Virendra Kapoor

The coolest heels in the BJP belongs to a gentleman named Pramod Mahajan. Since his fall from grace not so long ago, the ex-political adviser to Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee has been refrigerating his feet regularly -- in the hope that something nice, something hot, will happen to him sooner or later.

But, to date, with nil success.

Soon after his election to the Rajya Sabha two months ago, Mahajan was widely expected to re-gain his earlier pre-eminent position in Vajpayee's inner circles. But the PM is a sensible chap -- he seems to have consciously taken a decision to distance himself from Mahajan.

"No more sleaze-balls or wheeler-dealers for him," a source commented smirk-ingly, "Not for him anything detrimental to the government!"

Indeed, so strong is the antipathy towards Mahajan in higher BJP echelons that his marginalisation has been received with great gusto. Even Union Home Minster Lal Kishanchand Advani, who used to regularly godfather Mahajan, prefers to distance himself. In fact, Advani, whose two Toyota raths were re-modelled under Mahajan's watchful eyes, endorses the decision to cut Mahajan to size.

What more, Mahajan's stock has plummeted so low that there is no certainty of his inclusion in the government when Vajpayee expands his ministry next!

In sharp contrast, Jaswant Singh, the gentleman-politician who had failed in his re-election bid to the Lok Sabha, continues to enjoy Vajpayee's confidence. And unlike Mahajan, he is certain to be made a senior Cabinet minister sooner than later.

"He is almost certain to be made foreign minister," said our source, "though an influential section in the BJP insists on giving him the charge of the more crucial finance ministry."

The swadeshi ill-logic

If foreign liquor majors can bottle and market scotch whisky in India, why be squeamish about foreign cigarette manufacturers?

No reason. And who's squeamish about cigarettes, may we ask?

The swadeshi lobby, that's who. It has chosen to turn a blind eye to foreign liquors made in India while taking up cudgels against the manufacture of foreign cigarettes!

A famous brand of foreign cigarettes, well-puffed by most Hindi film stars, is keen to set up shop in good ol' Bharat. Earlier, its joint venture with an Indian partner was closed down due to smokers' preference for the original foreign made products. Notably, the policy to allow both liquor and cigarette makers to set up fully owned units in India with 100 per cent foreign direct investment has been in place since early 1997.

However, quite inexplicably, the Union industry ministry reiterated the same policy in a press statement issued last month. This led some in the swadeshi lobby to assume -- quite wrongly, of course -- that the BJP government was the author of the policy. The nuisance value of the swadeshi lobby is all the more great because of its proximity to Advani.

Blame it on IA

The Delhi Malayalee Association marked this year's Onam with a get-together at which Lt Governor Vijay Kapur was the chief guest. Former Union minister of state for home and Meghalaya Governor M M Jacob, was the other star attraction.

As a Malayalee, Jacob was expected to show up in a mundu. Instead, he surprised everyone by appearing in a two-piece suit. And sure enough he had to do some explaining to his fellow mallus.

The culprit was the Indian Airlines flight that ferried Jacob from Guwahati, just in time for the function. The embarrassed governor told the hosts that he had wanted to change into a mundu on reaching Delhi, but decided against it when told at Delhi airport that Kapur was already at the function.

"Niceties of protocol prevented me from wearing the traditional attire here," he informed the gathering.

Narayanan skips Onam dinner

President K R Narayanan makes it a point to host a grand Onam party for the shakers and movers of the capital's large Malayalee community every year. However, despite his best efforts, the President couldn't give the traditional dinner this year because of the pre-occupation with his four-nation 15-day visit. The visit couldn't be re-scheduled, given the logistics involved.

By the minister's grace

Thanks to the intervention of Union Minister for Agriculture Som Pal, a self-avowed social worker joined the media party accompanying the prime minister on his recent visit to the non-aligned summit in Durban, South Africa, and three other countries.

Pal pleaded with Vajpayee's Principal Secretary Brajesh Mishra to include the social worker in the PM's media party. Earlier the Gujral government had given the said social worker Rs 1.8 million to make a documentary on NAM.

This time round, throughout the trip, this social worker-turned-film maker 'covered' the PM's visit with a still camera and came back richer with six crates of South African beer!

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