Militant writ keeps BJP big guns away
Hema quotes price for star power
Govt gathers ammo to return Left’s RSS fire
History text row takes new turn
Education gap link to domestic violence
Laloo stands in final court of appeal
Backward cousins queer Yadav brother’s pitch
NDA warns Bihar mandarins
Sharad keeps CM options open
Gupta survives on caste fears

New Delhi, Feb. 21 
The writ of militants seems to have forced Union home minister L. K. Advani, defence minister George Fernandes and BJP ideologue K. N. Govindacharya to exclude Manipur from their campaign schedule.

The leaders, who were to campaign for the BJP and the Samata Party in Manipur, developed cold feet following threats from militant groups. Though they were to address meetings in the state on February 17 and 22, they were not willing to take the risk.

Congress chief Sonia Gandhi had also cancelled her rallies in Manipur. However, party leader Rajesh Pilot, who reportedly has contacts in the insurgents’ camps, visited the state.

A senior Janata Dal (United) leader, who toured the state last week, had asked party colleagues in the state “not to publicise” his visit. He said the militants were asking ministers for Rs 1 lakh to Rs 20 lakh and that small parties could not afford to pay such huge sums.

BJP election cell sources, however, said Advani wanted to concentrate on Bihar and Orissa, and did not have time to spare for Manipur where the stakes for the party are not very high.

An aide of Fernandes said the defence minister cancelled his tour to Manipur due to “bad weather” and to concentrate on Bihar, where it is a do-or-die for the National Democratic Alliance. Samata Party president Jaya Jaitley also pooh-poohed the threat from militants, saying Fern- andes wanted to give more time to Bihar.

Sources said the RPF, an umbrella organisation of various militant outfits, had warned that “no Indian leader will be allowed to campaign in Manipur”. The ultras were on an extortion spree, demanding money from leaders for campaigning in the state.

The militants, who used to collect tax earlier, are now demanding 10 per cent of the salary from employees.

On January 31, the militants gunned down a Dal(U) candidate, Songlianthang Songate, just 2 km from the police station in Churachandpur district.

During the first phase of the polls the family welfare minister narrowly escaped an attack by militants. A BJP candidate also escaped an insurgent strike. The militants have been targeting the ministers and the chief minister since the election schedule was announced.    

New Delhi, Feb. 21 
Too many Bollywood stars appear to have an attraction for the BJP. Hema Malini, Bollywood’s dream girl of yesteryears, is the latest celebrity to woo the saffron party, but with a bait: a Rajya Sabha nomination.

At a function here on Friday, Hema said: “Vajpayeeji and Advaniji are the right people to rule the country. I like their ideology.”

Asked if she was looking forward to a Rajya Sabha nomination, Hema replied: “I don’t mind.” She also backed fellow Bollywood star Shatrughan Sinha for the Bihar chief minister’s post.

He is a deserving candidate, Hema said, unaware that the saffron think-tank had left Sinha sulking after each expansion of Vajpayee’s council of ministers.

For the BJP, it is a problem of plenty. In the run-up to the Assembly elections, senior Congress leader Meira Kumar and cine-star-turned-former-Congress-MP Rajesh Khanna had also sent feelers to Vajpayee for Rajya Sabha berths.

But the BJP already has its own leaders like information and broadcasting minister Arun Jaitley and surface transport minister Rajnath Singh who need a berth in the upper House to remain in the Cabinet. Then there are Sushma Swaraj and Karia Munda whose claims the party cannot overlook. So though the BJP is keen to capitalise on Hema’s charisma, it cannot assure her of a berth in the upper House.

The latest convert to the Sangh parivar, however, did not campaign for the BJP in Bihar last week only to further her political aspirations. She also gave a fitting riposte to Laloo’s earlier promise that he would ensure that the potholed roads of Bihar would shine like her cheeks. During her election speeches, Hema reminded people that the roads, in fact, looked more like the cheeks of Om Puri.

