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Virendra Kapoor | March 24, 2003
They really shouldn't have pushed Vasundhara Raje Scindia into it.
The royal lady was reluctant to take over as chief of the Bharatiya Janata Party in Rajasthan. But the leadership would have none of it, and off Scindia went to Jaipur.
The BJP's logic was that since Scindia belong to no faction she would be the best to handle the splits in the state unit.
But she began on a bad note. She was reluctant to step down as Union minister. In fact, she formally assumed charge without resigning -- at which point, a senior BJP leader reminded her, none too gently, that she better quit.
Scindia's current headache is that though she enjoys the confidence of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and L K Advani, the Rajasthan leaders care two hoots for her.
"Her five-star style of functioning has not gone down well with them," a source said. "And instead of dissolving factions, in the few months she has been here a group owing allegiance to her has come up!"
Her critics say she is too much under Vice-President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat's influence to provide objective and independent leadership to the state unit. And that, instead of roughing it out in small towns, she prefers the comforts of Jaipur.
Considering that the assembly election later this year is crucial to the Vajpayee government, Scindia's refusal to mix with BJP commoners could well cost the party dear.
In sharp contrast, sanyasin-turned-politician Uma Bharati has taken Madhya Pradesh by storm.
The central leadership had not initially anointed Bharati head of its MP unit, but thanks to her aggressive opposition to Congress Chief Minister Digvijay Singh, she has virtually established her position as the main Opposition leader there.
The BJP's MP unit was badly divided. But Bharati has been able to make something of it.
Her anti-Singh volley started with cow protection, the opening of bhojshala, and the terrible state of roads, power and water supply.
In recognition, Advani anointed her party chief for the state at a recent public meeting in Bhopal.
A BJP leader who has observed Scindia and Bharati from close quarters put it succinctly: "In Rajasthan we were certain to win till we sent Vasundhara. In MP, we weren't sure of winning till we sent Bharati.�
Congress president Sonia Gandhi will reconstitute her inner caucus shortly.
Among those tipped to make it is R K Dhawan, former personal assistant to Indira Gandhi and Rajiv.
Also under consideration is Mumbai Congress strongman Murli Deora. After a record 22 years as head of the Mumbai Congress, Deora stepped down recently and is now slated to become the Congress' national treasurer.
Rashtriya Janata Dal president Laloo Prasad Yadav never fails to make his presence felt in the Rajya Sabha.
The other day, when the House again saw some excitement over the long-debated move to reserve one-third of seats in Parliament and state assemblies for women, Yadav, who is vehemently opposed to such reservations, deflected the focus with some Lalooesque reasoning.
Pointing to the prime minister, the Bihar chieftain said with a straight face: '... You talk of empowerment of women ... it is ironic that someone who is a bachelor, who has not improved the lot of even one single woman, is telling us about the uplift of women... look at me, I am not only married, but has handed over my rajpatt to my wife... that is what uplift of women is...'
The House dissolved into laughter. When it recovered, no one mentioned reservation again.
Strange logic, no?
Condoms figure on its restrictive list of exports. Because, you see, exports could cause scarcity in the domestic market and send prices zooming!
The simpler option -- to wit, producing more -- clearly eludes policymakers.
Illustration: Uttam Ghosh