Virendra Kapoor

Caution to the winds! Here's a scoop!

Sonia Gandhi, Congress president and gentlewoman, is ready to make way for party colleague Dr Manmohan Singh.

Yes, Madam is opting out of the prime ministerial race. In a few days time, our sources say, she will announce this and may name Dr Singh for the top job.

Sonia's decision is spurred by -- you guessed right! -- the disappearance of her charm and the threat of defeat looming over her.

Incidentally, Dr Singh's anointment will be no smooth sail. Senior leaders argue that there is an anti-Sikh feeling among large sections of the electorate and, hence, the good doctor would lose the Congress quite a few votes.

The issue, when we last listened at the keyhole, was still being thrashed out.

Sonia, Narayanan and some 'rascals'

Our studied opinion on the President-Prime Minister affair:

Rashtrapati Bhavan and South Block, though located close to each other, are now so far apart that there is no hope of their coming together until the tenancy of one or the other changes.

An added cause to the tension is the realisation that Atal Bihari Vajpayee, in all likelihood, would continue as prime minister after the Lok Sabha poll.

"That's something which the President cannot stand," our snoops report. "And hence, K R Narayanan's ill-conceived attempts to try and stop him in whatever way he can."

The President has been rather indiscreet in revealing his political prejudices. And, mind you, it is he, not Vajpayee, who as the head of the Republic, is duty-bound to keep away from divisive politics!

Narayanan leaves no interlocutor in doubt that he doesn't want the "rascals" back. And adds, sadly, in the same breath:

"Unfortunately these rascals are coming back!"

The President, according to sources, is in the habit of recounting how he had tried to install an alternative government after Vajpayee lost the trust vote in May -- but Sonia Gandhi had mucked it all up.

"I told her not to stake her claim for prime minister-ship, instead to propose Dr Manmohan Singh's name. But she goes out and says, 'I have the support of 272 MPs..!' "

If only the lady had listened to the wise gent then.

Look, who's talking!

First it was Marxist ideologue Dr Ashok Mitra who called the Indian army the "army of occupation."

Now it is the turn of the Communist Party of India-Marxist's favourite scholar-writer Sunil Gangopadhyay (we had mentioned him earlier) to go off on the same tangent.

Extracts from an interview which Gangopadhyay gave Aajker Kagoz, a Bangladeshi newspaper:

"There was a possibility of India breaking up in 10 to 15 years" goes he.

Oh? Shucks! Would the break-up of Assam and Kashmir herald the disintegration of India?

The reply: "...there is an armed conflict in Kashmir. Crores and crores of rupees are spent on them. Because of the army, common people face atrocities. Wherever there is an armed force, there is a question of atrocities. I would say many problems are solved if Kashmir is made independent."

Gangopadhyay must surely be talking about the independence of both parts of Kashmir.

"No, I am talking of our Kashmir."

His only fear, he goes on, is that an independent and united Kashmir would become a Muslim majority area.

"(That) would give an opportunity to the fundamentalist Hindus to become powerful."

And to think that he belongs to the same party that had in 1962 accused India of launching the aggression against China!

Times change, and so do views, na?

Anger undammed

A few days after the much-hyped Arundhati Roy-led rally for the valley ended, Gujarat Minister for the Sardar Sarovar Narmada project Jai Narayan Vyas and another fire-brand rallyist appeared on Star News.

Sparks flew from the word go. Vyas, a technocrat by training, knew his case well. The Damn The Dam activist got angry by the minute. When they abruptly switched off the cameras, she is said to have almost caught Vyas by his collar. And, believe us, it took some effort on the television crew's part to extricate the honourable minister from the lady!

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