Fresh fodder for Laloo's friends                         Virendra Kapoor
   June 16, 2001

Finally, there is a breakthrough into the scandal closest to Laloo Prasad Yadav's tender heart.

The Enforcement Directorate has reportedly secured statements sworn by a non-resident Indian before a US judge that his bank account was allegedly used by the accused in the Rs 12 billion fodder scam to launder their wealth.

According to the NRI, millions of rupees reached him through hawala channels, which he sent back to the accused as bank drafts and pay orders so as to make it look like gifts.

Since Indian law does not tax genuine gifts of money from abroad, several people have taken this route to launder their ill-gotten loot.

However, the NRI is believed to have said he did not send any money to Laloo Yadav.

The ED has now sent its latest findings to government prosecutors. The NRI's statement is admissible in Indian courts. And it could lead to the conviction of the key suspects -- except, of course, of Laloo Yadav.

Toughguy Advani

The entente cordiale between Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Home Minister L K Advani is yielding results.

Most importantly, governance seems to have taken on a direction. Nowhere is this more visible than in the way the Kashmir deadlock is being handled.

Advani's pro-active line has triumphed over the PM's earlier soft approach. The home ministry is now dealing with militancy as, first and foremost, a law-and-order problem.

The home minister is, of course, not oblivious to its political dimension. But his view is that that even as the Centre engages Pakistan's CEO General Pervez Musharraf in a dialogue, it should do all it can to blunt the threat of militancy.

Thus, on June 12, he ordered National Security Guard commandos to storm the Shangus mosque in Anantnag district. The operation, which ended a 48-hour siege, was a great morale-booster for the security forces.

When Advani decided on storming the mosque, Vajpayee was at Bombay's Breach Candy hospital, recovering from his knee surgery.

Advani did take him into confidence, but it is notable that only a fortnight ago militants holed up in a mosque in Shopian were granted safe passage. At that time, Vajpayee's handpicked Kashmir interlocutor K C Pant was in the Valley.

Advani had always been for a pro-active policy against Kashmiri militants. But till very recently, Kashmir was the exclusive preserve of the PM's Principal Secretary Brajesh Mishra.

The repair in the Vajpayee-Advani relations finds reflection in the BJP's organisational affairs, too. Though Jana Krishnamoorty is the BJP president, major decisions are now taken by Advani.

A socialite told me to...

The Hinduja brothers, forced to cool their heels in India against their will, learnt about the limitations of money the hard way.

For close to six months neither money nor their affinity to men in power could get them permission to fly out of India.

Finally, they commandeered a New Delhi socialite to persuade columnist Khushwant Singh to intercede on their behalf.

Singh, a friend of the said socialite, duly obliged, and approached a senior law officer in the government. When the puzzled officer asked Singh his interest in the Hindujas, he was candid enough to confess he had none.

She asked me, he said, referring to his friend. And a gentleman couldn't refuse a lady, could he now?


Three grubby-looking youth walked into the office of a prominent news weekly in New Delhi last week, with a huge earthen pot. They said it was a present for its high-profile editor.

The receptionist, however, wasn't impressed enough to let them through. She asked them to wait -- an exercise the young men were not ready for.

Their response was to break the pot and spread its contents all over the floor. On examination, it was found to be human excreta!

For the weekly, it was a new experience. The editors still haven't figured out what made the youths angry enough to lug in human waste, though some believe it was a recent write-up on certain Dalit leaders.

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