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                        Virendra Kapoor

Everything is unwell with the BJP.

It is no longer the cohesive, disciplined organisation it was a couple of years ago. The BJP leadership is either unable or unwilling to set its house in order. There are divisions galore in 'the party with a difference.'

In the electorally crucial state of Uttar Pradesh, the BJP is divided from top to bottom on backward versus upper castes lines. Chief Minister Kalyan Singh. who belongs to an other backward caste, refuses to bend before thakurs and brahmins. It seems that the two senior-most leaders of the party, namely, Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Lal Kishenchand Advani, have given up on bringing order to the UP unit.

Similar is the case with the BJP in the national capital. The dominant group led by Mange Ram Garg enjoys little support. The three former chief ministers -- Madan Lal Khurana, Sahib Singh Verma and Sushma Swaraj -- are sulking in their respective tents. Khurana would like to be anointed the unquestioned boss of Delhi BJP, a claim not acceptable to either Verma or Swaraj.

Verma complains of his marginalisation and would like to be given a free hand in managing the affairs of his personal fiefdom, the rural Delhi constituency including the Outer Delhi parliamentary seat.

As for Sushma, she joined the BJP only because she could get nowhere as a member of the erstwhile Socialist Party. Having manipulated Haryana Chief Minister Bansi Lal for a Rajya Sabha seat for her husband Swaraj Kaushal, Sushma is not keen to contest the forthcoming Lok Sabha election. She still retains the ministerial bungalow she was allotted during her tenure in the Vajpayee government and would like to stay put there for five more years now that her husband is a first-time MP.

She is so miffed at Vajpayee's refusal to make her a minister following her disastrous stint as the Delhi chief minister that she refused to act as the BJP's official spokesperson. Advani personally offered her the high-profile assignment a few days ago. Without offering a coherent reason, she declined. She and her husband spend their time spreading canards against Vajpayee and his family.

The Seshan bug

Chief Election Commissioner Manohar Singh Gill has been bitten by the T N Seshan bug. Once a victim of Seshan's crude behaviour when he was a member of the Commission while Seshan was its chief, Dr Gill has now started aping the former CEC's supercilious ways while displaying none of his toughness.

The case in point is Dr Gill's obsession with ephemeral status. He was mighty peeved at the downgrading of his security following a comprehensive review accorded to over 200 people. From 'Z' category, his security detail was lowered to 'Y'. Although the threat perception reviewed periodically by the intelligence agencies did not warrant even `Y' category to the CEC, the latter made his displeasure known in no uncertain terms. And the government gave in.

Made to cut short his all-paid jaunt to the US following the dissolution of the Lok Sabha, Dr Gill threw a fit on reaching home. He shouted at senior home ministry officials: "I cannot go to Rashtrapati Bhavan because I do not have adequate security." To keep him in good humour, the government promptly despatched a jeep-load of commandos.

Curiously, Dr Gill had sought to turn an official one-week visit to the US into an extended three-week jaunt. When law ministry officials questioned the need for him to stop over in London for one full week en route to the US, the CEC threw a fit. Dr Gill's Seshanesque behaviour again forced the government to take the path of least resistance. He left Delhi's sizzling summer for cooler climes only to be summoned back.

Meanwhile, cold vibes continue between Dr Gill and his number two G V G Krishnamurthy. Both are publicity hogs, but Dr Gill has barred his deputy from addressing the media. The only man who has no problem in getting along with both Dr Gill and GVG is the third Election Commissioner J M Lyngdoh who shuns all public attention and would like to be left well alone.

Jokers all

The all-party meeting called by the Election Commission to discuss the timing of the Lok Sabha poll on May 3 witnessed some interesting moments. Like, for instance, Dr Gill's walking the entire length of the conference room, where representatives of 40-odd parties were waiting, to go straight to Congress leader Sharad Pawar and shake his hand.

Or the ever-jocular Laloo Prasad Yadav pressing for an October poll "even if that means that Atalji would address the nation from the Red Fort on August 15."

Or the representative of J Jayalalitha, former minister K R Janardhanam bringing the entire house down by telling the CEC to hold the poll "only next February". Obviously, he was oblivious of the constitutional provision that lays down that the new House must meet before the end of October.

Illicit connections

The joint commissioner of Delhi Police Y S Dadwal, who was at the ill-famed party of socialite Bina Ramani, did not allegedly inform his boss, Police Commissioner V N Singh, for four days of his presence at the scene of crime.

Dadwal networks with Ramani and others of her ilk in search of contacts for his wife, a garment exporter. His wife runs her unit in a South Delhi village, on land owned by a suspect in a wife-burning case.

Poll humour

The joke doing the rounds in the BJP circles is that the Vajpayee government was defeated by 'Italy and Idly', a reference to Sonia Gandhi and Jayalalitha. And in the Samajwadi Party, they are being nasty about Sonia's secularism:

"Yes, she is secular because she eats both beef and pork. And her party had pulled down both the Babri Masjid and the Golden Temple."

More such nastiness will be on display as election fever grips parties.

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