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                        Virendra Kapoor

What does the government do when members of Parliament ask inconvenient questions?

Well, nothing really. It simply refuses to admit those for oral or written replies.

The case in point is a query from Rajya Sabha MP Kuldip Nayar. He wanted to know if an investigation was held into the charges against former Union Minister for Urban Welfare Ram Jethmalani -- and if so, what the findings were.

Nayar reminded the government about Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's assurance that the CBI would probe Jethmalani's doings. The prime ministerial assurance had come a few weeks before the dissolution of the last Lok Sabha.

Since then the CBI had gone into the charges against Jethmalani and held him guilty on three counts.

The CBI report upheld the view of the then secretary in Jethmalani's ministry, Kiran Aggarwal. It castigated the minister for wanting to bestow undue favours on businessman Pavan Sachdeva and a couple of others.

Jethmalani, one must remember, had virtually hounded Aggarwal out of his ministry for the latter's refusal to sign on the dotted line.

After the last General Election, Jagmohan replaced Jethmalani as urban welfare minister, and the latter was made minister for law and justice. Jagmohan reversed some of the more controversial decisions of his predecessor, including the allotment of a five-star hotel site to Sachdeva in the HUDCO Complex in South Delhi.

The CBI report was scooped by a Bombay-based newspaper a couple of months ago. Nayar filed his question around the same time. When it wasn't admitted, he made inquiries with the Rajya Sabha secretariat. He was fobbed off with one excuse or the other. Finally, he was told that his question could not be admitted!

Nayar is now exploring other means to get hold of the report and force the government to make it public.

For his part, we get the feeling, Vajpayee wouldn't be exactly unhappy if the report is published and Jethmalani is ousted from his ministry.

Humble farmer loves DD

Half the time they invite Information and Broadcasting Minister Arun Jaitley only to ensure that Doordarshan and All India Radio cover their functions prominently.

Quick to wise up to this convenient ploy to get noticed on DD and AIR, Jaitley often disarms those who come to invite him to this or that function by promising them coverage regardless of whether he will be able to make it or not. But even the unflappable Jaitley was a little taken aback the other day when in the dead of night he was woken up by a long-distance call from someone claiming to be a former prime minister.

Yes, it was H D Deve Gowda, all the way from Bangalore.

The humble farmer was upset that neither DD nor AIR had taken note of the farmers' rally he and his comrade-in-distress Vishwanath Pratap Singh had addressed.

"Will you please ensure coverage for the rally?" Deve Gowda pleaded.

One reason the rally had not attracted any notice in the media was because it was a tame affair. But Jaitley, keen to please as always, had DD take note of the rally belatedly in its afternoon news bulletin.

That evening Deve Gowda was again on the line, this time from Mysore. To thank Jaitley.

"I knew you are a very fair man. Although I didn't see it myself, my son phoned me from Bangalore to say that he saw it. Thank you Jaitleyji once again," said the farmer.

Rowdyism redefined

The registrar of the Delhi high court has ordered police protection for those lawyers who want to appear before it!

The order followed instances of forcible prevention of senior lawyers by a handful of their colleagues from the lower courts who are bent on continuing their strike.

Also, in a page culled from the history of industrial labour's protest movement, former Union law minister and senior counsel Shanti Bhushan was gheraoed (encircled) by women claiming to be lawyers. They flung Rs 5 and Rs 10 currency notes at the venerable counsel and taunted him:

"You want to appear in the court only for money, isn't it? Here, take these five rupees... We won't let you reach the court."

New bosses for banks soon

The Reserve Bank of India's board of directors is soon to be recast.

The last board was constituted over seven years ago. The names of the new directors were cleared by the Union finance ministry more than two months ago, but the file is yet to reach the prime minister. Ditto for the appointment of the new heads of a slew of public-sector banks.

Looks like some higher-up has a stake to keep things slow and static...

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