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                        Virendra Kapoor

Politicians are pretty selfish people.

That is probably this millennium's biggest understatement, we know -- but here's a little incident in its support.

Remember the recent furore raised by MPs of various parties, especially from Andhra Pradesh, over the proposed move to sell off a part of the government stake in the Visakhapatnam Steel Plant? The nay-sayers argued on familiar lines. Besides the predictable opposition to privatisation of loss-making public sector units on purely ideological grounds, several critics feared the loss of employment to the nearly 18,000 workforce.

The most vociferous in opposing the move to sell off at least 51 per cent of the VSP's equity to a strategic buyer in the private sector were members of the Telugu Desam Party. Since it's they who have propped up the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government from outside, their voice commanded far more weight than that of the other critics. The upshot was that the proposal has now been put on the backburner.

But what was behind the shrill protest? Simply put, it was the owner of a steel plant whose interests would be hurt if the VSP got back on the rails!

The steel magnate whose plant exports to the Far East through the Vishakhapatnam port fears that should the VSP pass into private hands, his own economies of scale would suffer pretty badly.

So a private campaign was cloaked in the mumbo-jumbo of workers's interests, the ills of privatisation, etc.

And this, when the government assured that the privatisation would not result in the dismissal of even a single employee.

For the record, the VSP has toted up accumulated losses of over Rs 40 billion to date.

Shadowboxing in BJP

The L K Advani -Vajpayee rivalry in the BJP is as old as the party itself. But of late the second line of leadership too have engaged openly in the game of one-upmanship.

Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting and Disinvestment Arun Jaitley and Minister for Parliamentary Affairs and Information Technology Pramod Mahajan are engaged in shadowboxing through the media.

Apparently, Mahajan's aides inspired reports that Jaitley was about to be eased out of the I&B ministry and his charge was to be given to Mahajan yet again. Jaitley's friends countered this by reporting that stories about him being moved were mere canards spread by Mahajan's close aides.

Senior leaders of the party, notably Advani and Vajpayee, as usual are engaged in their own games of recriminations. Vajpayee wasn't pleased a wee bit by the attempt to glorify Advani in the latest issue of BJP Today.

But what hurt him more was the not-so-subtle scorn poured on him over his failure to respond to a request to send a special message on the BJP's 20th anniversary of formation.

Wheels within wheels

West Bengal firebrand Mamta Banerjee's mahajot [grand alliance] against the CPI-M-led Left Front has a section of her Trinamul Congress in a tizzy.

TC leader and Minister of State for External Affairs Ajit Panja is put off by the very idea of working in concert with former West Bengal Congress president Somen Mitra.

"We left the Congress because of Somen. We cannot co-operate with him now that his own party is in a shambles," he says.

Panja proposes to write a letter to his party boss protesting the alliance. Giving him inspiration is Tapan Sikdar, the BJP's most prominent face in West Bengal.

Panja insists he speaks for a lot of people in the Trinamul.

The lost 50 pages

Then there is this author of a much-publicised book, who discovered long after his tome was released by Prime Minister Vajpayee that a good one-fourth of the original manuscript was missing.

Apparently, about 50 pages were lopped off by an inadvertent error. A new edition with those 50 pages duly restored will be on the stands soon.

But it says a lot about the reviewers that none of them noticed what the author believes was a gross omission, does it not?

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