Back in Delhi, Hema made a politically correct statement. Sounding like a Sangh sympathiser, she asked: “Why can’t that lady, Deepa Mehta, shoot her movie quietly instead of creating a controversy and then cashing in on the publicity?”

She, however, “disagreed” with the “violent method” adopted on the streets of Varanasi against the shooting of Water.


New Delhi, Feb. 21 
The government top brass has gathered more ammunition to prove how the Left parties, especially the CPM, has encouraged government employees and policemen to join pro-communist organisations.

As reported by The Telegraph on Wednesday, the home ministry has already prepared a note summarising the activities of two CPM-run outfits in West Bengal which have publicised Left views and safeguarded communist interests for decades. The Centre is bracing for a Parliament showdown with the Congress and the Left on the issue of allowing government employees to take part in RSS programmes.

Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and home minister L.K. Advani now have documents which suggest that the CPM has been similarly promoting partisan behaviour among government employees and policemen in the two other Left bastions, Kerala and Tripura.

The note on the Kerala Non-Gazetted Officers’ Union says that under the leadership of K. Varadarajan and K. Krishnan, it openly sides with the Left Democratic Front, particularly the CPM.

The note adds that the “CPM has constituted Fraction Committees to deal with service matters in the party. Matters concerning state government employees are first discussed in the Fraction Committee informally before the government takes a suitable decision. The procedure is also followed in the case of economic/political policies of the LDF government. Consequently, the Kerala union has also been lending support to the agitational programmes of the LDF”.

The information with the government indicates that a fraction committee of the CPM, headed by Politburo member Pinarayi Vijayan, controls the Kerala non-gazetted officers’ union. Ten per cent of its 1,16,000 members are party cardholders and are important office-bearers.

During the Congress-led UDF regime, the CPM used the union to create “disaffection among government employees by opposing all major policy decisions”. After the installation of the LDF government, the union is being used to enhance the circulation of Deshabhimani and other party publications.

The note stresses that union activists play a crucial role in transfers and postings and its members and those who contribute liberally to the party’s fund collection drive are given prize postings. During elections, members “even facilitate bogus voting in favour of the CPM-LDF”, says the note. The CPM’s project “of starting a TV channel is also being assisted with members buying shares and union leaders influencing local businessmen to buy shares”, it adds.

Similarly, another memo shows how the CPM has “been effectively using the Kerala Police Association” to browbeat senior police officers who do not succumb to the party line.

“Recalcitrant officers are harassed through false allegations, bad postings and by resorting to adverse propaganda,” it says. The police association, according to this note, has a “major say in postings and transfers of policemen with lucrative postings being made on the recommendation of its leaders”. It even “participated in election fund collection drives” for the CPM.

A similar note is also ready listing the partisan activities of the Tripura Employees’ Coordination Committee, much along the lines of the West Bengal State Government Employees Coordination Committee, which, according to the note, is used by the Left government for political gains. The Tripura Non-Gazetted Police Forum’s role has also come under the microscope.    

New Delhi, Feb. 21 
S. Gopal, general editor of the Towards Freedom project, today joined issue with the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR) chairperson, B.R. Grover, and protested against the withdrawal of the two history books authored by Sumit Sarkar and K.N. Panikkar.

In a statement faxed from Chennai, Gopal said: “The editors had submitted these two volumes after incorporating the changes suggested by me. It was only after that these two volumes were forwarded to the Oxford University Press.” Gopal contradicted the ICHR chairperson’s statement that Sarkar and Panikkar had sent the two volumes to the Oxford University Press without any “authorisation”.

Grover has asked the two historians to let a review committee scan their books as the two volumes earlier published were full of “howlers”. Sarkar and Panikkar are saying that Gopal has gone through their volumes and there is no need for anyone else to review them.

“It is surprising that the ICHR has accused my colleagues of forwarding the type scripts to the Oxford University Press without the knowledge of the council,” said Gopal.

