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Dilli Gupshup: Gossip from the Delhi Durbar

Last updated on: April 18, 2012 12:38 IST

Pssst! Will Waheeda Rahman be India's next President?

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From Presidential battles to prime ministerial ones...

From Mamata Banerjee's shenanigans to Kapil Sibal's true passion...

All this and more in this week's edition of Dilli Gupshup.

We may not be able to hear them, but the war drums are sounding loud and clear in New Delhi. And the battle ground, this time, is Rashtrapati Bhavan.

In barely three months, it will be time for President Pratibha Patil to bid adieu. Which is the reason behind the frenzied negotiations, the bandying about of names and the jockeying for control that is taking place in New Delhi these days.

All the major political parties want a say in who will be the next resident of Rashtrapati Bhavan.

Since the Congress and key UPA allies like Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool are reluctant to elevate Vice-President Hamid Ansari to this exalted post, several names are doing the rounds.

Leading the race are NRI entrepreneur and Rahul Gandhi adviser Sam Pitroda, Infosys Chairman Emeritus N R Narayana Murthy, India's most popular President A P J Abdul Kalam, Mahatma Gandhi's grandson and former West Bengal governor Gopal Gandhi, who once served as secretary to then President K R Narayanan, Finance Minister and Congress bulwark Pranab Mukherjee, Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar and former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Motilal Vora.

But the lovely Waheeda Rahman, who has mesmerised generations with her acting and grace, might just pip these stalwarts to the post.

Since Pranabda clearly cannot be spared from the Cabinet, the consensus seems to be moving towards an 'apolitical' person -- and Waheedaji seems to fit the bill.

A little bird, who claims to know everything that happens in the nation's oldest party, says Congress managers are working on 'ground rules' for the July 2012 Presidential election.

The Congress, it tells us, is 'informally opposed' to giving a second term to any incumbent holding a high Constitutional post.

The party is also averse to promoting any vice-president to Rashtrapati Bhavan. Neither is it in favour of bringing back a former President (read Kalam).

The writing, then, is on the wall. If the Congress's high command accepts these ground rules, Pratibha Patil, Hamid Ansari and Kalam will be out of the race.

For more about Narendra Modi's prime ministerial bid, please click NEXT...


Image: From top, left, N R Narayana Murthy, Gopal Gandhi, A P J Kalam, Waheeda Rahman, Pranab Mukherjee, Motilal Vora, Sam Pitroda and Meira Kumar


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Exchange offer: Prime minister for President

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BBharatiya Janata Party chief Nitin Gadkari, we've been told, is a man under a lot of stress these days.

He's fighting a grim battle for survival and desperately wants a second term as BJP president.

In return, he's been told to declare Narendra Modi as the BJP's prime ministerial candidate.

The offer, says our mole who seems rather pleased at having ferreted out this titbit, has been made by powerful Modi backers at the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh offices in Nagpur and Jhandewalan, New Delhi.

Apparently, following the Special Investigation Team's 'clean chit,' Modi has emerged as a much sought-after nominee.

Several Western embassies in New Delhi are trying to find ways of engage the Gujarat chief minister. In their assessment, Modi is definitely in the 2014 prime ministerial race.

A jasoos, who recently stepped out for coffee with his pals in diplomatic circles, returned with some rather interesting gupshup.

Apparently, top diplomats from Australia, the UK and the US have been gently suggesting that it's time to stop condemning Modi.

The question is, are their governments listening?

How a loo can get you in trouble...please click NEXT


Image: Buddies-in-need Narendra Modi and Nitin Gadkari
Photographs: Sahil Salvi

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No smart card? No smart loo

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Montek Singh Ahluwalia's biwi, the glamorous economist Isher Judge Ahluwalia, has just produced a book on her hubby's mentor, India's Economic Reforms and Development: Essays for Manmohan Singh.

But in Montek's backyard, Yojna Bhavan, the deputy chairman of the Planning Commission is drawing flak for 'wasteful expenditure.'

The cause -- would you believe it! -- are two 'smart toilets' that have been constructed for elite members of the Planning Commission.

Access to these 'smart toilets' is restricted through 'smart cards' and this, apparently, is causing much heartburn.

Unhappy souls in the Planning Commission allege that these 'unproductive' smart toilets have cost huge amounts of money.

Montek, says our sparrow at Yojna Bhavan, is in no mood to clarify.

Minister of State Ashwani Kumar, clearly made of sterner stuff, is keen to get to the 'bottom' of the matter.

Want to know about Dinesh Trivedi's latest panga... please click NEXT


Image: The blue-turbaned economists, Dr Manmohan Singh with Montek Singh Ahluwalia
Photographs: Press Information Bureau

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The man who loves to take pangas

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Dinesh Trivedi, who took a panga with Mamata Banerjee over the Railway Budget and was sacked from the Union Cabinet for daring to do so, has needled Didi again.

Dineshbhai lit Didi's fuse last week by refusing to condemn the infamous cartoon, citing the robust traditions of free speech in a democracy.

Senior Trinamool Congress leaders have apparently told Didi that Dineshbhai has 'emotionally cut off' from the party. Union Railways Minister Mukul Roy and others want to slap a show-cause notice on him.

Surprisingly, Didi has vetoed this suggestion.

Smart lady that she is (and don't ever be fooled by her bull-constantly-in-a china-shop avatar), Mamata wants to kick Trivedi out of her party.

Only she wants an appropriate excuse so that Trivedi won't milk the media and public for sympathy, the way he did on Railway Budget day.

Need free legal advice? Please click NEXT to find out where you can get it...


Image: The battle looms: Mamata Banerjee vs Dinesh Trivedi, right
Photographs: Reuters

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Need free legal advice? Knock, knock

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One man in the Cabinet loves dispensing legal advice. And he doesn't charge for it either.

Nope, it's not Law Minister Salman Khurshid.

It's another legal eagle: Human Resources and IT Minister Kapil Sibal.

At a recent meeting of state education ministers, some ministers complained about the legal tangles they faced.

Sibal was quick to offer advice. He even suggested they send across the relevant legal papers so that he could give them a considered lawyer's opinion.

As a minister, Sibal is barred from practising law.

But the lawyer in him apparently can't resist giving legal advice, even if he can only do so verbally.


Image: Kapil Sibal
Photographs: Jay Mandal/On Assignment

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