Virendra Kapoor

The Sangh Parivar is on the mend. It has finally realised it does not pay to act spoilsport with the government. Notwithstanding Dattopant Thengadi's recent outburst -- the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh chief and Sangh ideologue had some harsh things to say about the prime minister and finance minister at a recent rally in New Delhi -- various off-shoots of the Parivar will, henceforth, not criticise the government. In public, at least.

The RSS bosses have directed its members to desist from doing anything that would destabilise the government. One possible reason for this volte face could be the likely return of the Congress in Thursday's assembly election. But the real reason, we hear, lies in Atal Bihari Vajpayee's conciliatory gestures towards L K Advani.

Parivar activists credit Advani, and not Vajpayee, with catapulting the BJP into power in New Delhi. For the RSS bosses, he is the ideal swayamsevak.

As for Vajpayee, he has always had a love-hate relationship with the RSS. Accepted as a 'necessary evil,' he is the swayamsevak who strayed from the Sangh's narrow philosophy on men and matters.

So, when Vajpayee took the initiative to mend bridges with Advani at a recent, three-hour long, post-lunch pow-wow at the latter's Pandara Park home, the Parivar was pleased. And, when he enlisted Advani's active co-operation in governance, RSS bigwigs could not be happier. Whether it was Sarsanghchalak K S Sudarshan or the two Sahsarkaryavahs (joint general secretaries) Professor H V Seshadari and Madan Das Devi, they are one with Advani on most matters.

The RSS leaders -- who live a cocooned existence of morning and evening shakhas, boudhiks (intellectual discussions) and other organisational work -- are unfamiliar with the wiles and guiles of interested sycophants. Sudarshan, in particular, was said to be so susceptible to praise that he thought nothing of criticising Vajpayee in public. Happily, he has now relocated to the RSS headquarters in Nagpur.

As for Devi and Seshadari, they are discerning enough not to let anyone dictate their agenda. Even Swadeshi spokesman S Gurumurthy's persuasive talk, for instance, could not persuade Devi, a trained chartered accountant who devotes all his time to nourishing the Parivar, to influence Vajpayee about whom he should appoint as the country's finance minister. Three years ago, Gurumurthy had worked on Sudarshan's susceptibilities, persuading the latter to veto Jaswant Singh's appointment to this post.

The Parivar & official patronage

A direct fall-out of the Vajpayee-Advani detente is the decision to accord primacy to Parivaris in the distribution of official patronage. Hitherto, Vajpayee had allotted governmental goodies mainly to outsiders. Few diplomatic or gubernatorial assignments went to Parivaris. Who would complain that, while successive Congress regimes took care to keep their partymen happy, the Vajpayee government treated them in stepmotherly fashion; a case of ghar ki murgi dal barabar.

The Advani-Vajpayee accord seems to have suitably addressed that issue. As a result, three BJP loyalists found themselves appointed governors last week. Kedar Nath Sahni, a senior BJP leader of the same vintage as Advani and Vajpayee -- he has done commendable work in rehabilitating uprooted Kashmiri Pandits -- was finally given his due. He will now be governor of Sikkim. N N Jha, a retired diplomat who has wanted an official position since Vajpayee first became PM, was made lieutenant governor of the Andaman and Nicobar islands, though he had hoped for a big, mainland state. The third appointee, Amolak Rattan Kohli, owes his post to Vajpayee's election agent in the premier's Lucknow parliamentary constituency.

Secret funds: How are they used?

Since intelligence and counter-intelligence agencies, both at the Centre and in the states, spend vast sums of money ostensibly to gather information, some way should be evolved to audit the accounts in an equitable manner.

A case in point is the drinks-and-dinner party hosted by S Ramakrishnan, special commissioner (intelligence), Delhi police. It was held on May 2 at one of the more expensive restaurants in a five-star hotel. The ostensible reason was to mark the retirement of CBI Director R K Raghavan and Gautam Kaul, a Union territory cadre IPS officer last posted as director-general of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police. Ramakrishnan also used the occasion to welcome Raghavan's successor, P C Sharma, who has taken over as the CBI's acting director.

The question being asked in police circles is: Who picked up the hefty tab for the no-expense-spared do?

The cost of money

Did you know every five rupee coin imported by the RBI costs us taxpayers Rs 1.62? In precious foreign exchange at that? The two rupee coin, at Rs 1.31, is even costlier. The annual demand for coins is eight billion pieces, while our mints can churn out only half that number. Hence, the need to import them.

Heard at the Planning Commission...

Now that N K Singh, the oustee from the PMO, has been found a perch in the Planning Commission, there remained the little matter of assigning him work. An old-timer at Yojna Bhavan offered an instant solution: Leave planning to Montek Singh Ahluwalia and the commission to Nandu Singh.

Caricatures: Uttam Ghosh

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