Virendra Kapoor

No, folks, no.

Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee ain't moving out of 7, Race Course road yet. Despite reports that the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government will topple as soon as Janata Party leader Subramanian Swamy finishes buying All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam supremo J Jayalalitha tea, coalition leaders are confident of muddling through another six months at least.

"The real threat will come around November, when a couple of key states go to the poll," senior coalition members say, "The new political alignments at the year-end may destabilise the government."

Swamy, an AIADMK ally, will felicitate Jayalalitha at a reception in Delhi on March 29. Since he has invited senior leaders of various political parties including the Congress, and left out everyone from the BJP, the speculation is that a new anti-Vajpayee axis will result.

Of course, nothing of the sort is on the cards. But not for the want of trying by Rashtriya Janata Morcha leaders and a few middle-level Congressmen. The reason why Vajpayee won't have to pack his bags is that most MPs, including those in the Opposition, are wont to risk a fresh election now, just one-fifth way through their five-year term.

Without doubt, Jayalalitha is up to her old tricks. But she is unlikely to do anything in a hurry to floor Vajpayee. For, it is thanks to his government that the law is only yapping at her heels.

Thus, we can conclude safely, the government will sit pretty till November. There might be some hiccups when Parliament meets again over the Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat and Mohan Guruswamy affairs.

But those, leaders maintain, are 'survive-able.'

Fight for berths

The prime minister may have ruled out a ministry expansion, but there is no denying the pressure from his various partners.

Jayalalitha is pressing her claim for two additional berths. Since two of her original nominees were forced to quit, she is insisting on replacements.

For his part, Vajpayee, having been once forced to abandon his expansion plans, is now reluctant to take up the exercise again. In any case, he is unlikely to try it till the end of the Budget session in mid-May. But this won't stop Jayalalitha and certain other allies from making minatory noises -- if for nothing else than to keep their wayward followers in check.

Laloo and aaloo

Union Minister for Chemicals and Fertilisers Surjeet Singh Barnala is getting on in years. Hard of hearing, he often finds it tough to follow Parliament proceedings.

The other day in the Lok Sabha when he admitted that "Aloo key dham baddey hain " (The prices of potato have gone up), Speaker G M C Balayogi seemed to think he had heard the minister say, "Laloo key..."

Barnala, in order to hear the Speaker better, put on his earphones. But by then the House had erupted into guffaws, with Laloo Prasad Yadav standing up and pointing to his freshly tonsured head.

"Bhandari (Sunder Singh) wapas gaya, mainey bal katwaye (Governor Bhandari has been transferred out of Bihar and I got my hair cut in celebration)!"

Came then a quest from a senior Communist Party of India-Marxist member: "Laloo Yadavji, will you cut your hair if the Vajpayee government is toppled?"

Laloo responded by pointing to the Congress benches. "If these fellows co-operate with us," he said, "we will topple the government this moment and, believe me, I will tonsure my head again!"

All through the mirth, Barnala sat passively, not knowing what the heck was it all about.

Generous Jagmohan

Junior ministers often complain they are given no work by their seniors. That no files are routed through them.

It is well known how Human Resource Development Minister Dr Murli Manohar Joshi sidelined his number two, Uma Bharati. Another minister of state who had complained against his senior is Kabindra Purkayastha.

He was first sidelined by Buta Singh. After the sardar was dropped from the Cabinet and Sushma Swaraj given temporary charge of the communications ministry, Purkayastha's plight became worse. Even Swaraj's PA behaved as if he was more powerful than the number two.

However, the present Minister for Communications Jagmohan is a welcome departure from all such. His orders are that all official files be routed to him only after the same has been seen by Purkayastha. No wonder, the latter does not tire of praising Jagmohan.

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