Atal arms to head off rollback
Succession glasnost in Sangh
Crown sits easy on batsman Sourav
Mum’s the word at Maurya Clinton
Student dies of ‘punishment’
Calcutta weather

 
 
ATAL ARMS TO HEAD OFF ROLLBACK 
 
 
FROM DIPTOSH MAJUMDAR
 
Port Louis (Mauritius), March 12 
The Vajpayee government is determined to convince the allies that there will be no rollback on the cut in subsidies on food and fertilisers.

Since the rollback issue came to the fore two weeks ago after National Democratic Alliance constituents Telugu Desam Party, Trinamul Congress and the Indian National Lok Dal expressed displeasure on the two budget proposals, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee has spoken to leaders of these parties.

He told them that the demand would bring enormous pressure on the economy. With the partial withdrawal of subsidies on food distributed through the public distribution system and fertilisers rolled back, the fiscal deficit would shoot up and sectoral allocations would have to be scaled down in the revised estimates, he said.

The Vajpayee government is hoping that with the local body polls over in Andhra Pradesh, Desam chief Chandrababu Naidu will soften his stand. Desam, with 29 MPs, is the only BJP ally which can bring down the government.

A senior government official close to the Prime Minister, told reporters here in categorical terms that “there would be no rollback”. He added: “Wait and see what happens.”

The comment was deemed crucial in the light of Trinamul chief Mamata Banerjee saying in Delhi last Wednesday that the NDA partners unhappy over the issue would meet the Prime Minister and convince him about the need for a rollback. With a meeting scheduled for Thursday falling through, the allies will try to talk to the Prime Minister either tomorrow or day after.

Having ceded ground to the Opposition only because the allies were unwilling to side with the government on the RSS issue, the Vajpayee government does not want to go down further in popular estimation by agreeing to a rollback.

The Vajpayee thinktank is keenly aware that public perception of a weak administration at the helm is gaining in strength. It also knows that the developments in Bihar have been more than embarrassing to a government that had made the exit of Laloo Prasad Yadav its single point agenda in 1998 and then again in 1999.

It is in this context that the government feels that the rollback should be avoided at any cost. On what the Vajpayee government can do if the allies continue to be adamant, the official close to Vajpayee said: “Come what may, there would be no rollback.”

But the new-found determination largely stemmed from the Centre’s assumption that a progressive Naidu with his stand against subsidies would himself scale down his demand after his political compulsions of having to face the electorate are over.    


 
 
SUCCESSION GLASNOST IN SANGH 
 
 
FROM RADHIKA RAMASESHAN
 
Nagpur, March 12: 
As the RSS anointed K.S. Sudarshan its sarsanghchalak last Friday, it ushered in a revolution of sorts by making the announcement in the full glare of the media.

This is the first time that the Sangh disclosed a chief’s name in the presence of reporters and television cameras, much to the surprise of the 1,000-odd delegates gathered at the RSS headquarters.

A veil of secrecy used to shroud the Sangh succession process and “indulgences” like press publicity were anathema, though the third sarsanghchalak, Balasaheb Deoras, had made a dent in the iron curtain by naming his successor at a working committee meeting.

The first two sarsanghchalaks, K.B. Hedgewar and M.S. Golwalkar, had written their successors’ names on pieces of paper days before they died. The chits were sealed in envelopes and opened after they were cremated.

This, despite the stipulation in the RSS constitution that the incumbent sarsanghchalak should appoint his successor “with the consent of the karyakari samiti (working committee)”. The first two heads had concluded that such a process would leave the door open to competitive election, which was thought of as a “disruptive catalyst”. But no RSS leader dared to publicly question the legitimacy of this selection process.

Deoras changed the old order by naming Rajendra Singh as his successor at a working committee meeting. Although “ill health” was cited as the reason for this unusual step, RSS sources now admit that “political” considerations had prompted the move.

The RSS’ political wing, the BJP, was then on the upswing in the heartland and had formed its first government in Uttar Pradesh. Despite Ram and Hindutva, the BJP had to cope with the forward-backward caste divide. As the “paternal” head, the RSS, too, had to finetune its thinking to respond to the needs of realpolitik and caste-based considerations. So, Rajendra Singh, a Thakur from Uttar Pradesh, was thought to fit the bill and brought in as the new chief.

