Basu rushed to hospital from meet
Doctors suspect cardiac problem
Atal lessons in silence wasted on Ram
Talks offer to Kashmir militants
Mamata loads minority gun
Calcutta weather

New Delhi, July 28 
West Bengal chief minister Jyoti Basu, who was rushed to the hospital this morning after he felt “uneasy” in the midst of CPM meeting, was described by colleagues as being “stable” this evening. But doctors at the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) were more cautious and not prepared to rule out a coronary ailment.

Basu, 86, was initially admitted to the coronary care unit (CCU) of the Ram Manohar Lohia hospital from where he was shifted to AIIMS later in the afternoon.

After an hour’s tension and nervous confusion over his sudden indisposition, CPM leaders certified the chief minister’s condition as “stable”, maintaining it was only an attack of gastritis that had raised the alarm.

“His condition is stable,” said Basu’s deputy and heir to the throne, Buddhadev Bhattacharya. “I am going out of Delhi today and we will continue with our normal programme,” added Lok Sabha member Somnath Chatterjee. The leaders had assembled at the party headquarters for the central committee meeting.

Basu, according to party leaders, was shifted to AIIMS because of its better infrastructure and its renowned cardiological unit headed by the Prime Minister’s cardiologist, Dr A.K. Manchanda.

He will be kept under observation for the next 48-72 hours and is being attended to by three doctors. He was shifted to a private ward late this evening.

Dr Mani Chhetri, former head of the cardiology unit at Calcutta’s SSKM Hospital, and Dr A.K Maity, the present cardiology head there, have flown to Delhi.

For the CPM, it was a morning of jitters — Basu’s sudden queasiness set off the alarm in the party which revolves around the chief minister. Suddenly, it was as if the CPM was staring at the prospect of life without Basu, a frightening thought for the party.

“He felt uneasy and we did not want to take any chances with Basu,” said a senior leader.

Basu has of late been complaining more and more of ill health and of his inability to continue as chief minister. The CPM leadership, however, has been insistent on retaining him at the helm and the only concession it made was nominating Buddhadev as deputy chief minister.

The central committee was in session for about an hour when around 11 am, the chief minister said he was feeling “uneasy”. Immediately, an ambulance was summoned and, within minutes, at least five drove up to the headquarters at A.K. Gopalan Bhavan.

On reaching Ram Manohar Lohia hospital, Basu was first taken to the nursing home for VIPs. Later he was shifted to the CCU and put in the care of Dr Deepak Natarajan.

Virtually, the entire CPM top brass — Harkishen Singh Surjeet, Prakash Karat, Sitaram Yechury, Buddhadev and Brinda Karat — accompanied Basu to the hospital. They left after Natarajan declared Basu’s condition as stable.

As news of his sudden illness filtered out, the media thronged outside the hospital. One of Basu’s securitymen took position outside the CCU building and entry to outsiders was barred as long as Basu was there.

As the crowd swelled, passers-by stopped by to inquire about the unusual crowd outside the CCU. “Kaunsi jagah ki mukhya mantri hain? Mukhyamantri ho ke sarkari hospital main kaise hain? (Which chief minister has been admitted? How can a chief minister be admitted to a government hospital?)” asked a woman.

The only reason for taking Basu to the Lohia hospital was it was nearest to the party headquarters. “We had no choice but to take him there,” said a CPM leader.

Party leaders maintained the illness was nothing “serious” to begin with. “It is all a rumour that he fainted at the central committee meeting,” said a leader. The bottomline was: they did not want to take a chance with Basu.

From the outset, CPM bosses had indicated that Basu would be shifted to AIIMS. Around 3 pm, a Delhi police ambulance drove up outside the gate of the Lohia hospital CCU and Basu was brought out on a stretcher. The chief minister was seen talking to Somnath.    

New Delhi, July 28 
Even as the CPM tried hard to play down Jyoti Basu’s illness, doctors attending on him were taking it seriously.

Dr K.K. Talwar, number two in the cardiology department at AIIMS and one of the country’s leading cardiologists, would not agree that the West Bengal chief minister was only suffering from gastritis.

