Virendra Kapoor

Hardcore Hindutva votaries are worried stiff. At the woeful performance of the BJP-led government in New Delhi.

Increasingly, a feeling is growing in the Sangh Parivar that Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee is not quite in control, that his administration lacks both substance and direction. The feedback from the countrywide network of shakhas is so adverse that it has senior RSS officials tearing their hair out.

"At this rate," many sigh, "it will be hard to prevent the return of the Congress which has the disadvantage of being led by Sonia Gandhi."

Informal meetings of RSS bosses with senior BJP leaders have yielded no recipe for improvement. While making allowance for the daily pinpricks from allies, especially J Jayalalitha, there was near unanimity that Vajpayee's hands-off approach was much to blame for the drift in governance.

"Not assertive enough," RSS bosses shake their head sorrowfully, "The man is just not assertive enough."

Another major cause for the lack of direction cited is the 'wall of mutual suspicion and distrust' between Vajpayee and his Home Minister Lal Kishinchand Advani.

At a recent RSS-BJP meeting it was suggested that Advani alone should handle the Jayalalitha problem. That when she threatened the withdrawal of AIADMK support, the home minister should 'tackle' her. The idea is to save Vajpayee the bother of placating her constantly and to let him get on with the urgent task of governance.

The liaison man

Courtiers never change, only the court does. Nothing illustrates this adage better than the rise, rise and rise of Deepak Talwar.

Economic liberalisation and the appointment of his godfather A N Verma as principal secretary to former prime minister P V Narasimha Rao were what saw Talwar hitting paydirt. The small-time operator's fortunes changed overnight with the Verma-led PMO going out of the way to bestow favours on him.

"The Foreign Investment Promotion Board in the PMO was his favourite hunting ground," sources allege, "Proposals before the FIPB would be leaked to Talwar and prospective investors gently told to hire his services if they wanted a favourable decision."

Thus was it, the allegation goes, how some of the biggest foreign companies became Talwar's clients. And with that, naturally, came money -- in double quick time, the gent built himself a palatial house in an upmarket South Delhi colony and, as per the demands of his calling, wined and dined in five-star style anyone who could further his business. And there were politicians and bureaucrats galore who regularly partook in his generous hospitality.

Though Talwar's business languished a bit after Verma's departure from the PMO, it has picked up again now.

Recently when a Calcutta-headquartered company faced the threat of an adverse takeover from an upstart Bombay-based businessman, its boss who boasts of a close friendship with West Bengal Chief Minister Jyoti Basu hired Talwar. And pronto, the takeover threat was fully beaten back!

The man pulled off another miracle a few days later when he helped a Japanese company get its way in a giant-sized joint sector company. He helped deliver control of the company to the Japanese even though the Indian joint sector partner could have continued to retain it for a full five-year period. That's Talwar!

Secular corruption

A self-avowed secular Uttar Pradesh politician is now in the advanced stages of, well, 'dealing' with the BJP-led government. His quest: a lucrative Maruti sales agency in Lucknow for his lil' darling.

Union Industry Minister Sikandar Bakht has in principle blessed granting the dealership to the politician's son. Two hints as to the secularist's identity: He began the construction of a palatial palace in his ancestral town when he first became a minister in the H D Deve Gowda government; he has no known source of income!

Let the law take its course...

Drift and dithering form the working of the central coalition at all levels. Here is further proof:

The Union industry ministry is dragging its feet on granting permission to prosecute Anand Darbari. The former chairman and managing director of the Cement Corporation of India is alleged to have perpetrated a huge scam while he was in power at the CCI, a public undertaking under the administrative control of the mentioned ministry. The Central Vigilance Commission had established a case of fraud against him and recommended his prosecution. But Industry Minister Bakht who waxes eloquent on the need to eliminate corruption, seems in no mood to let the due process of law take its course!

Prisoner of indecision

Some months ago, the Supreme Court directed the Vajpayee government that the functioning of the Central Bureau of Investigation be supervised by the Central Vigilance Commission. The apex court also laid down certain parameters for the appointment of the heads of both the CBI and CVC.

Consequently, the present head of the CVC, S V Giri, an officer of great integrity, suggested that the government seek clarification from the court whether he was entitled to oversee the CBI's working since he was appointed before the court order. Failing such a clarification, he contended, someone might challenge his right to monitor the CBI.

The government sat on Giri's eminently reasonable suggestion for so long that the officer finally got fed up and resigned! In normal course, Giri would have retired only in 2,000.... Wait, the story is not over: the government is now sitting on Giri's resignation!

Capital Buzz