Virendra Kapoor

We know it and so do you -- the BJP isn't in the pink of health today.

'The party with a difference' is fast becoming a, well, party of differences. Petty intrigues, plain jealousy and naked ambition have all taken their toll. For proof read on.

A few days ago, two of Union Home Minister L K Advani's Gang of Four met a controversial industrialist in Bombay. They told him that their boss would soon become the prime minister as "Vajpayee's health was failing and he wouldn't be able to continue for more than a couple of months".

The industrialist, trying to win brownie points from Vajpayee, immediately sought an appointment with the prime minister. And told him what Advani's 'emissaries' had conveyed. To lend authenticity to the tale, he named names.

Next, Vajpayee, at a meeting of senior BJP leaders including Advani, recounted what the industrialist had told him. For good measure he too named the interlocutors who claimed to speak on Advani's behalf.

Advani, naturally, was embarrassed.

But Vajpayee was unrelenting. He reportedly offered to step down for Advani since the PM's office "did not hold any particular charm" for him.

Incidentally, the Gang of Four is headed by the self-styled champion of swadeshi economics, S Gurumurthy. The other members are Dina Nath Mishra, whom unkind critics describe as "the constantly khenni-chewing, non-speaking Rajya Sabha member."

The third member is Balbir Punj, a not-so-senior journalist and recent entrant. Senior journalist T V R Shenoy is the fourth member of the Gang.

As for who met the Bombay industrialist, well, we know the names but we are not telling. All we would like to do at this juncture is quote a senior BJP leader:

"With friends like these," said he, "Advani doesn't need any enemies."

Insensitive, we say!

Here is what proximity to power does to seemingly educated people.

Jawaharlal Nehru University Professor M N Panini, while visiting his daughter in a residential-cum-office complex in south Delhi, was bitten by a domestic dog. The Prof traced the dog to its owner and knocked on her door.

Instead of commiserating with him for his sorry plight, the dog's owner berated the Prof and banged the door shut on him.

Poor Panini! He had to take a course of anti-rabies shots.

The name of the canine's owner? Veena Nayyar, a member of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes Commission.

Hey, that's not our national dress!

One thing you will find prescribed in most banquet invitations of the government is the dress code.

As a matter of routine, the national dress is prescribed for all official banquets given to honour visiting heads of government.

But what precisely constitutes the national dress?

Contrary to the common belief, the dhoti-kurta is not it. The national dress as per the protocol is a churidar-pajama and a full-length bandgalla.

However, like in every other sphere, there is extreme laxity in enforcing this dress code. The sherwani should be at least knee-long, but these usually end some good 12 inches short.

Thus, at the recent I-Day banquet in the Rashtrapati Bhavan there were politicians sporting everyday dhoti-kurtas without even a jacket. Some others were in plain kurta-pajamas.

Most foreign diplomats wore western suits, except for a US diplomat who ambled in in a plain safari suit.

A few observers, witnessing this caricature of the national dress, have now mooted a proposal to update the decades-old dress code. After all, the mandatory long-sleeved and full-length bandgalla in Delhi's oppressive weather can be quite punishing.

With much else from the Nehruvian era being discarded, it would only be right if the dress code too is updated.

Mahajan in mundu

Speaking of the national dress, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pramod Mahajan is often seen wearing the South Indian mundu these days -- a la Palaniappan Chidambaram.

Seeing him thus attired, film star-turned-BJP MP Vinod Khanna could not help asking why.

"These days one of my jobs is to pacify the warring DMK and AIADMK members in the House," replied Mahajan. "It helps to look like one of them, you know."

So it does, so it does.

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