Excess baggage in Rabri jumbo raj
Sangh bares teeth with epic war cry
Congress summons Laloo for seat talks
Ban orders on Clinton sites
One yardstick for Water, another for Gha

 
 
EXCESS BAGGAGE IN RABRI JUMBO RAJ 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Patna, March 16 
Rabri Devi sailed through the trust vote by snatching four Independents from Nitish Kumar’s flock amid heightening suspense over how large her ministry would be.

After biting the dust having failed to muster the numbers, Nitish received another jolt as the Independents crossed the floor just before the trust trial and reduced the NDA’s strength to 149. The RJD, which had earlier claimed the support of 162 MLAs — just enough for a majority — totted up 166 after a voice vote. Four CPI legislators voted against the government while the CPI(M-L) members abstained.

Having crossed the first hurdle, RJD chief Laloo Yadav will now have to find ways of satisfying all those who bailed out his government without ruffling the feathers of his own partymen. The four Independents who joined him today — Samresh Singh of Bokaro, Aditya Singh Hisua and Joba Majhi (both Jharkhand) and Vijay Sharma from North Bihar — have all demanded berths in the ministry.

“Not only the Congress, all the Independents, too, want ministries. Samresh Singh has demanded a Cabinet berth,” said an RJD leader.

Laloo, however, is unperturbed and he has indicated that Rabri’s ministry could be “Super jumbo” in size, larger than the previous one of 72 members.

“This time it may cross 100. But it has to be done to accommodate all MLAs and smaller parties. This is unavoidable in an era of coalition politics,” said a Congress leader. Besides Speaker Sadanand Singh, all 22 Congress legislators are believed to have asked for ministerial posts.

Stung by the last-minute crossover by the Independents, the NDA mounted an offensive on the Speaker who ruled that the trial would be carried out by a voice vote. BJP leader Sushil Modi opposed the move, saying a vote should be held to record who supported whom “keeping in mind the provisions of the anti-defection law”.

As Singh refused to budge, the belligerent NDA members marched up to the Well shouting slogans against him. Some women MLAs of the BJP offered him bangles, ridiculing his “tilt to the RJD”. The NDA members will move a no-trust motion against the Speaker and meet Governor Vinod Pande tomorrow to protest against Singh’s “undemocratic manners”.

Immediately after what he described as “a victory of the poor”, Laloo spoke to Sonia Gandhi. “I’m grateful for the support you extended to my party and the people of Bihar for ensuring political stability in the state,” he said.

Laloo also told her that his target now is Delhi where “the BJP will be overthrown and the Congress installed”.

The RJD chief announced that the government’s first task would be to demand the Governor’s removal. “There is no going back on that,” he said.

Nitish tried to put up a brave front. “It’s true that the Rabri Devi has won the numbers game by winning the trust vote. But she is yet to get the trust of the people. The mandate was against her,” he said.    


 
 
SANGH BARES TEETH WITH EPIC WAR CRY 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, March 16 
The RSS seems set to unmask its hardline, uncompromising face on Hindutva, going by new sarsanghchalak K.S. Sudarshan’s first interview to the Sangh mouthpiece, Organiser.

While Sudarshan was cautious in making a case for a “Hindu rashtra” — which he has advocated at various fora — at his press conference in Nagpur after taking over as RSS chief, and preferred to make loud noises on economic issues and globalisation, the Organiser interview has spelt out his Hindutva blueprint in clear terms.

He claimed the RSS would shortly present a “final and complete blueprint of an alternative concept of progress” based on the notion of a Hindu rashtra.

Referring to the Mahabharat, Sudarshan has predicted an “epic war” between “Hindus and anti-Hindus”, a “veritable Mahabharat in which sometime Abhimanyu will fall, sometime Ghatotkacha or it may be Jayadratha’s turn yet another day. As prophesied by Vivekananda and Mahatma Gandhi, this country’s honour is surely going to shine forth one day.”

This “moment of glory” was described as the moment in which the RSS’ concept of a Hindu rashtra will be created. The Hindu nation-state, according to Sudarshan, will be based on “dharma” and its identity will be enshrined in the concept of “one Motherland, one sanskriti (culture), common ancestry and heritage, and the unity in diversity. It is these three that constitute the national culture”.

His only concession to the minorities and the ethnic groups was the remark that “the mode of worship can differ from person to person”. In the RSS’ annual report for 1999-2000, released at the all-India delegates’ convention held recently in Nagpur, the Sangh interpreted “unity in diversity” was that even parties opposed to the traditional Hindu order had been co-opted into the national mainstream. Although the parties were not named, the “achievement” was mentioned in the context of the “inroads” made by the RSS in the south, particularly Tamil Nadu, where the Dravida parties had once rejected the worship of the Hindu pantheon of gods and goddesses, but now willingly consorted with the BJP, for whom Ram is an icon.

