Laloo gives BJP alliance a black eye
Hawks hit back with Sudarshan
Evening law colleges banned
Police foe in dacoit-friendly land
Calcutta weather

 
 
LALOO GIVES BJP ALLIANCE A BLACK EYE 
 
 
FROM TAPAS CHAKRABORTY
 
Patna, March 10 
Eight-day chief minister Nitish Kumar resigned on the floor of the Assembly after a frenetic but futile rush for numbers, clearing the way for a triumphant Laloo Yadav, with wife in tow, to march to the Governor and demand that he get back the throne of Bihar.

Nitish, who had been banking on support from some Congress MLAs opposed to Laloo, conceded defeat before the trial of strength after the legislators made it clear they were in no position to cross the floor.

The chief minister took a cue from Atal Behari Vajpayee in bowing-out with a flourish. Replying during a stormy two-and-a-half-hour debate on the confidence motion, Nitish said: “I believe the response of the House is clearly written on the wall. I’m going to the Governor to put in my papers and inform him that I don’t have the adequate numbers to prove my majority.” Vajpayee had resigned similarly in 1996 after failing to muster support for his 13-day government.

Immediately afterwards, Nitish drove to Raj Bhavan and at 4.55 pm submitted his resignation to Governor Vinod Pande.

Later in the evening, Laloo along with wife Rabri Devi, who is the leader of the RJD legislature party, met Pande and staked claim to form the government, saying he had the support of 162 MLAs, one more than the majority figure. The Governor assured them of a decision by tomorrow.

However, the CPI and CPI(M-L), which together have 11 MLAs, are likely to abstain during a trust vote sought by the RJD. Besides, RJD sources said, the Independents would try and extract their pound of flesh.

Coming on the heels of the retreat on Gujarat, Nitish’s defeat is a blow to the BJP. In Delhi, an embarrassed BJP leadership said the situation in Bihar would have to be “re-assessed”. A party leader admitted that the internal squabbles in the NDA had not gone down well with the people.

Nitish’s defeat became evident yesterday after he pulled out the NDA candidate for Speaker and agreed to a Congressman getting the job. Asked about his future, Nitish, who had resigned as Union minister, put up a brave front, saying he would continue his fight against Laloo. “It would not be a very comfortable government for Laloo either. I may have lost this battle, but not the war,” Nitish said.

But, sources said, the NDA partners have begun pointing fingers at one another for letting go of an opportunity to keep Laloo out of power. Although Nitish was backed by Samata leaders, questions are being raised on the strategy adopted by other partners to garner support for the alliance.

While Laloo deftly wooed not only the Congress but small parties and Independents as well, the BJP and the Janata Dal (United) depended on fake assurances and wrong signals.

By befriending the larger section of Congress MLAs, Laloo succeeded in armtwisting the small band of upper caste legislators led by Beena Shahi, who had publicly declared she would not vote for the RJD.

Till last night, Nitish tried his best to get the rebel Congress MLAs to cross floors. He held a closed-door meeting with Shahi and asked her about the latest position of the MLAs. But Shahi said they were in no position to cross floors. The three BSP legislators who had earlier agreed to vote for the NDA, also changed their minds at the last minute.

At least 10 of the 17 Independent MLAs with criminal records, who had opted for Nitish, backed out an hour before the House debate. A key jailbird reportedly told a Laloo relative: “I have promised to vote for Laloo. I will do it. Don’t you worry about it now.”

The RJD chief led the charge against the Governor and boycotted his address to the Assembly. “We don’t want to see his face,” the RJD chief.

In an impassioned speech, Nitish said although the mandate was a fractured one, it was the NDA which got 35 per cent of the votes despite getting only 122 MLAs. “In contrast, the RJD got only 28 per cent in 1995,” he said, adding that many of the smaller parties had got their votes after campaigning against Laloo.

Laloo said the BJP had plotted to reduce Nitish, a former Lohiaite, into just another Sushma Swaraj. “I wonder how my younger brother got trapped by the Kamandalwalas,” he said.    


 
 
HAWKS HIT BACK WITH SUDARSHAN 
 
 
FROM RADHIKA RAMASESHAN
 
Nagpur, March 10 
Close on the heels of the RSS retreat on Gujarat, Kuppahalli Sitaramaiyya Sudarshan today took over the reins of the outfit from Rajendra Singh who stepped down citing ill health.

Sudarshan’s anointment as sarsangchalak on the opening day of the Pratinidhi Sabha followed months of speculation on the exit of Singh, who has been virtually immobile for over a year.

Although a section of the BJP was keen to defer the change of guard as Singh shares a good equation with Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, what seems to have precipitated the decision was the Centre’s pressure on Gujarat to rescind its order lifting the ban on employees joining the RSS.

Sangh sources said that while Sudarshan, who at 69 is much younger and more active than his predecessor, was not expected to alter the relationship overnight, he would play a more “proactive” role and reactivate RSS arms like the Swadeshi Jagran Manch which have been lying low for a while.

Sources said that to keep the equation with the government on an even keel, Singh, who will now be based in Delhi, would act as the main coordinator without holding a formal position.

