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Home > News > Capital Buzz

Virendra Kapoor | October 17, 2005

Everyone in the Congress knows that Manmohan Singh holds the office of prime minister thanks to supreme leader Sonia Gandhi.

That is no reason for party leaders to show the PM little or no respect though.

Consider the latest slight to the office of Prime Minister of India.

At a recent conclave of party chief ministers in Chandigarh, Congress leaders high and low spared no effort to ingratiate themselves with Sonia.

Led by the chief ministers of Haryana and Punjab, and almost all their cabinet colleagues, a huge crowd lined up at the airport to receive her.

Surprisingly, neither chief minister cared to show up when the PM landed a few hours later.

This, when protocol prescribes that the CM of the state the PM is visiting ought to be personally present to receive him!

Mercifully, as per the same protocol, the Governors of both states headed the reception line at Chandigarh airport.

A section of the local media noted this slight to the PM.

When questioned, Haryana's Bhupinder Singh Hooda and Punjab's Captain Amarinder Singh separately cited their preoccupation in ensuring glitch-free arrangements for the conference.

The truth, however, is that once Soniawas in town, they were unwilling to leave her side lest rivals poisoned her ears against them.

No takers for the Saffron Sadhvi

The flux in the BJP continues.

Recent reports about Uma Bharti replacing Babulal Gaur as Madhya Pradesh chief minister were rather premature.

Barring out-going party president L K Advani and his closest confidante post the Jinnah commotion, Jaswant Singh, nobody in the higher echelons of the Sangh Parivar is keen on the maverick Bharti returning to Bhopal.

Bharti's highly temperamental style of functioning and her reliance on a coterie for all major decisions alienated large sections of the Parivar during her short stint as CM. Even some of her staunchest supporters were disillusioned by her erratic behaviour.

On the other hand, Gaur had not only acquitted himself rather well in administering the state, but had won over large sections of the Parivar that had been left sulking by his predecessor.

A brand new Pramod Mahajan?

While on the BJP, the unprovoked remarks by party General Secretary Pramod Mahajan in interviews -- about him not being in the party because of 'Advani or Vajpayee' but because of its 'ideology' -- are widely seen in the Sangh Parivar as a not-so-clever attempt to please the RSS.

The Nagpur establishment was angry with Mahajan for having injected in 'the party with a difference' the virus of a five-star culture, with all its dubious connotations.

Indeed, when Advani took over the reins from M Venkiah Naidu last year, at one stage it appeared Mahajan would not be made general secretary. Since then, he has consciously tried to correct his image.

Mahajan's recent implied criticism of Advani, following the Jinnah episode, was music to the RSS ears. (Had Advani discussed his Jinnah-is-secular stance with colleagues before visiting Pakistan, he would have spared himself the humiliation that awaited him upon his return.)

Most significantly, Mahajan sounded a note of caution that no attempt be made to impose Jaswant Singh as party chief when Advani stepped down.

It is remarkable that Singh has now won the confidence of Advani even though he had been known to be close to Atal Bihari Vajpayee. He now aspires to head the BJP but, barring Vajpayee and Advani, lacks support.

A split foreign policy establishment

The Right to Information Act might have come into force last week, but the Ministry of External Affairs under K Natwar Singh has gone to great lengths to deny the media access to its daily information feed.

Given the not-so-invisible schism in the UPA government over crucial foreign policy issues between the minister in charge and the prime minister -- witness how the CPI-M mouthpiece, People's Democracy, heaps praise on Natwar Singh while blaming Manmohan Singh for the Iran vote -- the age-old practice of daily media briefings by the MEA spokesman has been discontinued.

Of late, even accredited journalists are expected to disclose in advance the officer they want to meet and the purpose of the meeting.

A charitable explanation for discontinuing the briefing is that the ministry doesn't want to risk offending the PMO by stating something that may not pass muster at its end.

Disgruntled voices

A retired Intelligence Bureau official, intervening in the debate sparked off by publication of the second set of Mithrokin papers about KGB operations in India, suggested that a KGB operative masquerading as a journalist was on visiting terms with two top BJP leaders.

The BJP pooh-pooh the insinuation, suggesting instead that they were targeted for not having advanced the career of the said officer.

As for former Jana Sangh president Balraj Madhok's endorsement of the same claim, they remind you how Madhok had blamed the KGB for his defeat in the 1971 parliamentary election, asserting that a 'late-reacting ink' was used on ballot papers to ensure a landslide victory for Indira Gandhi.

Dynastic membership in clubs

A PIL has been filed in the Delhi high court against what can only be called the extension of the dynastic principle in the admission policy of one of the capital's most prestigious clubs.

The complaint is that the club, established in the last century on prime public land in the heart of Lutyens' Delhi, automatically grants membership to dependent children of its members while keeping new applicants on the waiting list for decades.

Though established under the Companies Act, the PIL says the club cannot extend preferential treatment to dependents who may or may not be as deserving as their parents were.

As dependents are accorded first priority, the club admits only a small number every year. New applicants have to wait more than 30 years before being called for the customary interview at which it is decided whether or not they are fit for membership.

Illustrations: Uttam Ghosh

Capital Buzz

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