Sudarshan made it clear a “new code of conduct” had to be framed based on the Sangh’s “Hindu philosophy (chintan)”. “And what should be that code? Efforts are on in various forums to evolve a consensus code. Let there be an endeavour to bring forth a Hindu way of development.”

He termed the Ramjanmabhoomi as a “symbol of the nation as an edifice”. Referring to the shilanyas of the Ram temple in Ayodhya in October 1989, Sudarshan, in the interview, said: “The incident instilled a new-found confidence in the Hindus.” He said while this sense of “confidence” had led to the shaping up of a “new order”, “anti-Hindutva elements had ganged up in total disregard of this sublimation of society”.

But the RSS chief’s projection was that the “anti-Hindutva” forces were bound to be defeated. “It is going to be the last gasp of those haunted by the spectre of defeat. They have already anticipated it. In fact they are but fighting to lose,” warned Sudarshan.

Despite a palpable sense of disquiet within the RSS that its membership was dwindling as that of the BJP and other constituents like the VHP and ABVP was growing, Sudarshan claimed that during Rajendra Singh’s tenure the “pro-Hindutva” forces had “gained strength in every sphere of their activity”.    


 
 
CONGRESS SUMMONS LALOO FOR SEAT TALKS 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, March 16 
The Congress has asked Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Laloo Prasad Yadav to come here to finalise the nature and modalities of the coalition government in Bihar, after Rabri Devi won her confidence vote today.

The size of the Cabinet, the number of Congress ministers and their portfolios are expected to be finalised in the discussions with Laloo.

Congress leader Pranab Mukherjee today said “technocrats” would be inducted in the Cabinet but stressed they would be from Bihar as was mutually worked out by the Congress and the RJD in their Common Minimum Programme (CMP). Asked if former foreign secretary Muchkund Dubey was among the “technocrats” who would be taken in, he smiled and answered, “I also read about him in some papers”. Queried whether Dubey qualified as a “technocrat” since he was from the foreign service cadre, Mukherjee’s reply was, “I am not sitting to judge any individual.”

Congress sources said the party would hold a preliminary discussion on the ministry-making tomorrow after AICC general secretary in-charge of Bihar, Mohsina Kidwai and its trouble-shooter in the state, Ajit Jogi returned from Patna.

Expressing his satisfaction with the legislative victory in Bihar, Mukherjee said he hoped that Governor V.C. Pande would “draw some lesson and understand that his judgment was wrong”. “He should have left it to the floor of the House by inviting the single largest party to form the government. Otherwise he should have invited the prospective chief minister after obtaining the letters of support,” he said.

He added that Rabri’s win had proved “secular forces stood united against the communal forces”.

However, the BJP today predicted that the RJD-Congress coalition would be a short-lived one. BJP spokesman M. Venkaiah Naidu said: “The RJD-Congress combination is not a natural one. They fought bitterly against one another. The CMP means nothing because Laloo won’t care to hear anything. For him it is patti or sati.”

He asserted that there was a “barbed wire fence” facing the Bihar government. He said the NDA would sit in the Opposition and “highlight the Bihar people’s problems”. “The NDA is ahead of the Congress-Left combine in the Assembly,” he said.

In the Rajya Sabha, jubilant RJD MPs today demanded the immediate recall of Pande. Shortly after the House assembled for the post-lunch session, RJD members said as Rabri had proved her majority, the Governor had “erred” in inviting NDA leader Nitish Kumar in the first place.

The MPs also demanded that Home Minister L.K. Advani should make a statement in the House on the entire episode. The Rajya Sabha had held a brief discussion on Pande’s conduct this week, and Advani rejected the Opposition’s demand to recall him. He said the evidence placed by the Governor before him proved there was neither haste nor partisanship on Pande’s part.    


 
 
BAN ORDERS ON CLINTON SITES 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT AND AGENCIES
 
Hyderabad, March 16 
The Andhra Pradesh government today clamped ban orders on areas to be visited by President Bill Clinton as three US air force transport planes touched down with security equipment.

In an effort to keep away protesters, the government imposed Section 144 in and around locations Clinton is scheduled to visit during his five-hour stay in the city on March 24. The move coincided with a vociferous all-party meeting called by chief minister Chandrababu Naidu to discuss arrangements and persuade the Left parties not to hold demonstrations during Clinton’s visit.

The President is expected to spend at least a couple of hours at Hitec City, where he will be given an official reception. He will also address a meeting of top industrialists and corporate captains. Later, Clinton is expected to visit a hospital funded by American agencies.

