Virendra Kapoor

Palaniappan Chidambaram

Among the politicians who feel like fish out of water when not in power is former Union finance minister Palaniappan Chidambaram.

The good lawyer isn't at all happy the way things are, though he does quite well with his legal practice. To be fair to him, he was never after money. It's power that gives him the kicks.

After he lost the parliamentary election, Chidambaram returned to his legal practice in the Supreme Court. Yet his heart is still in politics, and he would give many things to end his political isolation.

The changing equations in Tamil Nadu are not to his liking. A sworn enemy of the J Jayalalitha-led AIADMK, Chidamabaram balks Manmohan Singh at the very thought of his party, G K Moopanar's Tamil Maanila Congress, teaming up with her.

Of course he can return to the Congress. But then he would have to sit it out as the party is not in a position to send him to the Rajya Sabha from Tamil Nadu. In any case, the Congress already has a shadow finance minister, Dr Manmohan Singh.

That leaves the ruling BJP-led National Democratic Alliance. Chidambaram is not averse to making common cause with the BJP, provided it sheds what he calls its 'sectarian' image. In particular, the Harvard-educated Chidambaram would like the BJP to jettison its Hindutva baggage.

Notably, while participating in the debate on trust vote in the Lok Sabha last year, Chidambaram had offered to vote for the motion if Home Minister L K Advani and Defence Minister George Fernandes were dropped.

Since then a lot has changed: Chidambaram has lost his parliamentary seat. His party is without an anchor in Tamil Nadu. The Atal Bihari Vajpayee government has won a reasonably comfortable majority and seems set for a long term in power.

Which all explains why Chidambaram has opened communication with the BJP. A few days ago he met Advani. Though nobody knows what transpired at the one-to-one meeting, BJP leaders insist the party would be willing to go more than half way to rope in Chidambaram. But it is too early to say whether initial parleys will lead to something concrete.

Dedicated to failure

Nearly a decade ago the urban welfare ministry decided to earmark specific bungalows for senior officials holding important charges. For instance, the Delhi police commissioner was allotted a bungalow in Lodhi Estate.

The idea was to provide in these dedicated houses additional facilities like an office complex and rooms for the sentry, besides better furniture and fittings.

Earlier, whenever someone took charge of an important post he insisted on the bungalow he occupied to be upgraded with these additional facilities.

Unfortunately for the taxpayers, the scheme has not worked at all -- barring, of course, in the case of the foreign secretary, who unfailingly occupies the dedicated house at 3 Circular Road in Chanakyapuri.

In case of most other officials, the ministry is called upon to do up their houses. Example: since the scheme was first conceived, the Delhi police has had four commissioners. None stayed in what was dedicated to them. Each occupied a different bungalow, and had it done up again.

Talk about wasting public money.

Head honcho for Delhi

Delhi Chief Secretary Omesh Saigal is being replaced. Shiela Dixit

Chief Minister Shiela Dixit has short-listed a couple of senior officers as Saigal's successor. Saigal, a regular contributor to a city eveninger, is likely to join the central government in a senior position.

Meanwhile, Dixit has further ruffled feathers in the Congress. Since she owes her job to party president Sonia Gandhi, she has gone out of her way to rile important Congress leaders. Thus, you have more than half the Congress MLAs in Delhi openly crying for her blood.

A big mistake. Even Sonia may find it hard to contain the rebellion against her protege.

Vajpayee's elusive Boswell

Not long ago at a function to release former prime minister P V Narasimha Rao's semi-autobiographical novel, a journalist announced to the world his intention to write an authoritative biography of Prime Minister Vajpayee. The next day's newspapers duly reported the discovery of Vajpayee's Boswell.

P V Narasimha Rao It has been nearly two years since that ringing announcement. But there is no sign of the promised biography.

The reason is pretty simple: none is in the works.

Nonetheless, the announcement helped promote himself as someone close to the prime minister. Which in turn reaped him many benefits...

Sushma's day

Former information and broadcasting minister Sushma Swaraj is likely to be rehabilitated. A Rajya Sabha poll from one of the BJP-ruled states is as good a way to do it as any other, don't you think?

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