BJP targets statute ‘fraud’ to silence Sonia
Cong guns for ‘puppet’ PM
Hospital hurdle to betting probe
Jaswant Jodhpur date with Cook
George, Malik at odds on build-up
Govt firm on Sankhya Vahini
After BJP, Sangh puts Advani on pedestal

 
 
BJP TARGETS STATUTE ‘FRAUD’ TO SILENCE SONIA 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, April 14 
Even as Sonia Gandhi attacked the Centre for reviewing the Constitution on B.R. Ambedkar’s birth anniversary, the BJP tried to turn the tables on its rivals, alleging that both the Congress and the Left had perpetrated the “constitutional fraud” of 1976 which left its basic structure “deformed”.

BJP vice-president Jana Krishnamurthy launched his party’s counter-offensive, saying the Congress’ “hysterical reaction would ultimately boomerang on it.”

Krishnamurthy released a 44-page “fact sheet” explaining the BJP’s “position” on the review and also to remind the Congress that it was “living in a glass house”.

The booklet cited the imposition of Emergency by Indira Gandhi, slamming it as the most outstanding example of how the Congress had “injured” the statute’s basic fabric.

“She first clamped the draconian regime ... in June 1975. Then, to get a two-thirds majority in both Houses of Parliament in support of the ... rule, members belonging to most Opposition parties were put under detention and then the amendments were approved,” the booklet said. It pointed out that the only party to enjoy “freedom” when the “whole nation was turned into a prison” was the Communist Party.

The document quoted journalist-turned-Rajya Sabha MP Kuldip Nayar to make the point that Indira Gandhi introduced and passed a Bill within just three hours to retrospectively invalidate the Allahabad High Court judgment disqualifying her.

“Today, the same Congress party wants a free, fair and thorough discussion on constitutional review,” the booklet said.

Falling back on statistics, the factsheet pointed out that of the 79 constitutional amendments so far, 69 were passed by Congress regimes, while 58 Bills were introduced when the Gandhi-Nehru family headed the government.

The BJP also recalled a May 1976 AICC resolution in which a committee under Swaran Singh was formed to study and amend the statute.

The resolution reportedly said: “Nothing can be sacrosanct which is not able to meet the challenges of changing times squarely. The Congress, therefore, urges that our Constitution be thoroughly re-examined in order to ascertain if the time has not come to make adequate alterations to it so that it may continue as a living document......”

The party also quoted Indira Gandhi as saying: “We do not accept the dogma of the basic structure.” Another leader, Vasant Sathe’s reported observation was: “The Supreme Court has not defined what the basic structure is.”

At pains to emphasise that it has no “hidden agenda” in reviewing the Constitution, the BJP said: “As a matter of fact, our system of parliamentary democracy has so many effective checks and balances that no party or coalition in power can, even if it wants to, have a ‘hidden agenda’ to change the Constitution arbitrarily.”

Pointing out that the NDA — which does not have a two-thirds majority in either House — had to depended on the Opposition to push through even an ordinary amendment, the booklet slammed the Congress campaign as malicious.

“Is it not patently malicious to tell the people that the BJP has a ‘hidden agenda’ to alter the Constitution’s basic structure?” it asked. It also stressed that the Prime Minister and the review panel’s chairman had declared that they did not intend to alter the statute’s basic structure and that the Centre has given the commission a free hand without restricting it to a specific framework.    


 
 
CONG GUNS FOR ‘PUPPET’ PM 
 
 
FROM RASHEED KIDWAI
 
Nagpur, April 14 
Announcing the Congress party’s “total boycott” to the constitutional review panel, AICC chief Sonia Gandhi today sought an explanation from Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee over his failure to condemn the RSS chief K. S. Sudarshan over his alleged support to scrapping the Constitution.

She cited Pakistan’s example and said “flirting” with the Constitution would result in “instability and end of democracy”.

Addressing a mammoth rally in Nagpur which houses the RSS headquarters, Sonia launched a no-holds barred attack on the BJP and the Sangh parivar. Alleging that two were hand-in-glove with changing the Constitution as it was coming in the way of fulfiling the hindutva agenda. “I want to ask Vajpayee why he is not condemning RSS chief’s remarks about scrapping of the country. I know why he is not doing so. Because Vajpayee is a puppet in the hands of the RSS,” she said.

An unusually aggressive Sonia sought to totally identify the Congress with Ambedkar’s legacy. With an eye on Dalit vote bank, Sonia said: “Setting up a Constitution review panel is an insult to Ambedkar: and urged all to oppose it as a mark of tribute to former of Indian Constitution.