US officials have already toured the city to check security details. Late last night, the cargo planes landed at Begumpet airport carrying at least 50 officials and loads of equipment and material ranging from cutlery and linen to a 12-seater helicopter to be used by Clinton.

Among the convoy of trucks and cars was a black vehicle with a dome and antennae, described as a “jammer”, and another black one carrying a power generator. Besides, the Americans transported two radars, three bullet-proof black limousines and tinned food.

The equipment, packed in a number of boxes, was unloaded by the US personnel themselves without the help of locals. They were taken to the Grand Kakatiya Towers, which will be used as the communication and monitoring centre. The government has sealed the hotel for outsiders.

As the administration beefed up security, the all-party meeting turned uproarious with the Congress alleging that Naidu had violated the Constitution and protocol by directly inviting Clinton to visit Hyderabad.

“By side-stepping the Union government, the chief minister has shown disrespect to the rule of law and violated the Constitution,” Congress legislature party secretary M.V. Mysoora Reddy said. The Left lashed out at the move to impose prohibitory orders, describing it as “undemocratic”. While the government said any form of protest during the “historic” trip would dent the image of the state, the CPM argued its right to protest should be protected. “Since the President’s visit is intended to internationalise Kashmir and pressure India into signing the CTBT, it is detrimental to the country’s interests,” state secretary B.V. Raghavulu said. Even Clinton, he added, had allowed protests against the WTO summit in Seattle.

The Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen slammed the government for cracking down on the city’s beggars who have been rounded up and sent to NGO-run homes. “Instead of such temporary action, the government should create permanent schemes for their rehabilitation,” said Majlis leader Assaduddin Owaisi.

The government, however, is determined to ensure that the visit is hitch-free. “We will not allow even a peaceful agitation,” said finance minister Y. Ramakrishnudu.    


 
 
ONE YARDSTICK FOR WATER, ANOTHER FOR GHA 
 
 
FROM ANAND SOONDAS
 
Lucknow, March 16 
Uncertainty hangs over the fate of the Sunny Deol-starrer Ghadar, parts of which were to be shot at the Bara Imambara here on March 13. Shia groups had stalled the shooting, claiming it would violate the “sanctity” of the holy place. The community has also accused the administration of double standard, saying it is ambiguous on Ghadar while it stopped Deepa Menta’s Water from being shot in Varanasi saying it would be a threat to law and order. “There will be no shooting at the Imambara,” Al-Gadir Foundation chairman Shabbir Ahmed said. “We are against anything that is anti-Islam and falls outside the domain of our religion. How can there be singing and dancing inside a holy place?” he asked. The minority groups — which harbour reservations on the storyline as well, which depicts a Muslim woman falling in love with a Brahmin boy — warned that the situation could go out of hand if permission for Ghadar’s shooting at the Bara Imambara was granted. Asked if he was against the film’s subject, Ahmed said he had reservations on that count too, but the protest was not against the film per se. “They can go to Mumbai and create a set of the Imambara, but here, no way,” he said. Leading the agitation, Shikoh Azad, general secretary to the royal family of Avadh, said the government should be clear about the film and end the controversy. Azad said he would wait till the Id festivities were over and then decide on the course of action. He gave the administration March 21 as deadline. Warning that “if the administration has to run the state in a peaceful manner, it will have to listen to us”, Azad said it was unfortunate that the sentiments of Shias were not being respected by the government, especially after it came down so heavily on Water. Echoing Azad, Ahmed said there would be a protest at the national level if Ghadar was allowed to be shot in the Imambara. Shias, anxious that “Bara Imambara’s sanctity would be destroyed”, had staged a protest at the holy site on March 11, maintaining they would immolate themselves if shooting for Ghadar was allowed. District magistrate Sanjay Agarwal had earlier given permission “with certain conditions” for the film’s shoot after he had been assured by the Imam-e-juma of the Asifi Masjid in Bara Imambara, Maulana Kalbe Sadiq. The move, however, backfired as a section of the more vocal Shias immediately cried out that the Maulana’s voice was not the voice of the community. Prominent Shia clerics like Maulana Agha Roohi and Maulana Syed Zafar made their stand clear on the issues, saying on no condition would the film’s shooting be allowed inside the Imambara. Rubbishing claims that Shia opinion on the issue was divided, Azad maintained that not only the Shias, but also the Sunnis were supporting the anti-Ghadar movement. Producer Nitin Keni, however, seems to have taken the safe approach. On his visit to the city last week, he maintained that he would go by what the administration decides and said the film could not afford a controversy and he did not want it to go the Water way.    
 

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