Rajesh Pilot dies in car crash
PM anxious to put end to ministersí gift raj
Poetry outpour from victorís pen
Search for Advaniís Solomon

New Delhi, June 11 
Senior Congress leader Rajesh Pilotís promising career came to an abrupt and tragic end when his jeep collided with a bus in his Lok Sabha constituency Dausa, 90 km from Jaipur.

Pilot was rushed to the SMS Medical College Hospital in Jaipur, but succumbed to injury. The body is being flown to the capital tonight for cremation tomorrow.

The former Indian Air Force pilot-turned-politician suffered multiple injuries on his head, chest and face when his jeep collided head-on with a Rajasthan Road Transport bus at 4.45 pm. Pilot was to catch a Jet Airways flight to Delhi this evening.

Sources said Pilot was himself driving the jeep. A former minister for internal security, Pilot was earlier given Z+ security which was recently downgraded. There was no talk of any foul play but newspapers received an anonymous fax late at night pointing an accusing finger at a controversial godman.

Mahant Sewa Dass Singh, president of Pheruman Akali Dal, demanded a probe into events leading to the accident. ďThis is not a simple accident. His security was down-graded very recently despite threats to his life,Ē he said. The mahant was a key witness before the Jain Commission which also probed Rajiv Gandhiís assassination.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi rushed to Jaipur on a special flight which also carried Pilotís widow, Rama.

A huge crowd of Pilotís supporters thronged the hospital as news of his death broke. Many of them were in tears.

A pall of gloom descended on Pilotís 10 Akbar Road residence in Delhi. Politicians cutting across parties, relatives and friends rushed to his house, but there was no one to accept the condolences.

The Congress Working Committee will hold a condolence meeting tomorrow.

Besides his politician wife Rama, a Congress MLA, the 55-year-old Pilot is survived by a son and a daughter. His daughter married recently.

Forever a rebel, Pilot was known for his outspokenness and candid views. Having opposed former Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao and former party chief Sitaram Kesri, Pilot was planning to take on Sonia in the ensuing organisational polls. The sudden end to his career has created a void in the Congress, lacking in leaders outside the Nehru-Gandhi family.

An able parliamentarian, Pilot was a strong votary of probity and ethics in public life. He was bitterly opposed to the Congressí alliance with Jayalalitha and Rabri Devi.

Sources in Jaipur said Pilot was brought to the hospital with multiple injuries. His heart had also stopped beating. One of his gunmen died on the spot. Three other persons were injured.

Formerly known as Rajeshwar Prasad, Pilot had represented Dausa in Lok Sabha for six terms. He had become squadron leader in the Indian Air Force, which he quit in 1979.

President K.R. Narayanan, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, former Prime Minister V.P. Singh and other political leaders expressed shock at Pilotís death, saying he was firmly committed to the cause of the downtrodden.

Hailing from Ghaziabad, Pilot was born in a poor family on February 10, 1945. After he lost his armyman-father Jai Dayal Singh at an early age, Pilot was brought up by his brother who sold milk in affluent Delhi localities.

The Congress leaderís autobiography, Flight to Parliament, narrates how he rose from selling milk to MPs on chilly winter mornings to becoming an MP himself in 1980.

Pilot got his ministerial break in the Rajiv Gandhi government when he was made minister of state for transport. He held the communications, home (internal security) and environment portfolios in the Narasimha Rao government between 1991 and 1996.    

New Delhi, June 11 
Ram Vilas Paswan had his way with Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee yesterday, but decisions like his free-phone gift to telecom employees may no longer be an individual ministerís prerogative.

During his meeting with Paswan on Friday and Saturday, the Prime Minister dropped broad hints that he wanted ministers to be careful in the future. They cannot take decisions that involve huge sums of money on their own. Second, they should do nothing that goes against the spirit of reforms initiated by the government.

