PM in dilemma over reshuffle
Italian marble, desi decor for Clinton
Atal parries Sudarshan punch
Young police officer found dead
Calcutta weather

 
 
PM IN DILEMMA OVER RESHUFFLE 
 
 
BY DIPTOSH MAJUMDAR
 
March 13 
Atal Behari Vajpayee today said he would soon fill up vacancies in his Cabinet but refused to specify whether he would go in for a reshuffle.

“There are some vacancies in the Cabinet. They will be filled up shortly,” was all the Prime Minister was willing to tell reporters on his flight back from Mauritius.

Vajpayee will find it tough putting off the expansion much longer as many top BJP parliamentarians are waiting in the wings. But filling up the slots will be tougher because the agriculture and steel and mines portfolios —- vacated by Nitish Kumar and Naveen Patnaik —- were held by the Samata Party and the Biju Janata Dal. Neither is likely to put the BJP’s claim ahead of its own.

The only vacant slot that he can happily allot to the BJP is tourism, of which Uma Bharti was junior minister with independent charge.

Moving on to state politics, the Prime Minister insisted the National Democratic Alliance had not exactly suffered a setback in Bihar. Nitish Kumar had been invited first to form the government, he said, but was unable to keep the crown. But “democracy has triumphed”, Vajpayee said, adding that the political scenario was hazy and it was difficult to predict how long the Rabri Devi government would last.

The Prime Minister also insisted that Gujarat’s rollback of the RSS circular was in no way a slap in the face of the government. Appearing fully prepared to speak up for his government, Vajpayee said the perception of a setback was “a matter of opinion” and “we don’t regard it as one”.

He also appeared armed to defend R.P. Gupta’s government in Uttar Pradesh, against which there have been rumblings and a clamour for leadership change in BJP ranks. Claiming that the party’s bypoll results were good, Vajpayee said: “Our popular support has gone up.” But he conceded that there was need for the state government to work harder and better.

The Prime Minister was less forthcoming when asked if Bill Clinton’s visit would change US perception of Kashmir. He said the Americans looked upon Kashmir as “disputed territory”, and were unlikely to shift from the stand they had held so long.

Though Vajpayee maintained that the RSS rollback had not embarrassed the government, he conceded that “our friendly parties did feel strongly. But they would not have destabilised the government at the Centre.”

The Telugu Desam and DMK had been hesitant about supporting the government on the RSS issue, and was one of the reasons why the government did not want a House discussion under Rule 184. But Vajpayee confidently said: “Our allies would have voted for the government in case there was a vote.”

On rollback of subsidies on food supplied through the public distribution system and fertilisers, Vajpayee was non-committal. He said the picture would become clearer when the finance Bill was passed, implying that the demand by the Desam and Trinamul, if at all, would not be met immediately.

The finance Bill will be passed only after the Lok Sabha reconvenes for the second half of the budget session in mid-April. This gives the Centre over a month to convince allies.    


 
 
ITALIAN MARBLE, DESI DECOR FOR CLINTON 
 
 
FROM NANDITA ROY
 
New Delhi, March 13 
The presidential suite on the 16th floor of the Maurya Sheraton is ready to host the most powerful man in the world.

The Chandragupta Suite on the 16th floor has gone in for a quick makeover, hoping Bill Clinton will check in on March 19. The suite now sports a brand new look with a colour scheme that has changed to rich browns, blue-green touches and beiges and a peacock blue carpet.

A striking change in the decor is the addition of Italian marble. The floors, door lintels and other features sport a distinctive stone finish — a cross between brown and mottled moss green.

All this for a cool Rs13-14 lakh. The published rate for a night’s stay at the suite is around Rs 38,000. The suite, though due for renovation, was put through a lightning overhaul after Clinton’s tour of India was formally announced.

Anchored by Mumbai-based interior designer Kiran Patki, the suite has been recreated with three bedrooms, a sitting room with an alcove for a study, a separate dining room and a kitchenette.

Earlier, the suite had been furnished in orange-and-green printed silk and it had two bedrooms, a large sitting and dining area, a kitchenette and a study leading out from the living room.

Along with Patki, Sita Nanda and assistant Anjali Maini of Design Workshop have pitched in to create a new look for the suite.

The sitting area has intricately carved chairs, glass-topped coffee tables with ornate legs and sofas with large stuffed cushions. The sofas have a beige fabric and the silk curtains have woven stripes in honey brown and aqua. The quilted silk bedcovers are in soft shades of mushroom and stone gray.

A painting based on ancient monuments by Delhi artist Kavita Nayyar has browns and touches of orange. The lamps on the side tables have cut glass bases.

The designers have handpicked different artefacts to give an Indian touch to the decor. Huge antique metal cow-bells that echo with a chime when rung, an ornate temple lamp, an antique stone head have been added.

For the first time, terrace gardens have been attached to each bedroom which also have wall paintings. On one wall hangs Kashmiri artist Zargar Zahoor’s painting in yellow dots.

The study has a carved desk and a chair. The writing surface is in green leather embossed with gold with green leather upholstered armchair and padded back. Apart from a fax machine and telephones, the desk drawers have Chandragupta Suite letterheads with Clinton’s name embossed on them.