Among the other changes to be effected in the RSS hierarchy are the elevation of Mohan Madhukarrao Bhagwat as the Sarkaryavar, or second-in-command, replacing H.V. Seshadri, who, like Singh, expressed the desire to quit on health grounds.

Sudarshan made it clear his thrust would be on resuscitating the RSS. In his first address to the delegates immediately after his elevation as the sarsangchalak was announced by Singh, Sudarshan said: “Positions, whether big or small, do not matter in the Sangh. Our common goal is to work together as a well-knit force. Everybody’s strength and resources should be pooled together. I’m confident that with your love and affection, each one of us here can take the Sangh forward and equip it to handle challenges of the next millennium.”

He also quoted the RSS’ second sarsangchalak M.S. Golwalkar to say that the head of an organisation should mete out justice in an even-handed manner. “When Guruji took over the post, he said it was like Vikramaditya’s throne which should deliver justice to even a gadariya (shepherd).”

In his farewell address, Singh said: “The Sangh cannot afford to have a person who is ill and immobile as its pramukh. It is bound to affect the Sangh’s working. This is an important year in the country’s life and the Sangh has to be prepared to face the tasks ahead. I feel so, and my feelings are shared by many workers.”

Among the first callers on Sudarshan were VHP leaders Ashok Singhal and Giriraj Kishore. Asked if the meeting was a preamble to a revival of the Ram temple agenda, Singhal said: “We would like the temple to be constructed in a peaceful manner by achieving political consensus.”    


 
 
EVENING LAW COLLEGES BANNED 
 
 
FROM OUR LEGAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, March 10 
The Bar Council of India today ordered that all evening law colleges in the country should close down from the forthcoming academic session of 2000-2001.

However, the order gave an option to the institutions to convert into “full-time day colleges”.

“Evening law colleges cannot impart legal education as prescribed under the rules of the Bar Council of India in view of the recent revision of curriculum by the BCI,” the order said.

The revised syllabus prescribes 21 compulsory subjects, three optionals and four papers in practical training, making a total of 28 subjects in the LL.B course.

“The evening colleges hardly function for two to two-and-a-half hours a day which is totally inadequate for legal education prescribed by the BCI under its rules,” the council said.

The council is the apex body for maintaining standards of excellence in legal education and legal practice in the country.

“Evening colleges are mostly manned by part-time teachers who are practising lawyers. These colleges do not have sufficient qualified full-time teachers. Professional courses like LL.B cannot be imparted through part-time teachers alone,” it said.

Evening courses are conducted in colleges teaching other disciplines, which does not allow for putting up adequate infrastructure.

In Delhi, there are two evening centres compared with only one full-time day college at the Faculty of Law in Delhi University.    


 
 
POLICE FOE IN DACOIT-FRIENDLY LAND 
 
 
FROM ANAND SUNDAS
 
Zaharpur Khurra (Chambal), March 10 
Cocking a snook at the large police force waiting to pounce on him, a “most-wanted” dacoit is holding a mahayagna for peace in Chambal.

The usually sleepy village of Zaharpur Khurra is swarming with people. Over 200 sadhus and 2,000 villagers from neighbouring areas are here. One face in the crowd is that of Nirbhay Gujjar, who is wanted in over 150 cases and carries a reward of Rs 1.5 lakh on his head. But the two battalions of the Provincial Armed Constabulary and the special task force posted here to arrest the dacoit have not been able to spot him.

Gujjar has reportedly put in Rs 25 lakh for the Vishnu Mahayagna, which is being held to foster peace and prosperity in the barren land. The dacoit has roped in 48 villages, with 141 members from each village. Donations, from half a glass of milk to Rs 10,000, are still pouring in.

Sadhus from the Benaras, Mathura and Ayodhya peeths have travelled to the village for the seven-day yagna, ignoring the treacherous terrain.

A.K. Mitra, inspector-general, Kanpur, said: “It is difficult to identify the dacoit among 200 sadhus as he might himself come disguised as one”.

The police get no help from the villagers, who see Gujjar as a friend. Alok Kumar, a sub-inspector with the special task force posted at the yagna site, said: “The people will get beaten up but they will not stop lying, ask them and they will say Gujjar is not organising the yagna.”

Kumar, who has been involved in two shootouts with the Gujjar gang and is now armed with an AK-47, hand grenades and an automatic pistol, added: “The dacoit has kidnapped more than 100 men in the past three to four months and we have conclusive evidence that he is sponsoring the yagna. We also know he will come but what can we do if no one comes forward to help us?”

But the residents complain that they have more reason to fear the police, who are insensitive to local problems. As vedic hymns blare out of mikes in the background, a resident, Bhanu Pratap Singh, claims that the police terrorise the villagers.

Mulayam Singh from Chambal Valley chips in: “You see, the police terrorise us because they cannot fight Nirbhay.”

Local BJP and Congress leaders echo them.    


 
 
CALCUTTA WEATHER 
 
 
 
 
Temperature Maximum: 31.6° (1° below normal) Minimum: 19.8° (Normal) Humidity, Maximum: 80% Minimum: 29% Sunset: 5.40 pm, Sunrise: 5.54 am Today: Clear sky. Not much change in day and night temperature    
 

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