Rebel notice rerun cracks CPM peace
Chautala clears Sangh vote air
Advani rules out Gujarat order rollback
Sonia Bihar flock lobs quit threat
Hospital hope for AIDS victims
Statute review protester killed

 
 
REBEL NOTICE RERUN CRACKS CPM PEACE 
 
 
OUR BUREAU
 
Calcutta, March 2 
Two days after the CPM served a second showcause notice on rebel Saifuddin Chowdhury, the mood in the organisation appeared to be turning against state party secretary Anil Biswas and his associates.

In Delhi, a distraught Chowdhury, a former central committee member now at the centre of the party reform storm, sent his reply through a trusted aide. “Why are they (the CPM leadership) creating these problems for me daily? Should I leave the country?” he asked.

Biswas is in Midnapore, but sources close to him said the party was expecting Chowdhury’s reply on Friday.

Many CPM leaders were taken aback at the development as it frustrates their attempt to bring together the factions. Biswas will will invite many comrades’ ire as he is seen to have sided with the hardliners’ campaign against the rebels.

Reports suggest that senior leaders Sailen Dasgupta and Niren Ghosh backed Biswas when he suggested a second showcause notice on Chowdhury 10 days ago. None of the three was available for comment.

“I don’t think my comments in a section of the press will harm the interests of my party. I have not said anything against my party,” Chowdhury told his supporters in the city. The first showcause notice was served on him two months ago.

It is likely that the issue will come up for discussion during the two-day CPM central committee meeting, beginning March 12.

Party liberals feel the decision to issue another notice will hurt many leaders who want “unity within the organisation”.

The CPM state committee, which met on Tuesday, approved the state secretariat’s decision to haul up Chowdhury for his comments on the Congress in the state. Chowdhury had said the CPM in West Bengal should tie up with the Congress to defeat the BJP-Trinamul Congress combine in the Calcutta Municipal Corporation polls.

Biswas and Dasgupta favoured disciplinary measures against Chowdhury, arguing that he had gone against the party by suggesting an electoral adjustment with the Congress. The two leaders had reportedly said the CPM’s official stand is that it will go for an alliance with the Congress in all states except in West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura, where the CPM is running the government. So, by suggesting an alliance with the Congress in Bengal, Chowdhury had gone against the party line.

Chowdhury, who will reach Calcutta on Saturday, did not deny his statements. “I have not said anything wrong. In Bengal, the BJP and Trinamul have become the main Opposition parties and our intention is to thwart the BJP at any cost,” Chowdhury told his aides here.

Party liberals believe hardliners like Biswas and Dasgupta are determined to oust Chowdhury. “Two major decisions were taken during the state committee meeting and I think the decisions are contradictory. We allowed the North 24-Parganas district unit to re-induct 12 members who were dropped in 1998. This decision will help the district leadership to sort out differences. But how can we say the decision to showcause Chowdhury for the second time will benefit the party?” asked a state committee member.    


 
 
CHAUTALA CLEARS SANGH VOTE AIR 
 
 
FROM GAJINDER SINGH
 
Kurukshetra, March 2 
Om Prakash Chautala today said that though the Indian National Lok Dal had differences over allowing government staff to join the RSS, his party will vote in favour of the National Democratic Alliance if the Opposition stuck to its demand.

“In the Rajya Sabha, the Opposition has no qualms about discussing the issue under Section 193. But they don’t want to do that in the Lok Sabha and are insisting on voting. I don’t understand their logic. As far as my party is concerned, my five Lok Sabha members will vote for the NDA’s continuation in power,” he told reporters.

Earlier, the INLD chief was sworn in Haryana’s chief minister at Dronacharya Stadium for a record fourth time. Five Cabinet ministers and five ministers of state were also administered the oath of secrecy by Haryana Governor Mahabir Prasad.

The historic town was bedecked for the ceremony witnessed by over 15,000 people. The town was virtually converted into a police cantonment. From the Pipli bus stand to the Kurukshetra University campus where the stadium is located — a distance of 8 km — gun-toting and lathi-wielding policemen could be seen at all crossings and strategic points.

Cabinet ministers who took oath include Sampat Singh, Dhirpal Singh, Ashok Kumar, Kartar Singh Budhana and Jaswinder Singh Sandhu. The ministers of state were Munni Lal Ranga, Mohammed Illyas, Risal Singh, Subhas Chandra Goel and Bahadur Singh.