He accused the council of breaching the terms of the project without consulting him and said the council’s order to suspend publication of the books was an “infringement” on the authors’ academic freedom.    

Lucknow, Feb. 21 
Nearly half of all married women suffer violence even in “so-called civilised modern Indian homes”, says a three-year study by the International Centre for Research on Women.

In this disturbing scenario, almost 45 per cent of women are subjected to psychologically violent behaviour coupled with physical violence that includes battery, “sometimes even during pregnancy”.

But what is even more startling is that 95 per cent of the women subjected to routine abuse in marriage keep waiting, hoping for things to change.

The research, co-designed and implemented by a team of social scientists, bio-statisticians and medical doctors from the International Clinical Epidemiologists Network, targeted seven major “sites” — Lucknow, New Delhi, Bhopal, Chennai, Nagpur, Thiruvananthapuram and Vellore — and about 10,000 respondents.

The report also suggests that violence within marriage is directly proportional to the gap between the education levels of the husband and the wife. The greater the gap, the more the scope and incidence of violence.

Also, almost 50 per cent of pregnant women reported being tortured in some form or the other.

At a seminar on “Recognising violence against children in the private sphere”, co-sponsored by Unicef and AALI, a local NGO, noted lawyer Rani Jethmalani came down heavily on the “very process of law itself which is patriarchal”. She said the attitude of “some people” in the judiciary must change if victims of child abuse were to ever get justice.

Justice Syed Haider Abbas Raza, a senior high court judge, laid stress on sex education “so that a child understands whether he/she is being loved or abused”.

Raza added that it was up to the courts to dispense justice, which it could do only if cases of child abuse were treated with the seriousness they deserved. The issue of sensitising the police to violence on women and children was raised at the seminar. Separate laws to check violence and abuse were called for.    

Patna, Feb. 21 
The gwala years are coming to a close in Bihar, the cows are coming home for Laloo Yadav. You can see the end in his wistful gaze, flickering inexorably to a finish. Or in the unlikely resignation of his words which litter his wake now like distended petals.

“I have honestly done whatever I could, I could not have done more, I could not have fought more... I was alone in this battle, they were many.” Laloo Yadav has worsted greater enemies in the past than he has faced in this election but today, exhaustion reeks from the air around him. The cherubic grin has gone, his face is forever locked in a grimace.

He is, of course, not admitting defeat in as many words but what greater admission could there be than a Laloo Yadav that has forgotten his smile? His essence today lies not in what he says but in what he chooses not to say. Apart from the pulpit claims that he must make, Laloo Yadav is not even making any claims of returning to power.

He is not brushing off his opponents as he used to, like irritable ants on his sleeve. Laloo Yadav talks less of Laloo Yadav, more of his opponents. They have run round his sleeves and tied his hands to his back; he has had to take notice. “I never thought Paswan and Sharad and Nitish will become so thick with the BJP that they will forget the cause we jointly took up. I never thought they would become servants of the RSS and collaborate to bring me down.”

But did he himself too contribute to his fall? “Koi karta hai jee? Koi apne chhati mein chhura ghopta hai? Sab conspiracy hai humko hatane kaa, sab mil gaya hai(Does anyone do that? Does anyone wilfully stab himself? All this is a conspiracy to oust me, everyone has got together).”

He is angry, even affronted at being asked that kind of question. He is still blind to his follies, unprepared still to cast an eye on the heap of blunders that he crumbled under. That reduced him from a mesmeric protagonist of hope to a bust in Bihar’s huge hall of infamy.

What is ending must surely be the most absorbing and tumultuous decade in the state’s life since Independence. What is ending must surely rank among the most stunning and indelible performances on the political state. For better or for worse or both, Laloo Yadav wasn’t the kind of leader easy to take the attention off. The great subaltern surge he unleashed, the belligerent social surgery he conducted in the name of social engineering, the electric pride he infused in Bihar’s long-exploited millions and the demoralisation he stamped on the self-serving upper caste establishment, the rank stagnation he imposed on development, the paralysis he brought on the administration, the trail of scam and scandal he blistered, the farcical, proxy regime he installed. In his day Laloo Yadav did what he willed.

