June 22, 2021
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Ins and outs of N.K. Singh, Ambanis in a spot of bother, an honest Tamilian, sops for Shotgun and much else...

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When the government announced last week that Nandu K Singh was being shifted out of the Prime Minister's Office (PMO), a significant section of the corporates heaved a sigh of relief, ostensibly because of the OSD's proximity to a major Mumbai-based industrial house. But the funniest part of the entire story is that Singh is not exactly out of the precincts of the PMO. And this time, he is back with renewed vigour. Why? Well, his new designation at the Planning Commission (PC) means he is a Minister of State(MoS)with special perks and that he will be there almost everytime a crucial decision is taken (as a PC representative). Doesn't this remind us of the days of Jaswant Singh, who was named the Deputy Chairman, PC but spent most of his time in the PMO to deliberate on foreign policy matters? And who are waiting in the wings? There is this subtle tussle for NK's chair between the troika of Telecom Secretary Shyamal Ghosh, Revenue Secretary Dr S Narayanan and Finance Secretary Ajit Kumar, the last named a confidant of Principal Secretary Brajesh Mishra. There are also others waiting. But they are not bureaucrats but a small section of Singh's staff who are wondering how to handle the countless calls of their boss who is mostly seen at the PMO. Some things just do not change in the bureaucracy, right?

What bothers the once redoubtable Ambanis? Many in the Indian Capital feel the once powerful group is slowly losing its grip in the corridors of powers. For example, when a daily reported on a secret Reliance plan to sabotage the state-owned Videsh Sanchar Nigam Limited (VSNL), the mandarins of the Makers Chambers were all at sea to trace the origin of the document. One section said it came from Delhi while the Delhi troubleshooters of the group said it was never written by them. Again, when the JPC list was announced, the group -- whose proximity to the controversial, scam-tainted HFCL is well known -- immediately drew up a list of the members rumoured to be close. But then, the list had very few names whom Reliance troubleshooters in Delhi and Mumbai had networked over the years. There's tension in the oil and gas sector where Reliance Petroleum head S Buddhiraja is under fire from the Ambanis for having done some miscalculations in investments in National Exploration Licensing Policy (NELP) and offered high bids for fields with low returns.

The forthcoming Assembly elections in Tamil Nadu may be a pain for the state's population but it has definitely come as a boon for P Subramanyam, the controversial chairman of the Unit Trust of India (UTI). Why? Because the Finance Ministry was advised by a section of the NDA Cabinet and the Tamil Nadu IAS lobby (rumoured to be close to Subramanyam) that any decision to remove the chairman would be seen as a move to remove what they felt "a honest Tamil". And that it could prove detrimental, more so because SEBI chief D.R. Mehta was still in the chair despite drawing flak from almost all quarters for allegedly mishandling what should be the watchdog's ideal role in the stock market.

Why are all Joint Parliamentary Committees (JPCs) considered nothing but a farce? Well, it's primarily because it achieves little. Consider the latest one set up by the government read the Finance Ministry) to probe the stock market scam. The list includes Prem Gupta, the highly controversial Rashtriya Janata Dal member from Bihar whose proximity to HFCL's Mahendra Nahata and his deputy Vinay Maloo is well known in the financial circles.Then there is the Samajwadi Party leader Amar Singh, who openly flaunts his friendship with Ketan Parekh and Maloo of HFCL. There's also Kumar Akhilesh Singh, another highly controversial politician from Uttar Pradesh whose links with a host of industrial houses in the state and their alleged stock market dealings are well known. And finally, there is the Bharatiya Janata Party's MP Kirit Somaiya, known for being extremely vocal about the bull cartel but, relatively low-key on the operations of the bear union. Now how far the four musketeers will help unearth the truth is a million-dollar question.

Is Shatrughan Sinha upset with the NDA government? If not, why is he playing hide and seek, especially when Assembly elections are around? His staff told the BJP high command that Sinha was in the United States but later he himself surfaced at the party headquarters and met president Jana Krishnamurthy to clear all doubts. But why is Shotgun annoyed? Insiders claim he has told the party leadership that he is ready to do some hectic campaigning but this time he will settle for nothing less than a Minister of State's position. But which ministry? Well, Sinha has demanded petroleum where such a position is vacant. And if that eventually happens after the elections, it will be fun to see of the two presiding over the Rs 2,50,000 crore turnover ministry which does the talking. After all, like Sinha, Petroleum Minister Ram Naik is also a media saavy person and loves all the publicity in the world.

Where is Vijay Mallya? The liquor baron and CEO of the Rs 400 crore United Breweries group has cancelled all his meetings (including personal ones) and told his staff not to disturb him for sometime. Why? It's for a host of reasons. First, Mallya has some peculiar knee problems for which he is undergoing treatment. Secondly, he is performing a series of special pujas for increased luck in business. And the religious ceremonies are not because the group had a major fall in profits but because Mallya has confided to some about his long-time ambitions to become extremely rich and be India's answer to Richard "Virgin Atlantic" Branson. And for that you definitely need lots and lots of funds. His ambitions include starting an extended service of his small airline business (UB Air), more media acquisitions (this time in the Middle East), investments in infrastructure projects and funding entertainment projects in both Bollywood and Hollywood.

Who's the latest person to join the television software bandwagon? M.J. Akbar of Asian Age, that's who. He has recently picked up as many as six programmes on the Zee News and current affairs channel and is currently scouting for talent. Akbar wants to anchor some of the shows on the channel which is trying hard to keep pace with newly-launched Aaj Tak that has raked in impressive TRPs. For more on television, the buzzword now in New Delhi Television is entertainment and the language, baap, is Hindi. NDTV has told anchors and reporters to brush up their language and match the Aaj Tak folks word by word. So, hectic recruitment is on from the Hindi belt (read language dailies and magazines). And for those interested in news about NDTV management, it's official that media baron Rupert Murdoch wants a share but the Roys are still debating whether they should go ahead or not. And even if they go ahead, what would happen to the crucial issue of management control?

Raj Babbar is all set to launch his daughter Juhi but the Samajwadi Party leader does not want the hero to be a hi-profile one. So he has settled for singer Sonu Nigam for Juhi's maiden venture Kash Aap Hamare Hote. And guess where will the film be shot? Ninety per cent of the shooting will be in Scotland, Norway and UK and barely some scenes in Himachal!

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