Rabri rage greets neighbour Nitish
Colombia chance for Pak talks
Balayogi calls meet to broker Gujarat truce
‘Dutiful’ Joshi in awareness drive
George defence

Patna, March 5 
Nitish Kumar today moved into the state guest house a few yards away from 1 Anne Marg, the rightful residence of the chief minister now occupied by Laloo Yadav and Rabri Devi.

But for Rabri Devi, for whom Nitish was once Laloo’s comrade-at-arms in the “socialist” cause, it was an act of outrage.

From a first floor room, Rabri watched Nitish, seething at the transition of power and the thought of giving up a house she has ruled for 10 years, first as the chief minister’s wife and then as chief minister. “I am not going to vacate the bungalow. Let him serve us official notice. Let’s see how he dares to step in here,” Rabri blurted out in the presence of Laloo about his former friend.

For old times’ sake, perhaps, Nitish is playing soft where other MLAs are forcibly removing their colleagues’ nameplates and taking over their bungalows without any official notification. Nitish said he would only stake claim on 1 Anne Marg after proving his majority, though he did point at that the bungalow is the chief minister’s official residence.

Laloo and Nitish have come a long way. Beginning their careers as student leaders in the early seventies at Patna University, both were inspired by Jayprakash Narayan. The common socialist cause cemented their bond during 1974-75.

A decade and a half later, Nitish was the key strategist for Laloo, the Janata Dal chief minister designate, stitching up the numbers following the 1990 Assembly polls. The Janata Dal, with 122 seats, was short of 40 seats, the same number Nitish has managed to win this time.

In 1990, however, Nitish, an engineer by training, had painstakingly computed the numbers from the JMM and others, while Laloo was fighting a war of nerves to corner a Brahmin rival in the Janata Dal.

For Rabri, Nitish was much more than Laloo’s confidant. He was part of her husband’s large political family. Rabri acted like Nitish’s own bhabi, supporting him when he was going through difficulties in his personal life.

The cracks appeared in 1994, when Laloo started planting relatives in the party organisation. “It is the beginning of the end for the stormy petrel of Bihar,” Nitish had deplored.

The mid-nineties saw Nitish waging a lone battle against Laloo. Despite adverse media reports, Kumar could count seven MLAs on his side in the Assembly polls of 1995.

But the anti-Lalooism spearheaded by Nitish got a real boost when Laloo got embroiled in the fodder scam. The friendship-turned-rivalry reached its climax last week with Nitish being crowned chief minister.

Even as the cloak-and-dagger methods continue for the right numbers for the new Assembly in both Laloo and Nitish camps, their war of attrition continues.

Rabri does not relent either. Looking at Nitish’s new residence, she mutters: “A snake trapped by kamandalwalas (the Hindutva brigade).”    

New Delhi, March 5 
India and Pakistan will get an opportunity to resume bilateral talks on the sidelines of the Non-Aligned Movement foreign ministers’ meet in Colombia next month.

With anxiety levels in the West rising over the lack of communication between the South Asian nuclear twins amid mounting tension over Kashmir, the possibility of resuming talks on the sidelines of the Cartegena multilateral meet has started gaining ground.

The meeting, to be held on April 8 and 9, will also be the first in which both India and Pakistan will participate since the October 12 military coup in Islamabad, which overthrew the Nawaz Sharif government, put Pervez Musharraf in the saddle.

Though it is not known if foreign minister Jaswant Singh will hold talks with his Pakistani counterpart Abdus Sattar, both the countries have availed such opportunities in the past. Indian officials maintain that they have not received any request from Pakistan so far.

Officially, New Delhi maintains that bilateral dialogue with Islamabad cannot be resumed till it creates the “right atmosphere”. This, in Indian diplomatic parlance, means that Pakistan will have to take significant steps to end cross-border terrorism. Islamabad has admitted that it does extend moral and diplomatic support to Kashmiri militants.

US President Bill Clinton, who is coming here on a five-day visit later this month, had made it clear that the Kashmir dispute and escalating tension between the neighbours were major concerns for Washington.

Though it is not yet clear whether Clinton will visit Pakistan during his South-Asia tour, Kashmir will be a focal point of discussions as also possible steps India can take to scale down tension with Pakistan. Therefore, an early resumption of dialogue between the two sides, if not stressed, may be hinted at broadly by the Americans.

The Saarc summit, which was to be held last year in Kathmandu, was put off on India’s initiative. Coming close on the heels of the military coup in Pakistan, India gained support from other Saarc members to put off the meet and not give legitimacy to the junta.

But after five months, more and more countries, both in the region and outside, are getting restless over this continuing standoff.

French foreign minister Hubert Vedrine, who recently visited India, also joined the US-led chorus in the West saying that the Kashmir impasse was a cause of concern. Steps should be taken by the two neighbours to resolve the tension through peaceful negotiations, he said. Britain, too, holds a similar position on the issue.

