Uma Weds Govindacharya... Yes?        Virendra Kapoor
   July 30, 2001

Poor Uma Bharti. The saffron-robed sports minister did not know what hit her when the Zee News television channel announced she had secretly wed Bharatiya Janata Party colleague, K N Govindacharya.

The channel was so certain about its bombshell that it repeated it several times. And those who heard it found it credible since she had earlier been romantically linked to the controversial BJP ideologue, now in self-exile from politics.

When the word spread, Bharti's well-wishers and the media jammed her telephone lines. The staff at her official bungalow in Delhi said, no, as far as they knew, their boss hadn't wed anyone... no, she was not at home, she had gone to Mysore to pay obeisance to her guruji.

Late that evening when Bharti emerged from an Indian Airlines flight from Bangalore, among the first to greet her was a ministerial colleague from Andhra Pradesh.

"Madam, happy marriage," he said, thrusting a bouquet into her hands.

Bharti accepted the flowers and moved on, probably thinking there was a marriage in the minister's family and he had given her the bouquet as a courtesy.

A few moments later, in the airport lounge, another junior minister offered her flowers and mumbled the same greeting. Even then the ebullient sanyasin did not quite gather something was amiss.

But the penny dropped when a media swarm surrounded her. When someone asked her about her 'marriage', Bharti was livid with rage.

"Joota maroogi usko jisne aisa kaha [I will beat the one who has said this with slippers]," she stormed.

She drove straight to her home and called up her friends in the media and the BJP. From there, a media-savvy minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government took over the salvage operation.

He phoned a senior Zee executive and told him in no uncertain terms that if amends were not made double-quick the channel would be sued. The executive buzzed the channel's chairman and informed him of the mess. Soon the Zee chief was on line with Bharti's media-savvy saviour. He pleaded ignorance about the incident, for the minister had told him that as Zee's reached the UK too, there could be a defamation suit in a London court.

Thus was it that the channel started its hourly apology for the next 24 hours. And the sansyasin was appeased.

Prannoy and Pervez

This one is about Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf and television anchor Dr Prannoy Roy.

A section in the government is so angry that Roy's Star News channel telecast Musharraf's controversial meeting with Indian editors that they want the Vajpayee administration to go after him on the basis of an old case.

And the case in point is a Comptroller and Auditor General report against Roy and former Doordarshan director general Rathikant Basu. The CAG report claimed Roy's company, the New Delhi Television, was paid nearly Rs 350 million in excess in a year for its programme on Doordarshan, The World This Week.

The report preceded the Vajpayee government. Which, after sitting on it for a long time, forwarded it to the CBI for action. For more than a year now the CBI has been ready with its chargesheet, but has been denied the ministerial go-ahead.

But now, following the Agra summit, many in the ruling combine wants Vajpayee's nod to it.

But Dr Roy is no pushover. A couple of ministers are exerting their energies on his behalf, we hear....

A VVIP virus

The VVIP virus in India is so powerful that even the most sanitised of hospitals cannot escape from it.

We are talking about the recent hospitalisation of Delhi Chief Minister Shiela Dixit in one of the capital's most prominent heart institutes. From the moment Dixit was admitted for heart surgery till she was released, the hospital was swarming with all types of politicians and hangers-on.

Those who came a-visiting included President K R Narayanan, Delhi Lieutenant Governor Vijay Kapur, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, Union Home Minister L K Advani and lesser dignitaries.

The chief minister's personal aides had permanently parked themselves in the lobby of the swanky hospital inconveniencing ordinary mortals. They quietly smuggled in minor Congressmen for a quick dekko of their boss.

The less fortunate managed to mark their presence with Dixit's sister, who was always in and out of the hospital.

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