Vajpayee tough talk on four pillars
President takes a look at BJP Today
US smells Pokhran spill on Pak
Mystery fire kills mother, babies
Loneliness of long-distance Laloo

 
 
VAJPAYEE TOUGH TALK ON FOUR PILLARS 
 
 
FROM DIPTOSH MAJUMDAR
 
New Delhi, Feb. 18 
Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee is increasingly feeling the need to enunciate his political principles and would like to dwell on them at length when he addresses MPs of the National Democratic Alliance and of the BJP before the budget session beginning February 23.

The Prime Minister will send signals to both the rightist fringe within the BJP and the rest of the Sangh parivar as well as to the Opposition that they must heed his advice if the country is to be governed properly.

The Prime Minister’s principles of governance rest on four precepts: Lakshman rekha, maryada, consensus and coalition dharma.

A firm Vajpayee is expected to reiterate the need not to cross the Lakshman rekha — a message he conveyed last week. The VHP has so far taken little note of the warning, but this time Vajpayee is expected to sound more forceful.

The Prime Minister’s emphasis on “thus far and no farther” will obviously be made in the context of the recent Sangh rampage in Kanpur, its enforced dress code and the controversy over Water.

That there would be a warning implicit in Vajpayee’s speech is more than evident. He is determined to underline that if “protests are not within the permissible limits, the law will take its own course”.

Since Water director Deepa Mehta is now looking for friendlier climes in Madhya Pradesh and West Bengal, the governments there are free to take action against hardline demonstrators.

However, to offset his tough talk and to not sound too harsh on the Sangh, Vajpayee will also urge the Opposition to temper its behaviour. He will ask all parties to maintain a certain amount of decorum in their conduct.

Government sources hinted Vajpayee would insist that as long as protests did not take a violent turn, no one should question the right to freedom of expression.

Besides Lakshman rekha, the other Vajpayee motto will be “maryada”, or the sanctity of institutions.

He was recently irked by a BJP Today article that criticised President K.R. Narayanan’s address focusing on the Constitution review. Vajpayee will advise MPs — and through them his own party — not to direct any invectives at the President.

This advice will also be aimed at the RSS and the VHP. In the past, two Vajpayee ministers, P.R. Kumaramangalam and M.L. Khurana, have been made to apologise for clashing with the President’s office.

Vajpayee himself had driven over to Rashtrapati Bhavan to clear the air after a letter from Narayanan to the Chief Justice on the issue of appointment of judges found its way to the press.

The Prime Minister will refer in passing to the politics of consensus that he has preached and practised till now. His aides cite several instances of decisions deferred because the Opposition or allies were not taken into confidence.

Vajpayee is aware that even some sections in the Opposition admire his ability to carry a coalition and chisel off its rough edges.

The principles of “consensus” and “coalition dharma” are likely to be iterated in his two addresses.

Dal convention

The Prime Minister’s Office today denied the Bajrang Dal convention, scheduled to take place in Bhopal, was shifted to Mathura at Vajpayee’s intervention. A PMO spokesman said: “Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee has not spoken to any Bajrang Dal or Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader in this regard.”

Despite the shifting, some Bajrang Dal supporters hoisted a saffron flag on the grounds where the convention was to take place, defying the ban order clamped by the Madhya Pradesh government. The venue was declared a prohibited area by the Digvijay Singh administration.    


 
 
PRESIDENT TAKES A LOOK AT BJP TODAY  
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Feb. 18 
The face-off between the President and the Vajpayee government has taken a fresh twist with K.R. Narayanan asking to see the BJP Today article saying his comments on the Constitution review panel were “politically motivated”.

BJP sources said a Rashtrapati Bhavan emissary dropped by at the 11 Ashoka Road headquarters yesterday and picked up a copy of the fortnightly house magazine, dated February 16-29.

The article, “Who is Above Politics?”, was written by Vidur — penname of BJP Rajya Sabha MP Prafulla Goradia — who recently took over as BJP Today editor. Goradia is believed to have taken a penname for reasons of “propriety”. He is away in Gujarat and was not available for comment.

His remark was made with reference to Narayanan’s comment during his Parliament address on the 50th anniversary of the Republic. The President had then questioned whether it was the Constitution which had failed us or whether we had failed the Constitution.

“To many in the audience, the rashtrapati’s exhortation appeared like a descent into politics,” Goradia wrote.

Recalling how Sonia Gandhi had been asked to form the government after Jayalalitha withdrew support to Vajpayee in April 1999, Goradia wondered why the “rashtrapati gave her more time, as it were, to cajole more MPs ”. Then followed the barb: “Little wonder that he was widely perceived as partial. The lamp of the Congress was evidently still burning in his heart.”    


 
 
US SMELLS POKHRAN SPILL ON PAK 
 
 
BY DEBKUMAR MITRA
 
Calcutta, Feb. 18 
Plutonium from nuclear tests carried out in Pokhran in May 1998 has “polluted Pakistan’s nuclear test site 800 km away,” British science magazine New Scientist has reported quoting US intelligence sources.

