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Brajesh Mishra is still listening in

February 07, 2006 19:33 IST

David C Mulford, the US ambassador in India, played straight into the hands of his critics by publicly linking the Iran vote to passage in the US Congress of the Indo-US civilian nuclear pact.

One of the first to take offence was Brajesh Mishra who, as National Security Adviser in the Vajpayee government, had done most of the spadework for facilitating the nuclear agreement.

Mishra wrote out a strongly worded condemnation of Mulford's statement and had it released to the media under Vajpayee's signature. And he wasn't done yet. A couple of days later, he went to the BJP headquarters and left another statement for newly-appointed party president Rajnath Singh to issue under his name. Singh duly obliged and the statement was released a day later.

Incidentally, this was possibly Mishra's first visit to BJP headquarters after the party lost power in May 2004.

Vajpayee is pushing for Mishra's nomination to the Rajya Sabha in the ensuing biennial election from his home state of Madhya Pradesh. Should the RSS chief K S Sudarshan not come in the way, Mishra will soon be a BJP MP. Sudarshan, however, has never hidden his dislike of Mishra.

Meanwhile, interlocutors on both sides were rather surprised to learn that Mishra wants to be kept in the loop on parleys over the nuclear deal. The Americans reportedly conveyed to their Indian counterparts his reported desire to be actively associated with negotiations lest the Opposition torpedo the controversial agreement.

Book editor nixes this editor-in-chief

The late Prem Bhatia reached the pinnacle of his long journalistic career as editor of The Tribune, the multi-edition English language daily now published from various centres in Punjab and outside.

After his death, his family founded a trust to commemorate his memory. Every year, young journalists are given awards and scholarships at a function where a prominent person is invited to speak on a major issue. Invariably, the who's who from media and other spheres participate.

Sometime ago, the trust decided to bring out a book on the state of the Indian media and various issues impinging on its role in society. A well-known publishing house was selected to handle the project, and Asha Rani Mathur was commissioned as editor. Besides several notables, it was only right that the current editor of The Tribune, H K Dua, be asked to contribute.

When the book was finally released a week ago, however, Dua's contribution was missing. Inquiries revealed that he had written a long essay on 'Neglected issues' that did not pass muster with the book editor. Asked to revise his piece, Dua refused. The book editor stuck to her stand. She went ahead minus Dua's contribution.

The book is a useful addition to writing on the state of the media and ought to be prescribed reading for professional journalists. The prime minister is likely to formally release it at the trust's annual function later this year.

Turning family affairs into public functions

The other day, a Congress leader held the christening (naam-sanskaran) of his grandson. In response to his invitation, about 5,000 people converged on a farmhouse one evening.

Expectedly, they marked their presence by making offerings to the happy grandfather. Milling crowds waited to reach the podium where he stood accepting greetings. Two men holding bags flanked the Congressman on either side. As each guest extended good wishes along with the mandatory envelope, he slipped the latter into the bags. Every time they filled to the brim, the bags were replaced with empty ones. The drill was repeated several times over that evening.

Eyewitness reckoned that close to 5,000 people marked their presence at the do. Conservative estimates put the collections at over Rs 10 million. Incidentally, the ostentatious function was held with no expense spared on food and drink, despite a recent circular by Sonia Gandhi prescribing austerity for all Congressmen.

A stranger in Sorabjee's chamber

Eminent jurist Soli Sorabjee, who is president of the prestigious India International Centre, had an unusual visitor the other day. A smartly turned-out policeman barged into his chamber, saluted him and stood still. Sorabjee, of course, did not offer him a chair, asking him who he was instead.

The policeman gave his name and rank, said he was posted in the station the jurisdiction of which covered the IIC, and asked if Sorabjee would be kind enough to make him a member as he too had filled up the requisite application form. The former Attorney General of India dismissed the intruder with a shrug of his hand, mumbling how neither he nor the IIC did such things in an arbitrary manner.

Some 7,000 applications have been received for 100 new members. Even the process of short-listing these by category hasn't begun.

The lone ranger

The reason for the Opposition's rather muted response to the latest twist in the Bofors saga has now become doubly clear. Former prime minister Vajpayee did not come out smelling of roses from a recent television interview with the Hinduja brothers. They damned Vajpayee in the interview. This would explain why, barring BJP General Secretary Arun Jaitley, no senior leader of the party pinned down the Manmohan Singh government for its Quattorocchi operation.

Return of the prodigal

Remember Sudheendra Kulkarni? The journalist-turned-aide to former BJP president L K Advani, who was unceremoniously removed as party secretary after the Jinnah controversy last year, has once again shifted base from Mumbai to New Delhi.

With the BJP treating him as an untouchable, Kulkarni has now found himself a new mentor in ageing Socialist warhorse George Fernandes. The NDA convener, having lost none of his anti-Nehru-Gandhi family intensity, seems to have asked him to get to the root of the Quattorocchi connection.

A fight over airwaves too

With assembly elections due in West Bengal and Kerala later this year, the Congress is desperately looking for well-wishers who will start a television channel to counter the propaganda unleashed by Marxist-sponsored channels in these states. There are two 24-hour news channels in Kerala that are closely linked to the Leftists.

One Bangla channel is also dedicated to the spread of the Marxist cause in West Bengal. The Congress has nothing. Apparently, the state party leadership has zeroed in on a set of Malayalee NRIs to start a channel in time for the elections. The search is on for a friendly Bangla language channel as well.

Illustrations: Uttam Ghosh

Virendra Kapoor