his multi-storey complex in Connaught Circus to the PM in a manner which raises grave doubts about the bonafides of the transaction. The Gujrals had booked 1,000-odd square feet space in the commercial building. However, due to the sharp rise in the prices in a decade since then, the builder allotted about half of the booked space.
But that was before Gujral became the PM. Soon as the man got the chair, the same builder not only allotted the entire floor but also found him a multinational tenant!
The money for the entire floor exceeding 12,000 square feet, too, was not difficult to arrange since the tenant not only gave two years's advance rent, but also parted with an equal amount as security deposit. The nine-year lease with an escalation clause fetches the Gujrals nearly Rs 2 million per month. Some transaction, that!
Low palace intrigues
There is more to the rejection of Yashodhara Raje Scindia's nomination papers than meets the eye.
The lady -- Madhavrao Scindia's youngest sister -- had filed her papers as a covering candidate for her ailing mother, Rajmata Vijaya Raje Scindia, who is contesting on a BJP ticket from the Guna parliamentary constituency.
Following a heart attack, Rajmata Scindia wanted to withdraw in favour of her daughter who, after her separation from her NRI husband, had returned to India for good. Rajmata's aide Sardar Angre, too, wanted Yashodhara, a keen polo enthusiast, to contest the seat.
But Yashodhara's elder sister Vasundhara, the BJP MP from Jhalawar, and Madhavrao, apparently teamed up to deny her the seat. In order to force the issue, Madhavrao's son Jyotiraditya filed his nomination papers post haste. Only when Yashodhara's nomination was rejected on technical grounds did Jyotiraditya withdraw his candidature.
The result of all this palace intrigue is that the Rajmata is obliged to stay in the electoral race. Last heard, she was undergoing treatment at a New Delhi heart institute. Of course, her election in absentia is a foregone conclusion.
Myth and reality
Congressman Rajesh Pilot always makes much to-do about his integrity. Thanks largely to his PR savvy ways, no harm came to him though his name figured in the hawala diary. The lifestyle of the Pilots belies the claim about their being strapped for funds.
Following the recent drive launched by the income tax department to unearth black money, it has now surfaced that Pilot owns a plush farmhouse on the outskirts of New Delhi in wife Rama's name. She is among several farm- owners in the Mehrauli-Chhatarpur complex who had been served notices by the IT department to explain their investments in properties and other assets.
Another person involved is the controversial editor of a well-known newsweekly. He acquired the property recently. And built on it a swanky bungalow fit for a king. He is now hard put to explain the source of his income since in the same financial year he acquired a 2,000 square feet basement in a multi-storey building near Khan Market.
The IT department suspects the editor has grossly edited the value of his real estate acquisitions in the capital and in NOIDA in UP, where he acquired three shops and a plot of land in his wife's name.
Given the clout of the said biggies, it wouldn't at all be surprising if the IT department is forced to close the matter after the issuance of show-cause notices.
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