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Virender Kapoor | April 19, 2005
Not everyone in the Sangh Parivar was surprised by Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief K S Sudarshan's remarks against Atal Bihari Vajpayee and his foster son-in-law Ranjan Bhattacharya in a recent television interview.
Sudarshan had often expressed his unhappiness against the former prime minister, his principal aide Brajesh Mishra, and Bhattacharya in much stronger words several times in the last couple of years.
The RSS chief had said very much the same things against the trio in the wake of the Tehelka sting operation, and demanded that Mishra's wings be clipped. At that time, Vajpayee had survived the RSS onslaught without giving into the pressure.
Insiders insist Sudarshan's latest outburst was because of the simmering anger in the higher echelons of the Sangh Parivar that Vajpayee helped a member of the Gandhi-Nehru family out of trouble.
Sudarshan's confidants are believed to have convinced him that the predicament of a young member of the Congress' first family at the hands of US Immigration in New York a few months after 9/11 would have put paid to his political ambitions.
Instead, goes the story in the RSS circles, Mishra and Vajpayee -- responding to an SOS from the Gandhi family -- got the young scion out of trouble. They reportedly took up the matter at the highest levels in the US administration to bail him out of what could have been most embarrassing trouble for him and his family.
According to the grapevine, the RSS chief was given documents that purportedly support the above story. It did not help that Mishra had one of his children living in Italy.
Sudarshan was convinced that but for Mishra, at least one Gandhi would have been out of political commission for quite some time.
More on the fallout of the Sudarshan remarks.
It was not Sudarshan's intention to include L K Advani in his television interview when he advised Atal Bihari Vajpayee to call it a day and become a senior party statesman.
The RSS boss and one of his advisers, Chennai-based accountant S Gurumurthy, have an excellent rapport with the Bharatiya Janata Party president.
It was the interviewer who mentioned Advani for the simple reason that Advani, 78, could not be kept out of the ambit of the RSS boss' advice to make way for the younger generation.
An amusing tale is doing the rounds in government circles about Venezuela President Hugo Chavez's recent visit.
Days ahead of the visit, when the external affairs ministry wanted to schedule a meeting of the Venezuelan foreign minister, who was to be part of the visiting delegation, a senior Cabinet minister was extremely reluctant, protesting that the two would have nothing of relevance to discuss.
Persuaded with great difficulty, especially given Chavez's high standing with the Indian Communists, the minister granted just 10 minutes for the 'courtesy call.'
But on the appointed day, when the lady foreign minister – accompanied by officials from the two foreign ministries – called on the minister, the story goes, our man's eyes lit up.
Our honourable minister sat mesmerised as she cast a spell on him. Instead of the scheduled 10 minutes, the meeting lasted nearly an hour.
Now it was the turn of the MEA officials to get fidgety, since she was getting late for her next engagement.
Charging at rumour mills
Naveen Chawla, secretary, information and broadcasting ministry, can't fathom why he inevitably figures in every rumour about fresh appointments even though he is due to retire from the IAS June end.
The rumour mills first had him hankering after the post of Union home secretary, but only after his wish to make it a fixed two-year tenure post was granted.
When V K Duggal filled that vacancy earlier this month, they said Chawla was keen to be appointed an election commissioner when a vacancy arises later this year upon the chief election commissioner's retirement.
Earlier, there was media speculation that he had set his sights on the Cabinet secretary's post since the powers that be were keen to kick up the present incumbent, B K Chaturvedi, as a governor.
Now this reporter has it on the authority of none other than Chawla himself that he is not in the race for any post-retirement sinecure. Nor is he writing a tome on his family friend, Sonia Gandhi, as erroneously reported in a newspaper.
Chawla, who did a successful biography of Mother Teresa a couple of years ago, insists he is writing a travelogue, which should be published sometime next year.
Besides, he would have his hands full managing the affairs of his non-governmental organisation, which has land and buildings on the outskirts of Delhi and Jaipur.
Now, that should put an end to all speculation about a close friend of the Gandhis, shouldn't it?
Dedicated to wastage
The old urban development ministry edict about dedicated houses for senior personnel in police, paramilitary forces, armed forces et al has been violated with impunity, but that does not prevent successive ministers from parroting it every now and then.
Several years ago, when M B Kaushal became the Delhi police commissioner, the ministry spent a lot of money modifying his Lodi Estate bungalow, modernising the amenities and building an additional room or two. The bungalow was then re-christened Delhi Police House, meant exclusively for the head of the Delhi police.
Since then, the Delhi police have had four commissioners, but none of them has occupied the Delhi Police House. The expenses incurred on what was to be a dedicated house have gone down the drain.
One recalls the above case only because a Delhi newspaper quoted senior ministry officials to the effect that they have evolved a 'new' scheme of dedicated houses for various organisational heads.
Scratch my back
Liaison men for various business houses in the capital are quick to spot MPs who can be persuaded to sign on the dotted line for ministerial representations, grant of visas, demands for inquiries against business rivals.
In the present Lok Sabha, at least two members of a regional political party have emerged lobbyists' favourites. A few weeks ago, they were sucked into the ongoing war between the Ambani brothers.
Small wonder then, letters purportedly written by the duo are landing on the desks of senior ministers, while photocopies are dutifully sent to senior journalists in town.
Illustrations: Uttam Ghosh