|JASWANT SINGH: Blue-blooded politico
names rhyme, they are equally old (64), and they just swapped jobs.
But the new Finance Minister Jaswant Singh and the equally
new Minister of External Affairs Yashwant Sinha are chalk
and cheese when it comes to their background and style of working.
A scion of the royal family of Jodhpur, Singh still carries an air
of aristocracy around him (he still loves to go horse-riding-a hangover
from his army days, when he was a Major in Central India Horse,
a tank regiment). He has a squeaky-clean image, is known to be curt
when provoked, and strongly believes that he is destined to play
a major role in India's march into globalisation.
Sinha, on the other hand, first ventured into
academia (he was a Political Science teacher at a college in Patna)
before he cleared the Indian Administrative Service and spent 24
years as a bureaucrat. Known to be easy going and a team player,
Sinha-his father was an advocate at the Patna High Court-is at ease
with both political peers and bureaucrats. In fact, one of the first
things that Sinha did soon after taking charge of mea was to set
up an advisory council to help him on the job. After all, he will
be the first IAS officer (in a way) to head the Indian Foreign Service.
|YASHWANT SINGH: A babu among ministers
Therein lies another crucial difference between
Singh and Sinha. Bureaucrats have always considered Sinha as "one
of us", while Singh has a reputation for putting overbearing
bureaucrats down. Says a senior official in the Planning Commission:
"Singh is a stern taskmaster, who brooks no nonsense from anyone.
So, bureaucrats are most unwilling to take liberties with him."
Singh, some of his officers say, is also one
of the few Cabinet ministers who is not only well read, but is quick
to understand complicated issues. In mea, Singh always had the bigger
picture in mind while formulating foreign policy. And when convinced
about a course of action, will risk going against the majority opinion.
In his first avatar as the Finance Minister in 1998, he went against
the advice of finance ministry mandarins and gave a counter-guarantee
to Enron's Dabhol power project.
That said, Singh can also cut across party
lines and seek advice of people he trusts. When he was holding the
Defence and External Affairs portfolio between March and October
2001, he appointed Arun Singh (a friend of Rajiv Gandhi) to advise
him in defence matters. Even today, Singh often wears a maroon beret
to army functions-the same cap he wore during his army days. The
question, however, is if Singh can outdo Sinha in his new job.
Predator To Prey
|P. RAJARATHINAM: Change in roles
Wanted: 42-year-old male, wheatish (fair) complexion,
5 feet 2 inches, weight around 100 kilograms. This handwritten poster
(inset) inside Gate 1 of the Bangalore airport would have gone unnoticed
except for the fact that the enhanced passport-size photograph featured
in it was that of P. Rajarathinam. Yes, the same one-time
takeover tycoon from Chennai who snapped up almost a dozen companies,
including Garware Paints, Sears Elcot, and the Benares State Bank
in his heydays between 1992 and 1995. His acquisitions are believed
to have cost more than Rs 100 crore. The fact that Rajarathinam
has debts to settle and was barred by SEBI last year from tapping
the capital markets is no secret. The intriguing part is this: The
Bangalore police has no clue who put it up. Says H.T. Sangliana,
the city's Police Commissioner: "We have spoken to the Central
Industrial Security Force that is in-charge of airport security
and an enquiry has been ordered as to who put up the notice."
Rajarathinam himself was not reachable at any of his known addresses,
but one broker on the Madras Stock Exchange told BT that he hasn't
been heard of in a long while. For a man once famously billed the
"precocious predator", playing prey must be hard.
|VINOD DHAM: Tapping local genius
Chip On His Mind
When at Intel, he fathered the chipmaker's
most hi-profile microprocessor: the Pentium. And when he moved over
to rival AMD, he helped launch a competitor to the Pentium, the
k6. Now that Vinod Dham is no longer a chip designer, he's
looking at bigger things. Last fortnight, the 52-year-old was in
India to announce the launch of NewPath Ventures, a $50-million
venture capital fund, along with Tushar Dave of Armedia Inc. The
company will focus on funding companies in the area of chip design,
embedded software, and system design. Says Dham: "India has
proved beyond doubt its capabilities in software services, but it
is time it moved a notch higher to hardware design." For starters,
Dham is only looking at about five companies, and an investment
of between $5 million and $10 million each. The companies will be
registered in the US, and serve as the marketing front-end. But
product development teams will operate out of India and employ 100-500
employees in each of the companies in the next two-to-three years.
Taiwan, here we come...