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Capital Buzz/Virendra Kapoor

CBI boss faces home minister's wrath

Indrajit Gupta Federal Home Minister Indrajit Gupta is a man of strong likes and dislikes. And, unlike most politicians, he invariably speaks his mind. No one knows that better than the high-profile director of the Central Bureau of Investigation, Joginder Singh.

Gupta is not exactly enamoured by the CBI director. At official meetings, he gives short shrift to Singh, who does come across as a nitwit at times. Given Gupta's razor-sharp mind, Singh either tries to either avoid going to official meetings where the home minister is likely to be present or, if he cannot avoid those meetings, he tries to sit through these in complete silence. Often, he deputes CBI's joint director to these meetings.

The other day, Singh had to see Gupta in the latter's office at North Block. He approached the room with great trepidation, only to told by the peon to wait in Gupta's personal assistant's room till he was called. The CBI boss felt humiliated, but there was little he could do in the matter.

Joginder Singh Singh ascribes his problems with Gupta to the latter's adviser, former CBI director A P Mukherjee.

Another person who makes no bones about his feelings for Singh is the federal Minister of State for Personnel S R Balasubramaniam, who belongs to the Tamil Maanila Congress. This, despite the fact that Singh has apologised to him for a couple of lapses of protocol in recent weeks.

The only person Singh gets on famously with is Prime Minister Deve Gowda who hand-picked him in the first place for the crucial post. Singh, it must be mentioned, is a Karnataka cadre IPS officer.

Power of the press

M K Bezbaruah, director, enforcement directorate, faces the axe for standing up to Revenue Secretary N K Singh during the course of his duty. Bezbaruah invited Singh's wrath upon himself, following the raid on the residence of a newspaper tycoon in the capital earlier this month.

Singh - Nandu to those familiar with him from the time when he was special assistant to the then commerce minister L N Mishra in the '70s - intervened while the raid was on. And, using the name of Finance Minister P Chidambaram, had it called off. This, when the tycoon had feigned a massive heart attack during the raid but was headed for the international airport less than two hours later to take a flight out of the country.

When the directorate officials tried to stop the tycoon from boarding the flight that night, a very angry Singh gave them a earful and ordered them to allow the newspaper baron to fly out.

The raid was conducted in the light of the observations of the Calcutta high court in a case against the said tycoon. The court observed that there was a gross violation of the Foreign Exchange Regulation Act by the said tycoon.

Bezbaruah, known to be an honest and efficient officer, might now be replaced by a controversial officer close to Singh and a middle-level business house headquartered in the capital.

Costly companionship

A couple of years ago, India's national carrier, Air India, and a few other airlines introduced the 'companion free scheme' for travellers making full payment on a first class ticket. It was a scheme that delighted frequent travellers, especially those who travelled on taxpayers' money.

But, a few months after the scheme was introduced, some spoilsport in the capital's babudom issued a terse order asserting that the "benefit of complimentary companion ticket should appropriately accrue to the government and not to the individual government servant performing the journey."

It now turns out that at least four senior officials from the public sector State Trading Corporation took their wives along on foreign tours, in violation of the government order. And now, they face flak from the commerce ministry for violating the order from the department of personnel.

Kesri's compulsion

Arjun Singh There is no denying that Congress president and leader of the Congress party in parliament Sitaram Kesri was reluctant to re-admit the Congress (Tiwari) leader, Arjun Singh, into the party. The leaders of the UP Congress, particularly Jitendra Prasad, had their own reasons for not wanting to see N D Tiwari back into the Congress fold.

But Arjun Singh finally forced Kesri's hand, when the presiding deity at 10 Janpath left him with no option but to re-admit Singh and Tiwari. And Singh now leaves no one in doubt that he has the blessings of Sonia Gandhi, when he approvingly displays a news item to the effect to visitors to his house.

Meanwhile, there is much derisive comment in the political circles about his favourite television programme. It seems that Singh and his wife are great fans of the Zee Horror Show. Visitors to their house are expected to watch the ghoulish programme in complete silence.

Test of Indrajit Gupta's will

How relevant is Indrajit Gupta in the Deve Gowda government? He has stated, on record, that the Jain commission of inquiry into the conspiracy behind Rajiv Gandhi's assassination has outlived its purpose. That the commission had been `diverted and hijacked' by non-issues.

Last August, the commission was given a six-month extension after Jain's assurance that he would not seek more time to finish his assigned job. The commission's extended term is due to end on February 28.

Now, with Congress president Sitaram Kesri demanding that the Deve Gowda government not only extend the commission's term, but also give it certain top secret documents, Gupta will be hard put to stick to his stand on the relevance of the commission. If he doesn't, it will be yet another instance where he find himself short-changed by Deve Gowda.

Meanwhile, Jain is ready with an interim report which, predictably, points the needle of suspicion at Sri Lankan Tamil terrorists.

Narayanan as President?

S D Sharma President S D Sharma is keen on a second term when his present tenure at Rashtrapati Bhavan ends in July. However, sensing the prevalent mood in the political establishment, he is unlikely to press for it. Nonetheless, he sees no harm in gauging the mood of politicos of various hues before taking his final decision.

Sharma has been meeting old friends in the Congress at breakfast and luncheon meetings. Two former prime ministers are due to exchange views on the current situation in the country over luncheons meetings with Sharma.

Is Vice-President K R Narayanan worried? Not really, for he is certain to succeed Sharma as President later this year.

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