Whatever spin he may put to it, there is no denying that Urban Affairs Minister Ram Jethmalani got it bad from Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Again.
The mention, of course, is about Jethmalani's urgent craving for transparency in government. And the consequent declaration to throw open all files to public.
But Union Cabinet Secretary Prabhat Kumar didn't like the idea one bit. He wrote a two-page note rejecting Jethmalani's unilateral announcement, which caught everyone in the government unawares.
Kumar's letter pointedly notes that he learnt about Jethmalani's decision "only from media reports." It goes on to explain that the rules of the government cannot be changed without due procedure. Approvals at various levels were required; categorisation of information to be made public was necessary.
Admittedly, the Vajpayee government is committed to transparency, but did not want to haphazardly rush matters. The government, Kumar notes, is already in the process of finalising a right to information bill in order to cut red tape. So, would Jethmalani kindly retract the order whereby he had directed his ministry, and other bodies under its control, to frame rules for making official files public?
Which Jethmalani did. But not before he caught the wrong end of Vajpayee's tongue.
Shourie, Singhvi as ministers
Arun Shourie, controversial columnist-turned-BJP MP, was one of those to be inducted into the government in the expansion that didn't take place. Having wisely identified himself with the L K Advani camp in the BJP, Shourie was in all likelihood to be made minister of state for home.
The ambitious Shourie has reason to be close with Advani. He is thick with the crafty S Gurumurthy of the Swadeshi Jagran Manch. Gurumurthy, in turn, heads the 'gang of four', which owes its influence to its alleged proximity to the home minister.
Another neo-convert to the BJP cause, Dr Laxmi Mal Singhvi, former high commissioner to London and now Rajya Sabha member, too, was to be berthed. The evergreen dr Singhvi, known for his knack to keep everyone happy everywhere, was the candidate of both Vajpayee and Advani. He was to be made a Cabinet minister. He may yet find himself in the ministry... as and when Jayalalitha gives the go ahead.
Desperate to clear their name in the Bofors scam, the Hinduja brothers have offered a trade-off to the Government of India.
In a communication, Srichand, the eldest brother, has offered to withdraw the case filed by the Hindujas in a Swiss court seeking to block the release of documents in the Rs 16 billion howitzer deal -- if the GoI issued them a clean chit.
The government is unsure of the real motive behind the offer. Srichand had made the offer to Central Bureau of Investigation Director Trinath Mishra earlier this month. A few days later he followed it up with a meeting with the newly appointed Chairman of the Central Vigilance Commission, N Vittal. The CVC, incidentally, has been entrusted by the Supreme Court to oversee the functioning of investigating agencies. Both Mishra and Vittal are now pondering if the Hinduja offer is as innocent it seems.
A Viagra festival
It may be a while before an Indian pharmaceutical company introduces the sexciting Viagra pills in the country, but its clandestine distribution is in full swing in the capital's influential circles. Resourceful movers and shakers, in need of that extra pep in their lives, don't have any trouble laying their hands on the much-talked-about heart-shaped blue pills.
And now it turns out that the best way for Delhi's liaison men to win over highly-placed babus is to discreetly offer them the pills. No wonder, then, that during this festival season, along with the usual hampers of dry fruits and Black Label scotch, enterprising fixers are giving away Viagra pills!
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