India, however, is reluctant to return to the negotiating table. New Delhi’s unwillingness stems from last year’s developments, as within a few months of Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s bus ride to Lahore in February, Pakistani intruders infiltrated the Line of Control resulting in the Kargil flare-up.

It also dawned upon the Indian leadership that plans of an intrusion were very much there when Vajpayee was making the peace initiative with Nawaz Sharif.    

New Delhi, March 5 
With the BJP hinting that it might soften its stand on the RSS issue and “persuade” the Gujarat government to revoke its order allowing employees to associate with the Sangh, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee is believed to have convened a meeting of NDA allies to find a way out of the legislative deadlock.

An all-party meeting has been convened in Delhi tomorrow to break the RSS deadlock, adds agencies. Lok Sabha Speaker G.M.C. Balayogi tonight said in Calcutta: “We have lost an entire week (in Parliament). There will be an all-party meeting tomorrow to see what can be done.”

Although Vajpayee was scheduled to convene the NDA meeting tomorrow, it may be deferred because of Geeta Mukherjee’s death.

With the Telugu Desam Party, the Trinamul Congress and the DMK saying that Gujarat should rescind its controversial directive to break the impasse in Parliament, even BJP’s hardliners felt this could be “seriously considered” as an option.

“It is, after all, just a government circular. And it is not as if government employees have suddenly rushed to the RSS in droves because of the Gujarat government’s decision,” said a senior BJP office-bearer, asked if a turnaround would hurt the Sangh and the BJP politically.

Concerned that the issue might adversely affect its prospects in the coming civic polls in Andhra Pradesh, the Desam has expressed reservations about voting with the government if the matter was taken up under Rule 184.

Trinamul Congress leader and railway minister Mamata Banerjee said rescinding the order was a way out of the impasse which has disrupted parliamentary proceedings for the past few days.

DMK chief and Tamil Nadu chief minister M Karunanidhi — who was apologetic about the RSS earlier — said in the Assembly yesterday that he would oppose any anti-minority move.

The BJP’s own assessment was that in the face of political opposition in their states, the allies might not eventually go along with the party on the issue. “It is not possible for us to force our views on the allies and coax them to take a stand which may impair their political interests,” said a BJP Cabinet minister.

Giving a spin to the whole debate, BJP hardliners talked of an honourable retreat. “The RSS does not depend on government circulars for its survival. Governments come and go but the RSS goes on forever. Indeed, our experience shows that it has emerged stronger after every ban and repressive move,” said a BJP vice-president.    

New Delhi, March 5 
The human resources development ministry is planning to launch a drive to popularise and create awareness of the fundamental duties listed in the Constitution.

A government report had suggested that the involvement of every sector of society, including industry, schools and the media, was necessary to popularise the duties.

“Although the task of teaching fundamental duties is largely that of the Union and state governments, the media has no less an obligation in this task,” the report said.

It had asked the government to lay down a policy framework for the media so that it contributes more to “nation building”. “The media must be used as an important instrument in planning the country’s social and educational development,” it said.

Human resources development minister Murli Manohar Joshi had mooted the idea of popularising fundamental duties and a committee was set up to work out the modalities. Headed by former chief justice J.S. Verma, the committee had submitted its report.

According to Joshi, not enough has been done to make the citizens aware of their obligations to society. “People talk about fundamental rights. But no one talks about fundamental duties,” said an official.

The fundamental duties call upon citizens to respect national ideals, the national movement, uphold the country’s sovereignty, promote harmony and safeguard public property and the composite culture.

The Verma committee has suggested including fundamental duties in the school curriculum and sought the opinion of the National Council of Educational Research and Training. The NCERT said there was no need for a separate curriculum since its textbooks already inculcate such values.

The committee, however, feels that there has been no coordinated effort in inculcating fundamental duties in textbooks. “Apart from civics education, (teaching) fundamental duties is not a deliberate planned attempt. It is incidental,” it said.

Touching on various channels of information dissemination, the committee talks about roping in business and industry for promoting fundamental duties. The report said: “In discharging social responsibilities, only a small percentage of the business community has undertaken social welfare and development programmes.”

The report also stressed that captains of industry and business have a vital role to play in popularising “basic values”.

“The national economy will soon scale new heights if the industry accords priority to achieving excellence in all individual and collective activities and nurturing scientific temper.”    

Bangalore, March 5 
Defence minister George Fernandes today described Bihar Governor Vinod Pande as a man of “unimpeachable integrity” and said he had not violated constitutional norms by inviting Nitish Kumar to form the government.

At a press conference here, the Samata Party leader said that though the NDA had secured one seat less than the Rashtriya Janata Dal in the polls, it had submitted a list of 146 MLAs to the Governor. “We will be able to prove our majority on the floor of the House without resorting to horse-trading,” he asserted.

Fernandes claimed that people’s mandate was for change as “more than 65 percent had voted against the Laloo Yadav establishment which had ruled and ruined Bihar in the last six years”.    


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