Virendra Kapoor

He's got a coat, he's got a tie, and he's got a pair of nicely polished shoes. All his own.

And come the television crews, Chief Election Commissioner Dr Manohar Singh Gill can be found lolling around in these, taking care to walk smack in the middle of the spotlight.

Which, precisely, is what happened on March 2, the first day of vote counting.

The CEC shot out of his bungalow, all natty and nice, all ready for the big day. But instead of manning the control room in Nirvachan Sadan, Dr Gill preferred to hop from one television studio to another to hold forth on myriad poll-related issues, even as the desperate print media went mad trying to run him to earth.

Naturally, aggrieved candidates, who sought to cry on Dr Gill's sophisticated shoulder, had to make do with the less-sophisticated ones of his two deputies. But they, poor smallmen (who had virtually been ordered to steer clear of the press), what could they do when the Big Man wasn't there?

Nothing much, which is what they did.

"Sorry, friend, no can do," they told the few candidates who had come running for instant recounting of votes, "Not now, wait till the Big Man comes."

The Big Man, unfortunately, was, well, away.

His last days

It must have been sad, so sad for Sitaram Kesri. To have known that the end was near, but unable to do anything about it.

But then, as a wise old Congressbird whispered in Chacha's ears, "Congress president today, Congress worker tomorrow -- that's politics!"

The wise old Congressbird's comment and the shrewd old Congressman's sadness all arose from the same well. To wit, the alleged coming of Sonia Gandhi to take over the Congress reins and ride it to glory.

Though the Kesri camp gave the impression that Sonia was not interested in the day-to-day affairs of the organisation, the anti-Kesri group, getting stronger by the day, claimed she was just about ready for the move.

"A few weeks," they said, "Oh, a few unsweet weeks, that's all Kesri will have!"

Given the cold vibes between Sonia and Kesri, ambitious party leaders had openly thrown their lot with the former. Thus, Najma Heptulla, one of the more than half-a-dozen party spokespersons, regularly called on Sonia's aide Vincent George. After one of her visits to 10 Janpath, Heptulla even got herself a large photo of Sonia and Priyanka to hang behind her good self in her office. The idea was that every time television cameras focused on her, viewers would be reminded of the presence of the mother-daughter duo.

"But there is no photo of Chacha," wailed an agitated Kesri-loyalist into Heptulla's ears, "The absence of the party president's photo will be taken amiss!"

The spokesperson's reply to that was a cold stare, the coldest she could muster under the circumstances, with the full weight of her frame behind it...

Undoubtedly, Heptulla had known which side her bread was buttered. As was proved when Kesri resigned as party chief on Monday.

The unintellectual Kesri

While on the hapless Kesri, here's one more tale of the man.

The Congress boss often seeks to disarm his critics by volunteering "I am not an intellectual. I am a simple Congress worker..."

Which fact, even his friends admit, is perfectly true. But even they, who know Kesri's brain prowess well, is at their wit's end trying to get Chacha to deliver his 'speaking brief' without messing it up thoroughly.

A senior journalist working for a southern newspaper is having an embarrassing time as Kesri perpetually fails to repeat to the press what the two had agreed on in advance. The result is that Kesri's 'intellectual' friend loyally reproduces at length what he was expected to say, but, in effect, did not say. And this, while all other newspapers would come out with what he actually said!

RSS down, BJP up

Forget what the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh claims. But it has little or no influence over the BJP.

Over the years, the balance of power between the two organisations has shifted in the BJP's favour. The reason is pretty simple. Whereas the status and influence of the BJP leaders, particularly of Atal Bihari Vajpayee and L K Advani, has grown in recent years, the RSS leadership has been on decline since the death of its charismatic Guru Golwalkar and, to an extent, Balasaheb Deoras. The equations have changed so drastically that while top BJP leaders used to regularly visit the RSS top brass earlier, the traffic now is in the reverse direction. The progressive fall in attendance at the shakhas in the north, too, has eroded the RSS's influence.

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