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|August 29, 2001|
Where/who does Aviation
Minister Syed Shahnawaz Hussain derive his strength from?
That he is the lone Muslim MP on the Bharatiya Janata Party benches in the Lok Sabha could have explained his induction as a junior minister in some nondescript department, nothing more.
So how on earth did he land his overnight elevation, first, as a full-fledged coal and mines minister, and, later, as head of the civil aviation ministry?
A little bird tells us -- remember, you heard this from me first -- Hussain is a stand-in for Someone Very Powerful in the Prime Minister's Office.
But whose bidding does that someone get Hussain to do? That is a well-kept secret in BJP circles; we will let you know in good time.
The distribution of tickets by the Congress for the assembly poll in Punjab was marred by intense factionalism. Consequently, there is a genuine fear that disgruntled seat-hunters would sabotage the prospects of party candidates.
Amrinder Singh, the former maharaja of Patiala and the state Congress chief, had a major say in nominations. His rather imperial style of handing out tickets, partyworkers tell us, threatens Congress prospects.
Surinder Singla, a former Rajya Sabha member, for instance, was thrust on Bhatinda when his base was Patiala district. Initially, Singla was nominated from a constituency in Ludhiana, and, at the very last minute, asked to contest from Bhatinda.
Again, most Punjab Congress leaders are peeved at what they call Amrinder Singh's `five-star' culture. They claim the maharaja sleeps late and does not begin his day till well after noon, a sour point with the party faithful.
The divide between the Sikh and Hindu leadership in the state Congress was magnified when senior party leaders refused to concede that Amrinder Singh was the natural choice for the chief ministership, should the party win a majority.
R L Bhatia, the veteran Congress leader from Amritsar and former federal minister, made it plain that Amrinder Singh would not automatically head the Congress Legislature Party. The elected legislators, he said, would decide who the chief minister would be if the party won the election. Bhatia is not happy with the distribution of tickets in his constituency.
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