Salt Lake seat discord spurs CPM
Investors duped of Rs 5 crore, man held
Firemen receive water for petrol
Anxious SDF team visits Darjeeling
Former rebel leader in Manipur shot
Karimganj bandh to protest killing

Calcutta, June 10 
The CPM is trying to capitalise on the lack of unity between the BJP and Trinamul Congress over seat-sharing in the Salt Lake municipal elections, notwithstanding the Left Front’s ignominious defeat in the Panskura Lok Sabha bypolls.

Trinamul’s victory at Panskura has come as a morale-booster to the anti-CPM forces and may lead to polarisation of votes between the Left Front and the Trinamul-BJP combine in the township.

However, the lack of unity between the BJP and Trinamul may result in a split in the anti-left votes. Of 23 wards, the allies are fighting each other in 11.

The Congress, too, has fielded nominees in all the wards, but the party has hardly any support base, excepting in a few pockets.

In the first election held in 1995, the Left Front captured the board by winning 13 seats. The other 10 went to the Congress. Although the BJP did not win a single seat, the combined percentage of votes polled by the Congress and the BJP was 51.8 per cent, against the Left Front’s 44per cent.

The CPM was initially apprehensive of the possible fallout of a seat adjustment between the BJP and Trinamul. The Congress is not a factor, as most of its workers have joined Trinamul.

The CPM’s hope of retaining the municipal board rose with the BJP refusing to concede to Trinamul’s demands on seat-sharing. The Marxists, however, are worried about the fate of party candidates in some wards where dissidents are contesting the polls with the support of the Trinamul-BJP combine.

The dissidents, who are contesting under the banner of “Pratibadi Mancha” floated by South Dum Dum councillor Sujit Bose in ward numbers 9,15 and 23, have targeted Dilip Gupta, chairman, and Ila Nandi, wife of Amitabha Nandi, arch-rival of transport minister Subhas Chakraborty.

There are also some Independents backed by CPM dissidents in a few wards.

Another factor which will go against CPM nominees is the party’s bid to keep Subhas Chakraborty away from the election process. He had been instrumental in ensuring the Left Front’s victory last time, and his absence will harm the prospects of party nominees in a number of wards.

Trinamul and the BJP are blaming each other for the disagreement on seat-sharing. While BJP leader and minister of state for telecommunication Tapan Sikdar feels Trinamul’s attitude will help the CPM recapture the board, Arunabha Ghosh, Trinamul spokesman in Dum Dum, rejected the BJP’s claims, saying the party lacks support base.

For the CPM, development in Salt Lake is the main election plank. The party has been describing the Trinamul-BJP combine as “communal and terrorist forces” in the election campaign.

Trinamul chairman Pankaj Banerjee said his party was making a last bid to persuade the BJP to withdraw its nominees from some wards to put up a united fight against the CPM.    

Calcutta, June 10 
Dilip Nahata, 47, was arrested on Saturday for cheating more than 1,000 depositors of Rs 5 crore they had invested in a fund which his firm, Suraj Securities and Finance Company, had floated five years ago.

Nahata was picked up from his Southend Park residence, in south Calcutta. He had floated Suraj Securities and Finance in 1995, with its main office at Clive Row and a branch on Lalbazar Street, in front of the city police headquarters.

The firm issued advertisements offering a huge interest for short-term investments of a year.

The rate of interest was high enough to lure more than a thousand people to invest in the scheme. Nahata collected a whopping Rs 5 crore from the depositors within three years.

The short-term deposit began to mature in 1999 and depositors queued up for their returns at his office. But Nahata gave them the slip, pleading that he was going through a funds crunch.

When things threatened to spin out of control, he pacified the persistent depositors by giving fifty per cent of their money.

“He gave them half of their deposits and, in return, got them to put in writing that they had been paid in full,’’ police said.

Police said a former chief engineer of the West Bengal State Electricity Board, Pravat Sil, had deposited Rs 90,000 with the firm and was to get Rs 1.4 lakh on maturity. But when Sil went to collect his cheque, Nahata refused to pay. Sil appealed to the deputy commissioner of the detective department, Narayan Ghosh.

Police have not been able to interrogate Nahata as the court has remanded him in judicial custody. “He was produced in Bankshal Court on Saturday. We had asked for police custody so that detectives could recover the depositors’ money,’’ Ghosh said.    

Calcutta, June 10 
Calcutta Police has launched an investigation into the state fire services department’s allegation that a contractor of Indian Oil had supplied it 10,000 litres of water instead of petrol.

According to deputy commissioner of police, detective department, Narayan Ghosh, the officer-in-charge of the Central Avenue Fire Brigade office had lodged a complaint with the police on June 8. “They explored all channels before registering a complaint with the detective department,’’ Ghosh said.

