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   Last night, at the press club bar... (March 4, 1996)

Last night, at the press club bar, I told the veteran political correspoondent: "So, I understand the Congress is going to walk away with the elections and Narasimha Rao will be the prime minister again, the old man."

"Yes and no," said the veteran correspondent. "The south holds the key and a lot depends on the kind of challenger put forth by the DMK-Moopanar-Rajnikanth axis. The Congress-AIDMK estimates of 39 seats could be brought down to as little as 25, which will place the Tamil Manalim Congress (Moopanar) in the driving seat in three states."

"I never thought of that," I said, ordering a whisky-water for him, a whisky-soda for myself. "What about the Chidambaram-Arunachalam resignation. Will that affect Mr. Rao's chances."

"Marginally," said the veteran correspondent. "However, the vote in Sivagangai in Pasumpon district, combined with the poll indications in Tenkasi, could upset the Congress applecart not only in Tamil Nadu but also in Eastern Kerala."

"It looks like it is not going to be a walkover for Mr. Rao," I said, ordering a whisky with ice for him, a whisky without ice for myself. "What about Andhra, the PM's own state?"

"Yes, Andhra," the correspondent said, looking up from his whisky. "The split in the Telugu Desam is expected to work to the advantage of the Congress and may boost its tally in AP to 33-35 seats. Then again the ovter support may go to Ms. Lakshmi Parvati, who is not a spent force yet, make no mistake."

"I won't make a mistake," I said, ordering a whisky with ginger ale for him, a whisky with ginger wine for myself. "What about the north? I am told Mr. Rao has sealed it for the Congress. The old man.'

"The Samajwadis have still to be reckoned with," the correspondent said. "The position of Mulayam Singh Yadav vis-ŗ-vis the JD-SP alliance is still partially obscured on account of the allotment of seats in the four hill states. The Congress would have to wait and watch separate and corresponding developments in the United Front, both with the Leftist Front and minus it."

"The situation is a little complicated," I said, getting him a whisky on the rocks, a neat three-inch for myself. "In any case, the Congress does not have to be concerned about the BJP, Mr. Rao has settled that."

"It is hawala and diwala time, the Congress cannot depend on its community bank vote aby longer,' the political correspondent said. "The BJP can ride on the backs of the Congress (Tiwari), CPL, the United Republican Party of India and the CPM. Let us say, it is open and shut."

"Yes, that should be best," I said. "I wanted to ask you about Parvez Damania, but next time."

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