Virendra Kapoor

There is a growing feeling in the liberal sections of the Bharatiya Janata Party that the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh, the mother organisation of the Sangh Parivar, is hell-bent on embarrassing the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government. The recent spurt in anti-Christian propaganda is not the only proof of the Parivar's alleged perfidy against its tallest leader who heads an uneasy coalition in New Delhi.

Modern-minded elements in the BJP see a design in the recent step-up in the anti-minority rhetoric. The idea is to tame Vajpayee into submission. Senior RSS functionaries are so disgusted with Vajpayee's refusal to fall in line that they have now openly taken to calling him names.

An old RSS hand of the same vintage as Vajpayee and Lal Kishenchand Advani recently dubbed his government "anti-national". Another middle-level RSS loyalist called Vajpayee "the worst prime minister that we have had since Independence."

The middle-of-the road liberals suspect that the RSS is out to carve the Vajpayee government in its own partisan light. Failing which, it would rather have Sonia Gandhi as prime minister than countenance a BJP government which refuses to push ahead its controversial agenda. Whenever BJP leaders have grown big, the RSS has always tried to cut them down to size.

Thus it was that in Rajasthan the RSS and its loyalists in the BJP had become a thorn in the side of Bhairon Singh Shekhawat. In Uttar Pradesh, the BJP has a genuine leader in Kalyan Singh, who has the added the advantage of belonging to the electorally correct backward caste. But now that he has carved a niche for himself in the state's polity, the RSS is out to get him. The pro-RSS brahaman lobby in the BJP is desperate to replace him with one of its own members.

In Delhi, the BJP has a mass leader in Madan Lal Khurana. But in the face of popular revulsion, the RSS had foisted a nobody like Sahib Singh Verma as chief minister despite the fact that Khurana had been duly absolved in the hawala case. Khurana had to be pulled down because he was not suitably deferential to the big bosses.

The RSS hates success. For, it shows it up to be small and insignificant.

Balu is back!

After lying low for a few weeks following his interrogation and searches at his home and offices in connection with the Romesh Sharma case, V Balasubramaniam, Reliance's controversial liaison man, is itching to get back into action.

Since his field of play had always been government offices, he is at pain to dispel the notion that he is a marked man, particularly when most officials, high or low, are loath to be seen dealing with him anymore. And what better way to announce his return than to show up uninvited at the recent pre-Budget meeting of noted industrialists with Union Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha in New Delhi?

Balu, as he is popularly called in babudom, occupied one of the back chairs behind his boss, Mukesh Ambani. On seeing him, a senior finance ministry official took umbrage, but then he realised that there were at least three other industrialists who had brought their factotums to the meeting.

After a quick think, senior mandarins decided to spare Balu the embarrassment of being asked to leave so very publicly.

Motivated advice

Apropos the controversy over the selection of judges for the high courts and the Supreme Court.

President K R Narayanan's advice to Chief Justice of India Dr A S Anand, to consider members of the scheduled castes/tribes for senior judicial appointments, is widely seen in judicial circles as a move to prop up the case for the elevation of the chief justice of the Gujarat high court, Justice K G Balakrishnan to the apex court.

Justice Balakrishnan is not only a scheduled caste like the President, but hails from Narayanan's district in Kerala.

An upright judge, he is not considered exceedingly brilliant. But the only snag in his elevation at this juncture was that he would have an inordinately long tenure as Chief Justice of India and thus spike the prospects of a couple of other brilliant judges of becoming the CJI. Justice Balakrishnan might still make it to the SC, but only after a couple of years.

Admittedly, of the 28 SC judges at present none belongs to scheduled castes or tribes. There is one vacancy that is likely to be filled up soon.

New board for RBI

The Reserve Bank of India's central board of directors is to be re-cast soon.

The finance ministry has forwarded the names of the new directors to the Prime Minister's Office. The current RBI board's three-year term expired some years ago. It was appointed by the P V Narasimha Rao government, but the H D Deve Gowda and Inder Kumar Gujral administrations persisted with it since they were crucially dependent for their survival on the support of the Congress.

The names of industrialist Dhirubhai Ambani, a Delhi-based chartered accountant and a senior economist figure in the proposed list.

Star News' BJP phobia

The Rupert Murdoch-owned Star News is determined to push its anti-BJP agenda at any cost.

The Vajpayee government, though fully aware of the negative slant of the channel, is unable to counter it effectively since Information and Broadcasting Minister Pramod Mahajan is not above doing business with Rathikant Basu, the channel's boss in India.

Last Saturday, Star in its prime time bulletin implied that the BJP might be involved in the murder of Indian Express correspondent Shivani. The bulletin said 'Shivani, a member of the investigative cell of the Indian Express,, had done a lot of stories against the CBI and the BJP.'

The truth is that in her all-too-brief career she hardly did a story against the BJP. So livid was Mahajan at seeing Star News that he immediately called Basu. Caught on the wrong foot, Basu in turn ordered the Prannoy Roy-owned news- making company to delete the offensive sentence. In all subsequent bulletins that night the BJP was not dragged into what was a case of murder.

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