The fire services minister, Pratim Chatterjee, said the department had lodged an inquiry into the incident. “The law will take its own course,’’ Chatterjee added. The fire services department has informed the Indian Oil authorities. “It was a private tanker and fire services department officials should have checked the oil before signing on the challan,’’ Chatterjee said.

The fire services minister said the department lost Rs 2.61 lakh in the deal. “It was a supply of 10,000 litres of petrol, which we discovered was water. The consignment was delivered after 6 pm, which is past the normal delivery time,’’ Chatterjee said.

“The contractor has been supplying oil for several years and so our officers there did not bother to check the quality of supply and simply signed the receipt,’’ he added.

The incident occurred on May 30. The department officials was surprised the next day when the consignment, delivered by a private tanker, was found to be water instead of petrol.

The detective department has started a case against the driver, khalasi and the owner of the truck. Sources said the Indian Oil authorities have suspended the licence of the transporter. Police said raids were conducted at several places but the owner and his other employees are absconding.    

Siliguri, June 10 
The Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF) is trying to win over Darjeeling after becoming embroiled in a controversy over its stand on the district in West Bengal.

Former chief minister Nar Bahadur Bhandari’s Sikkim Sangram Parishad (SSP), which is the main Opposition party in Sikkim, and the BJP have been campaigning against chief minister and SDF president Pawan Kumar Chamling. They have made a major issue out of Chamling’s reported threat to expel the people of Darjeeling living in Sikkim after the Gorkha National Liberation Front set up a unit there in April.

A six-member SDF team comprising Lok Sabha member Bhim Dahal, Rajya Sabha member Kalzan Gyatso, transport minister S.B. Subedi, former health minister D.P. Kharel, legal adviser O.P. Bhandari and party leader S.K. Pradhan visited Darjeeling district from Tuesday to Thursday to counter the Opposition’s campaign.

Dahal said, “Our objective is to clarify certain objectionable statements attributed to Chamling by the Opposition and some unscrupulous journalists who have nothing to do with Sikkim.”

He denied reports that Chamling threatened to expel people from Darjeeling working in Sikkim in his May Day speech and later at a public function in Gangtok. He clarified, “What the chief minister had said was that the Sikkimese should try to be more enterprising and should be able to run hotels, taxis and shops like others.”

Dahal refuted news reports which quoted Chamling as describing the GNLF as “a party of head-hunters.”

Some GNLF leaders had told the Chamling government not to run its vehicles in Darjeeling, which links Sikkim with the rest of the country, if it wanted to rob the people of Darjeeling of their bread.

Dahal accused Nar Bahadur Bhandari of instigating the media and the people of Darjeeling with distorted information. He added that his party would also ask the BJP high command to restrain its leaders in Sikkim.

In an apparent bid to keep the people of Darjeeling on his party’s side, Dahal also reiterated the SDF’s support to the demand for Gorkhaland.    

Imphal, June 10 
Award-winning Sahitya Akademi playwright Arambam Somorendra, who was also the founder general secretary of the outlawed United National Liberation Front (UNLF), was assassinated this morning at Khurai Salanthong .

An unidentified gunman shot dead the sexagenarian playwright while he was attending a seminar on “Women’s Shumang Leela in Manipur.” He is survived by his wife and four sons.

The gunman walked into the auditorium and fired at the 65-year-old former underground activist from point blank range. The assailant fled with an accomplice waiting outside on a scooter. Somorendra, who was rushed to the J. N. Hospital at Porompat, was declared “brought dead.” He was hit by two bullets from a Chinese-made M-20 pistol — one each on his face and shoulder, a police source said.

A post-graduate in military science from Pune University, Somorendra took an active role in forming the UNLF in 1964 and later became its chairman. He came overground in 1974 following an announcement of “general amnesty” by a Manipur People’s Party government headed by R. K. Dorendra Singh. Since then, he was living in his ancestral home at Sagolband Meino Leirak here.    

Silchar, June 10 
A 12-hour bandh called by three non-political organisations in protest against the murder of a local journalist’s wife disrupted normal life in Karimganj today.

Shops, banks and business establishments were closed while traffic remained off the road. Five youth, who blocked the tracks at the Karimganj railway station, were arrested by the police.

Thirty-five-year-old Kamdev Bhattacharjee, editor of a vernacular weekly and his mother were taken into police custody on Wednesday in connection with the alleged murder of the scribe’s wife Rubi Bhattacharjee.

District magistrate Longki Phancho clamped prohibitory orders under Section 144 in the district headquarters for an indefinite period.

MP remanded

BJP MP from Singhbhum Laxman Gilua was remanded in judicial custody for 14 days by the sub-divisional judicial magistrate’s court at Porahat in West Singbhum yesterday, reports our Jamshedpur correspondent. Gilua, who was wanted in connection with the murder of former Congress MP Vijay Singh Soye, appeared in court with his supporters yesterday and surrendered before the magistrate.    


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