Virendra Kapoor

Information and Broadcasting Minister Sushma Swaraj thought she knew how to put Prasar Bharati Chief Executive Officer S S Gill in his place. She felt further fortified by Gill's reported verbal assurance that he would put in his papers the moment the bill to amend the Prasar Bharati Act was introduced in Parliament.

However, now things seem to be progressing in a manner none too pleasant -- for Swaraj, that is.

Gill, sources close to the minister say, has dug in his heels and refuses to leave now that the proposed amendment is likely to fall through for want of majority.

The BJP circles are aghast at the sheer audacity of Gill, who seemed to hand-pick pronouncedly anti-Hindutva panelists for current affairs programmes. The monitoring of news and current affairs on Doordarshan and All India Radio, undertaken by the media cell in the government, reveals 'a shocking bias against the BJP-led coalition.'

The Gill-controlled television is said to be not half as biased as the AIR, on the assumption that the latter would go unnoticed by the people who mattered in the ruling combine.

Keen to end what they called the 'menace of Gill', senior BJP leaders now feel encouraged by the legal advice that he could indeed be dismissed through an ordinance.

"Since he was appointed through an ordinance which relaxed the age restriction in the Prasar Bharati Act, he could be dismissed by another ordinance. One enabling ordinance made the appointment of an over-age Gill possible; another disabling ordinance similarly could send him packing. "

The government, thus, might consider such an ordinance at the end of the Budget session of Parliament.

Victim of factional war

The BJP is a divided party. The schisms within the 'party with a difference' are there for all to see. That would explain the concerted campaign of calumny against Ranjan Bhattacharya, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's foster son-in-law.

Bhattacharya is the target of a whispering campaign. Persons close to Union Home Minister L K Advani are reportedly behind the slanderous rumour-mongering. In the lead is a self-styled swadeshi protagonist who himself was tainted in Harshad Mehta's bank-share scam.

After the hostile reaction to his appointment in the Prime Minister's Office as an officer on special duty during Vajpayee's 13-day government, this time around Bhattacharya consciously decided to steer clear of all things official. But those wanting to target Vajpayee refuse to let him be.

The pope of swadeshi in the BJP, in hush hush tones, accused Bhattacharya of having sold Maruti cheap to its Japanese partner Suzuki. Of course, he offered not a shred of evidence to back his charge.

Another self-proclaimed egghead in Advani's inner circles blamed Bhattacharya for the recent changes in the ministry of external affairs. "In order to promote the career of a Bengali officer he has ordered a change of personnel in the MEA" is how he puts it.

Bhattacharya, of course, had nothing to do with these changes dictated by the recent decision to raise the age of retirement of government servants to 60 years. Not being a member of the Sangh Parivar, he finds it hard to counter the whispering campaign of the anti-Vajpayee elements.

Amma's grouse

The AIADMK supremo Jayalalitha Jayaram might have become an ogre for the Hindutva parivar, but she believes that she has been very badly let down by the BJP leadership.

Last week she conveyed her disgust with the ruling coalition to a senior RSS leader through an intermediary. She was reconciled to the fact that the Vajpayee government wouldn't dismiss the Karunanidhi government, though for political reasons she reserved the right to keep up her chant.

But what she found entirely unacceptable was Vajpayee's failure to ensure that no fresh cases were slapped against her.

"Since Vajpayee became prime minister with my help, I have been charged in two more cases of corruption by the central investigative agencies. How can I call this government my own when it refuses to stop the witch-hunt against me?" she asked her interlocutor who met her in her Poes Garden residence in Madras last week.

Given the times we live in, she had a point there, didn't she?

The national hall of gossips

The Central Hall of Parliament -- some call it the national hall of gossips -- is probably the only place in the entire parliamentary complex which is not air-conditioned. The library, offices of various ministers and even their aides, that of Opposition leaders and political parties are duly air-conditioned. Given the long Delhi summer and the high degree of humidity, many an MP has often complained about the unbearably muggy conditions in the Central Hall.

To remove this sweaty lag, the General Purpose Committee of Parliament decided to air-condition the Central Hall some years ago. The then prime minister P V Narasimha Rao had approved the proposal. But the project couldn't be implemented due to the impending election. After the defeat of the Congress and the formation of the H D Devegowda and Inder Gujral governments in quick succession, the proposal has now been revived. But the ruling coalition seems in no hurry to implement it.

Since neither Vajpayee nor Advani is in the habit of lingering in the Central Hall even during their long years in the Opposition, most non-BJP leaders who spend hours on end there over endless supply of subsidised eats and hot and cold beverages -- a large glass of fresh fruit juice costs but only Rs 5! -- blame them for sabotaging the air-conditioning proposal.

What may be particularly sore to the BJP eyes is the routine presence of former prime ministers Chandra Shekhar, Devegowda and Inder Gujral huddled in a corner with Subramanian Swamy, Mulayam Singh Yadav and Laloo Yadav and other known detractors of the ruling coalition.

A little bird, however, tells us that the air-conditioning project might yet be taken up -- but only next year.

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