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Crystal Ball/K N Rao

I can see a clear, secret understanding -- an understanding filled with unease and of short duration

Written at 8.42 pm

The lights went out in Delhi. And a Russian woman, who obviously did not know much English, asked me, "In Delhi, is lights go?"

"Yes," I replied, "lights is go."

Then, seeing the photographs of Yeltsin and Gowda in a magazine, she asked, "Is Gowda go?"

"Yes," I replied again, "Gowda is go."

The 11th Lok Sabha met on April 11, 1997, to pave the way for its third prime minister in the 11 months following the general election in May. In Hindi, they say nau do gyarah (literal translation - nine plus two is 11). Metaphorically, it means to run away or disappear. The number of players in a football, hockey or cricket team -- all of which require running to score points -- is also 11.

In the most lustreless Parliament debate ever to be aired, only Chandra Shekhar seemed to speak with some fire. While Chidambaram, with his many 'I's', seemed to know that he had nothing to lose.

The cricket match final between Sri Lanka and Pakistan was a much-needed source of entertainment. I prepared the prashna horoscope for the match. Eighteen balls and 15 runs, Aravinda de Silva in charge of the Lankan attack. I used the same horoscope for Deve Gowda, but with the moon as a reference point. And found that a compromise has already been worked out.

The result? Two hundred and four runs for six wickets, with over two overs to go and 10 runs needed for victory. What a game, the commentators were saying! Five balls to go, two runs to win and Aravinda hits a four! But what about Deve Gowda? Back to the parliamentary proceedings.

Nitish Kumar of the Samata Party, the Bihar-based MP, was holding centrestage, "Gowda, go! But, before going, do a little bombardment and reveal the truth. A Bihari will definitely be the prime minister, but it will be Atal Bihari." Then, he attacked Chidambaram, "You have never delivered a more boring speech. After 8 pm, where will you be? With your Tamil Maanila Congress, joining the ministry to be formed?"

At 6.45 pm, I got a call from a member of Parliament -- apparently, an understanding had been arrived at. I cast the prashna again and found it correct. Then, a friend came over with the news that I K Gujral will be the next prime minister.

The speaker announced that the voting would begin at 9 pm. I could see a clear, secret understanding -- but an understanding that was filled with unease and would be of short duration.

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