Virendra Kapoor

They had left the Congress in a trail of controversy. The Amar, Akbar and Anthony of the Congress, that is. Sharad Pawar, Tariq Anwar and Purno A Sangma floated the Nationalist Congress Party once they were thrown out of Sonia Gandhi's party. And now they are set to go their separate ways once the polls are over.

Sangma is so critical of Pawar that he is waiting for the right opportunity to sever ties with the Maratha. The former Lok Sabha Speaker, who is set to retain his seat in Tura, Meghalaya, is angry with Pawar for having turned the NCP into a Maharashtra party. Sangma feels betrayed by Pawar. "We had agreed to set up units all over the country and field candidates all over, but Pawar thinks India is only Maharashtra..."

As for Anwar, he has a tough task winning his seat in Bihar. Should he fail to do so, the NCP wouldn't have any use for him. In any case, he hardly counts for anything in the party even now as Pawar continues to treat it as his personal property.

Gill Ko Gussa Kyon Ata Hain

Power does strange things to people. Chief Election Commissioner Manohar Singh Gill -- in certain bureaucratic and political circles they derisively call him Manohar Singh Nil -- carries a big chip on his shoulders. Instead of conducting himself with becoming humility, which, incidentally, we feel, is inseparable from dignity, the CEC seems keen to rub people the wrong way for no particular reason.

The other day at a glittering dinner thrown by rediff columnist Kuldip Nayar's sons, Sudhir and Rajiv, to mark their parents's golden wedding anniversary, Dr Gill was abrasive with more than one of his interlocutors. The grand old man of the Delhi Congress and former chief executive councillor, Jag Parvesh Chandra, was one of the victims of Dr Gill's less than polite behaviour. It was Chandra's misfortune to share the table with Dr Gill at the Maurya Sheraton where Bharati and Kuldip Nayar's sons had invited family and friends to mark the big occasion in their parents's lives.

Dr Gill tore into Chandra when in order to make polite conversation the latter asked him why he always used the royal 'we' rather than the first person singular. MSG's Seshan fixation surfaced immediately and he retorted that he was no Seshan to use 'we' when he meant 'I'; he used 'we' because it was not just his decision but that of the three election commissioners.

For the next ten minutes Dr Gill went on to expand on his obsession as to how the Commission was different now than when it was led by his bugbear.

Another guest, a senior journalist this time, touched a raw nerve when she politely quizzed Dr Gill about the relative anonymity of the third Election Commissioner J M Lyndgoh. Taking offence when none was meant Dr Gill again launched on a long-winded explanation which necessarily harked back to the ways of Seshan and how democratic the Commission had become under him.

At one point Dr Gill sought to explain away the Commission's controversial decisions, including the ban on opinion and exit polls and the bar on the PM carrying a media party with him, as a case of urban bias.

"I am a paindu (country hick). There are 100 crore people in India. Outside urban centres my decisions are quite welcome..." Can there be a bigger example of self-delusion than that? For a man who on going to a village in Bihar in the last election had asked his local interlocutor, " Pahle kabhi Seshan aya tha tumhare gaon mein? Dekho mein aya hoon," Dr Gill indeed carries a big chip on his shoulders. He is now taken to call the on-going general election as "my election."

The TeleMarxist

Come elections, photogenic and glib-tongued politicians are in great demand. With television debates forming a vital part of the programming of several satellite channels, there is a scramble for known faces from major political parties. With old and not-so-articulate leaders having been barred from showing up on television by their parties, and the rest busy electioneering, there is a famine of politicians in the capital who can do duty for their respective parties on various channels.

The CPI-M's Sitaram Yechuri is always on hand to respond to an SOS from any channel. Anytime. Day or night. Not having a constituency to call his own throughout the country, it seems the TeleMarxist comes alive only at election time thanks to the excessive focus on him by the satellite channels.

Mixed up loyalties

Kiran Choudhary, deputy speaker of the Delhi assembly, is ostensibly campaigning for the Congress candidate in South Delhi, Dr Manmohan Singh because her assembly seat forms part of the constituency. Her husband, Surinder Singh, has a tough job on his hands retaining his Lok Sabha seat in Bhiwani, Haryana, but Chowdhary hasn't had a moment to spare for him.

But if the truth be told, she would rather prop up the faltering campaign of her long-time friend, Jagdish Tytler, the Congress candidate in Delhi Sadar. Tytler, incidentally, had allotted precious commercial space in the Bombay Port Trust building in Fort to Chowdhary virtually free of cost when he was the shipping and transport minister.

Her majesty's courtiers

In the faction-ridden Congress party senior leaders are devising ways to cut to size Ghulam Nabi Azad and Kapil Sibal who appear to be currently in favour with Sonia. Sibal's choice as party spokesman has not found favour with conventional Congressmen while Azad's being made manager for Sonia's campaign in Bellary has not gone down well with other courtiers.

Not long ago Azad was close to Sharad Pawar. His appointment as campaign manager signals his rehabilitation, something unwelcome to his rivals.

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