Three RSS wise men to keep eye on Centre
Laloo gambit to slip through CBI dragnet
Sudarshan sniffs foreign plot
French make way for Bill
Chelsea on history tour

 
 
THREE RSS WISE MEN TO KEEP EYE ON CENTRE 
 
 
FROM RADHIKA RAMASESHAN
 
New Delhi, March 18 
The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has constituted an “informal” committee of three elders to coordinate with the Vajpayee government and the BJP.

The veterans are former sarsanghchalak Rajendra Singh, present chief K.S. Sudarshan and joint general secretary H.V. Seshadri.

RSS sources, however, said the main link would be Seshadri, who is shifting his base from Bangalore to Delhi.

Rajendra Singh would be moving to Mumbai for treatment, while in keeping with the RSS tradition, the new sarsanghchalak would work from the Nagpur headquarters.

The decision was taken in a meeting of the Sangh’s karyakarini samiti (working committee), held a few days after its pratinidhi sabha in Nagpur last week.

As the coordinator between the BJP-led government and the party itself, Sangh sources stressed Seshadri would keep a “low profile” and remain largely inaccessible to the media because of the “sensitive nature” of his assignment.

BJP sources welcomed Seshadri’s appointment. “He is a man of few words and rarely interferes in anybody’s work. But if and when he does, his word is law and cannot be challenged,” a leader said.

Sources said contrary to the perception that Sudarshan had scuttled Jaswant Singh’s appointment to place Yaswant Sinha as the finance minister instead during Atal Behari Vajpayee’s first tenure as Prime Minister, it was a phone call to Vajpayee from Seshadri that spoiled Singh’s chances.

Sangh sources, however, maintained that Sudarshan — who was earlier coordinating with the BJP and government — would not wash his hands of completely and remain aloof.

“It is not that he is going to shut his ears and not listen to a thing concerning the government,” said a source.

The other joint general secretary, Madan Das Devi, will be the coordinator for the Sangh’s front organisations, including the BJP. But it was clarified that he would only look after the organisational aspect of the BJP.

Mohan Madhukarrao Bhagwat, the second-in-command in the RSS, has been entrusted with the job of “mobilising human resources”.

It means beefing up the organisation and devising ways of increasing its members and containing the drop-out rate.    


 
 
LALOO GAMBIT TO SLIP THROUGH CBI DRAGNET 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Patna, March 18 
Bihar chief minister Rabri Devi is likely to seek anticipatory bail to stave off a possible arrest in a disproportionate assets case.

The Governor recently granted the CBI permission to prosecute the chief minister, who is a co-accused in the case along with husband Laloo Yadav.

Even as the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) threatened to launch a stir if the chief minister did not resign on moral grounds, the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) made it clear that it would launch a counter-offensive.

Laloo Yadav today announced that he would hold a mammoth rally of his supporters in Patna next month to inform them about the Governor’s fresh efforts to intimidate his government.

Laloo, who has been demanding the Governor’s ouster, said he would file another petition challenging Vinod Pande’s decision to grant sanction. “To prosecute any MLA, the investigating agency has to secure the Speaker’s nod. This was corroborated by the Supreme Court in course of our petition in 1996,” said Shivanand Tiwari, one of Laloo’s chief advisers.

The RJD chief has filed a caveat in the special court to get a forewarning on any of the CBI moves against Rabri Devi or himself. He will also prepare a case against the CBI challenging the “maintainability” of the case in question.

However, sensing a fallout of the CBI case, Laloo today postponed the expansion of his ministry. He said the size of the ministry would be announced after Holi. Party sources said the new ministers would take oath on March 22.

The RJD chief is awaiting response from nine Yadav MLAs belonging to the Janata Dal(United) and 10 Independent MLAs. Once they switch loyalty, the RJD might make an effort to shrug off the Congress support, the sources said. Asked about the Congress agreement, Laloo said he did not mind inducting technocrats in the ministry. “I have some technocrats in my party too. Why should I be afraid?” he asked.

The fresh move by the CBI and the sanction by the Governor raked up political controversy but in fighting the NDA, Laloo got the support of the Congress. Pradesh Congress Committee chief Chandan Bagchi said his party did not believe a chargesheet, if filed against a leader, could warrant his resignation. To counter the NDA, the RJD is also raising the case of L.K. Advani and Kalyan Singh who stuck to their office despite the chargesheet.    


 
 
SUDARSHAN SNIFFS FOREIGN PLOT 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, March 18 
Voicing his reservations on Bill Clinton’s visit, RSS chief K.S.Sudarshan today said he is apprehensive that “foreign powers” may try to assert their authority on “our sovereign land”.

Protesting against Clinton’s impending tour, Sudarshan said: “They are not bothered about our well being. Instead, they are keen on serving their own interest.”

Observers feel the RSS chief’s observations may intensify the subtle tussle between Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and the Sangh.

The RSS has been smarting since the Gujarat government had to withdraw its circular allowing government employees to participate in RSS programmes.

Sudarshan, who was on a two-day visit to the city, was addressing a meeting here to mark 300 years of the Khalsa Panth, organised by the Rashtriya Sikh Sangat.

“We should not sit idle when foreign powers are interfering in our internal matters and dictating policies,” he said.

“We are under attack from all fronts—cultural, economic, religious and historic. A Mahabharata is again on between the forces of evil and good,” he added.

