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Virendra Kapoor | June 16, 2003
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee is livid, we hear. At a certain gentleman called Syed Shahnawaz Hussain.
Vajpayee would like nothing better than to sack Hussain from the National Democratic Alliance ministry. But he can't afford that pleasure, at least not until he finds another Muslim candidate to represent India's largest minority community.
What the PM finds maddening is the allegations against Hussain, who was civil aviation minister till recently, and now heads textiles.
A recent complaint was from an Air-India official, who said someone from the minister's office demanded Rs 200,000 from her for a routine promotion.
IA Managing Director Sunil Arora, a Rajasthan cadre IAS officer, brought the complaint to Hussain's notice. But the minister reportedly said, 'Forget it, there is nothing in it.'
Whereupon Arora, fearing an inquiry if the official approached the Vigilance Commission, sought Vice-President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat's help.
Shekhawat took it up with the prime minister, who wanted Hussain's head right then. But he couldn't find a suitable replacement, though he did sound out BJP General Secretary Mukthar Abbas Naqvi, who politely declined.
But Prabhu Chawla said�
When he found himself shifted to the textiles ministry, Hussain wasn't sure whether he had been promoted or demoted.
So he asked one of his senior bureaucrats where textiles figured in the ministerial hierarchy vis-a-vis civil aviation.
"This ministry is far bigger and far more important than civil aviation, sir," the bureaucrat said. "The budget is far bigger and it offers much better scope for serving millions of people."
And Hussain murmured, "Is that so? But [India Today Group Editor] Prabhu Chawla told me I was demoted..."
The BJP's Rajasthan president Vasundhara Raje is completely lost in the cutthroat world of politics. Perforce, she has to depend on others to show her the ropes.
But her choice of a political adviser in Chander Raj Singhvi has proved controversial.
Singhvi, in his mid-60s, had been a Congressman throughout, a member of the All India Congress Committee. He gravitated towards the BJP when the party came to power at the Centre.
Many in the BJP want him out, but Raje says she needs him.
Illustration: Uttam Ghosh