Virendra Kapoor

Contrary to the official assertion that the Union Cabinet unanimously rejected the autonomy resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir assembly, at least one Minister raised a discordant note. Law Minister Ram Jethmalani pleaded forcefully that the Cabinet decision rejecting the June 26 resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir assembly be held in abeyance till Dr Farooq Abdullah was given a sympathetic hearing.

While every other minister readily endorsed the Cabinet decision, Jethmalani insisted on having his say just when the meeting was about to end. And for a full 20 minutes he said his piece while his colleagues impatiently waited for him to finish. At the end of his set-piece oration in true court-room style, it was decided to append his dissenting note to the minutes of the Cabinet meeting.

Of course, Jethmalani's plea as usual was a blend of pure emotion and incisive reasoning. He was certain that Abdullah was the 'best bet' that India had in the troubled state. And that there was no way anyone should suspect his patriotic credentials. By engaging him in a dialogue on the autonomy resolution, the Centre would further strengthen its own and Abdullah's hands. The outright rejection of the autonomy resolution would only provide solace to the Hurriyat leaders and other elements not exactly solicitous of the Indian cause.

Since the Cabinet by an overwhelming majority had already decided to reject the autonomy resolution, the only concession that it made was that it allowed his dissenting view to be recorded in the minutes of the meeting. It was well past the scheduled time of Atal Bihari Vajpayee's departure for Tamil Nadu when Jethmalani insisted on having his say. To Vajpayee's credit, he stayed on till Jethmalani finished arguing his case.

The Sena pyrotechnics

The special Cabinet meeting called with the sole purpose of rejecting the so-called autonomy resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir assembly saw another kind of fireworks. This time the source of the verbal pyrotechnics was the Shiv Sena component in the Cabinet. No, they were not opposed to the rejection of the autonomy resolution. Indeed, they were all for it but felt that the Cabinet's resolution rejecting the autonomy demand was couched in very `mild and gentle' terms.

In keeping with the style of their supremo Bal Thackeray, who is widely known to call a spade a bloody shovel, the Shiv Sena ministers forcefully argued that the Union Cabinet condemn the said autonomy resolution in the strongest possible terms. It was anti-national and unpatriotic and the Cabinet must dub it as such, the Sena ministers argued in unison. Vajpayee countered the Sainiks, insisting on restraint and reasonableness in turning down the autonomy demand of the Jammu and Kashmir assembly.

The first television crorepati

The much-hyped game show on Murdoch-owned Star Plus show, Kaun Banega Karodpati, may or not throw up a new millionaire, but one thing is certain: The star host, Amitabh Bachchan, will end up becoming a crorepati all over again. He will thus be in a position to pay off huge debts he owes the state-owned Doordarshan and several other people. For, reportedly, Bachchan has been signed to do at least 134 one-hour daily segments of the game show to be telecast four times a week. An astronomical sum of Rs 1 million per show is his fee, according to sources in the Star Plus channel. Which means that Bachchan will get over Rs 13 crore (Rs 130 million) for playing the game show host. Besides, all his expenses will be met by the television channel.

A lot is riding on the success of the game show for Star. In fact, the show is its biggest gamble so far to try and find a niche in the vastly crowded satellite television market. Should Bachchan's show become a success, it will not only turn his fortunes around but it may also persuade Murdoch not to lose faith in his television venture in India which has so far only caused him huge losses.

End of the gravy train for NDTV?

All is not well between Star TV and the producers of its news content, the Prannoy Roy-owned New Delhi Television. Peter Mukherjee, who replaced Rathikant Basu as the Star boss in India some months ago, is keen to undo some of the sweetheart deals signed during the earlier dispensation. Among the first is the one which NDTV had inked with Star TV when Basu was the boss of Murdoch's operation in India.

NDTV was given the exclusive contract to produce news content for Star at a whopping annual fee. Mukherjee is keen to put in place an independent set-up to generate news and views programme for Star even if it means paying off a huge sum in severance fees to NDTV.

Incidentally, the Basu-Roy relationship goes back to the days when the former was boss of Doordarshan and the latter the owner-anchorman of The World This Week. The Comptroller and Auditor General of India, no less, had indicted Basu for having shown undue favours to NDTV. Roy's outfit was given Rs 3.5 crore (Rs 35 million) in excess in just one year. Calling for penal action against Roy and Basu, the CAG also recommended steps for the recovery of excess payments made to NDTV.

Another sticky point between Star and NDTV is NDTV's proprietory Internet site based exclusively on material culled from the news and curent affairs programmes shown on Star Plus and Star World channels. Instead of granting the archival rights to Star TV, which pays a huge sum for its generation in the first place, NDTV has claimed copyright to the Internet content as well.

Joshi's meddlesome ways

Human Resource Development Minister Dr Murli Manohar Joshi is a strong-willed man and thinks nothing of phoning up heads of autonomous educational institutions directing them to award lucrative jobs to his favourite contractors. The vice-chancellor of a premier university was asked by Dr Joshi months before he retired to ensure that the contract for a new building was given to one of his hand-picked builders. Mercifully, it wasn't.

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