The magazine has said in its latest issue that if US sources were to be believed, Delhi has breached the 1963 Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty which outlaws explosions that contaminate foreign soil.

In the run-up to President Bill Clinton’s visit next month, the report might add another dimension to pressures being mounted on India on several issues. For instance, there could be renewed calls for India to open itself up to full inspection of all nuclear facilities by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

A more predictable and immediate fallout will be howls of protest from Pakistan, which will see in the report an opportunity to show itself to the world as a victim of Indian “diabolism”.

Right after the May 1998 blasts, Delhi had announced that the “tests were fully contained with no release of radioactivity into the atmosphere.”

According to Jane’s Defence Weekly, the five Indian tests were conducted in tunnels tapering downwards to depths ranging from 75 m to 285 m.

New Scientist quotes a report in an industry newsletter, Nuclear Fuel, saying that sometime after the India and Pakistan blasts, US intelligence agents collected samples at the Pakistani test site in the Chagai hills. Plutonium was found in the samples. Presence of radioactive isotopes led US intelligence to believe Pakistan had detonated a plutonium device.

“Now, however,” the magazine says, “analysis of the ratio of plutonium isotopes in the samples by the US Los Alamos National Laboratory has shown that it leaked from one of the Indian explosions in the Pokhran desert, and was blown over to Pakistan.”

This is not the first time India has been accused of polluting the atmosphere. After the 1974 blast, US papers reported radioactivity leak — but not spilling across the border — picked up by US spy satellites. Delhi firmly denied the allegation.

This time, however, the pressure to fall in line with international safeguards is much more with the US and other world powers describing the subcontinent as the most dangerous place in the world.

Countries outside the five-member nuclear club that have signed the Nuclear non-Proliferation treaty have to throw their nuclear facilities to what are called “full-scope safeguards”, a euphemism for inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

India has not signed the treaty, calling it discriminatory, and will not do so until it is co-opted into the nuclear club, a demand the existing members have refused.    


 
 
MYSTERY FIRE KILLS MOTHER, BABIES 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Feb. 18 
The charred bodies of a 35-year-old woman and her two daughters, one of them nine months old, were recovered from the bedroom of their flat in Phoolbagan this afternoon. A third daughter has been admitted to NRS hospital with serious burns.

Preliminary investigations suggest that the mother may have set fire to the children before igniting herself, said Swapan Mitra, officer-in-charge of Phoolbagan police station. “We have not, however, eliminated foul play behind the incident,” he added.

The woman has been identified as Anu Dalmiya. The two girls who died are four-year-old Gazal and Nidhi. Their father, Anil Dalmiya, was in his Burrabazar office at the time of the incident.

“I saw Anu around 2 pm when she returned after picking up Gazal from school,” said Saroj Bajaj, who stays on the floor above the Dalmiyas’ first-floor flat on Motilal Basak Lane.

An hour later, neighbours saw smoke coming out of the bedroom window. “I did not pay much attention as there was no hue and cry,” said Vishnukant Singhal, who also stays on the second-floor. “After some time, the smoke became thicker. I called out to an ice cream vendor to see what was happening,” added the elderly Singhal.

The vendor went up to the first floor but could not make out anything as the door was locked from inside. Singhal then called the security guard who went up and heard the cries of the eldest daughter, Ayusree. The guard summoned some local boys who broke open the collapsible gate and the door.

The bedroom was in flames which were leaping towards the drawing room. Eight-year-old Ayusree was rescued from there and rushed to hospital. Three fire tenders arrived soon after and doused the blaze.

It was then that the three bodies were found, completely charred. Mitra sent the bodies for post-mortem and summoned Anil Dalmiya.

“My mother, who stays with us, was persuaded by Anu to go to a nearby temple. My brother was also away. Anu, who was being treated for mental depression for some years, apparently took the opportunity to take this dreadful step,” Dalmiya said.

Preliminary investigations point to suicide as the door was locked and the room smelt of kerosene. “The surviving daughter, who is able to speak, has not said anything that indicates foul play,” Mitra said.

He, however, has asked Dalmiya to give details of the mental disorder that Anu was purportedly suffering from, including her case history and reports from doctors.    


 
 
LONELINESS OF LONG-DISTANCE LALOO 
 
 
FROM SANKARSHAN THAKUR
 
Sonbarsa (North Bihar), Feb. 18 
There is nothing quite as telltale as the silence of a politician on the campaign trail. And the silence of a man like Laloo Yadav, whose essence must surely lie in his mouth, speaks tomes. For the first half hour of our flight into north Bihar from Patna this morning he uttered just one sentence. “I have become totally alone,” he said and turned the other way and looked out of the chopper window as if he wished he didn’t have company in his two-seater.