In his report to the health ministry, Talwar informed Union minister C.P. Thakur that Basu had complained of a cardiac problem and that his department was looking at it as a “serious cardiological ailment”.

Health ministry sources later said that it was possible that Basu was suffering from a severe attack of gastritis, as his aides had claimed. “But at age 86, there can hardly be any difference between gastritis and a cardiac attack. You cannot take chances and Basu would be under observation for the next 48 to 72 hours,” a source said.

Basu has never had a heart problem before and when he complained of a pain in the chest during a party meeting today, the CPM leadership got jittery. His party colleagues were anxious to dismiss his ailment as gastritis. But once he was shifted to AIIMS from Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital, they knew they could not keep the illness under cover. “In the case of Basu, we cannot hide facts,” said a senior doctor at AIIMS.

A worried CPM leadership tried to play down the issue and insisted that Basu was all right and would be fit tomorrow.

Basu was talking to Buddhadev Bhattacharya, Brinda Karat and Somnath Chatterjee when he was being shifted from Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital to AIIMS.

The chief minister was moved from the coronary care unit of AIIMS into a private ward late this evening. The medical observation will, however, continue.

Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and home minister L.K. Advani were keeping track of Basu’s health. Senior health officials were instructed by the Centre to ensure that the chief minister received the best treatment.

The Prime Minister, despite his preoccupation with the Jethmalani issue, kept himself informed about Basu’s health on the hour.

For the CPM, which was trying to play down Basu’s ailment, these developments were embarrassing.    

New Delhi, July 28 
Matching Ram Jethmalani’s famed gift of the gab with his trademark biting sarcasm, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee today said he had ordered an inquiry into the leak of classified documents which the ousted law minister had submitted to the Rajya Sabha chairman.

The Prime Minister, who made statements in both Houses of Parliament, distanced himself from the former minister’s tirade against the chief justice and the attorney-general.

“My friend Jethmalani’s problem is he has not learnt the art of silence,” Vajpayee said in the Rajya Sabha. “He can’t keep quiet, and it had been conveyed to him many times in the past that he should not go beyond his brief.”

The Prime Minister’s speech in the Lok Sabha was a terse statement where he sought to clear the air by insisting that his government had a different perception of the issues raised by Jethmalani.

But he did not come out strongly in defence of his attorney-general Soli Sorabjee as he did later in the Upper House where he spoke at length and tried to counter Jethmalani’s arguments, point by point.

In his short speech in the Lok Sabha, Vajpayee said his government’s views were different from Jethmalani’s perception of Chief Justice A.S. Anand and Sorabjee. “My government does not share his views,” he said. “We completely disagree with his views on the subject.”

The Prime Minister asserted that his government does not believe in any confrontation with institutions like the judiciary, a stand that Jethmalani had been contesting for some time.

But Vajpayee steered clear of a debate on whose views were right. Without stressing why he had decided to back the judiciary or his attorney-general instead of his law minister, the Prime Minister said: “A difference of opinion between the chief justice and the law minister should not create any imbalance in the harmonious relationship.”

Vajpayee was more forthright in the Rajya Sabha where he said he disliked this “imbalance” that had been created between the judiciary and the executive.

The Prime Minister was speaking after Jethmalani’s successor Arun Jaitley had clarified that there had been no violation of principles, propriety, convention or practice when Sorabjee advised the Hindujas in a case involving counter-guarantees for a power project in Andhra Pradesh.

The Opposition had earlier said that the attorney-general had erred in advising the Hindujas when the brothers were being investigated for their alleged involvement in the Bofors case.

Vajpayee said he had summoned Jethmalani several times and requested him to be prudent in his dealings with the judiciary, but his advice had gone unheeded. The Prime Minister added that he was forced to ask the minister to quit as “enough is enough”.

The Prime Minister, however, insisted that Parliament had no right to question him on Jethmalani’s resignation because it was his right to appoint and remove ministers.    

New Delhi, July 28 
The Centre tonight officially responded to the Hizbul Mujahideen’s ceasefire offer by inviting all militant groups operating in Jammu and Kashmir to talks.

After “welcoming” Hizbul leader A.M. Dar’s “unconditional” dialogue offer, the Vajpayee government said: “It would like to invite all militant groups and political leaders to come forward to restore peace and normality in the state.”

