Penguin's three Aces?

Nov 03, 2014, 06:01 IST | Malavika Sangghvi

We like things done in triplets: three wise men, who followed the Christmas Star, three Bandra Khans who rule Bollywood, and now, after the publication of Sanjaya Baru's 'The Accidental Prime Minister', the release of Rajdeep Sardesai's '2014

We like things done in triplets: three wise men, who followed the Christmas Star, three Bandra Khans who rule Bollywood, and now, after the publication of Sanjaya Baru's 'The Accidental Prime Minister', the release of Rajdeep Sardesai's '2014.

The Election That Changed India’ and the imminent much-awaited release of Vinod Mehta’s ‘Editor Unplugged: Media, Magnates, Netas and Me’ in December, Penguin India’s Chiki Sarkar might just pull off a trilogy of publishing blockbusters.

Big chatty un-putdownable books on contemporary politics written by ace newsmen on the inside track.

Sanjaya Baru. Pic/Getty Images Rajdeep Sardesai Chiki Sarkar
Sanjaya Baru, Rajdeep Sardesai and Chiki Sarkar. Pic/Getty Images

“What I have tried to do, in this final volume of my memoirs, is to look at contemporary India — its leaders, its media, its middle class aspirations, its current prime minister, the future of the dynasty, its intellectuals like Arundhati Roy — from a personal and historical point of view,” says Mehta, whose sparkling insightful views have made him one of the great chroniclers of contemporary India.

Said to be the ultimate political insider’s story, ‘Editor Unplugged’ is, according to sources, ‘peppered with anecdotes and gossip, every page illuminated with Mehta’s uncut views on Narendra Modi, Arvind Kejriwal and the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, and peerless pen portraits of personalities such as Ratan Tata, Nira Radia and Sachin Tendulkar.”

“There are lots of anecdotes and gossip about Rahul Gandhi and Narendra Modi,” said the author, in his characteristic understated style, when we asked him about the contents of the book.


Kissa Kursi Ka
And in continuation of our reportage of Mumbai ‘shoshaity’s’ favourite pastime-that of reading the tea leaves post a high profile event-there’s this: following a mega starred city event last week that saw the country’s most powerful and famous gather, the discussions about the seating arrangements has still not died down.

And whereas new power equations and configurations have been noted, especially the importance given to Bollywood stars, the seating of three individuals, hitherto perceived to be close to the hosts has been much deliberated on.

“One of them was seen to be one of the host’s closest pals, someone he grew up with and who was a close professional associate. The second, his chief sycophant, a more or less out of work biz man and the third a lady who has gained much from her relationship to the host’s family,” says an astute observer of court politics and palace intrigue.

“That they were given seats way behind with the aam junta could indicate their new placement in the all-important scheme of things,” she says, taking a long quaff of her favourite Vintage Narcissus Wuyi Oolong Tea before laughing throatily, “Kissa kursi Ka never was truer!”

Cabinet reshuffle?
And from our friend, the erudite Delhi-based Mohan Guruswamy, policy wonk and Harvard-trained economist, we learn that contrary to widely held perceptions, the PM is not happy with Fin and Def Min Arun Jaitley’s overall performance and the close connections he enjoys with the media have not gone down too well in the ‘talk less work more’ regime.

Arun Jaitley. Pic/PTI Manohar Parrikar. Pic/Getty Images Sushma Swaraj. Pic/AFP
Arun Jaitley. Pic/PTI, Manohar Parrikar. Pic/Getty Images and Sushma Swaraj. Pic/AFP

(Either this, or the fact that Jaitley himself has requested a lighter load due to health reasons) but Guruswamy says that India will soon get a new Defence Minister (Manohar Parrikar is the name being touted) and the Ministry of Finance will get an additional MoS with clearly-defined functions and with a better knowledge and understanding of economic issues. Jayant Sinha, son of former Fin Min Yashwant, and an internationally respected figure in corporates and finance circles, is being considered for this post.

According to Guruswamy, the PM also seems unhappy with the Urban Development minister, Anant Kumar and apparently wants more positive action on the modernisation of cities, planning for new cities and the proper use of public property for the common good. Meanwhile, Rajnath Singh and Nitin Gadkari seem to be doing well in the PMs estimation. Sushma Swaraj has adjusted to her somewhat diminished status and has done well with what she has.

How accurate are these predictions? Well, as they say the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and so we are as interested as the next person in seeing if these projections go down well or create the usual heartburn associated with Delhi political predictions.

What’s in a name?
He’s become the new face of Congress defence, with his sharp quips and urbanity, and now sources confirm that the 31-year-old Tehseen Poonawalla, the ubiquitous Delhi-based Congress spokesperson and businessman is all set to get engaged to Robert (Are you Serious?) Vadra’s cousin, the 29-year-old Delhi-based jewellery designer, Monica Vadhera, this December.

Tehseen Poonawalla and Monica Vadhera
Tehseen Poonawalla and Monica Vadhera

“While most of the information has been kept under wraps, owing to security reasons, the function is all set to take place in Delhi once the concerned security agencies give the short listed venues a clearance,” says a source. “The guest list may include some prominent MPs, ministers from the last government and also some international guests and dignitaries.”

Interestingly, basic sleuthing on both Vadhera and Poonawalla did not relate them to their more famous namesakes Robert and Cyrus, though people close to them swear they are closely connected to these pre-eminent personalities.

As the Old Bird once said ‘What’s in a name?’ ‘After all both Tehseen and Monica have made a name for themselves in their respective fields, in addition to their famous surnames.’

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