Virendra Kapoor

Sahib Singh Verma's really muffed it. And the way he's handled things as chief minister have made some Delhiites get nostalgic about the good old days of the lieutenant governor.

The BJP leadership would like to sack him straight off, hadn't it been for the caste factor. They fear that what they gain in goodwill from the suffering masses if they sacked him would not be worth the resentment from the backward castes.

A clear decision is necessary quickly since the assembly election is due later this year. If Verma is still around, they fear the voters would drum the BJP out of office. No one is pleased with the power and water situation and what Verma has done to correct it. But then, the thought of the rural caste-conscious voter stays their hand.

For now, the BJP leadership has resigned itself to having him around till the November election and to nudge him off the seat later. That, of course, if they are still in power. But there are others who feel such an eventuality can be avoided if they let Verma walk the political plank.

The replacements they suggest are former chief minister Madan Lal Khurana and Arun Jaitley. The senior Supreme Court lawyer isn't really interested in full-time politics, we hear though Khurana, while claiming differently, wouldn't mind being back on the job.

But one person who backs Verma almosts blindly is Union Home Minister L K Advani. And people are beginning to wonder why...

The prince of darkness

That's what the denizens of Delhi calls Naveen Chawla, chairman of the Delhi Vidyut Board. His tribe cuts off power at will, does almost anything they like. But Chawla's too well-connected to be touched or transferred.

The senior IAS officer is a family friend of the Gandhis -- he had solemnised the marriage of Rajiv and Sonia and his wife, Rupika walks in an out of 10 Janpath more often than many Congress leaders. Sonia returns the favour, attending the silver jubilee of their marriage. Also hanging around there was Union Power Minister P Ranga Kumaramangalam.

Delhi BJP leaders wonder if Kumaramangalam, a former Congressman, is protecting his old friend.

Despite the heat, Congressmen find the situation funny enough to joke about. They suggest that if their party comes back to power in Delhi, Chawla should be made chief minister. After all, it was his shoddy work that has put the BJP in such a tight spot.

Blessed media cell

Every prominent member of the BJP media cell has been rewarded for services rendered to the party. Not Mohan Guruswamy though.

Dinanath Mishra and Praful Goradia were made Rajya Sabha members, Balbir Punj, earlier made editor of a financial daily, was later nominated as chairman of the Indian Institute of Mass Communciations. Another member of the media cell, T V R Shenoy, a Rediff columnist, has preferred to continue work as a freelance adviser to the party and the government.

Guruswamy had made things more difficult for the government, seeking the post of an ambassador, say, to South Africa. Though the government did not say what it thought of that, he is being pacified with a senior advisory position in the finance ministry. He is likely to take up the job after the end of the current session of Parliament.

More changes, though maybe less drastic, are likely in the finance ministry, we hear.

Mum is the word

Rajiv Gandhi had a very short attention span. And little patience with high-falutin ideas.

Sonia Gandhi who, despite yeoman service rendered in a crisis, is believed to be a little raw in policy and planning and maybe a little slow in analytical reasoning.

For a long time, her sphinx-like silence helped make her seem more canny than she is. But she fumbles on crucial issues, shifting from one extreme to another depending on what the last person who met her has to say.

A case in point is the recent flip-flop by the Congress over the Women's Reservation Bill. The government went ahead with the bill after she assured them of Congress support. And then the Congress began wavering, waffling on about reservations within reservations and what not.

Also, her monosyllabic replies are beginning to chafe and her non-committal attitude is starting to irritate people.

Recently, when a group of AICC members came to seek a resolution on some complex party decisions involving their state, Sonia heard them out in near silence for an hour and a half, making the odd desultory remark. But solutions? She had none to provide.

And so after waiting awhile, the AICC members gave it up, wondering if the woman was as bright as her acolytes made her to be.

Undue interest

We started off telling you how L K Advani rooted for the inefficient Sahib Singh Verma, didn't we? We wind up telling you about another wrong 'un he's backing.

Six weeks ago, the Union finance ministry proposed reshuffling several chief executives of public sector banks. But due to advice provided by those close to Advani, particularly one Madras-based chartered accountant, the proposals were drastically recast.

So the controversial chief of a public sector bank recently involved in a multi-million scam was appointed head of a stable bank over a widely-respected banker whose name was first recommended by the ministry.

What exactly is Advani up to? Does anybody know?

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