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Capital Buzz/Virendra Kapoor

Now, a Pawar-Yadav nexus

Sharad Pawar A new political axis is in the making in the fast-changing equations in the ruling conglomerate in New Delhi. Maratha strongman Sharad Pawar -- (left) who believes that his time has come at last to play a stellar role in the Congress -- has established an excellent rapport with Samajwadi Party boss Mulayam Singh Yadav. A Bombay-based industrialist and his man Friday in the capital are said to have played a crucial role in bringing the two leaders closer.

Pawar reckons that a long-term tie-up with Yadav would help the Congress win back the support of the Muslim community in the states where Yadav's SP is not a contender for power. The Congress leader in the Lok Sabha reasons that Kanshi Ram of the Bahujan Samaj Party is too slippery to be trusted in a long-term partnership whereas Yadav's ambitions are largely confined to Uttar Pradesh.

In a trade-off where the Congress plays a minor partner to Yadav in UP, the Pawar-led Congress is keen to bag his Muslim constituency countrywide. Whether Sitaram Kesri is aware of the emerging Pawar-Yadav nexus is not of much consequence since the Maratha strongman believes it is a matter of time before he takes over the reins of the Congress party.

Mr Fix-it strikes again!

Wherever there is a scandal, there is Amar Singh. That is the latest dictum doing the rounds in the United Front circles in the capital. The Samajwadi Party member of the Rajya Sabha, who apparently leads his party chief, Defence Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav, by the nose, has his finger in too many pies for any intrepid investigator to be able to unravel fully all his shenanigans.

Neera Yadav Here is how and why Singh intervened to save Neera Yadav, (right) the controversial UP cadre IAS officer who is currently under investigation. Yadav recently succeeded in thwarting an investigation into her conduct as NOIDA chairperson, thanks to Singh's influence on UP Governor Romesh Bhandari.

The CBI had sought the governor's permission to investigate her alleged acts of corruption. But Bhandari denied the CBI permission and, instead, chose to appoint a commission of inquiry with widened terms of reference in order to take the focus away from Yadav's acts of omission and commission. This inquiry holds no terror for her for obvious reasons.

But why would Singh help her? It turns out that Singh had been a beneficiary of Yadav's largesse when she headed NOIDA. Official papers made available to this columnist reveal that Singh was allotted plot number B-126 in the VVIP Sector 44 by Yadav on August 24, 1994.

Singh had applied for a residential plot in his capacity as a director of an industrial unit owned by one of his numerous friends. For some reason, he did not like the location of the plot. On September 5, 1994, he sought a change of plot. And a very obliging Yadav allotted him a much larger plot -- number C- 218 in the same Sector 44 -- on March 2, 1995.

He was handed over possession of the plot the same day. Besides, Singh and his friends have helped themselves to plum residential and industrial plots during the time Yadav ruled the roost at NOIDA.

I'm corrupt, so what?

While on UP's most controversial IAS officer, her colleagues are awestruck by the clout she wields under the present gubernatorial dispensation in the state. Now posted as principal secretary, programme implementation and Ambedkar village development department, she has been mostly away from her base in Lucknow, preferring instead to live in her luxurious mansion in NOIDA.

She has however lost none of her sangfroid despite the CBI allegations against her which, among others, refer to "her possessing property abroad without taking appropriate approval or permission and amassing wealth abroad without following rules and through corrupt practices" and "illegal allotment of plots and properties by collecting huge illegal gratification..."

A case of mistaken identity

At the end of the recent swearing-in ceremony of two new ministers at Rashtrapati Bhavan, M S Gill Chief Election Commissioner Manohar Singh Gill (left) went up to Minister of State for Personnel and Parliamentary Affairs S R Balasubramaniam to congratulate him profusely on his becoming a minister.

Balasubramaniam protested and said Gill had got it all mixed up. "Don't you recall we were on the same flight from Madras to Delhi only yesterday and had talked at length about various matters?" he told the CEC.

A sheepish Gill apologised and went on to add, "Most South Indians too have difficulty distinguishing between one Sikh and another. To them, all Sardarjis appear the same. You and the new minister of state Veerendra Kumar are separated at birth. You have almost same height, same bulk and besides you dress alike..."

Conning cash rewards

The ingenuity of the corrupt knows no bounds. V P Singh, (below, right) as the finance minister in Rajiv Gandhi's government, had introduced a scheme for rewarding, in tax-free cash, almost one-fourth of the value of the goods confiscated by the Customs to the officers V P Singh concerned and their informants, if any. The scheme has been often misused.

Recently, at the Indira Gandhi International Airport, the Customs recovered nearly Rs 30 million in foreign currency which a passenger was unauthorisedly seeking to take out of the country. The detection took place quite by chance. Subsequently, an elaborate charade was created so that over Rs 5 million could be disbursed in rewards to private individuals who were not remotely connected with the seizure.

There is a ceiling on the amount of reward money an officer can claim. Also, only middle-level officers are covered by the scheme. This too causes misuse of the cash incentive scheme.

Doordarshan and discretion

Despite the recent public focus on the misuse of ministerial discretion, nothing seems to have changed. . A case in point is the information and broadcasting ministry.

In the recent past, Doordarshan has turned many including Prannoy Roy to Vinod Dua into millionaires. And many more constantly knock at its doors for make-me-rich-overnight contracts, especially where commissioned programmes are concerned.

C M Ibrahim But there is no mechanism in place to evaluate objectively the proposals from various prospective producers. Even when the proposals are short-listed, one has to cringe before DD officials for a favourable decision. When all else fails, IB Minister Chand Mahal Ibrahim (left) acts as the final arbiter.

A couple of weeks ago, a producer met Ibrahim and had his long-pending proposal cleared in a matter of minutes. Why the committee of experts couldn't do it foxes him and everyone else.

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