Virendra Kapoor

The Kalyan Singh problem had its genesis in that fight of wills between L K Advani and Atal Bihari Vajpayee in the Bharatiya Janata Party.

Singh was a protege of Advani and never hid his disdain for Vajpayee. So long as Vajpayee wasn't the prime minister, he suffered Singh's less-than-deferential conduct.

On his visits to the capital, Singh would pointedly refuse to see Vajpayee while meeting Advani and the latter's camp followers, including a couple of journalist-fixers considered close to the latter.

Singh thought little of Vajpayee's liberal, middle-of-the-road approach to all matters, including the contentious Ram Mandir issue. Being in the forefront of the Ram temple campaign, he cultivated the assorted sadhus and sants who joined the BJP after the Ayodhya movement. And Vajpayee felt decidedly uneasy with these dhoti-clad and trident-wielding BJP members.

This cultural mismatch between the BJP's most well-known face and its most important backward caste leader was apparent to everyone in the party. Then anti-Singh ministers in his cabinet, namely Kalraj Mishra and Lalji Tandon, teamed up to exploit the prime minister's innate distrust of the UP chief minister for their own selfish ends.

The Mishra-Tandon duo roped in Shiv Kumar, a long-time Vajpayee aide now entrusted with liasing with Vajpayee's constituents in Lucknow. That the Mishra-Tandon-Kumar axis worked overtime to poison Vajpayee's mind further against Singh could be illustrated from the following incident:

On the day Vajpayee filed his nomination papers in Lucknow in the recent parliamentary election, a controversial newspaper owner put out full-page advertisements in local dailies felicitating him on the occasion.

The trio informed Vajpayee that the UP chief minister had seen the ads and ordered the prosecution of the newspaper owner. An incensed Vajpayee had phoned up Singh wanting to know if the latter did not like to see his photograph in the papers. Such then was the distrust between Vajpayee and Singh.

No wonder that, at the first available opportunity, Vajapyee gave him the heave-ho. Admittedly, Singh made the mistake of putting all his eggs in the Advani basket. In particular, he relied too much on a few wheeler-dealers claiming to be close to Advani. Among them was a minor scribe now enjoying a sinecure in a financial daily owned by a controversial industrialist.

He claims to have brought Singh over to talk things over with Vajpayee at a luncheon at the latter's New Delhi house at the height of the recent campaign for the Lok Sabha election. Much to everyone's chagrin, the fixer insisted being present too. Despite the post-lunch claim that matters between Vajpayee and Singh had been sorted out, mutual recrimination and suspicions continued.

Incidentally, the journalist-fixer cultivated Singh hoping he would be accommodated in the BJP list of nominees for the upcoming biennial Rajya Sabha elections from UP. The ruling coalition in the state can hope to bag at least five of the eight seats due to fall vacant in April next.

Of these, the fixer-journalist had set his heart on one, having already registered himself as a voter in UP. Now, with Singh out, he may have missed his chance of becoming an hon'ble MP.

And there There are no prizes for guessing the fixer's identity either.

IAS at a discount

The IASwallahs are more than a little cut up at this slight. For none of the prime minister's various personal aides belongs to their tribe.

After Shakti Sinha left to take up a more lucrative posting in Washington, Vajpayee has two personal secretaries in V Anandrajan, a low-profile Indian Revenue Service official, and Ajay Bisaria, a relatively junior IFS officer.

Bisaria joined the PM's personal staff after Sinha left. Even Home Minister L K Advani has no IAS officer in his personal staff. His long-time Man Friday Deepak Chopra acts as his PS. Ditto for the new Information and Broadcasting Minister Arun Jaitley, who has settled for D Mukhopadhaya, an Information Service official who was his contemporary in Delhi University.

But what is Sinha doing now? Well, he's boning up on the fundamentals of economics before taking up his new assignment as an executive assistant to World Bank Executive Director B P Singh early next year.

Posted in the finance ministry in the interregnum, the Union Territory IAS officer is poring over voluminous reports and tomes of data in preparation for his Washington job which, at the very least, promises him a lot of tax-free dollars.

The cringe-making culture

In Delhi's darbari culture, the deserving often miss the bus. The one who cringes best, profits most.

Like this former member of the Lok Sabha who has set his heart on becoming the Prasar Bharati CEO. He threw his hat in the ring last year, soon after then information and broadcasting minister Sushma Swaraj got rid of S S Gill.

Since then the post has been lying vacant. Now our darbari has renewed his efforts to occupy it.

He now claims to be a life-long RSS-BJP supporter, and that he coined the word 'pseudo-secularist' way back in 1973. Now, it's hard to shake off such a thick-skinned favour-seeker.

He may eventually end up wangling some official position or the other under the Vajpayee dispensation, which, in any case, is overwhelmed by neo-converts...

RSS to his rescue

At the end of the mini expansion of the Vajpayee government, one man who was really cut up was Minister for Urban Affairs Jagmohan. For, in the new allocation of work, his meaty departments of Central Public Works and Estates had been assigned to new Akali Dal Minister S S Dhanoa.

Jagmohan took up the matter with his friends in the RSS. Who, in turn, rang up the right people in the government. Within 48 hours the key departments were back in Jagmohan's charge.

Now it was Dhanoa's turn to sulk. But no one is listening. He ought to consider himself lucky, they say, that he is a minister. Now, really!

A class apart

After they had enjoyed free access to the hugely-subsidised MPs' canteen in Parliament House for decades, the politicians are trying to keep the journalists out. As a conciliatory measure, they've been given a hole-in-the-wall Press Room-cum-canteen of their own, which is no substitute for the swankier thing the MP's visit.

But can a scribe ever complain?

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