Nitish defeated before final
Sourav ends run of losses
ISI White Paper in proof black hole
Bar club expels Jethmalani
Calcutta weather

Patna, March 9 
On the eve of the trial of strength in the Assembly, Nitish Kumar today conceded a tactical defeat before Laloo Prasad Yadav by allowing a Congressman to be elected Speaker.

Late tonight, Nitish suffered another blow with the 11-member Left combination of CPI and CPI(ML) deciding to vote against him. Barring an eleventh-hour split in any of the big groups, the chief minister has few options to scrape through tomorrow’s vote.

Amid chaos and confusion, Sadanand Singh was elected unanimously today, giving the NDA camp the jitters as BJP, Samata and Janata Dal leaders began a clumsy attempt to notch up the numbers.

Sadanand’s election, the best the Congress could do to avert a split in the party, followed a proposition and seconding by the RJD this morning on the floor of the House.

The RJD, which had earlier hoisted Gajendra Prasad Himanshu as its candidate, later proposed Sadanand’s name jointly with the Congress.

The NDA hardened its stand against Sadanand since his name was proposed by Laloo yesterday. An NDA minister issued a statement yesterday evening against Sadanand, alleging his link in the Bhagalpur riots and doubting his credentials as a secular leader.

But late last night, the NDA underwent a radical change. Today, it put up a brave front, saying their strategy was “nothing venture, nothing win”. The “venture”, NDA leaders explained, was an expected “quid pro quo” from the Congress tomorrow, though this failed to carry much conviction.

Nitish told reporters after the election that there was no “relation between the NDA’s tactical acceptance of a Congress Speaker with tomorrow’s battle for proving majority”.

“I have the numbers,” he insisted, however. He added that the NDA did not want the House to be divided on the issue of the Speaker. “There was nothing more to read in our attempt to get a consensus on Speaker,” he said.

Laloo, who obviously emerged stronger after Sadanand’s election, scoffed at the consensus theory of the NDA. “When you are unable to get girls to marry you, you cannot declare yourself brahmachari (ascetic).” He said the NDA was forced to concede “to our demand because it had neither the support of MLAs nor the tacit consent of any top party leaders”.

There were reported attempts by the NDA to persuade some Congress MLAs — who were opposed to Sadanand — to vote against him. But the Congressmen were not ready to show their cards today.

Of the 319 MLAs in the House today, the NDA had 155, while the RJD alliance 159. To defeat Sadanand, NDA needed at least 4 more MLAs.

After a hectic lobbying till late last night, Nitish was told by the rebel Congress MLAs that they would “act on the last moment” during the no-confidence motion.

Nitish is likely to face a tough time in the House tomorrow. Even with 17 Independent MLAs rallying behind him along with the NDA’s 122 and JMM’s 12, the chief minister would need the support of all the 11 Congress MLAs from Jharkhand who are against supporting Laloo.

However, six out of the 11 Christian tribal MLAs have reportedly developed cold feet over siding with a political group in which the BJP is a dominant partner. Ajit Jogi, national Congress spokesman and a tribal leader, is learnt to have given the tribal Congress MLAs “a history of BJP fraud on the Chhattisgarh statehood issue”, asking them to hold back the Congress.

Nitish is primarily aiming at “an emotional political debate” tomorrow on the future of Bihar and its decline under Laloo to recharge the House and bank on the “conscience support” from the MLAs.

But on this too Nitish cannot escape a firing himself from the RJD and its allies, said Shivanand Tiwari of RJD.

The confrontation between the rival camps is also resulting in frayed tempers for MLAs on both sides. One of the Congress MLAs who were shouting slogans against Ajit Jogi was allegedly bashed up by a RJD MP, causing tension in Patna’s posh Boring Road area.

Politicians in both camps apprehend more trouble as they admit “tonight would be crucial”. All 21 Congress MLAs have also been kept in a hotel under strict vigil.    

Kochi, March 9 
If captaincy is 90 per cent luck and 10 per cent skill, as Richie Benaud would like us to believe, then Sourav Ganguly triumphed on all counts today, leading a down-in-the-dumps team to a stunning last-over victory over South Africa.

He was bold with his every move on the field — whether it be bowling Rahul Dravid for nine overs or promoting Sunil Joshi as the pinch-hitter. But the new captain preferred to be cautious in his approach.

“It was a collective and fantastic effort. We’ve just won one game and there’s still a long way to go...We wish to take one match at a time,” a relieved Sourav said.

But what had been his message to the team when chasing a total beyond 300? “Let’s not look at 300. Let’s aim at scoring six runs an over,” Sourav remarked. He felt that if the batsmen had a total of 300 weighing on the minds, the psychological pressure would have been enormous.

Sourav and Sachin Tendulkar started the runchase in sparkling fashion with the Indian skipper finding the gaps regularly. Mohammed Azharuddin, Man of the Match Ajay Jadeja and Robin Singh ensured the victory never went of grasp.

The win ended a string of defeats that began with the disaster Down Under. India lost all three Tests and seven matches in the triseries, punctuated by a solitary victory over Pakistan at Adelaide, and then were humiliated by the South Africans in the two Tests preceding today’s one-day opener.

Defending 301, Hansie Cronje’s machine-like outfit wilted under pressure at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium as the Indians went about their task in dramatic fashion. But with four runs needed off as many balls, umpire M.R. Singh of Mumbai shockingly signalled a boundary off a Anil Kumble mishit to the third man fence off Shaun Pollock, bringing a premature end to the proceedings. Kumble and Robin were ecstatic while Jacques Kallis, who had actually pulled back the ball diving on the ropes, made a mild protest.

