Virendra Kapoor

The top brass in the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh did make one last-ditch effort to prevent former UP Chief Minister Kalyan Singh from being expelled from the Bharatiya Janata Party. But Kalyan himself threw a spanner in the works.

This is how it happened:

The RSS sent two intermediaries to meet Singh in Lucknow soon after the BJP suspended him for indiscipline. The two RSS emissaries were generally considered close to Singh. One was a BJP member of the Rajya Sabha elected from UP. The other was buttering up Singh to get a nomination to the Rajya Sabha in the forthcoming biennial elections due in March.

Besides, both emissaries were close to Advani. Singh met the two at his house in Lucknow. But instead of piping down, he launched a no-holds-barred tirade against the BJP leadership, singling out Prime Minister A B Vajpayee for a particularly vicious attack.

He then killed all prospects of a rapprochement by announcing publicly that the BJP leadership was suing for peace, having sent two emissaries to him for a compromise.

That nipped in the bud whatever little chance there was of a settlement. For their hard work, the two emissaries had to contend with a ticking off from senior BJP leaders. Why had they undertaken the peace mission without authorisation from the party, they were asked.

The two told a senior BJP functionary that a very senior RSS functionary had asked them to meet Singh and explore the possibility, if any, of a compromise.

The best of intentions...

The muffling of Khurana

Even former Delhi chief minister and BJP MP Madan Lal Khurana wanted to try and placate Kalyan Singh. But when he showed signs of it, he was bluntly told the party leadership would take a dim view of his efforts.

Khurana, erring on the side of caution, stayed put in Delhi and got back to sulking about his exclusion from the Vajpayee ministry. The prime minister may have told to be happy as an MP, but having once being a chief minister does something to your ego -- it becomes indeflatable. So Khurana, unlike his fellow MPs from Delhi, reckons he is cut out for bigger things and is always devising ways to grab the limelight.

The RSS-BJP leadership grants that Khurana is their most important leader in the capital, but can't find him a job commensurate with his status. There is a tentative move in the party circles to make him the BJP vice-president and then hand him charge of some important state units.

But, for the present, Khurana cools his heels.

No grace in politics, is there?

There is no place in politics for an altruist.

You may do things with the best of motives but your colleagues will always cock a suspicious eye.

So Congressmen read some diabolical motives into the effort Bombay Congress chief and former MP Murli Deora played in getting his party to back the bill that lets foreign investors put their money into the investment sector.

Deora, a free marketeer by conviction, spent almost a week trying to bring round the Congress MPs to open up the insurance sector, a proposal first mooted by the Narasimha Rao government.

Without support from the Congress, the Insurance Bill would have fallen through in the Rajya Sabha since the BJP is in a minority there.

At one stage, the bill became hostage to the factional fight within the Congress. Only when it dawned on Congress chief Sonia Gandhi that the opponents of the bill were actually targeting her did she order her MPs to support it in the two Houses of Parliament.

With the bill through, some Congress MPs are accusing Deora of an extraneous interest in its passage.

The poor fellow had spent a great many sleepless nights, rushing from Sonia to Vajpayee, and trying to convince doubtful Congress leaders. And this is what he gets in return. No grace in politics, is there?

Meanwhile, another Congress leader darkly hints that a US diplomat in New Delhi met Sonia to ensure the Congress supported the bill.

Another claimed Deora was closed to some nameless US insurance company. A pity, for Deora has been genuinely rooting for economic liberalisation even before the Congress discovered its advantages in the early nineties.

Singing like a canary

Abhishek Verma, the son of the late Congress general secretary Shrikant Verma and Rajya Sabha MP Veena Verma, is beginning to sing like a canary.

Wanted for fraud, money laundering, extortion, etc., he has provided government investigators enough incriminating information to nail quite a few important people in the capital.

Verma insists he gathered courage to come to India following a trade-off with a couple of wheeler-dealers claiming proximity to the Vajpayee government. But it is the Congress politicians and the former Joint Director in the Enforcement Directorate, Ashok Aggarwal, against whom the 35-year-old high-flying racketeer has furnished conclusive evidence.

Aggarwal, under suspension already for blackmail and extortion, has gone underground following Verma's deposition. Sleuths maintain that he intends to settle in the US and had therefore arranged to transfer huge funds through underhand channels to his close family members ahead of his proposed migration there.

Another person Verma named is a key aide of a senior Congress leader. Verma says the concerned person purchased two houses besides some 50 acres of prime farmland in the capital through hawala funds recycled as donations from abroad.

So shaken was the aide by Verma's tell-all confession that he rushed post haste the Congress spokesman Ajit Jogi to his house. Jogi promised Verma's mother Veena, another six-year term in the Rajya Sabha in exchange for his complete silence. Veena Verma's term is due to end early next year.

In a particular transaction, Verma told the sleuths, the person he named had given a former Congress minister in Rajasthan Rs 100 million as donation through the hawala route. The minister pocketed half the money while arranging to send back the other half through the hawala channel as a donation.

The last word on the Verma confession is yet to be heard...

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