Basu signals September stepdown
Mumbai revives riot report
Vidarbha split threat puts Sonia in a fix
Eunuch takes on Big Two
Mayavati, BJP locked in Dalit slanging match
Joshi ignores future for past

Calcutta, Sept. 1 
Bengal chief minister Jyoti Basu today gave a clear hint of his intention to step down this month, confirming that he had received a proposal to become Left Front chairman.

“Some Front constituents want me to become chairman. There is also a proposal in this regard. It will be discussed in a Left Front meeting,” he said.

The chief minister, however, declined to comment whether he was willing to take up the offer.

“Ours is a democratic party. No decision is taken unilaterally. The matter will be discussed first in the party and then in the Front,” he said.

Basu is expected to give in his resignation to the Governor after he returns from Bolpur on September 16. He is sche- duled to inaugurate a Rabindra Bhavan in Bolpur the day be- fore.

His retirement is likely to be finalised by the CPM politburo and the state committee between September 10 and 15.

Basu’s observations indicate that he is not against overseeing both party affairs and Left Front matters after stepping down. Deputy chief minister Buddhadev Bhattacharya is expected to take over from him.

A section of state CPM leaders and Front partners want Basu to continue in office till the Assembly polls. But as he appears determined to call it a day before Durga Puja, they want him to head the Left Front.

If Basu agrees to this, Front chairman Sailen Dasgupta will become convener. Front partners like the RSP, CPI and Forward Bloc believe that Basu taking over as chairman is a fait accompli.

Sources said Basu will continue to stay at his Salt Lake residence, Indira Bhavan, after quitting office. He will also enjoy Z category security.

After retirement, Basu intends to visit the party office at least thrice a week to keep abreast of organisational matters and interact with state function- aries.

He will also join the CPM campaign for the Assembly polls from January. The surface transport department has decided to buy a helicopter to ferry Basu to the districts.

CPM state secretary Anil Biswas said the venue for the next politburo meeting has yet to be decided.

But party sources said it would meet in Calcutta some time in September.

“Basu fell ill during the last central committee meeting in Delhi. Considering his ill health, the party might organise the politburo meeting in Calcutta,” said a senior CPM leader.

The CPM state committee will meet for a two-day session from September 16. Basu’s retirement is likely to come up for discussion.


Mumbai, Sept. 1 
Trouble is brewing for Bal Thackeray once again, with the Maharashtra government deciding to implement the Srikrishna Commission report indicting him for his alleged role in the 1992-93 Mumbai riots.

Deputy chief minister Chhagan Bhujbal formed a special task force yesterday to implement the commission report in keeping with a Supreme Court order. The court order came handy for Bhujbal, who is trying to checkmate the Shiv Sena chief, his mentor-turned-enemy number one.

In July, the apex court, while hearing a public interest litigation, had asked the Congress-led Democratic Front government to file an affidavit on the action taken on the recommendations of the report. The case is due to come up in the first week of September.

The task force, headed by an additional commissioner of police, includes two deputy commissioners and three assistant commissioners. It has been asked to implement the commission report quickly, though the government would not say how soon.

The commission was appointed by the Congress government in 1993 to probe the role of politicians and the administration in the riots. But the BJP and its ally, the Shiv Sena, scrapped it after they came to power in 1995, provoking outrage. The commission was reconstituted a year later at the insistence of the Union government. In its report submitted in 1998, the commission indicted several senior leaders, including Thackeray and former chief minister Manohar Joshi, now a Union minister.

The report held Thackeray particularly responsible for the riots, noting that the Sena chief had “led rampaging Shiv Sainiks like a general” through provocative writings in Saamna, the Sena organ edited by Thackeray.

The Sena-BJP government rejected the report, calling it biased against politicians, but formed a high-powered committee, headed by the additional chief secretary, to take action against the 31 policemen indicted by the commission for their partisan role in the riots.

The committee declared 17 of the accused policemen not guilty, but suggested departmental action against the others. While the Sena government did not act on the recommendations of the committee it had set up, the present government also did nothing to punish the errant policemen till the Supreme Court called for the “action taken” report.

Only five policemen were suspended last week. Though Bhujbal’s initial effort to take Thackeray into custody backfired after a lower court dismissed the charges, analysts said the Sena chief would now find it difficult to escape police action. The Bombay High Court also questioned the lower court’s decision to reject the charges against him without going deep into the merits of the case.    

New Delhi, Sept. 1: 
Sonia Gandhi has more trouble in store as Congress MLAs from Vidarbha today issued an ultimatum for creation of a new state and threatened to secede from the party if their demand was not met.

If the 30-odd legislators go ahead with their threat, it will bring down the Vilasrao Deshmukh-led Congress-NCP coalition government in Maharashtra.