With spectators invading the ground from all corners, the batsmen were whisked away by the police while the visitors waited for a while before trudging back to the dressing room. Only when Match Referee Raman Subba Row brought it to the umpires’ notice did they realise the mistake and decide on starting play again.

It was not an easy task as the stumps, along with the camera wiring, had been uprooted by the TV technicians and the podium was already in place for the presentation ceremony. The three-wicket victory had also been announced over the public address system, sparking a flurry of celebrations. It even led to the fire brigade engines being called for help following a bonfire lit in the eastern stands.

When play finally did start after a 25-minute stoppage, Robin scampered home for a single off the first ball to finally seal the victory. According to a Kerala Cricket Association official, there was a “communication gap” between umpire Singh and third umpire C.P. Sharma which led to the chaos.

Singh may have misheard Sharma’s ruling because of the deafening noise.

“I tried to make sure the umpires got the message but there was no way I could have from the top tier. By the time I came down, the players had already come off,” Subba Row told The Telegraph. “I spoke to Hansie as Kapil Dev had already told me that they would be happy to play again,” he added.

Cronje, however, said it was the third umpire who had signalled four and should be responsible for the restart.    

New Delhi, March 9 
Home minister L.K. Advani is keen to table the White Paper on ISI activities this session but officials are advising caution, since they are unsure whether the evidence is conclusive enough to hold in court.

Work on the White Paper began on Advani’s insistence soon after the BJP-led government came to power in February 1998.

Advani and a few other ministers have made several statements promising to release the White Paper to expose Pakistan’s hand in fomenting strife in the country. But home ministry officials feel it is unlikely that the White Paper will be tabled during the ongoing budget session.

Before the budget session began, Advani is understood to have directed officials to complete the task that was entrusted to them two years ago. He had demanded that the White Paper should be complete before the session commenced.

“Since then, there has been a tug-of-war between the home minister and the officials,” a source said.

The officials argue that it is “virtually impossible” to prepare a document that would provide intricate details of the ISI’s exploits. Some feel its publication will create more problems for the government than serving any real purpose.

First, officials said, if challenged in a court, the Centre will find it difficult to prove the contents of the White Paper since there is no concrete evidence to prove the ISI’s hand in every incident in which its involvement is suspected.

“It will be impossible to furnish solid evidence to back up the claims that may go into the White Paper. The courts will simply throw out the allegations if the government fails to substantiate the charges made in general and in particular against all the so-called ISI agents arrested,” an official said.

The second obstacle to the preparation of the White Paper is coming from the states where some of the incidents have taken place and where numerous alleged ISI agents have been arrested and are undergoing trial. Officials reasoned that most states have failed to send details of the cases in which the ISI’s hand is suespected and furnish credible evidence to the home ministry.

There are several cases — the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts, bomb explosions in Delhi in the mid-Nineties, ISI-sponsored militancy in Jammu and Kashmir and its links with insurgency movements in the Northeast — in which trials are far from being complete.

Officially, however, home ministry mandarins are putting up a brave front. The typical refrain is that “work” on the White Paper is continuing. “It is a continuous process and we are constantly updating it,” an official said.

Although officials say it will be “premature to conclude that the White Paper project has been doomed”, sources said bureaucrats preparing the document are not too optimistic about a positive and productive outcome.    

New Delhi, March 9 
Union law minister Ram Jethmalani was today expelled by the Supreme Court Bar Association for “unbecoming and hostile behaviour towards the community he belongs to” in the wake of the lawyers’ strike.

Jethmalani, an eminent lawyer, is the first law minister to be expelled by the association of his own tribe.

The dramatic ouster was announced minutes after Jethmalani submitted a pre-emptive resignation and on a day the Supreme Court released a list of distinguished lawyers as part of its jubilee felicitation. The resolution expelling Jethmalani said “all bar facilities are also withdrawn” from him.

As the association president and senior counsel K.K. Venugopal was getting ready to go to the podium of the general body meeting, Jethmalani’s terse letter, saying “I don’t deserve you and you don’t deserve me”, was rushed to him.

Jethmalani, who reached the capital from London this morning, said in the note a detailed letter would follow.

When Venugopal announced the resignation of Jethmalani, vociferous members of the bar said the letter should be rejected and the minister expelled.

“An overwhelming majority of the House (the general body) rejected the resignation of Jethmalani and expelled him from the membership of the bar association,” the resolution said.

The bar association also suspended senior counsel Shanti Bhushan and advocate Kamini Jaiswal and a week’s notice was given to them to respond to the notices.

The flashpoint for the ouster of Jethmalani was the lawyers’ strike against the amendments to the Civil Procedure Code and a reported proposal to allow foreign law firms to operate in India.

Lawyers across the country had gone on strike on February 24. In Delhi, the striking lawyers were assaulted by the police. Jethmalani “provoked us” by harsh words and he never bothered to amend the mistakes, a member of the association said.

Jethmalani had termed the strike illegal and warned that “action” would be initiated against the lawyers. He said lawyers were opposing the amendment to speed up the trail of lakhs of cases as they feared that it would affect their income.

Earlier, an apex court press release included on the list for felicitation the name of Jethmalani as one of those who have put in “fifty golden years” of practice since the inauguration of the Supreme Court. Jethmalani’s name was found among two senior counsel whose response to the invitation for the function was “no”. The other counsel who had turned down the invitation was N.A. Palkhiwala.    

Temperature: Maximum: 32°C (-1) Minimum: 21.9°C (+2) RAINFALL: Nil Relative humidity: Maximum: 87%, Minimum: 27% Today: Partly cloudy day, mainly clear night. Not much change in maximum or minimum temperature. Sunset: 5.40 pm Sunrise: 5.55 am    

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