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Marco Mishra                         Virendra Kapoor
   September 24, 2001

Given half an opportunity, the prime minister's principal secretary, Brajesh Mishra, will fly. Despite being cut down to size in recent months, Mishra hasn't given up playing the role of the prime minister's envoy at large. Though the nature of his duties remains undefined and supremely vague, Mishra has taken upon himself to hop across world capitals at the drop of a hat. Following the terrorist attacks in the US, Mishra took off for Moscow en route to Washington.

The duality and confusion in the leadership at the Foreign Office was said to have been resolved following the diminution in Mishra's power and role in the wake of the crisis of confidence sparked off by tehelka.com's charges against the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government earlier this year. But, clearly, despite Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh reclaiming much of his authority, he cannot seem to put an end to the poaching on his turf by Vajpayee's chief aide. The result is the ministry of external affairs, especially Indian missions abroad, continue to dance attendance upon him, and are often torn between their loyalty to Singh and Mishra.

This confusion is further compounded since Singh and Mishra are hardly on speaking terms, though they do maintain a facade of cordiality in public. Also, in the corridors of power. Mishra's links with a liaison man are the subject of much speculation since the latter is employed by a wellknown industrial house.

Senior RSS members are none-too-happy at the influence Mishra wields on the policy-making apparatus in New Delhi because they fear the industrial house might be able to dictate decisions to its advantage.

Advani much admired

Darban Singh, the peon in the home minister's office, is most impressed with his present boss. A veteran who has served at least a dozen home ministers in the 15 odd years he has been attached to the home minister's office in North Block, Singh insists no one put in longer hours on the job than the present incumbent, L K Advani. And also that Advani is hardly visited by any controversial personality. Which wasn't the case during the tenure of some other ministers.

Indrajit Gupta, a good man like Advani, kept indifferent health and preferred to snooze at the office or at his Western Court quarters. On the other hand, Advani often spends long hours in the office even on weekends and Sundays, poring over files or holding meetings with officials.

Illustrations: Uttam Ghosh

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