Virendra Kapoor

High up in the sky, higher than paradise, there is a place called seventh heaven. Mortals reach it rarely, but some do manage the feat, after much tears, prayers and such stuff.

And so it happened with Hardanhalli Doddegowda Deve Gowda on Monday, March 9.

One moment the former prime minister was sitting crosslegged and praying, feeling all blotted and blue, and the next, he was there... in the seventh heaven!

For, you see, news flowed in that his bosom buddy, his closest pal, Sitaram Kesri -- yes, the same one who had so very kindly relieved him of the prime minister's chair last year -- had been ejected from the Congress presidentship by a pair of Italian designer shoes!

Deve Gowda opened his eyes and smiled. At the whole world. Hah, thought he, this is bliss, this is nirvana -- what more can a man ask for?

"I knew it would happen," he sighed contently, "He deserved it!"

The occasion being a precious one, the humble farmer wanted to share it with a clutch of his favourite regional journalists. But not before conveying his thanks to the good lord in heaven. So off he trotted to a temple on the outskirts of South Delhi...

"The day Kesri betrayed me and pulled down my government, I had prayed to God to mete out justice," he announced to journos later, "At last it has happened!"

Meanwhile, another former prime minister, Kesri's other bosom pal, P V Narasimha Rao, kept himself well-tied to earth. No press conferences, no beaming face or toothy grins, and if there was any thanksgiving, it was done in absolute privacy -- Rao is too sophisticated and stoic to reveal his inner feelings.

Of Kesri and snakes

So much for the humble farmer. Now on to Chacha himself.

Expectedly, the gentleman is hopping mad. He believes he is being diddled out of office by 'that snake' aka Arjun Singh.

Snake, incidentally, is the mildest pejorative that Kesri chooses to hurl against the wily Rajput from Madhya Pradesh. Singh's ardour for intrigue hasn't been dimmed a wee bit by his second failure to win his seat.

Kesri also blames a group of relatively young Congressmen for plotting his fall. But the real crunch came when Sharad Pawar deserted him for Sonia Gandhi. The Maratha strongman saw percentage in switching loyalty to 10, Janpath, in the hope of becoming the Congress Parliamentary Party leader.

Kesri, for his part, is fighting his last battle. Namely, doing all he can to stop Pawar from making it as CPP leader...

Friends, when they turn foes, makes the worst kind, right?

The Sonia Effect

Not every Congressman is happy with the dynasty's increasing control over the party.

Thus, we, journos, have little 'leaks' coming in. About what went behind the scenes, like, for instance, how the media, especially the electronic-wallahs, was manipulated to give the Sonia Effect a boost.

And about crowds -- to be specific, how they were arranged for at Sonia's rallies. A Congress general secretary says a large sum of money was released from the central party office weeks in advance to get the people in place.

"For her rally in Delhi we had to hire 1,500 buses and trucks to ferry people from all over. Besides, we gave them tea and snacks since she showed up three hours behind schedule," the loyal partyman reveals.

The worst part of the Delhi show, he confesses, was that after all this the Congress could win only one of the seven seats!

Parasitic politics

The Bharatiya Janata Party and Akali Dal are so embarrassed that they could cry. Of a certain 'ungrateful' man, by the name of Inder Kumar Gujral.

Gujral, as we all know, won the Jalandhar seat thanks to the kindness of the Akali-BJP alliance. During the campaign, the outgoing prime minister had refused to call the BJP 'communal.' Indeed, fearing a tough fight from Congress candidate Umrao Singh, he concentrated his attack against the party and its new saviour Sonia Gandhi.

"I am ashamed that I was once in the Congress," he proclaimed.

Not to be outdone, his son Naresh told small roadside rallies how "Sonia would run away to Italy after the election."

As for the BJP, the father-son duo unabashedly wooed senior party leaders. Gujral even pleaded with the Punjab stalwarts to issue an appeal to party cadres to work for his victory.

Which they did. And Gujral won by over 100,000 votes.

But now he has changed colours -- he is back to calling the BJP 'communal'. He is also ready to form a 'secular' government with the same Congress which he said he was 'ashamed' to have been a member of!

No wonder the BJP leaders are finding it hard to swallow. Experienced as they are, it is not everyday they come across 'parasitic politicians' like Gujral!

Chanakya exposed

Calling someone a cockroach is rude. It's just not done. But a leading Delhi newspaper did it, under the byline of a known writer.

Under attack was Harkishan Singh Surjeet, the CPI-M general secretary and self-styled Chanakya of the United Front.

Quite uncharacteristically for the newspaper, and the writer, the article, which appeared last Sunday, trashed Surjeet well and blue. It claimed he "emulates the cockroach not only in his survival at the highest level of politics, but also in the uncanny ability to have access to the inner-most portals of decision-making."

Worse, it said the veteran owned a 'sprawling farm in his village', possessed relatives who were 'settled in North America...'

"...And very early in his life he acquired the habit of being here, there and anywhere. He was the chief of the Jalandhar city Congress who hobnobbed with the Ghadar Party and Akali Dal. As a Congress leader he carried the Communist Red Flag and Acharya Kriplani upbraided him for his 'double dealings'," the poison-ink ran.

The article set off intense speculation in political circles. No one questioned the facts mentioned; everyone seemed to be familiar with the octogenarian leader's long career in wheeling and dealing. But the question was why the play-safe paper chose to expose the real Surjeet and, more important, why now? Until someone zeroed in on the proximity of a senior Congress leader from Madhya Pradesh to the newspaper's proprietor.

Then everything fell in place. The said Congress leader had openly come out against a Congress government supported by the UF, since such a government would in all likelihood be headed by his arch foe, Sharad Pawar. Surjeet was the chief protagonist of the Congress-UF tango.

Incidentally, Surjeet was asked to comment on the grave charges at a press conference. He first refused -- but when pressed, weakly offered that contrary to what the article said his village was not in the Hoshiarpur district but Jalandhar!

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