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Virender Kapoor | March 15, 2005
Voted out of power in Bihar in the recent election, you would expect Rashtriya Janata Dal boss Lalu Prasad Yadav to lie low for a while, nurse his electoral wounds, and introspect. But the incorrigible Lalu seems to have learnt no lesson from his electoral drubbing.
In the capital for the Parliament session, the railway minister held court the other day in the Central Hall of Parliament surrounded by party MPs who lapped up his every word.
Touched to the quick by a question about why the people rejected him after 15 years of power, Lalu launched a broadside against the media.
He ranted against the press, which called him 'fodder chor' and took umbrage at newspapers that heralded the imposition of President's rule in the state with such headlines as 'Criminal Raj ends in Bihar after 15 years' or 'Lalu family rule ends in Bihar at long last.'
In fact, he named a particular Hindi daily and declared he would sue it for defamation.
Wasn't he being harsh on the media? "No," Lalu thundered. It was the "image you people have foisted on me and my party which did great mischief."
Hell hath no fury…
Speaking of broadsides, Tourism Minister Renuka Choudhary can hold her own against any member of Lalu's brigade in Parliament.
The other day she phoned a senior journalist, who had written about her ministry's recent fiasco over a particular Scotch whiskey brand in his Telugu newspaper. The journalist, a God-fearing Tamil who wears his Brahmin lineage on his forehead, did not know how to respond to the minister's outburst!
Choudhary wondered why the journalist had made a fuss if Johnny Walker Black Label had disappeared from Indian Tourism Development Corporation shops and asked if he wanted a crate of it sent across.
When told he was a teetotaler, the minister let fly, with added vigour, against the journalistic community as a whole. She said she was fully aware how it was willing to sell itself for a 'bottle of tharra (country liquor).'
The scribe told Choudhary to take her complaint to his editors.
With Parliament tending towards noisy chaos at the first sign of a disagreement, it has become increasingly rare for lawmakers to discuss and debate calmly. So it was refreshing to see orderly conduct in the House on Wednesday, March 9.
When leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Jaswant Singh got up to initiate the debate on the President's address, members cutting across party lines heard him with rapt attention.
Not that what Jaswant said came as music to the ruling party ears. He tore into the Congress, mocking at the current arrangement in New Delhi, which had Dr Manmohan Singh in office while 'real power' vested with Sonia Gandhi.
'Where there is competence, there is no authority,' Jaswant said. And lest the Treasury benches have any doubt as to he was referring to, he made it plain Manmohan Singh was a 'very competent man.' Then he added that 'where there is political authority, there is no competence.'
Throughout Jaswant's long critique of the United Progressive Alliance government, there was just one interlude, when Congress member from Mumbai Murli Deora got up to interrupt Singh. The Bharatiya Janata Party leader called Deora 'our member from Manhattan,' a reference to the Congress leader's close friendship with former New York Congressman Stephen Solarz.
Deora shot back, 'and you are our member from Washington.' It was a reference to the close ties Singh, as foreign minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government, had established with then American President Bill Clinton's point man for South Asia, Strobe Talbott.
Bhupinder Singh Hooda owes his nomination as Haryana chief minister to the caucus around Sonia Gandhi. Rejecting veteran leader Bhajan Lal's claim for the job might have made sense on grounds of correcting the party's image, but to impose a non-elected candidate as chief minister when there were at least two senior Jat leaders among the newly-constituted Congress Legislature Party was questionable.
Birendra Singh, another strong contender for the chief minister's post, is also sulking. People close to him would have one believe there was a deal between Hooda and at least two Congress functionaries who are widely known to be acting in the name of the Congress president.
Since Sonia necessarily has to depend on the inputs provided by her close aides, Singh's confidants allege, very often she ends up not getting the real picture as it happened in the case of the leadership tangle in Haryana.
Now, the two whose ambitions have been thwarted by the 10, Janpath (Sonia's New Delhi home) coterie are bound to make common cause with Lal, who hasn't reconciled to his rejection for the top post.
Games babus play
An IAS officer from Madhya Pradesh seems to have his heart set on becoming the banking secretary in the finance ministry.
A couple of years ago he had enlisted the help of Kanchi shankaracharya Jayendra Saraswati to put in a word for him with the then prime minister for the same post, in vain. Now, that the present incumbent is due to retire, the MP babu is again in the news. He feels sidelined in his current post and wants a meaty post before retirement.
But the buzz in the finance ministry is that P Chidambaram would like Rakesh Mohan, secretary, department of economic affairs, to become banking secretary.
Illustrations: Uttam Ghosh