Chief ministers of Jammu and Kashmir and Punjab — Farooq Abdullah and Parkash Singh Badal — Union ministers P.R. Kumaramangalam and S.S. Dhindsa, minority commission chairman Tarlochan Singh and BJP leaders Madan Lal Khurana and Sahib Singh Varma were present at the ceremony.

Barring Jaswinder Singh Sandhu who took the oath in Gurmukhi, all others read out in Sanskrit.

The chief minister said he would respect the verdict of the people who have given his party the kind of majority which many never expected. “My foremost job is to ensure that floods do not recur in the state. Improving the law and order also required top priority. I will try to usher the state towards prosperity. Development will be the key element of my government. The people of Haryana will now watch a beautiful movie,” he added.

Chautala, who won from Rori and Narwana, said he has intimated the Election Commission of his desire to resign from Rori. “I have retained Narwana because of allegations of unfair practices there by the Congress candidate,” he said.

Congress nominee from Narwana Randeep Surjewala had alleged that Chautala rigged the polls to win. Claiming that he had proof that unfair means were adopted against him, Surjewala said he would soon file a case in the Punjab and Haryana High Court to change the verdict.

“Let him file the case. There was no need for rigging at Narwana. The people of Haryana are with me,” Chautala said.    


 
 
ADVANI RULES OUT GUJARAT ORDER ROLLBACK 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, March 2 
Brushing aside Opposition charges that the RSS was a “communal and political organisation”, home minister L.K. Advani today there was no question of the Centre urging the Gujarat government to withdraw its decision.

A Gujarat government decision recently lifted the ban from state government employees joining RSS activities.

An emphatic Advani told the Rajya Sabha — where a “short-duration” discussion on the subjected had stretched to three days — that the Vajpayee government did not have “constitutional powers” to direct the Gujarat government to withdraw the circular. “It is the state government’s sole discretion,” the home minister said.

Advani saw method in the madness of the Opposition in both Houses. The daily business of stalling proceedings is a planned effort to “destabilise” the Vajpayee government, he said. He warned the Opposition that their endeavour would not bear fruit.

However, Advani’s statement seemed to hint that not all allies shared the BJP stand on the RSS. As if to lend credence to Advani’s indirect admission, Sharief-ud-din, MP from ally National Conference, joined an Opposition-sponsored walk-out.

Advani said it was not the Centre but the Gujarat government which has taken the decision. “The Centre was not consulted. If they had sought our advice, we would have informed them our views,” the home minister said. He said the Centre had left it to the Gujarat government to take note of the controversy and act accordingly.

Advani sought to reassure National Democratic Alliance partners that such ideological issues which threaten to divide the alliance would not be allowed to come to the fore. The fragility of the alliance was evident as Advani spoke. The Telegu Desam Party and DMK members kept quiet through his speech, though unlike the NC, did not join the Congress-Left walk-out.

The restive Congress benches wanted Advani to spell out how he proposed to end the impasse, when even midway through his speech the home minister had not specified whether the Centre would approach the Gujarat government.

Leader of the Congress in the Upper House Manmohan Singh wanted the home minister to say categorically what steps the government proposed to take. Singh asked if the government would make the Gujarat administration withdraw the circular and whether a similar circular was being planned for Central employees.

Advani argued that as suggested by the Congress and other Opposition parties, he had studied the provisions under Articles 256 and 257 of the Constitution and was compelled to think that none of these permitted an interpretation that the Gujarat government has done wrong.

Advani said the controversy was a campaign against the RSS to achieve political ends. Yesterday, he had intervened in Kapil Sibal’s speech and spoken on the “active role” played by Sangh stalwarts Hedgewar and Golwalkar in the freedom movement.    


 
 
SONIA BIHAR FLOCK LOBS QUIT THREAT 
 
 
FROM TAPAS CHAKRABORTY
 
Patna, March 2 
The crisis in the state Congress over extending support to Laloo Prasad Yadav deepened today with 12 of its 23 MLAs threatening to quit in protest against Sonia Gandhi’s decision to invite the RJD chief to Delhi for talks.

The MLAs decided at a meeting in the evening to hold a dharna in front of Indira Gandhi’s statue from tomorrow. PCC spokesman Anil Sharma said it would continue till the central leadership decided against supporting Laloo.

The dissident MLAs have been elected from Jharkhand on the anti-Laloo and separate statehood planks. They feel that backing Laloo would spell doom for them.

Saying Laloo backstabbed the Vananchal cause more than once, MLA Pradip Balmuchu said: “It is foolhardy on the part of the central leadership to get any assurance from Laloo Prasad Yadav on the proposed statehood.” Balmuchu, a young tribal leader, won for the second consecutive time from Jamshedpur.