Articulating the MLAs’ sentiments, senior Congress leader N.K.P. Salve said: “If a resolution for creation of the new state is not moved on the first day of the Maharashtra Assembly session in November, we will seek separate status within the House to register our protest.”

The legislators are upset that their demand, dating back to 1955, for a separate state has not been considered though the Centre has cleared the formation of Jharkhand, Uttaranchal and Chattisgarh.

Salve’s poser has put Sonia is in a fix. If the MLAs carry out their threat, it will put the shaky coalition in Maharashtra on the mat.

Though NCP chief Sharad Pawar has assured the government that there will be no move to dislodge Deshmukh, many Congressmen are reluctant to take the Maratha leader’s pledge on face-value.

Sonia, though sympathetic towards the Vidarbha demand, is hesitant to back the MLAs as any open support to the division of Maharashtra will adversely affect the Congress in the state. Maharashtra was created after a protracted and violent agitation on linguistic lines.

Deshmukh and other Maharashtra leaders such as V.N. Gadgil have already cautioned Sonia against any “dangerous move” to divide Maharashtra.

Motilal Vora, the AICC general secretary in charge of the state, sought to put the ball in the Centre’s court and wondered whether the Shiv Sena — a partner in the ruling coalition — would agree to a separate Vidarbha state.

Salve was not impressed. “For how long will the people of Vidarbha keep making sacrifices for the Maharashtra Congress? The time has come to look into our genuine demands and peoples’ aspirations,” he said.

Sonia has referred the tricky issue to an AICC panel and asked it to formulate the party’s stand on smaller states. The committee includes Pranab Mukherjee, Madhavrao Scindia, Arjun Singh, Vora, Manmohan Singh and Oscar Fernandes.

Jharkhand jolt

Sonia’s woes continued with tribal Congress ministers from Bihar’s Jharkhand region saying they would not be party to any deal with the Rashtriya Janata Dal on forming the government in the new state, adds our Ranchi correspondent.

In a memorandum to Sonia, the ministers also opposed tomorrow’s party meeting in New Delhi called to discuss the strategy for Jharkhand. The minister said the meeting, in far away Delhi, would further alienate the party from the people.    

Ahmedabad, Sept. 1 
All roads in Hanumanpura now lead to the two-room dwelling of Kishore Mataji. The 56-year-old eunuch has become an instant celebrity by filing nomination for the civic election as an Independent.

Kishore decided to take the plunge after being cajoled by the locality’s disillusioned youth. She first approached the BJP and the Congress for a ticket, but was denied. Undeterred, she filed nomination as an Independent. Kishore’s candidature, seconded by 20 voters of Ward 13, has expectedly created waves, giving sleepless nights to rivals.

Kishore follows in the footsteps of more illustrious predecessors from the community like Sabnam Mausi who was elected to the Assembly in Madhya Pradesh and Kamal, who became mayor of Katni municipality in the state.

Her prospects look bright as residents of Hanumanpura say they are more than willing to support her, saying that she is not just any eunuch. The mataji, they claim, is a graduate for whom they would love to work. “Kishore knows what needs to be done in the ward,” says a neighbour.

Kishore,who has chosen TV as her symbol, is confident. “I am going to win,” she says. “I do not have money or party machinery to back me, but I have goodwill. The people know me for year.”

But she is not taking things lightly. It’s late in the evening and her adopted son, Vinod Prajapati, three dogs and two parrots are still waiting for the mataji in their hovel in the jhuggi cluster in Juna Vadaji, her ward. “She should have come by now. But since campaigning began, mataji’s schedule has gone haywire,” Vinod said.

Kishore finally turns up around 8.30 pm and complains: “Life is becoming difficult as I have no one to manage the campaign.” Vinod is of not much help as he is uneducated. “Moreover, I need somebody to attend to the telephone,” Kishore says.

Ever since news of her nomination spread, the phone hasn’t stopped ringing. “I have been asked by people, including goondas, whether I need any help. I keep telling everyone that I am capable of taking on my rivals on my own,” says Kishore, who prefers keeping a safe distance from anti-socials and corrupt politicians, who the first-time candidate wants to “finish”.

Born in Kalol, Kishore moved to Hanumanpura two decades ago. The candidate is, therefore, well aware of the civic shortcomings in Juna Vadaji. The area lacks in several basic amenities like roads, proper sewage system, water supply, Ahmedabad municipal corporation-run dispensaries and maternity homes.    

New Delhi, Sept. 1: 
Bahujan Samaj Party leader Mayavati today set about “unmasking” the “real BJP” by describing its first Dalit president as a “mere showpiece” and a “puppet in the hands of Manuwadi leaders”.

