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Virendra Kapoor | September 23, 2004
Forced on the back foot by the Opposition campaign against 'tainted' ministers, Railway Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav has been keen to dig up some dirt on his tormentors.
Painted the unquestioned leader of the 'tainted' club in government, the RJD boss has taken upon himself the task of silencing the Opposition guns.
Thus, he has reopened investigations into the Godhra railway carnage, which triggered the horrific communal frenzy in Gujarat in 2002. His party's government in Bihar has also foisted a case of misdeclaration of names in train reservations on BJP leaders in the state.
But it was at a press conference in the capital the other day that Yadav pulled out his 'trump' card.
The minister flashed old copies of Time magazine to buttress his case that Leader of the Opposition L K Advani was a party to the conspiracy to demolish the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya in December 1992, and that Advani had lied to the Justice M S Liberhan Commission in denying his involvement in the episode.
Repeatedly referring to the American newsweekly as 'Times,' Yadav claimed that its reporters, Anita Pratap and Jeff Penberthy, had mingled in the crowd disguised as kar sevaks and later written a blow-by-blow eyewitness account of the destruction of the mosque.
But soon it became quite clear that neither Yadav nor any of his trusted aides had cared to read the article before citing it as 'clinching proof' against Advani.
Yadav had relied solely on the word of a former Advani acolyte who, after his ignominious ejection from the former deputy prime minister's camp, has been trying to worm his way into the RJD chief's parlour.
Yadav, therefore, ended up with egg on his face when an enterprising newspaper traced Penberthy in Melbourne, Australia, and got him to recount the cataclysmic events of December 6, 1992.
Among other things, Penberthy denied that he or Pratap were disguised as kar sevaks. Worse, he knocked the bottom out of the charge against Advani when he wrote in the most unambiguous terms that 'in my memory, the BJP leader [Advani] looked distressed, and as the first young men with iron bars broke through the fence and were sprinting towards the mosque, he was pleading into his microphone, "Please don't do this," before he was hustled away...'
Tytler fights back
Anyone suggesting even remotely that Jagdish Tytler, Union minister for NRI affairs, was involved in the anti-Sikh pogrom in the capital in the wake of Indira Gandhi's assassination 20 years ago had better watch out.
The Congress MP from the Sadar parliamentary constituency in Delhi is determined to take the fight to the opposition camp.
The other day he tore into a Sikh lawyer who had for long accused him of leading the anti-Sikh riots, asserting on television that the latter wanted money for him to stop carrying on his propaganda.
Tytler said he was prepared for the consequences, but would call a spade a spade. He went on to suggest that the campaign against him was being orchestrated by none other than Delhi Chief Minister Shiela Dixit.
Tytler not only refuses to acknowledge Dixit as his leader, he never misses an opportunity to undermine her authority. Refusing to attend any meeting presided over by her, even if it concerns the welfare of the people in his Lok Sabha constituency, Tytler says he would rather take up Delhi's welfare with Urban Welfare Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad.
Tytler's open defiance of Dixit, some observers believe, cannot be without the tacit support of 10 Janpath, which, they believe, does not want any party leader to strike roots of his or her own.
A grudge match neither side can win
The Supreme Court recently cleared the way for retired IAS officer Bhure Lal's appointment as a member of the Union Public Service Commission.
But the government seems to be in no hurry to appoint him, especially when the earlier order appointing him to the UPSC was cancelled by the previous government.
The order appointing Bhure Lal as a member of the UPSC was held in abeyance till the confusion over his status as the chosen head of a pollution watch committee for the national capital was cleared.
The NDA government wanted him to quit as head of that committee to remove all ambiguity about that assignment being an office of profit as the Constitution bars UPSC members from holding any other office of profit.
Even after the Supreme Court asserted that the chairmanship of the Environmental Pollution Control Authority was not an office of profit, the Vajpayee government did not relent and cancelled Bhure Lal's appointment to the UPSC.
A few days ago, the court re-stated its position that the ex-bureaucrat could be chairman of the EPCA and a member of the UPSC, both at the same time. But the government isn't impressed. It reckons that it is not for the court to decide whom to appoint to the UPSC.
The irony is that it was the Supreme Court that had chosen Bhure Lal to head the pollution watch committee!
Illustrations: Uttam Ghosh