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More sleaze please, this is Indian politics

By Virendra Kapoor
March 07, 2005 18:33 IST
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Politicians would stop at nothing to do their rivals in.

Within hours of Congress leader Bhajan Lal throwing his hat in the ring for the Haryana chief ministership, a CD surfaced against him.

A select group of politicians and journalists who received it the day the newly elected Congress legislators met in Chandigarh -- and, predictably, left the choice of the leader to the supreme boss, Sonia Gandhi -- were unable to pinpoint the sender's name or address.

But it was clear that the CD was aimed at jeopardising the wily Lal's chances of heading the state for a record fourth time. That was the vital clue which indicated the CD might be the handiwork of Congressmen opposed to Lal becoming the chief minister again.

In the Central Hall of Parliament some Haryana politicians were heard making furtive inquiries as to why none of the television channels or newspapers, which were sent the CD, had taken note of it.

An Opposition member of the Rajya Sabha, who had seen the CD, reckoned that the media was 'managed' by those who had a stake in keeping the contents under wraps.

Breaking news

Talking of smutty CDs, it seems miniature cameras were surreptitiously installed in a couple of rooms in Bihar Bhavan in the capital. So when leaders were allegedly holed up in the Bhavan with women, the sly cameras fixed in the ceiling fans recorded everything.

When portions of these tapes were telecast last week by a news channel, embarrassed politicians made inquiries. They revealed a tale as sleazy as the actual action caught on the cameras.

Apparently, a crafty middleman had been successful in persuading some members of Parliament to spend a part of their Local Area Development funds on installing computers in schools in their constituencies. A percentage of the money thus paid is allegedly given back as 'commission' to the politicians.

Fed up with the arrogant behaviour of one of the Bihar netas, an official at Bihar Bhavan asked the middleman to install one of his miniature cameras in one of the guest rooms so that he could 'fix' the politician.

Since the middleman was beholden to the caretaker for having introduced him to quite a few Bihar netas, he obliged. How the film found its way to the news channel is still not clear.

SEBI chief by default

Now it can be told. Melovithi Damodaran has become the Stock Exchange Board of India chief by default.

Jamini Bhagwati was the first choice of the selection committee set up to name a successor to outgoing SEBI chief, G N Bajpai.

A member of the selection panel appended a dissenting note, arguing that Bhagwati's appointment would mean at least two senior bureaucrats being left in the lurch.

The selection committee wanted some more time to come up with a unanimous recommendation and suggested Bajpai be asked to continue for a couple of weeks. But Bajpai made it clear that he would either have a full term till he turned 65 years old or retire on the day his current term ended. Fearing that he might manage to get a second term, the panel lost no time in zeroing in on Damodaran.

Damodaran, a 1971 batch IAS officer of the Manipur-Tripura cadre, has seen a meteoric rise in his career. Reluctant to return to his parent cadre, he stayed on in New Delhi on a post with the Reserve Bank of India. And when the time came, he got the Unit Trust of India assignment that led to bigger and bigger things.

Proxy prime minister

It could well be said of Manmohan Singh that he is in office but not in power. On the day the results of the election in Haryana, Bihar and Jharkhand brought not so happy tidings for the ruling Congress, Singh was in Kashmir.

When a local correspondent wanted to know his reaction to the electoral setback the party had suffered, Dr Singh pleaded ignorance, saying he wasn't aware of the results. This when the entire country had learnt of the results from the television channels!

Cut to the drama enacted in the Ranchi, Panjim and Patna Raj Bhavans. Leader of the Opposition L K Advani spoke to the prime minister early in the afternoon on Tuesday, March 1, conveying his misgivings about the 'mischief' Jharkhand Governor Syed Sibte Razi was up to and asked Dr Singh to intervene. The prime minister told Advani he would get back to him after he had spoken to Home Minister Shivraj Patil.

More than four hours later, when Dr Singh did not get back to Advani, former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, called up his successor to ask if he had conveyed the Bharatiya Janata Party's apprehensions about Razi's role. Dr Singh told Vajpayee he had not been able to speak to Patil yet!

Illustrations: Uttam Ghosh

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Virendra Kapoor