Virendra Kapoor

Commercial, not communal, reasons were what prompted the Delhi government to try its hand at denotifying churches as places of worship on the ground that -- yes, it's true! -- 'wine is served there!'

Delhi Excise and Transport Minister Rajender Gupta reportedly devised this crude stratagem in order to help a club in central Delhi, located near an old church. Since the law specifically prohibits bars in the vicinity of a religious place or an educational institution, the club had been denied license to open one on its premises. Over the years, its officials had done everything they could do to get a bar going -- but to zilch avail.

It was then that some bright spark hit upon the idea of denotifying churches... 'cos wine is served there for Holy Communion!

Gupta was easily persuaded. Son of the late RSS leader Hansraj Gupta, he has been in terrible financial straits in recent years. He is involved in a long and costly litigation with his brothers over his family property. Were it not for the welcome intervention of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who promptly shot down the stupid idea, Gupta would have clinched the deal with the members of the club!

ere's more on Rajendra Gupta. As Delhi transport minister, he has played havoc with the local bus service. Perennially at war with one or the other group of transport unions, Gupta often comes up with hare-brained ideas aimed ostensibly at resolving the mounting woes of commuters. For instance, sometime ago he proposed that the only way to solve the transport problem was to import 1,500 buses from abroad, each at a cost of just Rs 6.5 million. (Luckily, the RSS intervened to prevent Gupta's ambition.)

It mattered little to him that his party is a great votary of swadeshi in matters economic. Nor did it occur to him that indigenous manufacturers of commercial vehicles have made great strides in recent years. Nor for that matter that half the funds he intended to waste on imports would be sufficient to restore to good health the ailing state-owned Delhi Transport Corporation...

Oh, well, certain things, we guess, are just beyond certain people!

hey call it the Gang of Four. And its growing clout in the Vajpayee government is the cause of vitriolic comment in ruling party circles.

Three journalists -- among them a newly-elected MP from UP, and a self-employed professional -- constitute this cosy quartet of fixers. In the last couple of years they have built for themselves a formidable reputation by networking with senior RSS and BJP leaders, particularly Vajpayee and Home Minister L K Advani. The common link between all four is their loyalty to a controversial Bombay industrialist.

Senior BJP-RSS leaders are particularly miffed at the gang's free access to the prime minister, the home minister and such others. In sharp contrast, both Vajpayee and Advani find it hard to grant the requests for time from veteran Sangh Parivar members! But the gang of four never takes no for an answer.

"We must meet the prime minister and the home minister separately for at least ten minutes every week," is their standing demand.

Accommodated reluctantly, and 'only for ten minutes', they invariably linger on with the PM and the HM much beyond the sanctioned time even as pre-scheduled VVIP visitors cool their heels in the ante room...

In their meeting with the PM last week, the foursome lobbied for the cancellation of the transfer of a middle-level foreign service official. The orders had already been issued, but the PM's callers wanted these withdrawn...


"Because," said the leader of the gang, who had acted as a police informer during the Emergency, "he is a very strong RSS supporter!"

It is, however, not known whether the PM rescinded the orders.

newly-elected BJP member of the Rajya Sabha is causing problems to the party leadership: he has started muttering loudly that the Kalyan Singh government in UP is a disaster.

Not long ago, the wife of a senior BJP leader had warned her husband against nominating the high-profile member to the Rajya Sabha.

"He is so self-centred that in order to become a hero he would start abusing you on the floor of the House," the lady predicted. That dire prospect might yet confront the BJP leader but for whom the fake crusader wouldn't have become an MP!

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