At a press conference today, Mayavati blasted the BJP saying that even an RSS member like Uttar Pradesh Governor Suraj Bhan had dubbed the Ram Prakash Gupta government “anti-Dalit”.

“Even though the BJP is claiming that it has made a Dalit its president, their own man, their Governor, has raised his voice against the government and called it anti-Dalit,” Mayavati said.

She demanded that Bhan resign from the Governor’s post as well as from both the BJP and the RSS as “neither the Uttar Pradesh government nor the high command” had listened to him when he raised his voice against the Gupta administration. She warned him that if he did not quit he would be seen as a “fraud and a deceiver of Dalits”.

BJP spokesman M. Venkaiah Naidu countered Mayavati’s tirade, saying that with Bangaru Laxman’s ascendancy the party had emerged as a “Dalit protector”.

“Our government has brought the Constitution Amendment Bills to legislate reservation in promotions and increase the eligibility criteria for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes and proposed an increase in the number of reserved seats for Dalits in the Lok Sabha without increasing the total number of seats,” Naidu pointed out. “All this has made the Congress jittery.”

But Mayavati rebuffed his claim. “The government,” she said, “is not doing us a favour... It is our constitutional right to get reservation in promotions. It is not a gift from the Congress or the BJP, but a right bestowed on us by Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar.”

The former Uttar Pradesh chief minister added that because the policy was being implemented since Independence by “Manuwadi parties”, reservation quota in jobs and education remained unfulfilled.

“I want to tell the Bahujan Samaj that as long as Manuwadi parties rule the Centre and states, the reservation policy will not be fully implemented,” she said.

She added: “The day there is a Bahujan Samaj Party government in the Centre, mark my words, the quota will be filled through special efforts within just a year. Harsh punishment will be meted out to those who violate our orders. Perhaps, they may even be jailed.”

Mayavati also ridiculed Laxman’s famous “flesh of our flesh and blood of our blood” speech in Nagpur.

“While Laxman is calling on Muslims to join the BJP, the first thing Kalraj Mishra does after taking over as the Uttar Pradesh unit president is to offer worship at the Ram temple in Ayodhya,” she said.

Analysts have come up with two explanations for the Bahujan Samaj leader’s outbursts — her third in a week.

One, it was an attempt to dispel rumours — emanating from BJP quarters — that a Bahujan Samaj Party-BJP re-alliance was on the cards before the Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls. And two, she was “interested” in a patch-up and was merely voicing her demands through negative rhetoric.

Naidu, who reserved his fire-power for the Congress, said that “just about every aspect of the Nagpur (conclave) message has sent alarm bells ringing in the Congress”.

According to him, “thinking Congressmen” were beginning to realise that their party was “getting irrelevant with each passing day”.

Reacting to the Congress’ response to Laxman’s appointment, Naidu said it was “worried that with a Dalit as president, the BJP has eroded its sinking support among Dalits”.

He scoffed at the Congress’ assertions of being a pro-poor party. “Day in and day out the Congress talked of Muslims and Dalits. But what happened to their education and uplift?” he asked.

As the slanging match continued, he returned the Congress’ charge that the BJP had “one policy to run its government and another to garner votes”. “These words apply to the Congress,” he said. “It had words for the poor and deeds for the rich.”    

New Delhi, Sept. 1: 
At the foundation day celebrations of the National Council of Educational Research and Training, the speakers on the stage were more interested in listing the feats of ancient India and less in the future of education.

Neither human resource development minister Murli Manohar Joshi nor the NCERT director J. S. Rajput had anything of substance to say on education. Instead, they sang paeans to India’s ‘glorious’ past — a theme that is as dear to Joshi as it is to his protege Rajput.

“It seemed all your future lies in your past,” commented a member of the academic staff in the NCERT, after the function was over. Joshi stayed focused on Sanskrit and its extraordinary powers. Computers, the human resources development minister said, will not make enough progress unless they start to use Sanskrit.

His speech irritated some NCERT faculty members who said they had not expected Joshi also minister for science and technology, to hark back to the past and not look into future.

The human resource development minister said wherever he goes, people want to know about ancient Indian texts — the Vedas and the Puranas. At every academic yoga centre, this draws the largest crowds.

His junior, Rajput, tread Joshi’s path. Rajput said Indian education has neglected the `glorious’ achievements of ancient India — but this will be set right in the new curriculum. Rajput said the new curriculum will be presented to the HRD ministry for approval this month.

Subhash Kashyap, member secretary of the Constitution Review Committee, said those who had drawn up the Constitution were Western-educated. He also protested against the tradition of not imparting religious education in state-funded institutions.    


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