His opposition forever quibbled at the excesses and inefficiencies of his time, but just that. For the most part, Laloo Yadav rendered the opposition utterly ineffectual, bankrupted by his deftness at votebank politics. He consolidated at the cost of social fracture, he divided and ruled. His political cunning outstripped all, his personal charm was devastating. He broke and befuddled his adversaries, he seduced the media. When someone asked him why he had made his wife chief minister, he turned around and asked: “Whose wife then? Yours?” The Opposition, he dared to bring Rabri Devi down. When they did, through a presidential proclamation in February 1999, he lured the support of his oldest enemy, the Congress, and had Rabri raj reinstalled.

He became the first chief minister to be ousted on criminal allegations and the first to go to jail charged with criminal wrongdoing. But that, too, he converted into advertisements for himself. He rode back from CBI interrogations on elephant back, he got himself reported from his airconditioned jailhouse ordering the chief secretary about on his cellphone. Overlordship was his style; jail wasn’t going to alter that. “I have been elected by the people, I am not going to let the people’s mandate be snatched away by some CBI officials,” he would often say.

But now Laloo Yadav stands in his final court of appeal. The people are going to take the mandate away themselves. Those that he divided have all added up — the upper castes, the lesser backwards, the harijans. The upper castes hated him for robbing them of divine right, the rest for promising and not delivering. They have together forged an alloy that will breach Laloo Yadav’s frayed fortress but whose durability must remain in question.

The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) is a coalition still untested on the volatile grounds of Bihar. It stirs with too many competing ambitions, personal and social, and it already has a huge weight of expectation hung on it. For the upper castes, the arrival of the NDA in power will mean a long-awaited return to dominance, perhaps even a time for bouts of social vengeance. For the lesser backwards and the harijans, it will be another lunge at belied shares. Their aspirations are inconsistent with those of the upper castes; the coalition will be contentious.

And even in defeat, Laloo Yadav will not have lost all his aces. He still has the Yadavs and the Muslims, whose sense of security during the last decade was one consistent claim to fame Laloo Yadav had. From his seat, which will probably be the seat of leader of opposition in the new Bihar Assembly, he can still tempt a revolt in the treasury with promises of subaltern dominance.

He gave them an appetite for power while he was at the helm and wherever they might belong today, in whatever party, the backwards and harijans, by far the chunkiest slice of Bihar’s polity, are not prepared to retreat from centrestage. Laloo Yadav may be on his way out but his politics has come to stay.

The gwala years may be ending but the gwala is there to contend with.    

Gopalganj, Feb. 21 
The key players of backward caste politics — Mulayam Singh Yadav and Kanshi Ram — are giving Rashtriya Janata Dal leaders sleepless nights in north Bihar.

While Mulayam is threatening to eat into the RJD votebank, Kanshi Ram is eyeing the extremely backward caste voters disgruntled by 10 years of Yadav rule.

No one is more unhappy about the “outsiders” than chief minister Rabri Devi’s brother Sadhu Yadav, contesting from Gopalganj. Sadhu had already suffered a blow when two of his close associates deserted him.

His worries have increased by Kanshi Ram’s supporters raising slogans against Sadhu’s “reign”. The Bahujan Samaj Party has given a call to “free the area from Sadhu’s atank raj (reign of terror)”. In Madhepura, where the split in Yadav votes led to Laloo’s defeat in the last parliamentary polls, RJD candidates are put in a tight spot by other Yadav candidates.

RJD candidates were dismayed to see party rebels like former MLA Radhakant Yadav sharing the dais with Mulayam yesterday at Madhepura. The Samajwadi Party candidate, Sanjay Yadav, is drawing crowds, large enough to widen the cracks in the Yadav votebank.

