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Virendra Kapoor | February 28, 2004
BJP General Secretary Pramod Mahajan and his computer savvy backroom boys thought they had pulled off another coup by roping in the controversial Dharam Pal Yadav. Party president M Venkaiah Naidu, who has come to rely on Mahajan a great deal after the latter helped win the Rajasthan assembly election for the BJP, unhesitatingly endorsed Yadav's entry into 'the party with a difference.'
Mahajan reckoned that Yadav would help consolidate the BJP's position in the Ghaziabad-Hapur belt in Uttar Pradesh. Yadav was to contest on the BJP ticket from Sambhal, the seat held in the last Lok Sabha by Samajwadi Party president and current UP Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav.
Since Mahajan is never ever assailed by self-doubt and believes that politics is all about winning elections, Naidu was virtually hustled into holding the press conference at the party headquarters where he and Mahajan triumphantly paraded the new entrant. On his part, Yadav was ecstatic at having at last cast aside the 'untouchable' tag, in spite of his being an hon'ble member of the Rajya Sabha.
There is some confusion about who took the initiative in getting Yadav to join the BJP. The man insists he was approached by one of Mahajan's aides while the latter swears it was Yadav who sought entry into the party.
Thanks to the party's unexpectedly large victory in last year's assembly election, the BJP leadership has come to set a great store by Mahajan's micro management whereby almost every constituency right down to the village level is profiled according to its socio-economic and caste characteristics and party tickets offered to those who broadly reflect these ground realities.
Mahajan's team is now ready to replicate the assembly exercise on a national level. Towards that purpose a control room with heavy duty computers manned by professionals was set up at his Safdarjung Road bungalow. All technology being value-neutral, Mahajan in his quest for winning a few seats in western UP lost sight of the macro picture.
The damage to the party's image, complained a senior BJP leader, would have cost the BJP far more seats than Yadav would have helped it win in UP.
Following the backlash, Atal Bihari Vajpayee and L K Advani consulted a couple of senior party leaders who had all along been against Yadav's entry and then instructed Naidu to dump him. Senior leaders felt if Yadav was the key to the party's victory in six or seven parliamentary seats, he could have been given a ticket when the electoral process was in full throttle, thus avoiding much controversy.
It wasn't as if the political class is unaware about Yadav's antecedents. Though he is a member of the Rajya Sabha not too many politicians like to be seen in his company. Invariably, it is former prime minister Chandra Shekhar who extends his patronage to Yadav. Until his micro managers latched on to Yadav, Mahajan was not known to be close to Yadav either.
How times change! Till the other day, it was Arif Mohammad Khan, who was knocking at the doors of the Congress party but Sonia Gandhi wouldn't give him the time of the day. Now having swung 180 degrees from her earlier imperious stance to very humble mode, the Congress chief serenaded Khan at a pow-wow, but failed to stop him from joining the BJP. Khan, who figured in the infamous Jain hawala diaries, is now acting as a prize catch though he was at a dead end politically till the announcement of the election.
Having said some awful things about the Sangh Parivar and having vowed never to join the BJP, Khan had joined the Bahujan Samaj Party for a brief while only to leave it in disgust when he found BSP boss Mayawati's overbearing attitude unbearable. Ever since he had been in search of a platform to return to Parliament. The BJP, always game for a token Muslim presence, was only too keen to oblige.MEA movements
If you think only politicians jockey for power, you are grossly mistaken. Even senior babus indulge in lobbying for plum posts. The ministry of external affairs is about to see some heavy duty to-ing and fro-ing in coming weeks. While the race for Lalit Mansingh's job as our ambassador in Washington is still wide open, his deputy's slot has been filled up with Rakesh Sood, hitherto India's envoy to the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva. Sood will be replaced in Geneva by Jayant Prasad, who until recently headed the Americas desk at the MEA.
With the job of India's permanent representative to the United Nations in New York due to fall vacant soon, India's Ambassador to Germany T C A Rangachari is tipped to succeed Vijay K Nambiar. The opening in Berlin in all likelihood may be filled by Nirupama Rao, the former MEA spokesperson.Meanwhile, India could be in line to head the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. UNCTAD Secretary General Ruben Ricupero's term is due to end soon and the job could either go to Pakistan or India. One of the contenders may well be Hardeep Puri, at present India's Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva. Should Puri fail to pass muster, there remains reliable Deepak Nayar, vice-chancellor, Delhi University, to stake a strong claim for the prestigious job.
Bhure gets to have his cake and eat it too
Bhure Lal Sharma, the retired UP cadre IAS officer, will wear two hats soon. Lal, who retired a few months ago as secretary to the Government of India, was appointed head of the Environment Pollution Control Authority of the National Capital Region via a court order in the wake of the compressed natural gas versus diesel controversy a couple of years ago. Lal has retained that job even after the Vajpayee government nominated him a member of the Union Public Service Commission.
Given the constitutional provision which specifically bars the UPSC chairman and its members from holding another office of profit, the department of personnel refused to notify Lal's appointment as UPSC member until he resigned as head of the EPCA. The matter lingered for a few months till Lal got the go-ahead from the highest court.
Now, a member will hold twin posts for the first time in the UPSC's history.
Illustration: Uttam Ghosh