Virendra Kapoor

Would you believe it, Abhishek Verma has such a nice singing voice!

Take that with no pinch of salt. We swear it is the gospel truth, as revealed by Central Bureau of Investigation officials.

Verma, they say, is singing like a canary. In the process, he has unravelled for them the racket he ran with former deputy director of Enforcement Directorate Ashok Aggarwal.

"Extortion, blackmail, hawala, fraudulent exports... the duo indulged in all," sleuths allege.

Verma, the son of a Congress Rajya Sabha member, is currently out on bail. And so is Aggarwal, on his third try.

Aggarwal's doings run thus: He allegedly ganged up with a couple of journalists to oust M K Bezbaruah, his boss and ED director. To push the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government into transferring Bezbaruah out, Aggarwal and a certain journalist reached to current Union Law Minister Ram Jethmalani that the ED boss was investigating him, Jethmalani, for FERA violations.

The minister was concerned. Mercifully, instead of acting in a huff, Jethmalani, then in charge of urban welfare, made discreet inquiries. It was then that he learnt that no inquiry was on against him.

It was a neat little ploy all right -- but now look who's where.

Bhagat Singh and his 'hangman'

Journalist Kuldip Nayar is about to complete his 12th book. The Martyr -- Bhagat Singh's Experiments in Revolution will be formally released by Prime Minister Vajpayee in February.

The interesting thing about the nth book on India's most remembered martyr is the justification offered by the main approver in Bhagat Singh's prosecution. Before he died in the United States, Hansraj Vohra had penned why he testified against the freedom fighter. Nayar, it seems, has got hold of Vohra's writings.

Vohra was treated like an outcast by friends and family after Bhagat Singh's execution. The British accorded him protection. After working as a journalist with The Statesman and The Times of India for several years, he was sent by the latter as its Washington correspondent.

Vohra became a US citizen. He died a couple of years ago. To most Indians familiar with the trial of Bhagat Singh, he was a traitor. Nayar's book will offer Vohra's side of the story.

Power play

New Delhi Municipal Chairman B P Mishra seems determined to recover every penny due from influential and not-so-influential people.

If you remember, he had sent notices on electricity arrears to powerful politicians of various hues. Now it is the turn of political parties to cough up the huge amounts they owe the municipal corporation. Or else no power supply.

The defaulters are led by the Congress. The All-India Congress Committee, headquartered at 24 Akbar Road, has nearly Rs 4 million to pay up. This includes the Rs 1.3 million or so the National Students' Union of India, an affiliate of the AICC, owes the NDMC.

The figure, however, does not include the Rs 760,000 the Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee, located at 2 Talkatora Road, owes the NDMC.

The Indian Youth Congress, another Congress affiliate, owes close to Rs 300,000 for power consumed at 5 Raisina Road.

The Bahujan Samaj Party, headquarters at 12 Gurudwara Rakab Ganj Road, comes next. Arrears, over Rs 400,000.

Of the several offshoots of the Janata family, the Janata Dal at 13 Windsor Place is in arrears of only a little over Rs 70,000. But its counterpart at 14 A B Pandara Road owes nearly Rs 100,000.

The original Janata Party, with its office at the historic 7 Jantar Mantar Road, owes over Rs 400,000. The short-lived United Front, located at 7 Akbar Road, too has managed arrears of over Rs 60,000.

The parties that have paid up on time are the BJP, CPI and CPI-M.

An aside

Chief Election Commissioner Dr Manohar Singh Gill was initially not on the list of Republic Day awardees. But President K R Narayanan is said to have insisted on the Padma Vibhushan for him.

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