The dining room has a Manjula Padmanabhan painting of foliage, facing a six-seater glass-topped round table with chairs upholstered in striped fabric. The room has a crystal chandelier and the walls have mirrors with ornate frames.

While security concerns have prevented a formal announcement on where Clinton will stay, sources in the hotel said they are confident that Maurya would be chosen.

Whether he stays there or not, the hotel is all dressed up for the President.    


 
 
ATAL PARRIES SUDARSHAN PUNCH 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, March 13 
If new Sangh chief K. Sudarshan threw some hard punches at his media debut after taking over, Atal Behari Vajpayee chose to duck and feint in his first public reaction to the attack on his government’s economic policies.

Speaking on the flight back from Mauritius after midnight (India time), the Prime Minister parried questions on Sudarshan’s assertion that the government would have to change its economic advisors and do much more to remove economic inequalities.

First, he blocked queries by claiming that there was “disparity” between what Sudarshan said and what appeared in the media. Then he said aspects of “Gandhian thought” had been included in the national agenda. Sudarshan had said Gandhian economists should form part of Vajpayee’s economic think-tank.

The Prime Minister said his government did not “act under pressure” from anyone while formulating its economic policies. He was not referring to “pressure” from the Sangh. It was more an assurance to the RSS that his government did not take orders from the US. “Kisike dabao mein aakey na karte hai, na karenge,” Vajpayee said.

It was quite a coincidence that the theme of Vajpayee’s address at the University of Mauritius and Sudarshan’s news conference highlighted economic inequality. There is no reason to suspect this was a planned move. The Prime Minister’s Office obviously had no inkling of what Sudarshan would say. And Vajpayee’s doctorate-acceptance speech was written long ago and appeared to have been timed crucially 10 days before the arrival of President Bill Clinton.

Asked whether his relationship with the RSS may worsen after the change of guard, he asserted: “Don’t worry. Our relationship will be good.”

In his speech on Saturday, Vajpayee had launched a harsh attack on globalisation, saying it had only widened economic disparities. But, last night, he was more circumspect, giving the impression that he was trying to tell its critics that globalisation was inevitable.

The Prime Minister said: “The process of globalisation cannot be changed entirely.”

He was quick to add though that some aspects of globalisation needed careful consideration. But the implicit suggestion that India would not turn its back on the world to seek shelter in Gandhian economic philosophy — as Sudarshan appeared to recommend — did come through. But this was all the hint Vajpayee gave of disagreement with Sudarshan. He was careful not to underline it.

His attack on “mindless” globalisation, the assertion that Gandhian thought had found place on the national agenda and the statement that he was not acting under external pressure were all reflections of a Vajpayee trying to build, and not burn, bridges.    


 
 
YOUNG POLICE OFFICER FOUND DEAD 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, March 13 
A 25-year-old sub-inspector hanged himself early this morning after penning a note in which he advised his brother not to take up a career with the police.

Arindam Bhowmick was found hanging from the ceiling in his quarters near the Thakurpukur police station to which he was attached. Police suspect Arindam’s death is a case of suicide but are waiting for the post-mortem report before reaching a conclusion.

Arindam wrote that no one was responsible for his death. He advised his brother against joining the service, police said. Additional superintendent of police (industrial) S.N. Gupta confirmed having seen the note but Arindam’s family did not say if they had seen it.

The body was spotted by one of Arindam’s colleagues. As the news spread, policemen and local people rushed to the police station. The police quarters were cordoned off. “Arindam had informed his friends that he was going to take leave on March 27. The suicide simply does not sound logical,” a relative of the sub-inspector said.

Arindam’s father, B.K. Bhowmick, a physician attached to NRS Hospital wept uncontrollably. “Arindam was my eldest son. He was a good student and an adventurer. He liked to trek in the mountains. This was his third job. He thought he would make a career in the state police. He joined the Thakurpukur police station only eight months ago. Why should he commit suicide?” he wailed.

Officer-in-charge of the Thakurpukur police station Kalyan Kumar Moitra was also in a state of shock after losing a colleague who was with him during raids just hours ago. “Till 2 am, we raided several hideouts of criminals. But, Arindam never showed any sign of defeat or frustration,” he said.

A pall of gloom shrouded Arindam’s residence on Creek Lane near Sealdah. “Arindam was a brilliant student. He may have joined the police for a better career but long and strenuous duties must have depressed him from time to time. Moreover, he was posted in an area where the crime rate is high,” a relative said.

Moitra said Arindam’s body was found in a peculiar posture. “He was kneeling with the rope straining round his neck,” he said.

Arindam’s relatives were still suspicious of the circumstances of his death. “He had returned to his quarters at dawn on Monday. How could the police discover his body and inform his parents so late in the day?” a relative asked.

Gupta, said investigations will be determined by the findings in the autopsy report.    


 
 
CALCUTTA WEATHER 
 
 
 
 
Temperature: Maximum: 33.5°C (-1) Minimum: 25.6°C (+5) RAINFALL: Trace Relative humidity: Maximum: 89%, Minimum: 61% Today: Partly cloudy sky. Possibility of development of thunderclouds towards afternoon. Not much change in maximum or minimum temperature. Sunset: 5.41 pm Sunrise: 5.50 am    
 

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