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Capital Buzz/Virendra Kapoor

Iftar parties, BJP and Sangma

A little noticed feature of the iftar frenzy that took over the capital's political classes during Ramzan was the not-so-inexplicable absence of Bharatiya Janata Party leaders from these high-powered parties. BJP leaders, including the most liberal among them, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, consciously stayed away from the iftar dinners which secular politicians threw at possibly the taxpayer's expense this year. Strangely, even Dr Murli Manohar Joshi, who as BJP president a couple of years ago was bitten by the iftar bug, was absent from most of these events.

Dr Joshi was then so carried away by the iftar frenzy once that he hosted an iftar dinner much to the chagrin of his colleagues who derided the practice as a gimmick to court Muslim votes.

Another dignitary absent from these parties was Lok Sabha Speaker Purno A Sangma. He appeared unhappy with the seeming politicisation of what is essentially a matter of faith. Both Vice-President K R Narayanan and President Shankar Dayal Sharma hosted iftar parties though.

A house for Mr Venkataraman

Former President Ramaswamy Venkataraman said he wanted to live in New Delhi soon after the DMK came to power in Tamil Nadu last May. The H D Deve Gowda government readily allotted him a large bungalow in the heart of Delhi. The estate department harried the occupant of 5, Safdarjung Road to vacate the house post-haste on the ground that the same had to be occupied by the former president.

It has been six months now but Venkataraman shows no signs of moving in. He still lives in Madras, the city he wanted to move out of after M Karunanidhi's landslide victory in the state assembly election. A DMK leader had petitioned the Madras high court a couple of years ago against the then Jayalalitha government's decision to provide Venkataraman a large bungalow after he first expressed a desire to stay in his own home.

Venkataraman's tenant was evicted from the house on the ground that the President would like to live there himself after retirement. Once the State had renovated the house and added rooms for his secretarial staff/security personnel at considerable expense to the tax payer, Venkataraman changed his mind and sought official accommodation which Jayalalitha promptly made available.

Mr Q

Adesperate attempt is on in some quarters to de-link Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi -- named at last by the Central Bureau of Investigation as one of the recipients of the Bofors bribes -- from the family of the late Rajiv Gandhi. But it is unlikely to succeed given the evidence of Quattorocchi's close friendship with Gandhi and his Italian-born wife, Sonia.

Gandhi-watchers recall that during the early days of the Janata Party regime in 1977-78, Rajiv and his wife were so fed up with the antics of his younger brother, Sanjay, that they had moved in for a few days with the Quattrocchis in their spacious bungalow in the upmarket south Delhi suburb of Friends Colony. A visit to newspaper morgues would also refresh one's memory about the holidays the Gandhis and Quattrocchis took together.

Arun Nehru, minister of state for internal security in the Rajiv Gandhi government, had incurred Quattorocchi's wrath for insisting that all visitors to the Gandhi household walk from the main gate rather than alight from their vehicles at the portico. The security measure had to be relaxed for Quattrocchi at the intervention of no less than Rajiv himself.

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