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Capital Buzz/Virendra Kapoor

The Somnus Club

Poor chap. Former prime minister H D Deve Gowda just grabbed 40 winks and woke up to find everyone laughing at him. Happens that during a public function, some alert lensmen caught him sleeping on the job and snapped away at leisure.

He explained that the cares of minding a nation -- he didn't add having to look over his back -- kept him working for 22 hours a day, leaving little time for sleep. What better time to catch up than when someone's talking nonsense?

But the press had nailed him -- and thereafter named him the sleeping prime minister. But perhaps because they couldn't catch him unawares, they make no mention of Union Home Minister Inderjit Gupta's marathon snooze sessions, at public functions and official meetings.

Gupta often naps quietly through those acrimonious debates in Parliament, insisting specially on his siesta. While home ministry officials don't mind what he does outside, it irks them no end when he dunks his head during those serious ministry discussions.

They get more annoyed when he summons them to his chamber and find him lolling off. When he comes round, the discussion begins anew, but only to break off mid-sentence when Gupta's head begins to bump against the table.

After a few sentences, Gupta gets annoyed with their slowness and directs them to "decide whatever you think is proper". Much relieve, they do just that.

Eh, prime minister?

Prime Minister Inder Kumar Gujral, a little older than the home minister, is doesn't sleep in public. But he can't hear too well and therefore, officials keep wondering if their pensions shouldn't be hiked for all the trouble they had to take.

On television, he is often caught cupping his ear and leaning over to whoever he is speaking to. At Cabinet meetings, Gujral can't always hear those impassioned deliveries. His colleagues get most miffed, especially since its difficult to get the same passion into the job when you have to repeat it.

So a sound system was mooted. There was some trouble about echoes but that too was soon rectified. Gujral is happy, but then Inderjit Gupta's sleep is jeopardised.

Women to the fore

Three of the five women ministers who were evaluated for how much they knew about their portfolio, came out with flying colours.

Of the lot, naturally perhaps, Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare Renuka Chaudhary topped the list. Minister of State for Civil Aviation Jayanti Natarajan and Minister of State for External Affairs Kamala Sinha followed.

Laloo Yadav's favourite Kanti Singh, the minister of state for coal, gave solidity to the bottom of the pile. Singh gives low priority to matters bureaucratic and she has very little time for paper-pushing after her benefactor landed in trouble.

The performance evaluation was based on the ministers's grasp of the subject, her ability to write notes, to take independent decisions, and to marshal information to handle parliamentary questions and debates.

But do we sniff discrimination? Why were only women ministers tested?

The Gandhi fixation

Mani Shankar Aiyar has got this bee in its bonnet -- called Gandhi.

He insists that Rajiv Gandhi is innocent in the Bofors pay-offs scam, even after former ambassador to Sweden B M Oza indicted the former prime minister.

Worse is his interest in renaming every place and pothole in India's prime political burgh after the Gandhis.

Almost single-handedly, he forced the capital's premier landmarks, Connaught Place and Connaught Circus, to be re-named Rajiv Gandhi and his mother, Indira Gandhi, respectively. Of course, no one calls them Rajiv Chowk or Indira Chowk. And they are not splitting hairs about a chowk denoting a square while both Connaught Place and Connaught Circus are circular. No, no, they just don't want to confuse themselves and others over a because of a newfangled notion that a place should be named after any available dead person known by over a thousand people.

Even the police station on the fringes of Connaught Place has Police Station, Connaught Place, causing Aiyar needless agony. He even dashed off an angry letter to the police authorities, but the Delhi police haven't yet heeded his advice. Maybe he should ask Sitaram Kesri to withdraw support again if the prime minister doesn't get the problem rectified, wot?

Spiting his nose...

There's this problem in Delhi: there are two men out there seeking the same chair. No not the Throne, just the chief minister's post.

The men being discussed are former chief minister Madan Lal Khurana and incumbent Sahib Singh Verma, both of the Bharatiya Janata Party.

But Verma may have taken his anti-Khurana stand too far when he met Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Kanshi Ram, even though it offended the BJP no end.

Verma told Kanshi Ram that his new party general secretary Ramvir Singh Bidhuri was a Khurana agent who helped the BJP win in many constituencies when he headed the Delhi Janata Dal. Verma did such a good job of worrying Kanshi Ram that Bidhuri was sacked. Naturally, the BJP leadership was in no mood to pat Verma on the back.

Fixer on the prowl again

Amar Singh lay low for the few months after the Deve Gowda government fell.

But the capital's number one fixer is stirring again: The prime minister has given Mulayam Singh's aide Janeshwar Mishra charge of the petroleum ministry.

Singh, the Samajwadi Party general secretary, was overjoyed and the cup ran over when the controversial R C Sharma was named director of the Central Bureau of Investigation.

Now Singh is back in business. And need we tell you what that is?

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