Virendra Kapoor

It is excusable, Maratha chieftain Sharad Pawar's dislike for everything Italian.

His homegrown wine, marketed under the brand name Riviera, has had an Italian connection for long. But now, after his rebellion against Sonia Gandhi, Pawar is seriously thinking of ending his relation with the foreign collaborator and tying up with a well-known French winery.

The Nationalist Congress Party chief entertained scores of scribes at his New Delhi bungalow early this week where Riviera flowed freely. First, he had a catty thing or two to say about the clumsy Congress tactics in handling the Bofors chargesheet in Parliament. Next he moved on to Italian wines, how terrible these were, especially when compared to their French counterparts.

It was then that he declared his plans for a French connection.


If Minister for Communications Ram Vilas Paswan doesn't check his hangers-on, there may well be a big scandal.

Certain members of his entourage have already begun to send 'meaningful' messages to manufacturers and suppliers of equipment to various departments of his ministry, inviting them to 'talk things over'. The buzz in telecom circles is that things can be fixed if one negotiates with some wheeler-dealers who enjoy access to the Paswan household.

Time the new minister quelled this potential scam.

Narayanan in London

President K R Narayanan is keen to be on hand when his alma mater, the London School of Economics, where he did BSc in 1945-48, unveils his portrait as a mark of honour.

But Narayanan's wish is unlikely to be fulfilled. Inquiries reveal that the government has politely but firmly turned down his proposal.

Narayanan will be in Austria on a five-day state visit and will be back only a few hours before Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee leaves for Durban, South Africa, to attend the Commonwealth Heads of State summit beginning November 11.

In any case, the President going to London on a private visit, even if on the invitation of the LSE, is more than what the protocol-driven South Block establishment can digest.

That's the door, gentlemen!

The Prasar Bharati Board is like the proverbial phoenix. You think you are done with it and up it raises its head again!

Anyway, at least two of its members seem to be on their way out. And they have no one but themselves to blame for it -- in the name of autonomy, they have been imposing their own partisan agenda.

The man who ran riot on the board is Janata Dal supporter Rajendra Yadav. Unfortunately, noted historian Romilla Thapar very often tagged along with Yadav in the mistaken belief that he was out to extinguish communal forces.

Yadav lorded over All India Radio and Doordarshan, insisting on lucrative programmes to be forked out to his favourites. Indeed, during the recent election, both Yadav and Thapar insisted on virtually handpicking the panellists as also the psephologists.

So keen was Yadav on a fellow Yadav being hired that he virtually issued an ultimatum to the well-known magazine that was commissioned to do the 48-hour-long programme on DD on Results '99. The psephologist in question is said to have walked away with a cool million rupees for a few hours!

If Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Arun Jaitley has his way, all this will change. The new DD channel, derisively called the 'do kursi channel' for the one-to-one talk shows that dominate its programming, is being overhauled. And guess which two members will find themselves out of their chairs?

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