Virendra Kapoor

A while ago, three MPs stood respectfully before Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, much like schoolboys before headmaster.

"Wait yaar," Vajpayee told the trio, leafing through a book of Urdu poetry, "Wait a little more and I will try and give you a berth or two."

The three -Shatrughan Sinha, Digvijay Singh and Abdul Ghafoor -- nodded, bowed deep and went out.

The wait started.

Months have passed, but the promised ministerial positions are yet to come by. For one pretext or the other, the reshuffle-cum-expansion of the central council of ministers is being put off. It was widely expected to take place at the end of the parliamentary session. Or at least before Vajpayee took off to the Non-Aligned conference in South Africa. But that was not to be.

Now the crowd of MPs -- yes, besides the trio mentioned, there are quite a few more aspirants -- reckon the earliest they can join the ranks is on September 5, when Vajpayee returns from his four-nation sojourn.

And if it doesn't happen then?

Well, in that case, they will have to sit out till September 21. For on September 6 the President will be headed for his four-nation tour! He would only return a fortnight later.

Meanwhile, we clever ones in the media did a little bit of investigation on the reason for the delay in the reshuffle. Here's what we found out:

Nope, it's not the mile-long list of aspirants that's holding up the exercise -- but the lack of agreement between Vajpayee and his good friend-cum-Home Minister Lal Kishanchand Advani. They are still fighting over whom to pick and whom to drop.

During ministry-formation, Advani and the RSS had called the shots. Vajpayee is now in a far more assertive mood. And there lies the problem.

Besides, even smaller parties like George Fernandes's Samata Party and Naveen Patnaik-led Biju Janata Dal see profit in not expanding the ministry at this juncture, as they are riven with serious dissension.

"Although small," quipped a source, "they have more ministerial aspirants than Vajpayee can possibly cope with!"

Shotgun takes a pot-shot

Shotgun Shatru -- aka Shatrughan Sinha -- has decided to become a full Cabinet minister.

"Nothing less for me," he insists, "the Cabinet is the bare minimum!"

Reason being, if people like Union Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha, who could not have made it to Parliament without his support, can become Cabinetarians, then how could he settle for anything lower? What would people think?

Unfortunately, Sinha now finds himself smack in the Advani camp, which may mar his prospects.

Oh... we forgot to mention. Our aforementioned research also threw up the names of a few ministerial aspirants. Okay, okay, not to worry, we won't bore you with the entire list, but will settle for a coupla names, okay?

Narender Mohan, a Rajya Sabha member and the owner-editor of Dainik Jagran, the popular multi-edition Hindi daily with a base in Uttar Pradesh, is a prime candidate. Another worthy worth mentioning is Vijay Goel, the live-wire BJP MP from Chandni Chowk.

And then, of course, there's our Shottie, who, if he keeps the gob shut and feet firmly planted, stands a chance.

Upright lady and downright hubbie

This piece, folks, is dripping juicy.

It's about Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting Sushma Swaraj, a zealous defender of rectitude. And her husband Swaraj Kaushal, who is -- hmm, how shall we put it? -- well, not so much a defender of rectitude as wifey.

Colleague Kaushal has been freshly elected to the Rajya Sabha, representing Bansi Lal's Haryana Vikas Party. That's all right, nothing wrong about it, we agree. Trouble is, Kaushal is as careless about the company he keeps as Sushma is careful.

The hubbie, if we were to put it across clean and clear, has a certain attraction, a certain penchant for seeking out all manners of wheeler-dealers.

Last day, our sleuths saw him clinking glass with a fixer-cum-bagman of a fledgling cellular telephone company. The venue was, of course, a five-star hotel. Swaraj has nothing to do with the telecom ministry... besides the fact that wifey is temporarily in-charge of it.

Meanwhile, Sushma's durbaris are pressing hard to ensure that her temporary charge of the communications ministry is made permanent. After the creation of the autonomous Prasar Bharati Corporation, they argue, the I&B ministry has very little to do. Besides, in these days of satellite television and telephony, the I&B and communications ministries are inextricably linked. Therefore...

Flower bomb

Tantramous are the ways ofJ Jayalalitha.

Right from the day she helped push Vajpayee's cart into Parliament, she has kept the poor man on tenterhooks. Her last fit, as the whole world knows, nearly scared the pyjamas off the PM. Though the government bravely went ahead despite this, Jayalalitha found welcome support from most Opposition groups, notably the Congress.

Buoyed by Congress spokesman Ajit Jogi's endorsement of her charge against the BJP-led power, Jayalalitha ordered one of her party MPs to rush with a bouquet of flowers to Jogi's house.

Which action put Jogi in an uncomfortable position.

Jogi's headache came worrying how Sonia Gandhi and other party bigwigs would react to Jaya's gesture. Promptly, he called up an aide to the Congress president.

"Jaya has sent me flowers," he is said to have blurted, "But I didn't do anything! She must have mistaken that I was with her. But my loyalty is to Soniajiand Soniaji alone..."

The ploy seems to have worked. The last we heard of Jogi was still the party spokesperson.

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