Virendra Kapoor

Once a mulish bureaucrat, always a mulish bureaucrat.

For proof, look at Union Urban Development Minister Jagmohan. He continues to be as priggish -- some would say 'honest' -- as he was earlier, despite being a MP third time over.

Having imbibed long ago a sturdy respect for rules and regulations, more often than not Jagmohan's official dictates hurt his own party.

It is a public secret that the Delhi BJP unit is not at all enamoured by its Lok Sabha member from the prestigious New Delhi parliamentary constituency. If Delhi's former BJP chief minister Madan Lal Khurana has his way, Jagmohan would cease to be a minister this very moment.

Fortunately for him, Jagmohan does not owe his chair to the likes of Khurana or Sahib Singh Verma, the other ex-Delhi CM gunning for him. Even Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee is not very fond of the former lieutenant governor of Delhi.

Vajpayee is occasionally put off by what he calls Jagmohan's -- he said it, not us! -- "mulishness".

Which was how he came to be transferred from the ministry of telecommunications to the urban welfare ministry in the last government. Jagmohan, you see, had put his foot down on the migration of cellular phone operators from a lump sum license fee system to a revenue sharing regime.

What, then, explains Jagmohan's presence in the Vajpayee ministry?

Simply put, it is the RSS.

The RSS bosses credit him for cleaning up the Vaishnodevi shrine in Jammu and Kashmir. Till Jagmohan took over as governor, the pilgrimage centre was managed by greedy priests who had converted it into a money-making racket.

Also, they believe that but for Jagmohan, Kashmir would have slipped into Pakistani hands. A questionable claim, but one that Jagmohan has not-so-subtly made in his best-selling book, My Frozen Turbulence.

Unfortunately, as the recent riots over the relocation of industries in the national capital have shown, you need to bend the rules in order to survive in politics. No wonder Jagmohan has been forced to alter Delhi's master plan so that industrial units operating illegally in residential areas can continue.

Our conclusion: The bureaucrat is losing some of his 'mulishness'.

Not at all funny

The new bosses at the information and broadcasting ministry clearly lack a sense of humour.

Nearly four months after one of the popular artistes at Doordarshan's Jalandhar centre cracked a harmless joke, they have sent him a show cause notice, asking him to explain his 'misdemeanour.'

Known simply as 'Chacha' throughout Punjab, television artiste Vicky and a colleague anchored the inaugural show of Doordarshan's Punjabi channel. At the well attended function, then I&B Minister Arun Jaitley, Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and almost his entire ministerial team were special guests.

With their digs at all and sundry, including Badal and Jaitley, the two anchors brought the house down. Slated to be an hour-and-a-half show, it lasted over three hours. The telecast was live and there was not a dull moment.

Chacha's joke that got the I&B officials' goat ran thus:

Chacha: "Look, how Clinton and Vajpayee are enjoying each other's company. Holding each other's hands, they truly seem absorbed in deep conversation."

Co-anchor: "What do you think they are talking about?"

Chacha: "Well, quite aside from talking shop about Indo-US relations, the two have now come to personal matters. And you know what Vajpayee is telling Clinton? Vajpayee is asking Clinton, 'please do tell me how you managed to win over not one but two women. (Reference to his wife, Hillary and, of course, to Monica Lewinsky). Look at poor me, I haven't got even one..." (Vajpayee is a bachelor, remember?).

Reportedly, Vajpayee himself had a hearty laugh when he learnt about the joke. So did a member of his foster family. But not the I&B mandarins.

Roll back, Mamta!

Railway Minister Mamta Banerjee forced the prime minister to roll back the prices of LPG and kerosene oil. Now here is something that she needs to roll back herself.

There has been a steep hike in the prices of all items served by the canteen at Parliament House, run by Banerjee's ministry. The railway foodshop last week upped the prices of about 80 items on its menu -- some by 100 per cent!

A full plate of chicken biryani, which had earlier cost Rs 17, now costs Rs 27. A large glass of fresh fruit juice, priced at Rs 5, is now Rs 7. The price of a masala dosa has been doubled to Rs 3.

This is the third hike in more than three decades. In fact, certain items like gulab jamuns the canteen sources from private halwais only to sell it at less than half its cost price. MPs, their guests, officials and, of course, media persons are the biggest patrons of the canteen.

And you bet that they are clamouring for Banerjee to do a rollback!

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