Down the drain               Virendra Kapoor
   November 12, 2002

Ever seen Rs 5 million?

Neither have we, though we have heard it is a huge amount to behold.

Rs 5 million were what were wasted in Thiruvananthapuram recently, from the taxpayers' pocket, on a meeting that was not.

The meeting of the consultative committee of Parliament attached to the Union power ministry was called to look at the country's perennial power problem.

Officials of allied organisations such as the National Thermal Power Corporation exhausted hundreds of man-hours preparing briefs for members.

Plus, quite a lot of time, energy, and money were spent to receive ministers, members and senior officials at airports, put them up, and feed them.

But on the appointed day, of the 20-odd members, only eight bothered to show up.

A conservative estimate says around Rs 5 million were spent to organise the meet. Here's a pointer to the expenses: flight tickets for 12-odd senior and not-so-senior officials from Delhi to Thiruvananthapuram, their A-grade accommodation for two days, expenses of 40-odd NTPC officials who came to be at hand to the minister, expenses for the members who showed up, and the hefty invisible costs of a huge staff working overtime to prepare agenda papers, backgrounders, etc, etc. You get the picture.

Between Modi and the deep sea

Now that the poll in riot-hit Gujarat has been scheduled for December 12, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee is under tremendous pressure to campaign for Chief Minister Narendra Modi.

But Vajpayee believes any association with Modi, who is now a hate figure for the secularists, will dent his liberal image.

He might still be obliged to seek votes for the chief minister, for his own survival, as Sangh Parivar bigwigs have conveyed to the BJP that the loss of Gujarat will mark the end of Vajpayee's prime ministership.

Should the BJP lose Gujarat, goes their argument, several NDA constituents will dump the party, and the opposition will do the rest.

Also, Vajpayee's refusal to campaign for Modi will rile the RSS and such other Sangh Parivar constituents.

And so, Vajpayee has been offered a via media: instead of campaigning extensively in the state, address just one massive meeting in Ahmedabad on poll eve.

Which is what we can expect now.

Oh for a seat!

Former Bollywood superstar Rajesh Khanna is searching for a Rajya Sabha seat.

A one-term Congress Member of Parliament from the New Delhi constituency, Khanna returned to Mumbai to revive his film career when his stint in politics, in the early 1990s, came to a spluttering end.

Khanna's return to Bollywood came a cropper --- as did his half-hearted flirtation with television.

Result, Khanna is back lobbying for a Rajya Sabha nomination from the Congress.

The Congress, however, is in no mood to oblige.

Of Diwali gifts

Every Diwali, former Delhi Congress strongman Sajjan Kumar used to send a basket of sweets to fellow politicians and journalists.

The choice of the Diwali present --- rural stuff, mind you --- was meant to underline Kumar's love for his roots.

The late Rajesh Pilot, who fashioned himself as a farmers' leader, borrowed the trick. His number was to provide saag, lassi and other rural delicacies once a year to journalists.

Now, it is the turn of another Congress stalwart, former Lok Sabha speaker Balram Jakhar. This year, he stressed his rural connection with gifts of razais to well-wishers and friends in the political and media world.

Illustrations: Uttam Ghosh

Mail us your comments

Capital Buzz