Virendra Kapoor

It was no surprise, was Dr Manmohan Singh's defeat in South Delhi.

Those privy to the goings-on in the Congress had known for several weeks that the 10 Janpath establishment was out to finish Dr Singh. 'Cos, every time there was talk of Sonia Gandhi becoming prime minister, certain elements within the Congress and most of its prospective allies used to bring up Singh's name as a more acceptable alternative.

Which was why at least two members of the Shiela Dixit government in Delhi did not put their weight behind Dr Singh. The large number of Muslims in the Okhla assembly constituency owing allegiance to one of the ministers did not vote on cue, a fact which boosted BJPman Vijay Kumar Malhotra's chances.

Incidentally, the rout of the Congress in Delhi is a major headache for Dixit. Quite a few Congress MLAs were just waiting for such an opportunity to challenge her leadership. They had held her hand in view of her proximity to 10 Janpath. Now with the party losing all seven seats, it should be difficult for even Sonia to stop the rebellion...

We wish Sheiladidi all the very best.

A problem of plenty

Since the BJP has won all the seats in Delhi, it will cause a headache for Atal Bihari Vajpayee when he gets to be prime minister again.

At least four of the seven BJP MPs reckon themselves to be ministerial material. Madan Lal Khurana, Vijay Kumar Malhotra and Sahib Singh Verma are strong contenders. Jagmohan, the MP from New Delhi, is a member of the outgoing Vajpayee government.

But here's tomorrow's news: Neither Khurana nor Jagmohan is likely to find a berth in the new Vajpayee ministry. Malhotra and Verma will. Even Vijay Goel, the MP from Chandni Chowk, has a fighting chance as a junior minister. But Jagmohan, Anita Arya, Lal Behari Tiwari and Khurana will have to sit out.

No go for Jethmalani

One more on ministry-making.

Ram Jethmalani, law minister in the outgoing Vajpayee government, can as well start packing his bags. Vajpayee had made him a minister at Union Home Minister L K Advani's instance. This time around, Advani is unlikely to press Jethmalani's case. And Vajpayee, fed up with the controversial lawyer, is all set to show him the door.

A case of amnesia

Here is some compulsory reading for eager-beaver Congress spokesman Kapil Sibal.

Since he has shown a marked tendency to speak first and think later, he would have profited immensely even from a cursory reading of the correspondence between President K R Narayanan and then prime minister-elect Vajpayee in March last year.

Since Sibal chose to ignore the events attendant upon the installation of the Vajpayee government, we will recall the salient points made by Narayanan. A few days before the results started coming in, Sibal fired his last salvo. He said the Vajpayee-led National Democratic Alliance could not be invited to form a government even if it won a simple majority in the 13th Lok Sabha unless the BJP itself emerged as the single largest group in the House.

In the unlikely event of the Congress emerging as the single-largest party, it was Sibal's case, it, rather than the NDA, should get the first invite from Rashtrapati Bhavan. The idea was that the Congress then could try and wean away the BJP's allies to cobble together a majority of its own.

But the President in his letter of March 10, 1998 very clearly gave weight to the fact that Vajpayee was the leader of the largest pre-election alliance:

'In so far as yours is the single largest party in the Lok Sabha and the largest pre-election alliance, I request you to let me know whether you are able and willing to form a stable government...'

The same day, Vajpayee wrote to the President accepting the latter's offer. He significantly made it clear that the alliance led by him "has 252 members" and had been assured of support by "several others." After installing him as prime minister, Rashtrapati Bhavan noted the reasons for the President's action. These bear repetition here for Sibal's education.

One, no party or pre-election alliance of parties won a clear majority. Two, the BJP has emerged the single largest party, though short of a majority. Three, the BJP-led pre-election alliance is the largest of such formations in the House. And four, Vajpayee has been elected as the leader of the BJP in Parliament.

A very picky CEC

There was a veritable feast of election bonanza on television, what with various satellite channels competing for the presence of presentable guests.

Chief Election Commissioner Dr Manohar Singh Gill, of course, was high on everyone's list. But Dr Gill, though he had said yes to a couple of channels, at the last minute developed cold feet. He began dictating terms about what to discuss, and the choice of panelists.

The CEC particularly picked on a senior editor of a national newsmagazine and told a major television channel that he would not like to be on the same panel as him. All because the said editor, like most in the print media, had been critical of the EC for its various acts of omission and commission.

And we thought Dr Gill was a fair man!

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