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January 10, 1998


Capital Buzz/Virendra Kapoor

Quit, darn it!

It's a tough job, this, what old man Kesri finds himself doing these days. To wit, keeping a certain Italian lady happy (er, don't read it that way!) and pursuing his own ambition.

Unfortunately, Sonia Gandhi, the lady in question, is pretty unco-operative. She would rather not know Kesri (ugh, yuck!), which feeling the Congress chief more-than-ambly reciprocates (woh? *@#*!!). But Congress colleagues won't have anything of that sort.

"Be pals with her," they have more or less told Kesri, "Be nice to her. Or else..."

And so, Kesri tries hard. Very hard. So hard, in fact, that he has to draw voluminously from his colourful vocabulary every now and then.

But that is okay, Kesri can handle it -- doesn't he after all possess one of the most insightful repertoires among Indian politicians?

What the old man can't handle is when his own men add insult to injury. Like the other day.

A letter arrived. Kesri read it, turned as much red as his hue would permit, and flew into a roaring temper.

"Dear Kesriji", the letter said (words to that effect), "Kindly save the party. Please resign. Let Soniaji become the president. She is so much better than you!"

"How dare he?" raged Chacha in unchaste Hindi, "How dare he?"

At the next Congress meeting, he produced the letter from his kurta pocket and read it out aloud. Hear, guys, ain't I being victimised? Isn't he mean? Poor me!

But instead of the sympathy and understanding he expected, Kesri's passionate reading was met with a stony silence. No, no one thought Chacha was being victimised and the writer was not even a wee bit mean. In fact, he had a good suggestion there....

Naturally, Kesri flew into another rage. And let his colleagues know what he thought of the idea.

"You want me to quit, don't you?" he shouted, "I will see who quits, you or me. *@O?#*!!!"

The last we saw of the incident was a contorted Kesri making gasping noises and almost keeling over in his efforts to enthrall the audience further.

Ram and Vajpayee

There is this cloud on Bharatiya Janata Party leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee's prime ministerial horizon. An old cloud, but a cloud nonetheless -- by the name of L K Advani.

Now, Advani wouldn't have been a cloud -- and there's nothing silver about him except his age -- had it not been for the election, and the simple question of who will be the PM if the BJP came to power.

The world at large says Vajpayee. But Vajpayee isn't so sure. Because, like we said, there is this cloud called Advani...

"Just when Lord Rama was to take over as king," said Vajpayee, giving vent to his fear that Advani might, just might, contest, "he was exiled for 14 years. I hope nothing of the sort will happen to me!"

The grapevine has it that Advani, under severe pressure from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, has decided to contest. In which case, of course, it is the jungles for poor ol' Vajpayee!

The return of Singhvi

He kicked, he scratched, he bit.

"Don't wanna come," said India's ex-high commissioner Dr L M Singhvi when papa External Affairs called him home recently, "Don't wanna come back to Indiaaa!"

But papa was stern. Don't act like a brat, he told Singhvi, let your cousin Salman Haider have a go at London.

"Won't come," Singhvi repeated, "Won't come to India nowww !"

Papa didn't know what to do. So off he went to his papa Inder Kumar Gujral for advice. IK knew his grandson and his tantrums very well. Sterness, real tough sterness, was what the young man understood. He picked up the phone and dialed.

"Listen, you little whippersnapper," he shouted when Singhvi came on line, "You start packing right now. Be on the next flight out!"

Singhvi let out a loud wail. But IK wasn't bothered. Hadn't he seen enough of those when he used to live with the family?

"And if you aren't on that flight," he continued, "I will personally get your father to disinherit you! So there!"

"Okay... But I won't give cousin Haider any of my toys!" Singhvi wept, but I K was already off the line and busy with his non-united friends.

And that's how Singhvi, sullen and weepy, landed back home. Close family sources say that he is now going around muttering things like 'BJP', 'poll', 'ticket' 'contesting' etc... whatever that means.

Justice Jain writes on...

Delhi, Justice M C Jain feels, is too disturbing a city for literary purposes. So he has shifted to Jaipur, to finish the last of his reports on Rajiv Gandhi's assassination which he had been investigating for the last six years.

Sixtyfive volumes of depositions, two stenos, one desktop computer and two cars have been relocated in the Rajasthan capital so that the controversial judge can finish his task by the middle of next month.

The last extension to Justice Jain is due to end on February 28. And Union Home Minister Indrajit Gupta has made it clear there won't be any further extensions. Which is why the good justice is dictating nonstop to his stenos.

All for nothing

For three days the Government of India didn't have a Cabinet secretary. And thereby hangs a tale of low intrigue and high skullduggery.

The whole shindig was caused by a few who wanted Water Resources Secretary Mata Prasad to take over from current incumbent T S R Subramaniam.

Prasad wanted to be the first scheduled caste civil servant to hold the post And he would have made it too, if Subramaniam retired when he was supposed to retire. But the Election Commission played spoilsport (no fresh appointments till the poll is over) and Prasad, due to retire in January, saw his chance slipping. So off he raced to the scheduled caste lobby, who filed a case with the Central Administrative Tribunal.

The rest (how the CAT cancelled Subramaniam's extension, how the Delhi high court cancelled the cancellation etc), as they say, is history. (But one wonders why Prasad, though the Cabinet knows about all his doings, has gone scot-free about the 'disgraceful' act? Does it have something to do with a certain fellow dalit who is a Union minister and a United Front bigwig?)

Now for the desert: Despite all the hangama, Prasad has been given an year's extension! Which, in other words, means that he would get to wear Subramaniam's shoes after all!

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