But Deoras did not announce the succession before the press. Now Rajendra Singh has gone one up on him. Anant Kolamkar, a swayamsevak and journalist with a pro-RSS daily, said: “We all knew that Sudarshanji would be the new sarsanghchalak. But we were stunned when the announcement was made before the press.”

The decision to hurriedly summon the press and introduce Sudarshan as Rajendra Singh’s successor was reportedly taken to quell speculation of an alleged power struggle. A week before the conclave, a newspaper report from Nagpur had said Sudarshan would be chosen. The next day a news agency put out a denial.

But between the announcement and the denial, the RSS was put down by the Centre on the Gujarat government’s circular. The near-unanimous view of the Sangh leadership was that Sudarshan had to step in to re-assert RSS supremacy.

There was also a feeling that other Sangh constituents had grown by leaps and bounds, while the RSS itself had remained “stagnant”. “The best brains from the RSS were loaned to these outfits and they have flowered under their guidance,” an RSS leader said.

The conclave took a decision to re-induct leaders like Madan Das Devi from the ABVP into the RSS to rectify the “imbalance”. However, it was decided that those “co-opted” by the BJP would not be touched. “They have been tainted by the smell and taste of power,” said a source.    


 
 
CROWN SITS EASY ON BATSMAN SOURAV 
 
 
FROM ARUP CHATTERJEE
 
Jamshedpur, March 12 
When Sachin Tendulkar stepped down as skipper, the entire nation and much of the cricket world heaved a sigh of relief because they believed Sachin the batsman had been salvaged.

While at the helm, every time he failed to put the runs on the board, it was blamed on the burdens of captaincy.

Now Sourav Ganguly is living with that legacy.

Wherever he goes the question follows: “Will the burden of captaincy affect your batting?” It came up today, even after an unbeaten 105 that guided India to a six-wicket win at the Keenan Stadium here and put the hosts 2-0 up in the five-game one-day series against South Africa.

“No, it’s not,” Sourav said for the hundredth time.

“No, I don’t feel irritated the question should be asked over and over again,” he later told The Telegraph. “It’s just that I don’t see it that way. I see captaincy as an honour, as everyone would. But I don’t feel any burden.”

On evidence of his first two innings as captain, he certainly doesn’t. They could even be read as early indications that his batting is thriving in the role.

If his quickfire 31 set the momentum for the big chase at Kochi, his innings here kept the Indians on course on a wicket where batting was difficult.

His captaincy, too, has been refreshing. While he still maintains that he “relies on his instincts”, his decisions have looked well thought out. It is nice to see a captain try and control the situation rather be a slave to it.

A case in point was the use of Rahul Dravid the bowler in Kochi. His bowling changes have also reflected this aspect of his captaincy.

His insistence that the asking rate should never get out of hand, even if a few wickets tumble, has been a change from situations where Indians have left themselves with too much to do at the end because they refused to take the calculated risk earlier.

Today’s knock was an example of how Sourav never allowed the fighting South Africans to get on top. Every time the visitors had a good phase, Sourav came out with the big shots — four sixes and 10 fours — to snatch the initiative back on a turning wicket.

Sourav appears to be always thinking of and making changes, often in consultation with senior members. But this is exactly why he and the team may suffer.

With frequent changes in the field, the over-rate is dropping dangerously. The Indians were well behind today and, as punishment, may well have had to score the 200 runs they needed for victory in less than their quota of 50 overs had Ajit Agarkar not taken the last South African wicket within the stipulated time.

But isn’t he worried that when his form does dip the “captaincy burden” question might become a cacophony?

“See, everyone has lean periods, and it’s no different with me. However, when it does come, if people say it’s because of the pressures of captaincy, it will be very sad,” says Sourav. “People should change their view.”

They will if he keeps playing the way he did today.    


 
 
MUM’S THE WORD AT MAURYA CLINTON 
 
 
FROM CHANDAN NANDY
 
New Delhi, March 12: 
Not a word is to be spoken about the US President and his entourage’s security arrangements at the Maurya Sheraton, as invisible bugging devices and the keen eyes of American Secret Service men are watching you. However, you can exchange written notes with your source or communicate with him in sign language.

No matter whether Bill Clinton stays at the Maurya, the techie hotel — it went cyber five years back — is in secure hands.

