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Virender Kapoor | January 04, 2003

At one ministry, there lurk a Romeo and Juliet, who, like all true lovers, are two bodies, one soul.

The Romeo is... Arun Shourie!

And the Juliet... again, Arun Shourie!

If you haven't got the joke, seems there is no one Shourie loves better than himself. Such self-love makes running a ministry -- in this case divestment, which he heads -- a tad difficult.

An educated boss doesn't necessarily mean a good boss, Shourie's bureaucrats have discovered to their peril.

"He harangues officials," a source alleged, "sneers at them at meetings and generally treats them with scant respect.

"And instead of looking at the big picture, he sits there editing the English in files!"

The good minister's, ah, popularity isn't contained to the divestment ministry. Since he is also in charge of the North-East, albeit temporarily, in place of ailing Commerce and Industry Minister Murasoli Maran the bureaucrats there too look upon Shourie in indifferent light.

Even senior ministers apparently find it uncomfortable dealing with him.

Shourie's repeated assertion that the stalled divestment process could be revived only if Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani displayed the will to do so was seen by some as a ploy to drive a wedge in the Cabinet.

It also, by implication, suggests that barring the two, the others in government count for naught!

Gone with the wind

A certain chief minister was caught between the devil and the deep sea recently -- or, to be accurate, his own servant and the law.

Seems the CM had about Rs 200 crores stashed away in his official residence, under mattresses, in cupboards and such.

The servant, honest chap he is, decamped with the lot.

Poor CM, he could not lodge a complaint with the police, for reasons obvious.

He did tell them to trace the culprit informally, though, but that is yet to produce results.

Penny wise, pound foolish

While in the private sector you hear about phones becoming cheaper than postcards, the higher echelons of New Delhi's babudom are still wrestling with the weighty question as to who, if at all anyone, would be entitled to use cellular phones.

Even senior bureaucrats are not entitled to that privilege. At the height of the Kandahar crisis Advani was shocked to learn then foreign secretary Lalit Mansingh did not have a mobile phone to monitor developments. Whereupon Advani ordered the home ministry to get Mansingh one!

A few days ago, the finance ministry, after much cogitation, decided in principle to provide all secretary-level officers cell phones -- and this, when most of their junior clerks have been flaunting mobiles for ages!

P for Prabhu

Prabhu Chawla, editor of India Today, will in all likelihood figure for the Padma Bhushan this year.

Keeping Chawla company will be rediff columnist T V R Shenoy.

Both names have been cleared by the awards committee and await formal clearance at the highest level in government.

Last year, India Today owner and Editor-in-Chief Aroon Purie was honoured with a Padma Bhushan.

And a P for A?

While on the national awards, a jury is deliberating whether to grant the country's highest civilian honour, the Bharat Ratna, to Reliance founder Dhirubhai Ambani posthumously.

Letters of recommendation from several chief ministers, belonging to both the Bharatiya Janata Party and Congress, have arrived at the home ministry making out a case for the late industrialist.

Illustrations: Uttam Ghosh

Capital Buzz

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