Virendra Kapoor

Now, who's that character who said Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was tender-tender about the Brothers Hinduja?

Nothing of the sort, we say. For proof, here's a look at the chain of events that culminated in the Central Bureau of Investigation chargesheet against the moneyed souls.

A few hours before the CBI finally got around to formally accusing the Hindujas in Special Judge Ajit Bharihoke's court, Srichand H tried to get Vajpayee or L K Advani on the line.

Both gentlemen refused to take the call from the London-based Hinduja patriarch.

One of the brothers did manage to get through to the PM's office and plead his case with a senior official. But in vain.

To his credit, Vajpayee did one more thing: instructed his senior officials that no one be spared, not even the Hs, for the mega scandal.

Help, Vittal's coming!

Beware. Central Vigilance Commissioner N Vittal may be after you.

Vittal has now turned his attention to folks who have accepted freebies from public sector companies. He has managed to get a list of all those who were given complimentary tickets by Indian Airlines in the last couple of years.

The beneficiaries of the largesse include several politicians, journalists, serving and retired bureaucrats and, of course, artistes.

An interesting case is that of a high-profile Bombay journalist-turned-MP. He was given tickets worth Rs 2.3 million by the PSU during the short stints in power by H D Deve Gowda and Inder Kumar Gujral.

In the coming days, Vittal is expected to blow the lid off on yet another misuse of public assets.

Not-so-intelligent cover

To add to the transparency of his government, Union Home Minister Advani wanted the annual conference of the heads of police and paramilitary organisations, held recently in New Delhi's Vigyan Bhawan, to be thrown open to the media.

But senior cops were not very enthusiastic about it. They wanted him to limit reporters to the customary opening and closing addresses by the home minister and PM.

Intelligence Bureau Director Shyamal Dutta handpicked some half-a-dozen journalists to cover Advani's speech at the conference. This naturally caused heartburn among the other correspondents. But Dutta wouldn't budge.

Ironically, the media-shy IB chief ended up with egg on his face when Union Home Secretary Kamal Pandey's speech found its way into the press. It was given prominent display because of the candid criticism of -- you guessed it -- the intelligence set-up in the country!

You see, the home secretary's office, knowing Advani's stress on transparency, had released his speech to the press earlier!

Poor Umabehen!

Okay, here's a question for you.

Is Uma Bharati the victim of a conspiracy? Or of her lack of guile and intelligence?

While the street-smart Sushma Swaraj, who pulled many strings to get back into the Vajpayee government, can be relied on to indulge in every trick in the book, Umabehen isn't wise to the wicked ways of her colleagues.

Her propensity to bare her heart out to everyone (the latest being her informal conversation with two scribes) has always landed her in a scalding soup.

Umabehen's off-the-cuffs remarks may have been embellished by interpolations from the said journos, but the main thrust of her remarks reflects her bare-my-soul-to-everyone syndrome.

Contrary to her claim that the late RSS joint general secretary Bhaurao Deoras had advised her to devote herself to politics, the truth is that he told her to marry K N Govindacharya in case they really loved each other.

Govindacharya, for his part, wasn't exactly tickled. He wrote an angry letter to Deoras, hinting at a conspiracy to do him in when Umabehen took an overdose of sleeping pills and had to be rushed to a Delhi hospital.

Meanwhile, a section of the BJP leadership espies the hand of an industrial house behind the sanyasini's public humiliation. Rumour has it that the business house arranged the embarrassing interview to stall her re-entry into active politics.

It may be recalled that Vajpayee was keen to re-induct Umabehen following her decision to emerge from her self-imposed sanyas in the Kedarnath caves.

And then she had to go and muck it all up with her unguarded remarks!

Vajpayee's three problems

The PM's knee has spawned many jokes. This one, from a BJP leader, is the least offensive, and conveys a kernel of political truth.

"Vajpayee has problem in his left knee, right knee and Advani."

Capital Buzz