It was only when we began to slowly spiral down over the shorn fields of Sonbarsa that he spoke again. And again it was the same desolate sentence spoken in the same defeated tongue: “Do you know? I have become completely alone.” He rubbed the sheet of paper which listed his day’s programme absent-mindedly on his head and tut tutted to himself.

Fourteen meetings in the course of the day. More than 200 already in the course of this campaign and probably another 100 to go. And he was alone. Probably he was feeling a little sorry for himself in the semi-solitude of his fibreglass flying machine. He tut tutted again. “Kya hoga jee? Ek aadmi kya karega? Ek dum akele pad gaye hain.” (What will happen? How much will one man do? I am absolutely alone.)

Laloo meant, of course, that he was a lone man battling an entire alliance, a single sabre rattling to fight off a dozen. “Look at them, just look at them,” he had said as we left the crowded Patna helipad, “just look at how many helicopters they have pressed into the fight. I have just one. They are all weaving circles around me like they did to Abhimanyu with the chakravyuha.”

But Laloo’s talk of loneliness rang true in a larger sense. He has been left alone. Even by his own. This campaign is rich in embarrassments for him. His crowds are so poor. Even on his home ground in north Bihar. Where he once drew tides and turned those tides into electoral landslides, he is only drawing trickles.

He did not want his chopper to touch for the first meeting. There was nobody there; only the little stage and the green flags forlornly fluttering. This strenuous campaign, and probably the intimations of power departing from his grasp, have left Laloo visibly anaemic but the scene at the meeting ground from about a 100 feet in the air brought a sudden flush to his face. He bade as if to tell the pilot to swoop up again and leave but the chopper was by then committed to descent. Then, all too suddenly, the wrinkles on his forehead vanished and his face relaxed in relief. The flags were all green, to be sure, but they had arrows on them; this wasn’t Laloo’s meeting, it was the Janata Dal (United)’s. “Galat jagah hai, Galat jagah hai,” he shouted over the chopper’s din. (Wrong place, wrong place). He was irritated at having been brought to the wrong site but he looked more relieved that the vacant arena was not his venue.

He took over navigation for a while. “Turn left, you see that huge pond, make a right there, then turn left, yes, this is Parihar village. We fly east from here for about three kilometres, then, you will see a school compound, turn left there...” It was like giving road directions where no roads existed, but Laloo is familiar with Bihar’s skies and its invisible highways.

He has done enough flying in the last 10 years, he has been Lord. The pilot’s maps didn’t work; Laloo’s rule of thumb got us there.

Fifty people grew to about 250 as the chopper circled, sweeping the curious out of their homes and into the little school ground.

“It is too early in the day,” Laloo turned to me and said. It was nearing noon. Laloo spoke for five minutes, rubbished his erstwhile allies — Sharad Yadav, Ram Vilas Paswan and Nitish Kumar — as “servants of the fascist BJP” and admonished the people for not voting for the lantern symbol in the Lok Sabha polls. “If you want to vote against me it is your wish. But, remember, if you vote for the arrow, it is only going to plunge your hearts. The BJP and its servants will take away reservations, and drive out the minorities. They are even changing the Constitution given to us by the great Dalit, Babasaheb Ambedkar. You want to vote for them?”

He wasn’t engaging the crowds in question and answer, in clause and effect, like he used to earlier. He was sprinkling rhetoric and leaving. “I have too little time and too many places to go. Remember, the lantern,” he said. The crowds were too thin to invest too much time.

Meeting after meeting, it was touch down and take off. Sursand, Sitamahhi, Pupri, Gaighat, Hayaghat, Jaale. The crowds weren’t interested and Laloo was even less interested.

Over Pandaul, near Madhubani, he suddenly nudged me as if electricity had returned to his body and he was passing it on. “Look, look bheed hai, bahut log hai.” His eyes had lit up; he spat out the chewing tobacco into his portable spitoon and, for the first time during the day, helped himself to a paan from a cellophane pack tucked in the seat flap.

They looked like ants gathering on a dollop of jaggery, converging from all sides around the dais and filling up the Pandaul sugarmill ground as the chopper hovered above. Laloo was like a child finally granted his wish; he couldn’t stop grinning. “Dekho, dekho kitna bheed hai (Look, look, at this huge crowd).”

It was Laloo who inspired crowds earlier, today it took the crowds to inspire Laloo. He almost danced on the Pandaul stage. Magic seemed to return to his tongue.

“These BJP fellows and their servants say there is a jungle raj in Bihar. So, why haven’t they come into my jungle?” And as the applause rang he came up with another gem — “jungle mein baagh rahta hai, cheetah rahta hai, bhalu rahta hai aur Laloo rahta hai. Is jungle mein BJP aayegi to hum usko khaa jaayenge (There are lions and cheetahs and bears and an animal called Laloo in this jungle. If the BJP comes here it will be consumed).”

He returned to the chopper running, energised. One good meeting in ten. At last the adrenaline was pumping in him. But it was already the end of the day and he was flying into the sunset.    

 

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