Capital Buzz/Virendra Kapoor
Arun Nehru escapes unscathed
Former minister of state for internal
security Arun Nehru (right)
is extremely fortunate to have escaped being charged either in
the hawala case or in the Bofors pay-offs scandal.
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 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 (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
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
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 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
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 (left) has her
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