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Capital Buzz/Virendra Kapoor

Pushy tales, cushy jobs

Rajya Sabha deputy chairperson Najma Heptullah would have made a wonderful quarterback. She is -- pardon the pun -- perfectly cut out for the job, and knows how to make use of her height and weight to get to the goal.

Which, for the uniniated, is the nice, cushy chair of the vice-president.

The lady had been pushing and shoving even before the Congress settled on her as their candidate. But all Congressmen are not happy about it -- in fact, some are downright unhappy.

Heptullah, they say, is too pushy for the job. Then there are little matters like how she uses her official position to further her family business, her powerful love for all things foreign, her unveiled pleasure at liasing with foreign dignitaries....

Unkind critics also say she lacks social grace and tact -- but, of course, that can't really be true.

"No, no, it's every bit true," insists an anti-Heptulla-ist. "She is like that. You know what happened in New York?"

On one of her frequent visits abroad, the story goes, Heptullah, with her entire clan, landed up at the Indian mission there. She had official business scheduled in Houston and wanted to get there.

But does the lady settle for an air ticket? No way, not she! She insisted on being driven down in a limousine.

"The reason was simple: the mission was not ready to cough up air fare for Heptullah's entire brood -- they said they would pay her fare, period. But in a limo, she could pack in everyone, na?" the anti-Heptullah-ist says. Needless to say, Heptullah's limo bills were much heftier than what her air fare would have been.

Najma and truth

One more Najma tale before we close the files on her. This one compliments the lady's tactlessness.

At a recent party, Heptullah was in her usual chirpy mood, and boring the life out of Congress leader Rajesh Pilot. Her views, news and impressions flowed unhindered -- and Pilot, poor fellow, soon found himself floundering in heavy torrents.

He was desperately looking this way and that when Heptullah came out with a typically brilliant statement: "Today," she said, " I am telling you the truth!" Quick as lightning Pilot summoned Vice-President K R Narayanan's attention.

"Sir, Najma is telling the truth today!" he said.

Narayanan, too, was not averse to a crack at Heptullah. "What? At last, Najma, you are telling the truth!" he said. And while the august gathering laughed at her growing discomfiture, Heptullah mumbled, "Truth and I are synonymous."

That, thankfully, was the last anyone heard of her that night.

The President-maker

After filing his nomination papers, presidential candidate K R Narayanan was exchanging pleasantries with senior leaders.

Everybody, including Prime Minister I K Gujral, expressed their happiness about it and spoke of what a great President Narayanan would make. The true diplomat he is, Narayanan laughed, joked and accepted the praises gracefully.

That was when Congress president Sitaram Kesri decided to be his usual self.

"I gave you my word I will make you the President and I will," Chacha told Narayanan in his halting English. "I told him I will make him prime minister," Kesri continued pointing at Gujral, "and I have!"

Narayanan, not really used to the Kesrian ways, smiled painfully and looked a little more lost than his usual self.

Kamla Sinha's wanderlust

Our new external affairs minister Kamla Sinha, though not been in office for long, has managed to earn a nice, round snub from the Europeans.

This is how she went about it.

After contemplating on the wobbliness of Gujral's chair, Sinha decided it wouldn't be a bad idea if she went on a couple of trips abroad. (Anyway, Delhi is too hot to stay in July!) So off she went -- throwing established diplomatic procedures to the wind. Why should she wait for formal invitations? What the heck! She was the new external affairs minister, wasn't she?

But the East European country she targetted didn't see it that way. They had better things to do with their time and told her so. To say Sinha was disappointed would be an understatement -- she was heartbroken and had to fly off to Hong Kong to recuperate (by witnessing the handing-over of the British colony to China).

Meanwhile, Sinha has penned off formal requests to a couple of other countries...

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