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Capital Buzz/Virendra Kapoor

When I went to Russia...

Defence Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav is pleased as a punch. And not just because he has been able to ram through President's rule in UP.

Two days before the UP cataclysmic events started unfolding, Yadav came to a Union Cabinet meeting wearing a sweater. As he waited for the meeting to be called to order, Finance Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram politely inquired whether he was feeling cold. And that was the cue for Yadav to take off.

"I have just returned from Russia," he said in rustic Hindi, "It is very cold there..."

Chidambaram nodded his agreement. He was well-informed about the temperature in Russia.

"You know," Yadav went on, "I was the only defence minister to be received by President Yeltsin. Usually, he does not meet visiting ministers..."

As Chidambaram was looking completely at sea -- thanks, solely, to Yadav's rustic dialect -- Civil Aviation Minister Chand Mahal Ibrahim quickly jumped to his rescue.

"Don't worry, I will translate. Go on, go on," he encouraged Yadav.

The defence minister needed no second invitation. He chugged ahead.

"President Yeltsin praised my secular agenda," he said, "And my earlier role as the UP chief minister and now as defence minister and..."

There were many more 'ands' -- all of which Yadav insisted on narrating to Chidambaram, through a fast-translating, highly-thrilled Ibrahim (who had plenty of practice from his master H D Deve Gowda).

Need we say it was a pretty suffocating 15 minutes for poor Chidambaram who had been with Yadav all through his Russian trip?

When in India...

When multinationals set up shops in India, do they bring with them first-world managerial practices?

No, they don't. They come empty handed and rely on the dictum, `When in Rome, do as Romans do.'

Which is why a foreign-owned satellite television network is behaving the way it is behaving.

In its bid to colonise Indian airwaves, the said company is using every dirty trick in the book and some. Popular anchors have been hijacked, money has flowed like wine among the broadcasting bureaucracy and the television's Indian operations chief is unashamedly wooing the capital's high and mighty.

Recently, following a brush with the Indian government, the gentleman contracted to pay Rs 100,000 per month to an ageing socialite so that she would intercede on his behalf with `friends.' But then arose a problem.

"I want the money in hard cash," the socialite told him, "No deal otherwise."

The CEO was not put off. He thought for a moment and came up with a solution.

"Okay, you will get your money," he assured the lady.

Then on, all agencies who had formal arrangements with the channel found themselves getting additional amounts. But before they jumped for joy would come the big boss's instruction: Pass on the money to madame socialite, immediately.

The socialite, meanwhile, is busy earning the tax-free Rs 100,000.


At a specially-convened meeting of secretaries to the Government of India recently, Prime Minister Inder Kumar Gujral was in full flow.

Senior bureaucrats listened with rapt attention as he spoke feelingly about a 'widespread malaise' in central and state governments.

"Every financial year," he said, "I find funds are lapsing. That should not be."

The bureaucrats felt thrilled. Ah, here, finally, was a PM who knew something about what he was talking. They listened on, some even going to the extent of clapping a hand or two.

Noticing the positive response, Gujral was thrilled. He warmed to his theme.

"From now," he announced, "secretaries of ministries which do not utilise the outlay earmarked for them in the first quarter will be penalised!"

Unfortunately for Gujral, the secretaries didn't like the idea one bit. They protested in unison.

"How," asked a senior bureaucrat of a flustered PM, "are we supposed to utilise the 'earmarked' money when the finance ministry does not release it?"

"If ministerial bosses dawdle over sanctioning expenditure plans, are the bureaucrats to be held guilty?" asked another.

"This year, the Budget was delayed," others pointed out, "so how are we to 'utilise' funds in the first quartet?"

Naturally, Gujral had no answer to that. So he took the only option he could under the circumstance -- cut his speech short and beat a hasty retreat from the conference!

Brotherly concern

Forced on the backfoot by the Tata Tea disclosure, Assam's Prafulla Mahanta government has turned its ire against former Intelligence Bureau additional director Rattan Sehgal.

Sehgal, the state authorities claim, had personally approved the Tata Tea's dealings with ULFA. He had shown a remarkable understanding of the trying conditions in which the tea company had to operate in Assam. And since he was fully aware of the threat the tea management faced, he had co-ordinated the operations to keep ULFA off the company's back.

But why was Sehgal so sympathetic to the cause?

Prafulla sidekicks say it is because Sehgal's younger brother is a senior manager with another tea company operating in Assam...

For our bureaucrats only

Because Human Resource Development Minister S R Bommai does not like Gujral, the Indian delegation to the biennial UNICEF general conference in Paris this year will be an all-bureaucrats team.

Earlier, MPs and prominent educationists had invariably formed part of the delegation.

"But in that case, there will be pressure from the PM to include his India International Centre cronies," Bommai-associates say, "And the minister wouldn't even want to give Gujral the time of the day!"

So it's only bureaucrats for Paris, this time.

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