Virendra Kapoor

"I am a victim... *heavy sigh* ...the victim of a media conspiracy. *heavier sigh*"

That, gentle reader, was Telecommunication Minister Ram Vilas Paswan. The poor thing has gone and got himself the persecution complex now.

The media, he says, is after his blood. Or else, why was he criticised for his decision to grant free telephones to all the 320,000 telecom employees? What's the big deal, huh?

"In which service industry are employees denied such perks?" he asks. "In the aviation industry it is the norm to allow employees free tickets. Ditto for the railways and road transport companies.

"Why, you newspaper people get complimentary copies of the papers you work for, don't you? Then why deny poor telecom employees the telephone facility?"

Why indeed?

Emergency replayed

June 25 marks the 25th anniversary of the Emergency. Several television channels want to do special programmes on those active during the 19-month dark phase. But they face a problem.

No one from the Congress party is willing to be part of any Emergency-related programme.

An enterprising DD producer lined up the Bharatiya Janata Party's K R Malkani, Socialist Surendra Mohan and Delhi lawyer Pran Nath Lekhi for a discussion. Since Malkani and Lekhi were detained under the Maintenance of Internal Security Act for 19 long months, they could be expected to voice but only one facet of the story.

The DD producer feared the discussion would be entirely one-sided unless he ensured a different point of view. So he began to contact senior Congress leaders who were active during the Emergency.

Most Congressmen rudely banged the phone on him the moment they heard the dreaded word 'emergency'.

A request put through to the party's media cell for detailing a senior leader like Madhavrao Scindia or even Ajit Jogi for the discussion elicited a counter-demand.

To wit, the party would send a senior leader provided the DD got either Union Urban Welfare Minister Jagmohan or Minister of State for Social Welfare Maneka Gandhi to participate.

This was a clever ploy. Since it was clear to the Congress that it could not defend the Emergency, it wanted Jagmohan or Maneka, who were active during that dark phase, in the box.

As for Scindia, he was a member of the RSS-Jana Sangh when the Emergency was imposed. Fearing arrest, he left for Nepal. He soon shifted his loyalties to embrace the Congress.

His mother Rajmata Vijayraje Scindia, was made of sterner stuff. She suffered incarceration for 19 months in Delhi's Tihar jail. Surrounded by foul-mouthed prostitutes and pickpockets, the Rajmata used her time to persuade fellow prisoners to abjure the path of crime.

Seeing what the camera didn't

Maneka Gandhi, everyone knows, is completely in love with animals. Now she wants the Hindi film Raja Ko Rani Se Pyar Ho Gaya banned.

'Cos, you see, a baby elephant is shown in the movie cavorting to the biddings of the main characters. What a shame, na?

Maneka insists the movie violates the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.

Unfortunately, the ministry of information and broadcasting does not agree. Following her letter to Minister Arun Jaitley seeking the ban, senior bureaucrats and a few wildlife lovers sat through the movie.

Their conclusion: there is no cruelty shown towards the baby elephant or any other animal. The film is fit for universal release.

Maneka is now said to have changed her tack. She said the cruelty to the elephant occurred behind the cameras, during filming. But the I&B still isn't impressed.

As cherry on this pudding we offer you what Pahlaj Nihalni, president of the Indian Motion Picture Producer' Association, said:

"Maneka would next seek to ban a film under the anti-obscenity laws citing behind-the-camera acts between the hero and heroine!"

Watch out, Vajpayee!

In case you don't know, the Congress's resident wit is a gentleman by the name of Jairam Ramesh.

Party president Sonia Gandhi had ticked him off royally for his remark that under her Congressmen had taken to contemplating the virtues of narak [hell].

Here's his latest wisecrack: "Rajiv Gandhi was let down by two Aruns (Arun Nehru and Arun Singh). Vajpayee is saddled with not two but three Aruns (Jaitley, Arun Shourie and the same Arun Singh). So he better watch out! "

Bet Madam doesn't mind this one!

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