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Mr Rao's Spectacular Transformation

Mr Rao's Spectacular Transformation
FOUR weeks into Hawalagate and the capital's chattering classes are still buzzing with the scandal that "rocked a nation". Speculation, innuendo, rumour and gossip are having a field day. Meanwhile, one individual who has this fickle class bamboozled is our secret fiction writer, P.V. Narasimha Rao. Twelve months ago he wasseen as weak, vacillating, indecisive; a somewhat comic figure ever ready to compromise whenever his gaddi appeared shaky. Today, he is the wily south Indian Brahmin (experts in these matters say this is a particularly crafty species) who has played a "master stroke" which has incapacitated his enemies both inside and outside the Congress.

Even a tentative suggestion that the old man may have overplayed his hand and could himself be consumed by the forces he has so meticulously let loose is greeted with instant disagreement. The denizens of Lutyens' Delhi are convinced that Mr Rao has one last Prithvi missile up his sleeve which he will fire if things get too hot for him personally. No one seems to know at whom the missile is targeted or what ammo it contains; there is only the certainty that PV's bag of tricks is not yet empty.

We will soon know the truth. However, what is instructive is the manner in which Hawalagate has so dramatically, and perhaps irrevocably, changed the public perception of Rao—from full-time ditherer to all-purpose Machiavelli.

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