Political hustler and influential guru Chandraswami, who helped bring down the Morarji Desai government and was accused of trying to tarnish VP Singh’s reputation by faking documents from a St Kitts bank, was also a ‘CIA spy’, writes Vikram Sood, a former R&AW chief, in his just released book, The Unending Game. India, says the book, was the playground of games between the CIA and KGB for decades. Chandraswami and his associate Mamaji had become friendly with Saudi millionaire Adnan Khashoggi, whose assistance they reportedly sought to help Rajiv Gandhi win the elections, in the aftermath of the Bofors scandal.
Khashoggi introduced the swami to his son-in-law Larry Kolb, a ‘part time CIA agent’. Khashoggi hosted the swami in a fancy apartment on New York’s Fifth Avenue, while Kolb worked hard to get the St Kitts story published by the Kuwait-based Arab Times, Sood writes. Despite the godman’s efforts, VP Singh was elected prime minister. Chandraswami then latched on to Chandra Shekhar, who ousted Singh to become PM himself. Chandraswami also wielded considerable influence with PV Narasimha Rao, who became PM subsequently. Sood claims the KGB had 10 newspapers and one news agency on its payroll and thousands of articles were planted in these outlets. In addition, the Soviets covertly financed and distributed 25 million magazines and books.
Odd man out
The fact that senior politicians of every hue attended the release of a compilation of articles by the late LM Singhvi is a testimony to the clout of his son Congress MP Abhishek Singhvi, who has grown in stature ever since Mamata Banerjee extended her support to help him win his Rajya Sabha seat. Though LM Singhvi was close to the Vajpayee government, his son Abhishek is firmly in the anti-BJP camp and Pranab Mukherjee was the chief guest at the event. Transport minister Nitin Gadkari, who was one of the panelists, felt distinctly uneasy in the hall filled with Modi baiters and a panel that included Anand Sharma, Dinesh Trivedi and Pavan Varma. The audience clapped repeatedly when Gadkari assured that the government did not want to pack the judiciary with its own men or approve of mob violence and lynching. To add to Gadkari’s embarrassment, thrice the suggestion was mischievously made that he would make an excellent PM. Gadkari was conscious that Modi would not be amused.
Pain in the neck
After PJ Kurien retired as deputy chairperson of the Rajya Sabha in June, the buzz in political circles was that the BJP would avoid an election in the Monsoon Session, since it was uncertain of the numbers. BJP MPs were quick to justify procrastination by pointing out that there was no rule stipulating the time by which the deputy chairperson’s post has to be filled. But surprisingly, the BJP went ahead with the election in the last session and, despite the tension, eventually won handily. It seems the BJP’s hand was forced by Rajya Sabha chairperson Venkaiah Naidu, who had to handle the House single-handedly. Naidu suffers from a spondylitis-type condition in his upper spinal cord and finds it painful to keep turning his neck from left to right to identify the MPs. He made it clear that he needed a deputy as soon as possible.
V-P stepping stone
Vice-President Venkaiah Naidu is conscious that the public is inconvenienced when he travels in the capital as traffic is held up. Realising that several of the functions he presides over, such as book launches, can be easily held at his own residence, Naidu got a fully equipped auditorium built at 6, Maulana Azad Road, in just three months. Incidentally, in the room leading to the auditorium there are photographs of Naidu’s predecessors as vice-president. While taking journalists on a guided tour last week, Naidu pointed out that while half the V-Ps were eventually elected president, the other half never made it. Asked the obvious question as to which category of vice-president would he fall in, Naidu simply laughed.
Former vice-president Hamid Ansari may be 81 years, but he is still fit. When he was called for his medical check-up after he qualified for the Indian Foreign Service, his uncle, a doctor, advised him to meet his friend, a civil surgeon, to find out if he had any health issues. The surgeon told him he was fit, the only problem was that he might be considered too thin. Ansari tried to put on a little weight. He was 64 kg when he joined the diplomatic service and is now only 67 kg, an enviable record.