Sonia, under veiled leadership threat from within the Congress, attempted to re-establish the supremacy, proving that she was still a crowd-puller.

In her 20-minute speech, Sonia cautioned the BJP regime against “flirting” with the Constitution. She said the nation must learn from the neighbouring country, where the Constitution was frequently altered, leading to instability and undemocratic political set-ups. “What is the need? National crisis which is prompting the Vajpayee government to review the Constitution,” she asked. Recalling Ambedkar’s concluding remarks, she said: “Baba Sahib had said — a bad Constitution, if implemented by good persons, can deliver, and a good Constitution, if fallen into bad hands, can do no good to society.”

Claiming that it was a case of good Constitution in “wrong hands”, she said the BJP and Sangh were not comfortable with “secular, liberal. progressive and practical” Constitution drafted by Ambedkar and other stalwarts of the freedom struggle. “They have no clear mandate to do so,” she said. Without mincing words, Sonia wondered how the RSS be dubbed as nationalist organisation with no contribution in freedom struggle. “They do not even hoist the national flag on 15th August and 26th January.”

She said the Congress will fight for “Ambedkar’s Constitution” in every nook and corner of the country. “We will win this battle too like the one against the Gujarat and UP government forcing them to withdraw the circular which would have communalised the entire administration,” she said.    


 
 
HOSPITAL HURDLE TO BETTING PROBE 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, April 14 
The Delhi police’s investigation has virtually come to a standstill with Kishen Kumar evading arrest on health grounds. Several sheets of a detailed questionnaire are ready with the Delhi police. They have assembled all the points where Kumar can enlighten them and can, if he wants, provide them with further leads.

Sleuths forming part of the investigation team, said today since yesterday the case was virtually not making any progress at all. Because of Ram Navami earlier and Ambedkar’s birthday today, the offices have all remained closed. They have not yet been able to inquire about the several bank accounts of the Chawla brothers. Sanjeev Chawla, the principal suspect in the match-fixing deal, who stays in London, maintains more than one account in Delhi.

“The questionnaire we have prepared contains all the leads that have been given to us by Kalra. We are aware that Kishen, like others, will begin by initially denying all of them. But we can gradually break him down with conclusive proof of his involvement. We can question him in such a way that he would admit. But for that we need to have him in police custody,” said an officer linked to the investigation.

One can feel the tension on their faces because they are not being able to make out what kind of legal help Kishen is getting.

The Delhi police has several disadvantages as they build this case. They cannot threaten or use any method of interrogation remotely close to third degree while grilling any of these high-profile accused. They can only go on questioning the person for hours and gradually wear him out.

The Delhi police is now cursing its luck because of the number of public holidays during the current week and Good Friday coming next week. “These are days when a number of inquiries cannot be carried out and our boys, who know they have been put on a really big case, have to be kept idle.”

The international exposure to the case have forced the Delhi police to tread carefully and build up a foolproof case. They know the judicial system is slow and the men who have been booked or are expected to be booked, will take advantage of the slow process of the law to put one technical block after another. “We are prepared for that. We have corroborative evidence. What we need is more leads from men like Kishen Kumar. After all, we cannot hope to reach Sanjeev Chawla immediately.”

It is apparent that the Delhi police does not hope to make any further breakthrough during the next 48 hours. “The case will build up again from Monday. On Saturday and Sunday we shall only discuss issues with the teams returning from cities that had hosted the several South Africa-India matches,” said Ishwar Singh.    


 
 
JASWANT JODHPUR DATE WITH COOK 
 
 
FROM PRANAY SHARMA
 
New Delhi, April 14 
Foreign minister Jaswant Singh will have a tete-a-tete in the quiet settings of his ancestral home in Jodhpur with his British counterpart Robin Cook over the weekend to iron out differences before the two sides begin their official bilateral talks on Monday.

Cook, along with senior officials of the British foreign ministry, will arrive here tomorrow and is scheduled to visit Jodhpur to spend the weekend the same afternoon. During the recent Clinton visit, Singh had invited his “friend” and US deputy secretary of state Strobe Talbott to Jodhpur to play holi with him.

“In diplomacy, discussions in that kind of setting just cannot be duplicated,” a senior official of the Indian foreign ministry said, referring to the meeting between Singh and his British guest in Jodhpur. “For a warmer, personal touch in the relationship, senior leaders often choose such unusual settings,” he added.

The meeting between the two leaders will send a definite signal about the rapport Singh and Cook enjoy. For the British foreign secretary — as Cook is referred to in his country — this gesture from his Indian counterpart is more than welcome. His last visit here in May 1997, when he was accompanying Queen Elizabeth II, was a disaster.

