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Virender Kapoor | April 05, 2005
Rashtriya Lok Dal leader Ajit Singh might bite the Congress bait at the end of the current budget session of Parliament, if all goes according to a plan being discussed between him and an emissary of Congress President Sonia Gandhi.
The Congress needs Singh to bolster its presence in Uttar Pradesh and Ajit Singh needs a Cabinet berth.
Word leaking from quarters close to the Congress bosses has it that the RLD would dump the Mulayam Singh Yadav government to switch to the Congress after the Budget session.
Since the Congress is keen to get rid of the Mulayam government and impose President's Rule there, Ajit Singh might play a crucial role in the party's scheme of things.
A longish stint of central rule in UP, the Congress reckons, would also provide it an opportunity to spread wings in the country's largest state, from where it was almost obliterated in the last few state and parliamentary elections.
Another crucial plank in Operation Ajit Singh is that it will help the Congress neutralise the possible threat of Union Steel Minister Ram Vilas Paswan, whose Lok Janshakti Party has become a major stumbling block in the formation of a 'secular' government in Bihar.
The Congress has begun to criticise Paswan for his refusal to help Lalu Prasad Yadav's Rashtriya Janata Dal stake its claim to form a government.
Should Paswan stick to his guns after the end of the Budget session, he may well find himself out of the ruling United Progressive Alliance. Ajit Singh, with three members in the Lok Sabha, might replace him. In that case, Singh might be rewarded with the steel portfolio, presently held by Paswan, whose party too has three members in the Lok Sabha.
An indication that the ruling Congress was getting impatient with Paswan's rigid 'no Lalu, no Bharatiya Janata Party' stance in Bihar was available from the latest issue of the Congress party journal, wherein he had been roundly criticised for his dog-in-the-manger act.
Dirty politicos, mud-slinging babus
So intense is the fight over plum postings among senior Government of India babus that they would use every trick to do their rivals in.
The other day they raked up the fact that Union Health Secretary Prasanna Hota is an alumnus of Delhi University's Ramjas College. Since former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had a special link with that college, it was made out in a report in a New Delhi daily that Hota was a beneficiary of the Ramjas connection.
Because Hota had emerged as a strong contender for the Cabinet Secretary's post, his rivals floated a canard to try and push him out of the reckoning. The Cabinet Secretary's post has a fixed two-year tenure, and naturally several senior babus nearing retirement have eyes on it.
Preach what you practise
Believe it or not, there are members of Parliament who go through their whole terms in the Lok Sabha or the Rajya Sabha -- as the case may be -- without speaking a word in the House.
Quite a few multiple-term members haven't yet picked up the courage to participate in parliamentary proceedings.
Then there are the eager ones who take their membership so seriously that they insist on having their say on most matters. Hotelier member of the Rajya Sabha, Lalit Suri, seems to be extraordinarily proactive. Not only does he participate in the debates, especially pertaining to financial matters, but he takes care that his friends get to know what he says on the floor of the House.
During the last regime, then finance minister Jaswant Singh had pointedly refused to answer a supplementary question Suri had put to him on the ground that the member had 'a direct interest in it since he himself was a notable hotelier.'
Singh's successor P Chidambaram was kind insofar as he did not object when Suri spoke at length on the Budget and made out a case for a re-look at his corporate tax proposals.
Because most newspapers report only the hungama in the House, Suri has taken care to dispatch printed copies of his speech during the Budget debate to select members of the media and his peers in the world of industry and finance.
Here's to chivalry
Apropos the stalemate in the India International Centre over the election for the post of a lone trustee to its governing body, it can now be reported that the matter has been amicably resolved with the former Indian ambassador to the US, Naresh Chandra, graciously withdrawing in favour of Justice Leila Seth, the former chief justice of the Himachal Pradesh high court.
Both Chandra and Seth got equal number of votes in the election held mid-March. IIC President Soli Sorabjee did not have to resolve the issue with his casting vote as Chandra chivalrously stood down in favour of India's first woman chief justice of a high court.
The ghost writer strikes back
When the young member from Amethi, Rahul Gandhi, spoke for a couple of minutes in the Lok Sabha during Zero Hour, interest did not lie so much on what he said as it did on that this was the first time the heir of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty had opened his mouth in the House.
The entire Congress party, including mother Sonia Gandhi, watched admiringly as Rahul read aloud from a paper, drawing the House's attention to the plight of the sugarcane growers in UP, who had not been paid their dues by the millers in the state.
Now an indiscreet Gandhi groupie is claiming he was responsible for Rahul's maiden speech in the House. Birendra Mohan Singh, a first cousin of Maneka Gandhi who had unsuccessfully contested against her in the Pilibhit Lok Sabha constituency last year, has been quoted widely in large-selling Hindi dailies in UP saying he had written Rahul's headline-grabbing speech.
Buta, Lovely and Sweety
Bihar Governor Buta Singh will not have any advisers to assist him rule the unruly state while it is under President's Rule.
Though the real reason for not appointing advisers was sharp differences between Lalu Prasad Yadav and his detractors in the ruling UPA, the uncharitable suggest, only half-jokingly, that with the governor's sons Lovely and Sweety volunteering to help him run the state, he may not require any assistance.
Lovely was shown on various television channels within a day or two of the imposition of central rule, lording over the Bihar cricket body, overseeing the preparation of the Patna cricket ground.
Illustrations: Uttam Ghosh