Sudarshan lashed out at the Pope for his statements on spreading Christianity in Asia in the third millennium.

“The Pope was not allowed to visit China, Taiwan and Sri Lanka. But we welcomed him and he insulted our hospitality,” he added.

Criticising the Pope, Sudarshan said he did not subscribe to the view that salvation was possible only through Christianity.

The RSS chief said Sikhs were not different from Hindus.

He added that Guru Gobind Singh had created the Khalsa Panth 300 years ago to protect Hindu dharma.

“The confusion was created due to our ignorance to understand the differences between the two.

“Their panthas may be different but not their dharmas,” he said.

Sudarshan felt that Sikh gurus had sacrificed their lives for the cause of the country.

“We must follow the path shown by Sikh gurus to save the country from all sorts of evil.”

On his maiden visit here as RSS chief, Sudarshan will be given a reception at Wellington Square tomorrow where nearly 2500 swayamsevaks will assemble in regulation khaki shorts, white shirts and black caps.    


 
 
FRENCH MAKE WAY FOR BILL 
 
 
FROM CHANDAN NANDY
 
Jaipur, March 18 
Bill Clinton will have french fries for company but not the French.

Much to their chagrin, a group of 20 tourists from France, who had booked rooms at the Raj Vilas Oberoi Hotel here months before Clinton’s visit was scheduled, had to put off their trip to accommodate the President.

The French cancelled their bookings three days ago, but not without a fight. For a full week, they had steadfastly refused to give in to requests from the White House and the Indian foreign office to advance their itinerary and make way for the President.

Even the Oberoi management was not too keen that its foreign customers, who had booked as many as 40 rooms for March 22 and 23, should suffer. Clinton and his daughter Chelsea will put up at the Raj Vilas on those days.

The advance team of US security officials had insisted that it would be the Raj Vilas or nothing and wanted the entire hotel to be vacated. The management held its ground, saying it was committed to customers who had made their bookings nearly 10 months ago.

To break the deadlock, the US embassy in Delhi approached the foreign ministry which persuaded the Oberoi executives to “cooperate”. Worried South Block mandarins then took up the matter with their counterparts in Paris and requested them to prevail upon the French tour operator to defer the visit. Finally, on March 15, Raj Vilas agreed, but the hotel staff are unwilling to discuss the “unsavoury controversy”.

Work on putting in place Clinton’s security paraphernalia has begun as the luxury hotel — modelled on a medieval fort on 32 acres with verdant gardens, pools and fountains and traditional Rajasthani decor — gears up to welcome, in the five years since it came up, its most “powerful” guest.

Government officials disclosed that some minor structural changes have been made to help set up security apparatus. Guests are few and far between: most have checked out and the others have been asked to leave.

Securitymen, both American and Indian, stride in and out of the hotel, but the receptionists — the men in tie-and-dye turbans and kurta-pyjama suits; the women in ghagra-cholis — tap away unfazed on their IBM Thinkpads, settling payments with guests.

The Rajasthan administration is trying to put its best foot forward, though Clinton will not enter the city centre. From Sanganer airport, a chopper will take him to a helipad near Raj Vilas from where he will drive into the hotel. A fresh layer of metal and tar is being laid on Goner Road, off the Jaipur-Agra highway, overlooking the hotel.    


 
 
CHELSEA ON HISTORY TOUR 
 
 
FROM G.S. RADHAKRISHNA
 
Hyderabad, March 18 
Chelsea Clinton will take lessons in history in Chandrababu Naidu’s cyberstate which feels history has no future.

While her father is busy delivering lectures to political and corporate bosses, the 20-year-old First Daughter will be taken on a whirlwind tour of the city’s historical treasures.

Believed to be keen on Indian history and culture, Chelsea, who arrives here on March 24 along with the President, would already have learnt a thing or two, having visited Agra and Jaipur a day before.

Officials here confirmed that Chelsea has indicated that she wants to visit some of the city’s innumerable monuments as well as the Salarjung museum. She is expected to be taken to the city’s most well-known landmark, Charminar, the Lodhi tombs and the Golconda fort, besides some other relics of the past.

But Chelsea should not depend too much on the state government for historical gratification. Ruling that history has no future, the chief executive of Andhra.com has decided to toss all things obsolete into the dustbin. At least 50 of the over 170 colleges in the state have dropped history from their syllabi and introduced job-oriented courses like fashion technology and travel management.

Chelsea has also expressed her interest in going shopping. American security officials, who have set up base in the Grand Kakatiya Towers, are scampering to identify suitable areas for shopping.

The President, however, will miss the guided tour as he will remain in Cyber Towers at Hitec City for around two hours, where he will meet with infotech honchos like Azim Premji of Wipro and Infosys chief N.R. Narayanamurthy. He will also address a gathering of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII). Naidu will make an audio-visual presentation on Andhra as a destination for investment.

Clinton will later visit the Mahaveer Hospital near A.C. Guards where he will meet tuberculosis patients and also administer polio drops to children as part of the USAID programme for India. He will give the last dose of DOT, or direct observation treatment, to three children in the hospital — Chaityna, Adilaxmi and Tayyab Pasha. The three children complete the six-month course on March 24.

A team of US officials led by US ambassador Richard Celeste met Andhra chief secretary V. Ananda Rau yesterday to go through details of the visit. They also met the CII’s local representative, K. Harish, on the arrangements for the Cyber Towers meeting.    

 

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