There are constituencies where there are at least half a dozen Yadav candidates. In Forbesgunj the RJD, the BJP, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), the Congress and the Samajwadi Party have fielded candidates belonging to the Yadav caste. There is even an Independent Yadav candidate.

This has confused the voters of a traditional Laloo stronghold.

The BSP has fielded no less than 300 candidates in an effort to capitalise on the proximity of some border districts of Bihar to Uttar Pradesh. Of these, the party has given away 110 seats to the Hars, Nishads, Chamars and 101 other varieties of caste groups found in the Annexure I category of extremely backward castes.

Turning a cold shoulder to the Yadavs, Kanshi Ram said: “Laloo raj in Bihar has failed to stop atrocities on the Dalits. The fight, which was earlier confined to Rajputs and Brahmins vs. Yadavs, has now boiled down to Yadavs vs. Dalits.”

The BSP had two MLAs in the 1995 Assembly polls, Mahabali Singh and Suresh Pashi. Pashi, who had contested from jail, won in the last poll but has remained in jail for the past five years. He is contesting from jail again for the party.

Kanshi Ram is hoping to get at least 10 seats so that he will be able to strike a bargain in the event of a hung Assembly. “The Bahujans must wake up to the fake school of social justice,” said Kanshi Ram at a rally in Saharsa.

The BSP chief has befriended some voluntary groups working among the Dalits to readjust his “experiment on the caste cocktail of the Uttar Pradesh laboratory” in Bihar. According to observers, by fielding candidates in as many as 300 seats, Kanshi Ram appears to be desperately trying to add to his party’s national percentage of votes.

On the other hand, when Mulayam visited Madhepura, he expressed disgust over Laloo’s faltering political wisdom and deviation from the original goal of always being a weapon of the third force.

“I had helped Laloo five times in politics. I had hoped that he would be able stop the chariot of the BJP in Bihar. But he sought a cosy shelter in the Congress and diluted his mission,” Mulayam said amidst cheers.

“Laloo failed in the state administration and embroiled himself in a series of scams, thereby destroying his public image,” the Samajwadi chief said in Madhepura. With this he practically drove the last nail into the coffin of Yadav solidarity.

In the districts of north Bihar, the polarisation against the RJD has been catalysed by parties like the Bihar People’s Party (BPP), which controls sizeable chunks of Rajput votes. BPP chief Anand Mohan and his wife, Lovely Anand, have been campaigning in these districts as effective partners of the NDA.

They are consolidating this polarisation, which reduced the RJD’s strength in the last parliamentary polls to six seats from 17 in 1998.    

Patna, Feb. 21 
Warning bureaucrats against a “partisan” role in the elections, Bihar NDA allies today said they would not tolerate any “callous” or “insensitive” official.

Condemning yesterday’s attack on Sharad Yadav at Madhepura, the second such incident in the constituency, Union communications minister Ram Vilas Paswan expressed doubts on whether the third phase of elections would be peaceful.

The NDA leaders were unanimous in accusing the police in Madhepura of remaining mute spectators while Yadav was attacked. Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly Sushil Modi also charged the bureaucrats with playing into the hands of the state government. “The bureaucracy’s role has brought shame to the state. They should be more alert,’’ Modi said.

Tension has mounted in north Bihar following allegations of attack on central ministers by the ruling party. The fate of 1,326 candidates in 108 seats will be to be decided in the final phase of polling tomorrow. Most of the seats are Rashtriya Janata Dal strongholds.

Chief electoral officer A. K. Basu today said adequate forces have been deployed in all the sensitive areas to ensure smooth conduct of election.    

New Delhi, Feb. 21 
Janata Dal (United) president and civil aviation minister Sharad Yadav today said the question of Bihar chief ministership was open and that legislators of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) will elect its leader after the polls.

