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Capital Buzz/Virendra Kapoor

Arun Nehru escapes unscathed

Former minister of state for internal security Arun Nehru (right) Arun Nehru is extremely fortunate to have escaped being charged either in the hawala case or in the Bofors pay-offs scandal.

For Rajiv Gandhi's estranged cousin had a significant role to play in both these scams.

Senior counsel Anil Divan, the amicus curiae appointed by the Supreme Court for assisting it in monitoring the investigations in various scams, has repeatedly drawn the court's attention to the CBI's failure to arraign Nehru. The court, in turn, has repeatedly asked the CBI to explain the reason for letting Nehru off the hook.

The CBI counsel hums and haws without giving a convincing ground for not nailing him. For sure, some days ago Nehru was questioned in the Bofors case but, from the line of investigation, it was clear that the CBI was acting on a brief not to push the former paint man-turned-politician-turned-man-of-leisure too hard.

Nehru's name not only figures in the infamous hawala diaries, the N-for-Nehru entry finds a prominent place in former Bofors chief Martin Ardbo's diary. Secret papers handed over by the Swiss establish how Nehru played a crucial role in clinching the howitzer deal for Bofors once the London-based AE Services belatedly began to canvass the contract for the Swedish gun-maker.

Remarkably, former prime minister V P Singh, who had derived ample electoral advantage from the Bofors scam, had accorded the pride of place to Nehru in his inner counsels. Singh could not bring himself to question Nehru on his role in the Bofors scam.

The Deve Gowda government, too, for some inexplicable reason, wants to protect Nehru.

Spare our women friends, please!

If Union Revenue Secretary N K Singh has his way, he would disband the Enforcement Directorate and scrap the Foreign Exchange Regulation Act. Singh's rich patrons in business and industry are urgently canvassing the same course of action.

Finance Minister P Chidambaram Finance Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram, (left) on his part, believes that FERA has outlived its utility and needs to be amended in view of the liberal economic regime of the past couple of years. But, as long as FERA is in place, there could be no objection if the ED sought to enforce it to the best of its ability.

Recently, the ED's zeal to enforce the law has brought it in conflict with the finance ministry. It incurred Chidambaram's ire again last week when it arrested the wife of former Union minister S Krishna Kumar.

Usha Krishna Kumar was arrested and kept in custody overnight, before she was released on bail. So incensed was the finance minister that he summoned two senior ED officials to his office and berated them for being harsh towards women-suspects.

Chidambaram was also protective of another woman, the high-flying Rita Singh of the Mesco group. The senior income tax official supervising investigations against her was transferred after Singh met Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda with the help of Samajwadi Party MP Amar Singh. For now, Rita Singh, who unsuccessfully contested the last parliamentary poll on the Congress party ticket, has managed to get the IT men off her back.

So much for Chidambaram's much-touted concern to ensure equity in tax administration!

Cellular nuisance and Heptullah

Cellular phones have become a nuisance in Parliament. Presiding officers in both Houses look at it with disdain. The other day Rajya Sabha deputy chairperson Najma Heptullah Rajya Sabha deputy chairperson Najma Heptullah (right) was so incensed by the ungainly sight of members talking on their cell phones even when the House was in the midst of an important debate that she barred its entry into the Rajya Sabha.

She was constrained to do so when, during a minister's reply, the entire House was distracted by the loud ring of a member's phone. She also instructed the watch and ward staff to remind members not to carry their cellulars into the House. Heptullah now intends to suggest to Lok Sabha Speaker Purno A Sangma that he enforce the ban on cellular phones in the Lower House as well.

Heptullah's dislike for the cellulars is so intense that, at a Holi function at Congress HQ, she publicly frowned on its use by Ratnakumari, the Congress member of the Lok Sabha. The late foreign minister Dinesh Singh's daughter can be often seen using the cellular inside the Lok Sabha.

Congress president Sitaram Kesri came to Ratnakumari's rescue. "She is my daughter. Don't give her dirty looks," Kesri told Heptullah.

"No, Kesriji, this cellular has become a nuisance. It has marred the solemnity of parliamentary proceedings. Every member is using it. I will take up the matter with Sangmaji to seek a ban on its use inside the House..."

Kesri, green button and the Gowda government

Congress president Sitaram Kesri Congress president Sitaram Kesri is clearly enjoying his new-found celebrity. He is sought by the media. Leaders of the United Front, from Prime Minister Deve Gowda down, try and keep him in good humour. But Chacha Kesri (Uncle Kesri), as he is called by the younger elements in the party, cannot change his free-wheeling style of speaking at this late age.

The other day, while talking to a foreign correspondent, Kesri was at pains to impress him. "The Congress Working Committee has authorised me to press the `green button' whenever I choose to. And the 13-party UF would come down crumbling in a moment...," Kesri told the interviewer who, in turn, asked whether the `green button' was like the nuclear trigger remote control of Russian President Boris Yeltsin.

Kesri had his answer ready. "You see, Yeltsin would think twice before pulling the nuclear trigger. But I am Sitaram Kesri. I would not know when to press the green button because it is here on my shoulder. See, this is my shoulder. This is where I am carrying the burden of the UF. Any moment I can trigger the end of the UF government..."

The interview was duly taped but an AICC general secretary prevailed on the correspondent to delete all references to Kesri's green button.

The Mayawati terror

Arrest warrant out for India's defence minister.' That could soon be the headline in newspapers across the land if the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati (left) has her way.

Whether or not that happens, Samajwadi Party leaders are running scared. For they fear that Mayawati would vigorously pursue all the scams pertaining to the Mulayam Singh Yadav government, including the Rs 350 million Ayurveda scam. And, of course, she will probe the shenanigans of Governor Romesh Bhandari in the last 10 months when he was the unquestioned ruler of UP.

The high-profile SP MP, Amar Singh, is so frightened of Mayawati that, instead of playing the master of ceremonies at the Yanni show in Agra for all of its duration, he slipped in and out one evening. "She is a crazy woman, this Mayawati. I cannot trust her. She will arrest me on some ground or the other..." Singh told his friends before getting back to the safety of the capital.

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