The MLAs had clarified their stand to party president Sonia Gandhi and the leader in charge of Bihar, Mohsina Kidwai. “However, we don’t know how the question of calling Laloo Prasad Yadav (to Delhi for talks) could still arise,” Balmuchu said.

Bagan Samui, a tribal leader from Chaibasa who defected from the BJP, said: “We are shocked that the Congress high command is not taking us seriously.”

The group of 12 has threatened to quit the party and float an outfit to carry on their struggle for a separate state. “If anything is thrust on us, we can go to any length,” Balmuchu added.

This group is being opposed by some of the central and north Bihar party MLAs, who insist that sharing power should be the only condition for support to Laloo. At least four north Bihar Congress leaders, including Sanjay Singh, son of former MP Rajo Singh, favour backing Laloo.

Among the other legislators, two Brahmins, two Bhumihars and a Rajput are also peeved over the decision to call Laloo for parleys. But they do not have the numbers to split the party.

This development comes as a boost for the rival National Democratic Alliance, which has reportedly begun secret parleys with the disgruntled legislators, including Beena Sahi, the MLA who is most vocal against joining Laloo. She has been saying that the Congress, which got 15 per cent of the votes, 23 MLAs and was runners-up in 25 seats, improved its showing because of its anti-Laloo stand. “I am going to quit the Congress with 11 others,” she said.

The NDA strengthened its claim to form the government by releasing a list of six Independents, who it claimed were supporting its chief ministerial hopeful Nitish Kumar. With its strength now up to 152, communication minister Ram Vilas Paswan said the Governor should invite the NDA to prove its majority on the floor of the House.    


 
 
HOSPITAL HOPE FOR AIDS VICTIMS 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, March 2 
Almost 14 years after the first AIDS case was diagnosed in the country, health minister N.T. Shanmugam will ask his counterparts in states to force government hospitals to accept patients suffering from the disease.

State hospitals tend to avoid admitting AIDS patients. Though there is no detailed data on admission figures, it appears that not even one per cent of applicants are treated at these hospitals.

Shanmugam will also meet finance minister Yashwant Sinha to ensure that insurance companies settle the claims of AIDS victims.

Till now, they have paid little attention to the pleas of the health ministry. Families of HIV-positive patients have been denied the benefits of the victim’s life insurance policy.

The Centre is also planning to help out the states by passing a law to make sure that private hospitals, nursing homes and diagnostic clinics do not turn out AIDS patients.

Strengthening of state-level health laws would force these private hospitals to set aside beds for these patients and stop discrimination against them.

The government is also considering harsher punishment under the existing provisions in the Drugs and Magic Remedies Act, so that quacks cannot exploit families of AIDS victims.

There have been reports from Kerala and Tamil Nadu of quacks extracting money from illiterate victims and their kin. One quack doctor in Kerala has made a fortune selling steroids to these patients, which helped them recover for a while, raising false hopes.

The government has already entered into preliminary discussions with the surface transport ministry to prevent AIDS from spreading through truck-drivers, one of the most vulnerable segments.

The health ministry intends to draw up an action plan with the surface transport ministry to launch an awareness campaign along the highways to educate the drivers on the danger of sex with multiple partners.    


 
 
STATUTE REVIEW PROTESTER KILLED 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Bangalore, March 2 
The simmering discontent against the proposed review of the Constitution took its toll today as the police staged a lathicharge against protesters who turned violent.

Police commissioner T. Madiyal said one person was killed and three seriously injured in the lathicharge as hundreds of Dalit Sangharsh Samithi activists tried to lay siege to the Vidhana Soudha and Raj Bhavan. The victim has been identified as Nagaraju (37).

Demonstrators gathered near the Thimmaiah circle and raised slogans against the Centre for its “sinister design” in reviewing the Constitution “authored” by B.R. Ambedkar.

As the police tried to calm the mob, some protesters broke the cordon and rushed towards the secretariat. Being hopelessly out-numbered, the police wielded the baton.

The battle continued near Raj Bhavan as police reinforcements arrived. When some protesters, including Nagaraju, tried to get past the posse of policemen and enter Raj Bhavan, they were heavily beaten up. Police have imposed prohibitory orders in three police station limits

The city has held a number of seminars on the Constitution review in the last few weeks, where sharply divided opinions have emerged. The Dalit Sangharsh Samithi, which is politically active, has taken a stand that the review is an insult to the memory of Ambedkar. With chief minister S.M. Krishna against the review, the state is planning to organise a symposium.    

 

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