Even if it is for four days, the hotel has been turned into a makeshift office of the US Secret Service whose well-built, hawk-eyed sleuths are keeping a watch over every guest entering or leaving the lobby.

It is quite obvious even to the worst-informed guest that “powerful” Americans will be putting up at the Maurya. The crew-cuts on the casually-dressed, gaunt-faced young men — some lazing in the lobby with compact communications sets tucked away at their hips or passing and receiving instructions through minute gadgets fixed on the ear pinna or around their wrist — make it amply clear that they belong to the Secret Service, are on duty and alert.

The Secret Service virtually “took over” the Maurya Sheraton and Towers last Monday. About 25 to 30 sleuths, accompanied by 50-odd other US officials, moved in with the huge security paraphernalia and settled into some of the rooms.

They got busy with putting in place the security drill soon enough. From day one, there has been a series of “security coordination” meetings with Indian security service and counter-intelligence officers from the Intelligence Bureau, Research and Analysis Wing and the Delhi police’s Special Branch. These meetings usually take place at the Kamal Mahal, the hotel’s largest hall for hosting large corporate meetings.

“Sanitising” the hotel complex, including guests’ rooms and office chambers, was top-most on their agenda.

The American special agents are calling the shots and the Indian “experts” do their bidding. “You know how the Americans are. They will never leave anything to chance or to us. Every conceivable security detail for preventing any unsavoury incident is being put in place and several alternatives have also been planned and put into effect as well,” an Indian security official said.

Indian security agents are putting their best foot forward and, as one official put it candidly, “learning a great deal from the experience”. One of the lessons learnt is to keep their mouths shut and maintain a deadpan face when approached by reporters. Sources insist that even discussions in hushed tones is “out of question” lest they are “heard” by well-placed electronic transmitters.

So a reporter writes his queries and his source replies in writing, but only in a distant room. And when it is too sensitive a piece of information, sign language is involved, as numerous minuscule but powerful listening devices or “bugs” are believed to have been installed all over the hotel to “eavesdrop” on conversations which have a bearing on the US President’s security or have the potential to compromise the arrangements. Once the information is exchanged, the sheets of paper are destroyed.

The CCTVs are conspicuous by their absence, but sources believe they will be installed in select parts of the hotel few days before the US delegation checks in. “A great amount of equipment has been brought over and more is likely to follow. These are being installed. At the moment, the Secret Service men are looking around, running over hotel plans, checking every possible nook and corner. On Friday, sniffer dogs were brought in,” a source closely observing the US sleuths said.

No employee of the hotel has been taken into confidence by the Secret Service special agents, at least not on their plans. They, however, do not mind as “requests” are made politely. But everyday, a fresh copy of the guest list is made available to the Americans who go through it thoroughly, looking for suspect names and addresses.

Whenever guests vacate rooms, the Secret Service men move in and “sanitise” them, turning over carpets, looking for suspect objects in the wardrobes and the toilets and scanning the furniture and beds. “I am sure they are not bugging the guests rooms or the telephones in them as well,” a hotel employee said, the hint of a naughty smile playing on his lips.    


 
 
STUDENT DIES OF ‘PUNISHMENT’ 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, March 12 
Prosenjit Mondal, a student of Class-II in Bishnupur Siksha Sangha of South 24-Parganas, died today after being “punished by his teacher”.

According to the boy’s parents, Prosenjit was ordered to stand in the school grounds, under the blazing sun, by teacher Aloka Murmu, on Friday, after he failed to answer some questions. After an hour, the boy collapsed.

The teacher then brought Prosenjit into the classroom and made him stand on the bench. After some time, the boy passed out and fell, hitting his head against the corner of a bench.

Prosenjit was then taken back to Dinabandhu Hostel where his condition steadily deteriorated.

“My elder son, who stayed in the same hostel, was a witness to the tragedy. Despite his repeated requests, the school did not arrange for my son’s treatment,” said father Balaram Mondal.    


 
 
CALCUTTA WEATHER 
 
 
 
 
Temperature:
Maximum: 33.2°C (-1)
Minimum: 24.4°C (+3)
RAINFALL: Nil
Relative humidity:
Maximum: 93%,
Minimum: 57%
Today:Partly cloudy sky. Possibility of development of thunderclouds towards afternoon or evening. Slight rise in maximum temperature. Not much change in minimum temperature.
Sunset: 5.41 pm
Sunrise: 5.52 am    
 

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