Virendra Kapoor

Life with AIADMK bosswoman J Jayalalitha, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee has realised, is not a bed of rocks. It's worse, much worse: There isn't much he can do with her, and there isn't much he can do without her!

So divorce it's going to be, the next time the Mother in Madras holds him to ransom.

"The time has come," said the top-man of India to himself, "to think of a contingency plan. A split, of course, is always painful -- but life has to go on..."

And so Vajpayee has a contingency plan ready now, to survive life without Jaya. The surest way to insulate himself against the pangs of parting, he has decided, is to surround himself with creatures of similar might. Vajpayee has already identified two bunches of such -- Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Laloo Prasad Yadav's 17 MPs and Samajwadi Party chieftain Mulayam Singh Yadav's 20 men -- and the wooing is already underway.

If it is Railway Minister Nitish Kumar who's showering Laloo's MPs with flowers and romantic dinners, it's a senior minister in the Kalyan Singh government who's dating the followers of the other Yadav. Sources say the courtships are on intimate terms now -- why, the other day, some of the Yadavs's men are said to have invited their escorts in for a nightcap...

Nitish Kumar's courtship, though, has a little snag in there to be sorted out -- the wannabe rebels want the Rabri Devi government in Bihar to fall before they take the plunge.

The flowers, dinners and dances, meanwhile, are continuing as Vajpayee's men patiently, very patiently, prepare the fence-sitters to hear those magical four words...

Jokes apart

In Bombay, for the first time since he made it to the PM chair, Vajpayee and a host of VVIPs are gathered inside the airport lounge for light refreshments when up comes Maharashtra Governor P C Alexander with a brilliant suggestion.

There is this spot on the beach near Raj Bhavan, he tells Vajpayee, which the PM must visit -- Pandit Nehru used to sit for long there, seeking inspiration.

"Panditji would fly down to Bombay to take a break from the pressure-cooker life in the capital," Dr Alexander says, "He would sit on the beach for long hours to recharge his batteries..."

Before the prime minister, who is worrying how to squeeze in a couple of hours of shut-eye into his hectic 36-hour schedule in the city, can respond, Maharashtra Chief Minister Manohar Joshi chips in, very wittily.

"Atalji," he says, "you must seek solitude on the beach. Maybe you will feel inspired to write a new poem."

Loud guffaws follow Joshi's remarks, and Vajpayee smiles resignedly -- not for nothing is he known as a richly patient man.

Patel's paranoia

Gujarat Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel is down with a bad case of paranoia.

Sources say he has been suffering from the disease ever since he came back to power after ousting Shankersinh Vaghela in a quiet coup. Patel has been, since then, suspicious of all and sundry -- even those who helped him back to power. BJP strongman Narendra Modi, now exiled to faraway Himachal Pradesh, is no longer on good terms with Patel, thanks to the latter's sense of insecurity.

But the disease took a serious turn after Patel's erstwhile lieutenant Suresh Mehta came into the picture. Patel got so paranoid about him that he refused to give Mehta, himself a former chief minister, his old portfolio, finance, instead palming him off to industry -- and that too without the power to frame industrial policy, which the chief minister kept with himself.

However, it was in the allotment of a ministerial house that Patel's illness took a serious turn. Traditionally, the bungalow abutting the CM's official residence is given to the seniormost minister. Which, of course, is none other than Mehta. But no way, Patel doesn't want Mehta anywhere near the area! And so, the spacious bungalow lies empty.

Lady Maneka

You got to hand it to Maneka Gandhi. The Union minister of state still finds time to chase her first love, nay, passion -- namely, saving animals and the environment from the depredations of humankind.

The other day, big bosses at the Hindustan Lever headquarters in Bombay were taken aback to find Maneka at their doorstep. Ms Environment, who had come minus all trappings of ministerial power, had a small request for them: Could she have five minutes with the company spokesman? Of course, she could!

Maneka's purpose of arrival, it seemed, was limited to just inquiring whether the largest manufacturer of soap and toiletries in the subcontinent used animal tallow in any of its products. No, they didn't use any such offensive substance in their products, the spokesperson assured her. Whereupon Ms Environment exited from the fancy portals of HLL as unobtrusively as she had come.

A remarkable change, this, for a lady who has a genius for kicking up rows wherever she goes, right?

Lil' Bachchan

Superstar Amitabh Bachchan is not the only one looking forward to the release of Lal Badshah. After his comeback vehicle broke an axle last year, Bachchan has pinned his hopes on K C Bokadia's much-hyped film, due for release later this year.

But unknown to the world, the extended clan of Rajasthan Chief Minister Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, too, is awaiting Lal Badshah. For Shekhawat's maternal grandson, six-year-old Abhimanyu, plays the young Bachchan in the movie.

Born in Rajasthan, Bokadia maintains close links with state politicians and nurses political ambitions.

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