Virendra Kapoor

A li'l while ago, we carried a piece on the dog-eat-dog world that is the media.

We told you of journalists' tendency to help each other out, scratch each other's back, and forget to mention one another's name when linked to embarrassing men.

We also made a proud proclamation: That we don't have no qualms about eating dogs.

Which is why we have decided to tell the truth about the created controversy involving President K R Narayanan. And, in the process, let the air out of India Today's claims.

The national newsmagazine and its Editor Prabhu Chawla had come out with an Exclusive (with a capital E) about Narayanan's suggestion to increase the SC/ST representation among Supreme Court and high court judges.

Only, the Exclusive (with a capital E) was no exclusive (no, not even with a small 'e'!) -- a good three weeks ago, to be precise on January 3, we had run the item.

Incidentally, this is not the first time that Chawla has screamed 'Exclusive, Exclusive' (with capital Es). Not long ago, his report about the Jain Commission inquiry into the Rajiv Gandhi assassination was featured World Exclusive (with capital W and E).

Nothing wrong in that... except, substantive parts of the report had been extensively reported in a chain of Tamil and Telugu newspapers!

Wrong, Chawla!

On second reading, the India Today seems to have misunderstood the President's suggestion.

Owner-Editor-in-Chief Aroon Purie has got it all wrong when he says the President is talking about 'reservations.' He isn't.

Had the editor-in-chief and his brilliant editor cared to go through the President's noting on the file, they would have found that all he is saying is please do consider meritorious candidates from among the SC\ST and women. Nowhere did he even remotely talk about reservations in the judiciary, as Purie's glowing editorial suggests.

And Purie ought not to mistake Presidential advice as interference. If the President was right in rendering the advice, Chief Justice of India Adarsh Sein Anand was equally right in politely turning it down.

While on the issue, let us disabuse the impression readers might have got while reading Chawla's story that the CJI was a party to the leakage of the confidential correspondence from the President. He was not.

The photograph of a beaming Chawla sitting next to Justice Anand in the latter's study is as much a red herring as was the photograph of him shaking hands with Justice M C Jain in the issue that had the so-called World Exclusive (with a capital W & E) about the Jain Commission. The source in the latest case is a joint secretary who for some reason believed that Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee wanted him to 'expose' an activist President.

Vajpayee, if anything, has been greatly embarrassed by the attempt to mar his relations with Narayanan.

As for the extracts from the Jain report, those were doing the rounds thanks to a senior Congressman who wanted to destabilise the then-in-power United Front government.

O Allah, Hey Ram...

Human Resource Development Minister Murli Manohar Joshi never learns.

Never mind the embarrassment he caused the Vajpayee government at the recent education conference. Joshi is willing to do it even when there are no brownie points to be won for loudly championing 'Hindi, Hindu, Hindustan.'

Happened during the Union Cabinet meeting last week. When Industry Minister Sikandar Bakht's proposal to revive the government-owned units Hindustan Cables and Praga Tools Ltd came up for discussion, Joshi had a thing to say.

"Where is the Hindi translation of the proposal? We cannot take it up without Hindi translation... Let us move on to another item."

Disgusted at the intervention, Bakht gripped his head and muttered, "O Allah, Hey Ram..."

The Cabinet skipped the item and moved on. But Bakht was livid. He excused himself and, accompanied by aides, drove straight to the ministry. And sure enough the Hindi section, mandatory in every central ministry, came in for some tongue-lashing.

Result: Henceforth, all proposals from the industries ministry for Cabinet approval will be accompanied by its Hindi translation!

Papa's doings

The Western practice of sending New Year cards has now been embraced by Indian ministers. Politicians in power make it a point to greet all and sundry -- but, curiously, out of power they fail to do so. May be it is because the annual chore is done at the tax-payers' expense while in office?

Prime Minister A B Vajpayee sent out a couple of thousand cards on the New Year. Very simple cards, they pictured a tiger on the front and a printed message inside.

Power Minister P R Kumaramangalam sent the greetings two week later, on Pongal day. His cards in Tamil, Hindi and English bore the famous inscription, Tamso Ma Jyotirmoy -- may truth always triumph.

But it were the cards from Minister for Urban Affairs and Employment Ram Jethmalani and his well-known Private Secretary K J Alphons that became the source of great amusement and some controversy.

The cards of both these worthies carried oil paintings done by Alphons's 14-year-old son, Adarsh. While the minister's card showed a collage of Indians of different faiths and regions with the caption at the back, Independence 1947- 97, Alphons's had a picture of a Kathakali dancer on the front.

The controversy centres around how the PS 'persuaded' the Housing and Urban Development Corporation, which comes under his minister, to buy the cards from Adarsh. A friendly printer had printed the cards in 1997, but Alphons failed to find a buyer then. This year, a proposal arrived at the HUDCO, ostensibly from Adarsh. And his father wrote on the file that the minister had seen the proposal and Adarsh be paid Rs 10,000 for the cards.

The HUDCO promptly paid up for Jethmalani's cards. Which of the ministry's wings paid for Alphons's cards is still unclear.

Incidentally, Adarsh's paintings are in great demand of late. As a result his bank balance -- yes, in his own name -- has swelled quite a bit. The proud papa will tell you that his son is probably the only 14-year-old he knows who pays income tax!

Patel the powerful

Despite the furore over the attacks on Christians in Gujarat, the Keshubhai Patel government has not formally discussed the situation in the Cabinet even once.

His reason: the matter is purely a law and order issue and the Cabinet has no new proposal to deal with it.

Meanwhile, the BJP leadership is veering round to the view that it is beyond Patel's capabilities to provide effective governance. A couple of senior leaders from Gujarat, including a few ministers, have conveyed their growing disenchantment with Patel. Their charge is that not only was Patel indecisive, but allowed his son-in-law to interfere in the day-to-day administration.

Key officials held their job at the pleasure of the chief minister's son-in-law, a senior member of the Patel government told Union Home Minister Lal Kishinchand Advani recently.

However, given the drift at the BJP's highest level, it will take a far bigger crisis than Dangs for Patel to get the boot.

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