Laloo hunt for portfolios after pleasing all
Militants gunned down near massacre village
Bollywood spread thrills Bill
Cyberabad drops beauty mask
Team to probe Sikh carnage

 
 
LALOO HUNT FOR PORTFOLIOS AFTER PLEASING ALL 
 
 
OUR BUREAU
 
March 25 
Laloo Yadav did a Kalyan Singh on Bihar today, inducting 80 ministers into Rabri Devi’s government.

With this, the ministry becomes the state’s biggest ever with 82 members.

There was talk of three more ministers joining the jumbo council, but two Congress MLAs were reportedly unhappy at not being given Cabinet berths. A woman legislator, invited to join the ministry, could not make it to the oath-taking. Sources said Laloo had no choice other than accommodating most of the MLAs. He had to keep the RJD flock happy, whom he rewarded with 56 ministerial berths. The Congress, with 23 MLAs, had got the Speaker’s post before. The other 22 were offered ministerial positions.

Pradip Kumar Balmuchu and Abdul Jalil Mastan did not accept the offer, but the remaining 20 Congressmen have joined.

Over the past few days, Laloo held a number of meetings with Congress leaders in Delhi. The Congress had its own compulsions. To hold its flock together, it needed its MLAs to be given ministerial posts. Even the seven members of the Legislative Council have been promised chairpersons’ positions at different corporations.

The Congress had been insisting on transparent governance and wanted to bring over technocrats. But it was later decided that ministers’ positions will go to politicians, while technocrats will brought over in advisory capacity. Among its MLAs, the Congress has three doctors, two chartered accountants and three engineers.

The portfolios have not been distributed, however. Laloo will go ahead once he knows the Congress high command’s views. The RJD chief may go over to Delhi in a day or two to discuss the portfolios. He has to do some tightrope-walking, as RJD legislators are also looking out for good posts.

The jumbo council will help Laloo prevent the NDA from encroaching into his territory. Soon after the polls, the Congress Legislative Party had appeared ready to split. The huge Cabinet has warded off the threat for the time being.

To strengthen his side further, Laloo has invited five Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) MLAs to join the government. BSP chief Kanshi Ram has not made up his mind on the subject and is scheduled to meet Laloo in Patna on Monday.

Chief minister Rabri Devi confirmed this and said she will opt for further expansion as soon as the BSP makes up its mind.

Of the 82 ministers, 39 have been given Cabinet rank. All of the 80 ministers inducted today — Rabri Devi and the parliamentary affairs minister Ramachandra Purve had been sworn in earlier — were administered their oath of office this evening by Governor V.C. Pande at the Patna Raj Bhavan. Four Independents who came over to Laloo’s side have also been included. Another Independent, Joba Manjhi, will take her oath later.    


 
 
MILITANTS GUNNED DOWN NEAR MASSACRE VILLAGE 
 
 
FROM MUKHTAR AHMAD AND AGENCIES
 
Srinagar, March 25 
Five foreign militants, suspected to be involved in the massacre of 36 Sikhs in Anantnag, were killed in a shootout with security forces early this morning. The gunbattle, in the heights of Pathribal Panchathal near the site of Monday night’s carnage, continued through the day.

The violence spiral claimed more lives as militants shot dead five members of a Muslim family in a village near Udhampur late last night.

Chief minister Farooq Abdullah announced in the Assembly that all the militants killed in the gunbattle were in combat uniform and had a hand in the attack on Chatti Singhpur village, 70 km from here. The bodies of the five terrorists have been recovered.

Five rifles, two wireless sets and five grenades were recovered from the militants’ hideout which was blasted by the security forces. Pathribal is located nine km from Chatti Singhpur.

Inspector-general of police, Kashmir, Ashok Bhan said the operation was launched following a tip-off from Mohammad Yaqoob Wagey, a local youth who is believed to have taken part in the killings. Wagey was arrested on Thursday.

The youth informed the police that 16 militants — 10 foreigners and six locals — took part in the massacre.

The security forces, comprising personnel from the Jammu and Kashmir police and Rashtriya Rifles, launched the operation around dawn.

They cordoned off the house where the terrorists were hiding and began firing. The militants retaliated, forcing the securitymen to blast the house.

While Rashtriya Rifles troops were led by Brig. Deepak Bajaj, the Kashmir police team was commanded by senior superintendent of police, Anantnag, Farooq Khan.

Sources said that Wagey, who belonged to Chatti Singhpur, revealed to the police that a gang of terrorists, mostly foreign mercenaries from the Pakistan-based Hizbul Mujahideen and Lashkar-e-Toiba, was involved in the killings.

The assailants were led by Saifullah of the Hizbul Mujahideen and Lashkar’s Abu Mahaj.

Wagey, who owned a medical store before joining militancy, revealed that the gang members, wearing military fatigues, divided themselves into two groups and rou