His unwarranted comments on Kashmir and the hint of British mediation to solve the dispute between India and Pakistan evoked angry responses from the Indian leadership. The fact that he made these remarks in Islamabad, made it worse.

Then Prime Minister I.K. Gujral, who also held the external affairs portfolio, reacted by describing Britain as a “third-rate power”, ensuring that by the time Queen Elizabeth began the Indian leg of her tour, a thick cloud of mistrust hung over bilateral relations between Delhi and London.    


 
 
GEORGE, MALIK AT ODDS ON BUILD-UP 
 
 
 
April 14 
The defence establishment today sent out conflicting signals on the Pakistan build-up along Sir Creek, with minister George Fernandes describing Islamabad’s move as “defensive” and army chief V.P. Malik saying he had intelligence reports on aggression across the frontline in Kutch, reports our bureau.

In Calcutta, Fernandes sought to clarify his earlier statement on the movement of Pakistani troops in Sir Creek. “There has been ‘some movement’. This is the word I’d used earlier also which has been misinterpreted by the media,” the defence minister said.    


 
 
GOVT FIRM ON SANKHYA VAHINI 
 
 
 
Hyderabad, April 14 
Union minister for parliamentary affairs and information technology Pramod Mahajan said the Cabinet has not ordered any fresh review on Sankhya Vahini project inspite of objections raised by the RSS, reports our special correspondent.

At the end of his two-day visit to Hyderabad, Mahajan told reporters that the Cabinet had decided to involve the US-based IU.net and the DTS to establish a data network between educational institutions in the two countries.

“There is no security problem with the IU.net. I have not asked for any inquiry,” the minister added.

doc\rad14

   


 
 
AFTER BJP, SANGH PUTS ADVANI ON PEDESTAL 
 
 
FROM RADHIKA RAMASESHAN
 
New Delhi, April 14 
After BJP Today, it is the turn of Panchajanya, the Hindi mouthpiece of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), to shower accolades on home minister L.K. Advani while making only passing references to Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee in its latest issue.

As with the BJP Today, the Panchajanya paean to Advani was occasioned by the party’s 20th anniversary, which was seen as a time to “introspect” and see what was right and wrong with the Sangh’s political arm.

An article by editor Tarun Vijay stressed that the BJP was what it was today thanks to Advani and his Ram rath yatra. “If there is any single contributory factor responsible for the BJP’s growth and expansion and consolidation of its position as a national mainstream party, it was the rath yatra launched with the aim of creating a Ram rajya. The Ram rath, which travelled from Somnath to Ayodhya, shattered the myth of secularism on the one hand, and felt the political nerve of India accurately enough to translate its aspirations into reality.”

The article, Two decades of the BJP: From equality to the corridors of power, goes on to say that Advani’s subsequent yatras — like the Janadesh yatra, surajya yatra, swarn jayanti rath yatra — were used to expand the party’s sphere of influence and appeal. “It was certainly no miracle that the BJP increased its Lok Sabha seats from two (in 1984) to 182. And assuming a miracle had happened, it was only because of the BJP’s conviction that it would be a party which will not compromise on issues at the core of its belief,” it said.

The article said the issues were Hindutva (synonymous with “Bharatiyata” and “nationalism”), fighting corruption and infusing the administration with a sense of “Indianness”. “No doubt the BJP wanted to come to power, but it was clear it would not give up its character for power’s sake. The expectation from BJP leaders and members was that they would be disciplined because the unwritten understanding was they were in politics not to become ministers but give politics an India-centric shape, people who were free from the influence of linguistic, regional and caste divisions,” said Vijay. He goes on to ask: “The BJP, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary, should ask whether these issues have become pipe dreams?”

The Panchajanya editor assailed the BJP for giving Lok Sabha tickets to persons who have not served the organisation, rewarding “irresponsible and ineffective” MPs with ministerial berths and allowing hectic jockeying for “powerful and lucrative” ministries. The article advises the leadership not to brush aside these problems as mere “symptoms” of sudden growth and expansion.

He also asked the ministers to interact regularly with the party cadre and make gestures like personally answering the phone instead of cutting themselves off from the rank-and-file. He signed off with a crucial question on why the BJP put its trademark issues on the backburner after coming to power.

“After all, none of the issues was wrong. If today we say the issues are wrong, it will amount to disowning the last 50 years of our crusading history. Is this at all possible?”

Unlike the BJP Today, the Panchajanya, however, condescended to take note of the Vajpayee-led government and utter a note of approval or two. It said Vajpayee has raised the defence forces’ morale like never before and enhanced the country’s prestige by hosting President Bill Clinton.    

 

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