Remember Arun Shourie?
The high-profile divestment minister is hardly to be seen campaigning for the NDA in this election though he did show up in Jalandhar early on to root for good friend and former prime minister Inder Kumar Gujral's son Naresh, who is the Shiromani Akali Dal candidate.
Shourie's politics being no different from that of the senior Gujral, he seems to be unwilling to stick his neck out for the BJP, at least in this election. That explains his near-total absence from political television or the campaign trail.
But if you think Shourie is contemplating sanyas from politics, think again.
Apparently, the man who writes 8,000 word essays by way of speeches at various fora and then ensures their publication in a newspaper before compiling these wordy but commonsensical insights into a book is keen to ensure that his tenure in the Rajya Sabha is renewed for another six years.
Since his present term in the Upper House is due to end in June, Shourie will be hard put to get a second term from Uttar Pradesh.
But the BJP leadership can be relied upon to find him a berth from some other state. After all, isn't retaining Shourie the best way to ensure that he does not turn against them?
Congress performs a grand poll vault
It turns out that the Congress party's opposition to exit polls was not, after all, based on principles. It was just that the party feared these would show it in poor light and that dire predictions after each phase would further demoralise its already disheartened cadre.
But when the Election Commission and the Supreme Court refused to ban exit polls, and, surprisingly, some of the polls brought good tidings for the Congress, its leaders started treating these results almost as if they were the real thing.
There was unbounded joy among the same party leaders who had all along bad-mouthed the media organisations conducting the opinion and exit polls and even questioned their motives and methodology. Newspapers in the capital had photographs of a beaming group of Congressmen apparently discussing the exit poll predictions soon after the second phase of polling on April 26.
The Karnataka unit of the Congress even forgot its derisive debunking of the same exit poll after the first phase. Reason: the poll predicted that the S M Krishna government in Karnataka may just retain power though Chandrababu Naidu in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh was certain to lose.
Pronto, the Congress party issued huge advertisements in newspapers across the state to publicise the predictions. Overnight, exit polls had become respectable and an essential part of the democratic process! The earlier opposition to them on the ground that such exercises could have an undue influence on other voters was quickly abandoned.
One exact science nixes another
Whatever you may make of the exit polls, the truth is that they did make the BJP leaders sit up and take notice.
The party has now decided to put its all into the last-mile effort to try and make the best of the remaining rounds of polling.
Of course, senior Sangh Parivar members took solace from the fact that none of the exit polls in recent years has been close to the actual results.
The last time the exit polls had gone completely awry was when they got the results of the assembly election in Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh completely wrong.
Nevertheless, some top BJP leaders rushed back to their favourite astrologers for consolation. They were duly reassured that exit polls or no exit polls, there was nothing to worry, really.
One amateur astrologer close to Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani read the astral positions yet again a day after the exit polls for the second round painted a rather gloomy picture for the NDA and stuck to his earlier prediction: the BJP will get 210 to 215 seats on its own while the NDA will cross the 300 mark.
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee himself is confident that the minimum the NDA will get is 290 seats. His senior aides and, of course, astrologers and soothsayers, part of any senior politician's entourage these days, are also sticking to their predictions: 290 plus for the NDA.
Can guru save his deposit?
Keen to enter Parliament, management guru Shiv Khera met a high-profile BJP leader and sought the party ticket for the South Delhi Lok Sabha seat.
But the BJP had already committed itself to repeating outgoing MP Vijay Kumar Malhotra.
The good professor then let the BJP leader know what the party was about to lose because of its unwise decision. 'You have no idea,' he is supposed to have said. 'Once I contest on your ticket you will add another 25 to 30 seats to your final tally because my name itself will attract the educated and professional classes. My students and followers will work and vote for the BJP en masse. I spell success for every professional manager and wannabe manager.'
Khera's self-assessment is now on test in the same South Delhi parliamentary constituency, where he is contesting as an Independent. It will be a miracle, hard-nosed politicos say, if he manages to save his deposit.
Run for your lolly
Hard-nosed bureaucrats who in their long careers have seen many a minister off into political oblivion always know which side their bread is buttered.
With a mix of flattery and a modicum of competence, senior babus always line up post-retirement sinecures as members of this tribunal or that authority.
At least two secretaries to the Government of India, who had virtually got a lien on such jobs but were inclined to join only after retirement, are now running scared.
Wonder why? Simple. What if those exit poll predictions come true and the government changes in New Delhi?
So, they rushed to their respective bosses and said that on second thought they were willing to take up their new assignments post-haste. But now the ministers have told them to chill.
Meanwhile, the other babus are gleefully reminding the ministers that they should not count on the consistent loyalty of these weather-beaten bureaucrats.
Illustrations: Uttam Ghosh