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Capital Buzz/Virendra Kapoor

When Gujral was young...

Folks, what say we make this one a roaring Inder Kumar Gujral special? After all, the gentleman is our brand new prime minister; and we can't just ignore him, can we?

Nope, we can't -- there are plenty tales to tell of him. So here we go.

Once upon a time (read forty years ago), there was this very smalltime civil works contractor in New Delhi. He had great ambitions, this one had, and thought a great deal about how he was going to make it big. For many years, our hero struggled and he struggled -- but couldn't make any headway.

Luckily for him, he had a famous brother, an artist-sculptor by the name of Satish Gujral to help him. And help him his brother did.

One fine morning -- or it might have been noon ... or even evening -- Satish took his contractor-brother to meet Indira Gandhi... And, hey presto! all his worries were over.

The smalltime contractor suddenly became bigtime He found himself the New Delhi Municipal Committee vice-president. Now our hero was quite a creative man, okay? And being a creative man, he decided to go in for some creation.

Multi-storeyed building started to appear in Connaught Place, the capital's heart. Soon, the capital's first skyscraper also started coming up. (Only our hero was licensed to scrape the sky; his competitors were politely asked to take a walk.)

And as more skyscrapers went up, our hero started going places. He moved from his modest Hanuman road living quarters to the up-market Maharani Bagh.

Today, Gujral and his son Naresh have adjoining bungalows (oozing of opulence) set in huge plots of land there.

When Gujral used to see red...

Now, let's do another flashback. Let's go back, back and back till we reach our hero's youthful days in Lahore... sometime in the late '30s or early '40s, okay?

Ah, here we are now. Do you see the now-familiar figure? Hey, what's he doing with that Red crowd there? Is he... is he one of them?

Yes, dear brothers, yes. Our hero was an active member of the Communist student movement in his red-blooded days. And he continued with his activity even after father Lala Avtar Narain Gujral (one of the 19 Hindus who signed the pledge of allegiance to Pakistan) moved to Delhi.

Gujral, a longtime regular in the Indian Coffee House here, had his own band of Communist friends. The quartet, old Coffee House buffs recall, comprised socialite-author Uma Vasudev, hoarding entrepreneur Trilochan Singh (the diminutive Sikh who stuck on close when Gujral appeared on television immediately after he was named UF leader) and Sudarshan Seth, owner of a small shop in the building.

When Gujral used to drop hints...

In his pre-big league days, our hero hardly had any friends in Delhi's political circles. And he wanted friends very badly.

So he decided to acquire some for himself. But how to go about it? Our hero had a plan which he put immediately into action .

All of sudden, old timers recall, whenever they called up Gujral's residence they started getting the response that he had gone to the prime minister's house. Whether it was morning, noon or night, Gujral was at Indira Gandhi's house.

The ploy worked, and impressed politicians started calling more frequently. But no, our hero wasn't there... he was at the PM's!

Now, there was one particular gentleman who decided Gujral was getting too much of Gandhi's attention. The good soul, who himself was on talking terms with our Iron Lady, called her up. Why, he wondered, was she seeing Gujral so often?

The PM , naturally, denied she met him often. "But madam, whenever we call his residence, we are told he is with you..." Whereupon Gandhi dialled Gujral's number -- and got the standard reply.

"Saab tho prime minister ke paas gaye hein..."

Gujral and his media connections

Now about Gujral's connection with the press.

That all the oldtimers in the Fourth Estate like Kuldip Nayar, K K Katyal and Nikhil Chakravorty are Gujral cronies is well known.

What is not known is his relation with the Times of India group.

And when we say 'relation', that's exactly what we mean -- our hero is related to the Jain family (the Times owners) through a fortuitous matrimonial alliance.

Gujral's nephew Amit Judge is married to Nandita Jain (Times owner Ashok Jain's daughter). Amit, once the owner of Stencil shirts, now looks after his in-laws's business affairs.

And wait... there is more to this relation! Jain's second son, Vinit, is married to Judge's sister!

Meanwhile, Jain is still vacationing abroad, even as Enforcement Directorate officials await to question him in the Bank of Rajasthan case. They expect him to return by May 2.

Gujral, mindful of his image, is unlikely to be of much help to the Jains now.

It's no fun not being the FM

Actually, Gujral was --- Oh heck! These Gujral tales are getting too much even for a Gujral special. Enough of him for now, let's take on somebody else.

Like, maybe, Palaniappan Chidamabaram.

Inside sources say this darling of the chattering classes, now that he is out of power, is feeling like a fish out of water. And is busy pulling strings to get party chief G K Moopanar to change his mind.

The ex-finance minister himself advised his leader it was essential for the Tamil Manila Congress to be in power, to fight the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam. But that didn't cut much ice with Moopanar.

Now pals of his are at the persuadal game.

Former Karnataka chief minister Ramakrishna Hegde was pressed into service. Hegde in turn brought Tughlak editor Cho Ramaswamy into the act. Cho initially had wanted the TMC to join the ministry; but after seeing the wave of anger that swept Tamil Nadu when Moopanar was denied the leadership hurriedly changed his mind.

With such heavyweight efforts going on, it wouldn't be surprising if Moopanar revises his stand.

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