The decision was taken at a meeting presided over by Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and attended by home minister L.K. Advani, defence minister George Fernandes, home secretary Kamal Pande and army chief V.P. Malik.

“Recognising the need for restoration of peace in Jammu and Kashmir, the government would like the Hizbul Mujahideen leadership to come overground and establish contact with the home secretary to discuss the modalities necessary for initiating a dialogue and preparing the grounds for restoration of peace,” a statement said. The meeting was preceded by an announcement in Srinagar that the army has suspended “offensive” operations against militants.

Inherent in the stand is the government’s willingness to pardon the crimes committed by the Hizbul Mujahideen and other terror outfits operating in the Valley and elsewhere in the state.

It also indicates that the Union home secretary would be the government’s principal interlocutor to discuss any peace initiative with not only the Hizbul Mujahideen but all other militant outfits.

By accepting the Hizbul offer of July 24, the government has virtually appealed to all Kashmiri militants operating under the overall command of foreign terrorist outfits to dissociate themselves from the organisations like the Lashkar-e-Toiba, the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, the Al Badr and the Jaish-e-Mohammadi and join the peace process. “The idea is to isolate the Pakistan-backed terrorist outfits which, bereft of local support, will not be in a position to operate in the state,” a top official said.

The Vajpayee government also intends to garner maximum political mileage by announcing its peace policy for Jammu and Kashmir at a time when Parliament is in session.

The government would like to project itself as one which has come close to resolving the Kashmir question not by force alone but also by a pragmatic approach combining development-related activities and talks with militant groups — something which previous governments at the Centre had not been able to achieve.    

Basapara (Birbhum), July 28 
Arriving here from Delhi this morning in the aftermath of yesterday’s killing of 11 Trinamul supporters, Mamata Banerjee accused the CPM of targeting members of minority communities.

While most male inhabitants had fled, the police continued to scour the area for people involved in yesterday’s massacre. The surrounding villages were tense but a large police presence has prevented retaliation.

“They (the CPM) declare themselves secular. But they are actually killing members of minority communities,” Mamata alleged in a street-corner meeting here, about 25 km from Bolpur. “All the 11 people killed yesterday belonged to the minority community and were innocent labourers. In Keshpur, too, they had killed six people belonging to the minority community. I had to address a similar meeting there with the bodies of six people,” she said.

This area of Birbhum district has a large population of the minority community. But Mamata might have been using the opportunity provided by the incident to ingratiate herself with the community which has not been siding with her in elections because of her association with the BJP.

Bengal panchayat minister Suryakanta Mishra concurred with Mamata’s version and told reporters at Writers’ Buildings that the victims were unarmed and did not have criminal records.

“It is also not true they were dacoits and came to raid Suchpur. It was not a political clash but purely a land dispute,’’ Mishra said.

He had visited Suchpur yesterday afternoon.

“Our inquiry shows that the victims came from neighbouring villages, lured by a local Trinamul activist, Babu Mian, to sow paddy seedlings in the disputed land,’’ Mishra said.

Local villagers attacked the outsiders to prevent the alleged attempt to sow in the disputed land. The police arrested 21 people, of whom 19 are CPM activists, the minister said.

Governor Viren J. Shah, while expressing grief at the killings, appealed to all parties to maintain peace.

Mamata Banerjee reached the Bolpur sub-divisional hospital at Sian where all the 11 bodies were kept at 10.45 am in a blue Sumo and met relatives of the victims.

The bodies were wrapped in polythene sheets and brought here in three lorries. Later, they were covered with the Trinamul green and saffron flag.

Mamata addressed the crowd from a small dais with the lorries bearing the bodies parked close by.

She said: “I have taken video recording of all the bodies. The CPM attackers had smashed the faces of all the victims after killing them. I will show this video to Delhi,” she said.    

Temperature: Max: 32.3°C (normal), Min: 26°C (normal) Relative humidity: Maximum: 98% Minimum: 69% Rainfall: 7 mm Today: Possibility of light rain in some parts Sunset: 6.18 pm, Sunrise: 5.09 am    

Maintained by Web Development Company