Disagreeing with the suggestion of BJP leaders that Central ministers should not stake claim to the post, Yadav said it was unfair to impose curbs like this. He, however, said the NDA will solve the issue of chief ministership and asserted that there would not be “any controversy” over it. Talking to reporters here, the Dal(U) president said, after Bihar, the NDA experiment should be tried out in Uttar Pradesh.

Bihar and Uttar Pradesh were important states for the NDA, he said. “Without cleaning up the politics in these two states, politics in the country will not go in the right direction,” Yadav said.

According to him, politics in Uttar Pradesh had degenerated in the last five to ten years mainly due to parties like the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Samajwadi Party and needed to be cleansed. Yadav said he would hold a party workers meeting in Lucknow next month.

Though he claimed the NDA will get a clear majority and form the next government in Bihar, Yadav alleged that the state administration, especially the police, was hand-in-glove with Laloo Prasad Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD). Yadav was also apprehensive that the third phase of polls tomorrow might witness large-scale violence. He said his party had appealed to the Election Commission to take stringent measures to ensure fair polls.

About yesterday’s attack on Sharad’s helicopter, party general secretary M. Raghupathy in a faxed message to the Election Commissioner alleged that the assault was “aided and abetted by the Madhepura district magistrate and the SP” at the behest of RJD supporters.

According to the complaint, Yadav was injured and the helicopter badly damaged. “The inescapable conclusion can only be that no pre-emptive and effective action, including transfer of the officers collaborating with and helping the RJD criminals, has evidently been taken resulting in giving a free hand to those indulging in activities to prevent free and fair campaigning and polling in the election,” the complaint noted.

The party has demanded the immediate transfer of the SP and the district magistrate and has sought their replacement by independent and impartial Central officers.    

New Delhi, Feb. 21 
The BJP today sought to set at rest speculation of a change of guard in Uttar Pradesh, a day after a senior party leader indicated that chief minister Ram Prakash Gupta would be eased out after the byelections.

BJP vice-president Jana Krishnamurthy, who is holding the party’s reins in the absence of Kushabhau Thakre, said: “The party is not thinking of any change in Uttar Pradesh. Keeping in mind the fact that it is the biggest state, it is but natural that he (Gupta) must have his own time to settle down.”

In Calcutta yesterday, BJP general secretary Sangh Priya Gautam had hinted that Gupta could be replaced after the bypolls because of his “failure” to bring the state back on the rails “as per expectations”.

Asked to respond to Gautam’s statement linking Gupta’s fate to the eight Assembly byelections — the BJP’s assessment is that it would fare poorly — Krishnamurthy said: “I do not think any party changes its chief minister on the basis of election results. If that was the case, Sonia Gandhi should have stepped down by now.”

While the BJP has reconciled itself to the prospect of perhaps losing even the two Assembly seats it had held, insiders conceded that Gupta had left no imprint on the state which he has been ruling for almost four months. Sources said his “ineffective” governance was one reason why the leadership did not risk asking the chief minister to contest the bypolls.

“It is up to the person concerned as to which of the Houses he wants to become a member. One thing I can say is that he would be elected to either House in six months’ time and fulfil the constitutional obligation,” Krishnamurthy said.

He dismissed suggestions that the party’s image would take a beating if Gupta became a member of the Legislative Council as it had earlier favoured only directly elected representatives in the offices of the Prime Minister and chief minister.

“The BJP’s image is not so fragile that it would be damaged by such things,” Krishnamurthy added.

Much as the BJP leadership wants to dump Gupta and bring a more hands-on person, it fears the change may resurrect the power struggle in the Uttar Pradesh unit, which is divided on caste lines. After Kalyan Singh’s exit, Gupta was picked as a “consensus” choice after the high command failed to find a person acceptable to all groups.

Although Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee was reportedly in favour of senior minister Kalraj Mishra, the claims of former state chief Rajnath Singh (now Union surface transport minister) could not be ignored as he has a huge Thakur following.    


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