He may have agreed with Paswan because the communications minister had been amenable to the idea of introducing corporatisation of the telecom set-up at an earlier stage, but Vajpayee does wish ministers to be more cautious.

That ministers should not take such decisions unilaterally may be spelled out either at a Cabinet meeting or may be taken up for discussion at any of the gatherings of the National Democratic Alliance.

The Prime Minister will assert that his path of consensus needs to be followed when ministers take major economic decisions. In Paswanís case, as in some othersí in the past, one ministry has appeared to be working against another.

From Manali, where he was holidaying for nearly 10 days, Vajpayee has been monitoring developments in the telecom ministry. Even finance minister Yashwant Sinha was abroad. It was only on his return that Sinha penned his dissenting note to the Prime Minister. But Sinha wanted to step in only after consultation with Vajpayee to send a strong signal that this would probably be the last of the doles ministers distribute.

Vajpayee is aware that Paswan is not the only one in the Cabinet prone to taking financially profligate or anti-reforms decisions. Civil aviation minister Sharad Yadav, who resisted the Air-India disinvestment programme for quite some time, is part of the same clan. Railway minister Mamata Banerjee is a suspect for the way she criticised the food and fertiliser subsidy cutback.

Heavy industries and public enterprises minister Manohar Joshi had shown signs of opposing disinvestment, but that was more because he feared curtailment of his powers.

Sinha appears to have brought to the notice of the Prime Minister that Paswan is not the only culprit. There are other ministers using discretionary powers to distribute free services to their constituencies.

The Prime Minister, therefore, has to step in. Of course, a reproach from Vajpayee cannot be expected. That is not his style.

The Prime Minister will preach consensus and the need to understand the overall direction of the governmentís economic policy.    

New Delhi, June 11 
On the Calcutta-Delhi evening flight yesterday, she started writing poetry. And then she simply could not stop.

Even after reaching her fourth floor apartment near Ram Manohar Lohia hospital, Mamata Banerjee went on writing poetry through the night. Insomniac that she is, she wrote till 4 am, stopping only when dawn was just breaking over Delhi.

She told a group of reporters this evening that she has been ďsimply writing poetryĒ. It was more than evident that she was back to her chirpy, natural self with the shadow of a smile lingering on her face, now that the Left has been given a drubbing in Panskura.

The municipal poll results that preceded Panskura had upset her and she had withdrawn into a shell.

Thursday, when the Lok Sabha byelection result was announced, was quite obviously the trigger for a change of mood. So much so that she wrote through all of today, stopping only to go through a few important railway ministry files that had been brought over by two officials.

Mamata would not share details of her creative experience with reporters other than confessing that she was infected by this sudden zeal for verse. She refused to recite any lines from the poems.

Her creative outpouring stands in contrast to the writerís block the Prime Minister, another politician-poet, is facing. Atal Behari Vajpayee has confessed in a chat-show that he has been creatively sterile since becoming Prime Minister. He has not written a single line since 1998.

It was expected that Vajpayee, who has just returned from a 10-day vacation at picturesque Manali, would be able to pen a few lines in the soft whisper of the hills. But it did not happen.

Instead, the Prime Minister fulfilled the wishes of a few shayars who had gathered there. At a mushaira, arranged largely by the Bengal-based BJP leader, Vishnukant Shastri, Vajpayee read out a few of his already-published poems.

Maybe Vajpayee needs a Panskura to tickle his creative urges.

Last night, Mamata received a phone call from minister of state and BJP leader Vasundhara Raje. Vasundhara told her that the victory deserved celebrations, which she would organise on her return from Italy.

Vasundharaís congratulations do carry significance. She has free access to 7 Race Course Road, the Prime Ministerís official residence. Mamata has yet to speak to Vajpayee or home minister L.K. Advani after the win.    

Washington, June 11 
Beneath the intense national security talks which will mark L.K. Advaniís four-day visit to Israel this week, the home ministerís first overseas trip after taking office will offer a rare testament to secularism in sharp contrast to the public