Rediff Logo News Banner Ads Find/Feedback/Site Index
December 23, 1997


Capital Buzz/Virendra Kapoor

Sonia to take to the road

Sitaram Kesri and other Congressmen may not know it yet but there are people out there who know Sonia Gandhi will be campaigning for some Congress candidates in the upcoming hustings.

So how do we know, considering we too don't know who she has been hob-nobbing with? Ah, we'll let you know, but slowly.

Meanwhile, the secretary, security, called a full-fledged meeting of senior officials a couple of days ago to review the arrangement for the VVIPs in view of the coming election.

The security guys have their work cut out. There are 3,200 SPG commandos protecting the seven VVIPs. Currently, the man facing the maximum threat is the BJP's high-profile prime ministerial candidate, A B Vajpayee. No 2 on the list is Sonia Gandhi, with caretaker prime minister I K Gujral a poor third. Far behind him are former prime ministers Narasimha Rao, Deve Gowda, Chandra Shekhar and V P Singh.

The protectors have decided that Vajpayee needs some more protection when he criss-crosses the country on his campaign trail. Sonia Gandhi is another person who'd need more protection if she herself hits the campaign trail, they said, and deputed some of their brawniest for the job. And that's how we know about Sonia's plans.

Seshan seeks to be housed in Parliament

T N Seshan is itching to have some clout again.

Treated like a contagious disease during the recent presidential elections, the former chief election commissioner is seeking a parliamentary constituency -- and a party -- to fight from.

No party has been willing to take him and none is likely to, barring perhaps the Shiv Sena, which alone had backed him in the presidential election.

But the indefatigable Seshan has still drawn up a list of places where he reckons he could do well, topping it being the Bombay South constituency.

As the Sena has an arrangement with the Bharatiya Janata Party, it is unlikely that the latter will relinquish its grip on the seat for Seshan, particularly since it won there in the last election.

Seshan, meanwhile, has been ignoring suggestions from the Union home ministry to vacate the Pandara Road bungalow he occupies. He ignored the first few reminders. When the government insisted, he claimed his 'Z' security status as a mystifying excuse to stay on. So the government took him out of the list.

But it couldn't get him out of the house. Now he has decided to pay the market rent for the place, which works out to about Rs 50,000, even though the government charges about a quarter of what the average Delhi landlords do.

That may be a lot of money for a retired bureaucrat. But then Seshan has got a lot of the stuff as donations for his Deshbhakta Trust. All that because his heart bleeds for India.

One cap too many

It is a public secret that the Election Commissioner G V G Krishnamurthy loves the sound of his voice. Give him an opportunity to speak for a few minutes and you would be lucky if you get away in a week.

The fateful day he announced the Commission's ultimatum to the Shiv Sena when party chief Bal Thackeray refused to hold organisational elections, Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh had the misfortune of being present.

Krishnamurthy wouldn't let the man go while he let the media have juicy details of what he thought of Thackeray and his many minions.

The embarrassed Singh tried to excuse himself, but Krishnamurthy wouldn't let him go. Indeed, in his usually bantering style, he even suggested Singh give him a 'Himachali' cap. The desperate chief minister said he wouldn't send one but three, for all the chief commissioners, including Chief Election Commissioner M S Gill.

Krishnamurthy returned, "Gill cannot wear the cap on his turban. So I will keep his." At this Singh gave up and sat down, resigning himself to being bored mindless....

A cupful of gall

While the United Front leadership may be excused for a feeling a little cut up with Justice Milap Chand Jain whose interim report caused the premature termination of their term, it is the usually suave and unflappable Prime Minister I K Gujral who is expressing his feelings most publicly. Albeit with diplomacy.

The other day at a luncheon meeting with visiting journalists from countries part of the South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation, Gujral took a few digs at the former judge.

Urdu couplets and jokes, part and parcel of any do at the Gujral residence, were being exchanged freely. When Gujral was asked to tell a joke, he spoke of how an old man was woken up in the dead of night by a loud wailing at his doorstep. On inquiry, he learnt the mourners were lamenting the death of a dear one.

"When did he die?" asked the old man.

"Fourteen hundred years ago," the mourners responded.

After the laughter died down, Gujral said, "Something of the sort has happened to us. Rajiv Gandhi was killed some six year ago. But only now have the Congressmen taken to breast-beating..."

There he was being polite, but a few days earlier, Gujral had told an old friend, a Congressman, that what he really wanted was "to line up Jain at India Gate and...."

Could you tell those security guards around Gujral to keep their guns out of view when Jain heaves to?

The persecution complex

There is one very odd minister of state -- for labour, actually -- in the Gujral government. For Veerendra Kumar is also the editor of the largest-selling Malayalam daily, Mathraboomi and a long-time Janata Dal loyalist.

But his biases are quite like those of any other politician. For he believes there is a distinctly anti-south Indian attitude prevalent.

For hadn't Narasimha Rao first been stripped of the Congress presidency, hadn't H D Deve Gowda been forced out, and hadn't the Gujral government been brought down on the question of the role played by the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam in Rajiv Gandhi's murder. Kumar sought the answers of a north Indian politician who didn't know where to look, and made some weak arguments, looking very pointedly at the door.

And seeing there was no argument, Kumar went away happy that he'd shown himself and his kind to be victims. No harm since it made him happy, wot?

Capital Buzz