Capital Buzz/Virendra Kapoor

Now it can be told: it was Priyanka Vadra who pushed Sonia Gandhi into politics, honest! We got it straight from a horse's mouth at 10, Janpath...

Mama, as is usual with her, was sitting sullen and silent, when in stole the daughter. Stealthily she approached the seated figure, stealthily she raised her tongue... and stabbed!

"Mama!" she cries.

Mama rocketed a couple of feet straight into the air, but made a safe -- though a bit awkward -- landing. Half a minute to arrange her startled expression into her regular half-scowl, and she turned to the daughter.

"Yes?" says she.

"Mama, you got to go into politics," the daughter stabbed again, "You got to save the party before it is too late. You got to!"

"Oh?" comes the reply,"Says who?"

"Says I," the daughter cried spiritedly, "My father's daughter, my grandmother's grand daughter, my great-grandfather's great-granddaughter! You got to save the Congress!"

"Really?" comes Mama, "Oh really?"

"Yes, really!" says the daughter, "Or else I will do it. I will enter active politics! So there!"

Mama thought that over. She didn't really like the idea. Politics was bad, no place for a young girl. But not too bad for a matron like she... and, anyway, it would get rid of that hotelier fellow who was breathing down her Italian neck.

"Okay," says Mama, getting up, "Let's go join politics!"

The daughter jumped with joy. Which feat hundreds of Congressmen, including veterans like Kunnoth Karunakaran, copied the next day with varying degrees of success...

Now the talk in Congress circles is that it would ultimately be the daughter, not the mother, who would reclaim Rajiv Gandhi's heritage. Wasn't that simply evident from the way the two performed at the Sriperumbudur rally? Darn it, there was a ruddy gulf between the two!

Incidentally, highly-placed Congressmen (from the Sonia camp, of course) say the daughter might even file her nomination from Amethi very shortly. But their counterparts (from the Sitaram Kesri camp) rule that out completely.

"Sonia's objective is limited to ensure the Congress does not disintegrate," they say, "She wants the party in good shape for either Priyanka or Rahul to take over in the next couple of years. Both are too young at this stage, you see..."

Hopes and fears

Hmmm, let's see now... how many seats will the Congress win?

"One hundred and seventyseven," cry the most-optimistic Congress leaders, "Not a seat less!"

We had our doubts. So we approached the pessimists.

"Er," says we, "Er, you really think you will win 177 seats?"

The pessimists looked at us as if we were ET's blood brothers.

"Are you utterly loony?" they ask.

We confessed we weren't, whereupon they proceeded to enlighten us. The Congress, even if the good lord in heaven personally came down to campaign, will not make more than 95. That was definite.

"But Sonia--" we begin, but are cut short.

"Sonia's campaigning will add around 20, 25 seats from the Christian tribal belts in Bihar, Madhya Pradesh etc," they say, "How else do you think the number would reach 95?"

We congratulate them and move to the BJP camp to see what Atal Bihari Vajpayee's gang think of his talents. This time, we corner the pessimists first.

"One hundred and ninety seats," they say sadly, "Not a seat more."

We couldn't bear to see them so sad. So off we went to the optimists for a smile and some cheer...

"Two hundred and fifty! We are going to win 250!," they shout, "Our 'Able leader, stable government' will do the trick. Just you watch!"

That we will, we assure them, we are journos, aren't we? So, no cloud on their horizon? Sure to come to power? The optimists face fell.

"Well, you know what?" they say, "Our fears are about the post-poll scenario. Imagine, just imagine, that we and our allies don't get a clear majority. Then all others will gang up to deny us power yet again. And if we fail to form a government, even our allies might ditch us!"

Son makes hay

This, what we are going to tell you now, is what's known as making hay while the sun shines -- so what if the sun is on its last legs?

There is a certain hotel near the Delhi international airport -- Radisson, it is called -- which is going to be operational soon.

Well and good, but where is the hay and the sun?

Right here, reader, right here: The fact is the Delhi government had set up an inquiry committee to find out how such a structure could come up so near the airport. The committee is still diligently looking into the matter.

But the hotel is going to be operational soon. And that's where the sun comes in.

Naresh, the gentleman son of Inder Kumar Gujral, is who pulled the trick. He went and told papa to do 'something' about it before his government was through.

Which papa, being the fond papa he is, did immediately. Might as well make use of the sun, what?

Quid pro quo

This one is also about a VVIP son. And Civil Aviation Minister Chand Mahal Ibrahim.

Both want Air-India acting managing director Michael Mascarenhas to be confirmed before Gujral's caretaker government cease to caretake.

The said son has already made his wishes clear to the Prime Minister's Office, while Ibrahim has been tirelessly chewing his mentor H D Deve Gowda's brains.

The duo's interest in the matter, sources say, arise from the fact that Mascarenhas has been doing their bidding all along. For instance, they wanted the Air-India's general sales agency to be given to a favourite of theirs. Mascarenhas signed on the dotted line. And so...

The PMO, meanwhile, has already got a clearance post haste from the CBI in a pending inquiry against Mascarenhas. Now all that remains is the Letter.

Oh, well, one good turn deserves another...

Troubled times

The Jains of The Times of India and the paper's editorial adviser H K Dua are on a collision course.

Dua, it seems, is unwilling to yield on things which are of prime importance to the Jains. Like lobbying to get group chairman Ashok Jain from the FERA soup he has landed himself in. Or even publishing a regular column by the infamous Harshad Mehta.

In other words, Dua is against making the editorial subservient to the managers.

Meanwhile, Samir Jain, the group's mercurial managing director, is going around saying that newspaper publishing is `a sunset industry,' and he was going to scale down investment in it. Jain also had a couple of disparaging things to say about the Constitution and the national flag.

Incidentally, the TOI completely blacked out the news about the Supreme Court cancelling anticipatory bail to Ashok Jain.

Capital Buzz