Civil service crusader at President door
Atal eclipses Advani aides
Thakre mum on Govindacharya leave letter
Cong in varsity bonanza
Employees refuse to sit on census time bomb
Rights notice to Andhra

New Delhi, Sept. 9: 
Denied a posting despite having cleared the civil services examination, aurally challenged Manoj Sadasivan has knocked on the President’s door for justice.

Manoj, 28, the first aurally challenged candidate to clear the gruelling all-India test, that too in grade “A”, has been found unfit for the services “on account of perceptive deafness”.

But President K.R. Narayanan’s gesture of granting an audience to Manoj and his mother, Sulochana Sadasivan, yesterday seems to have had a salutary effect on the bureaucrats in the personnel ministry. An official said the department will re-examine Manoj’s case.

Sulochana was reluctant to talk about their meeting with the President, saying it “would not be proper” to do so. All she would say was that Narayanan was “understanding and warm” and “we are sure he will do something to ensure justice”.

Sulochana wondered how the government could now deny her son a posting after having interviewed him. “If the government deems a candidate unfit for appointment on the ground of physical disability, why this farce of conducting interviews by the UPSC? UPSC was told in advance about his condition and they made special arrangements to interview him,” Sulochana said.

A monitor was installed to enable him to read the questions on the screen during the interview.

A deeply religious lady, Sulochana said that while she was “very upset” with the officials for being “insensitive”, she did not harbour any bitterness. “God will help me and my son. I know miracles do happen,” she said.

Sulochana’s travails began in 1976 when her husband, a tax officer, was murdered by a mafia group in Malaysia where he had gone to investigate some shady deals.

Manoj was just three at the time. At 17, he lost his hearing power after a bout of meningitis. Since then mother and son have communicated through a combination of sign language, writing and lip reading.

Manoj pursued his studies and passed the B.Com and M.Com exams in Kerala, topping both. Determined to make a mark, he sat for the civil services and cracked it.

But his dreams were shattered when the medical board of Ram Manohar Lohia hospital, which examined him on August, 1 declared him “unfit for all services on account of perceptive deafness in both ears”.

However, a medical certificate Manoj obtained from Nirmala Hospital in Thiruvananthapuram subsequently said that though he suffered from perceptive deafness, that should not make him unfit for all services. It said he could be absorbed in the revenue, customs and excise, audits and accounts, P&T, defence accounts, civil accounts or railway accounts services.

The mandarins were, however, not impressed and refused to find a post for him, citing the medical board report.

Sulochana then approached the Kerala High Court, which, on August 18, ruled in Manoj’s favour, directing the personnel ministry to reserve a post for him in the civil services according to his rank in the merit list and the other backward classes quota.

Manoj underwent some tests at AIIMS yesterday. He has been told to come back for a neurological test on Monday.    

New Delhi, Sept. 9: 
With Atal Behari Vajpayee’s increasing assertion over the BJP, the party is getting purged of L.K. Advani’s loyalists.

The first to be axed was former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Kalyan Singh. The latest victim is party general secretary K. N. Govindacharya, who has been dropped from Bangaru Laxman’s team of office-bearers at Vajpayee’s insistence. In between, the Prime Minister has managed to relegate Jana Krishnamurthy, Uma Bharti and Sushma Swaraj to the fringes.

Of these five, four have overtly or covertly challenged Vajpayee’s authority at various stages for which they have had to pay a price.

While Kalyan vociferously denounced him in personal terms, Govindacharya, Sushma and Uma have been a little more subtle. Govindacharya had labelled him a “mask” in a taped interview given to a British diplomat in 1997 and recently endorsed a Swadeshi Jagran Manch economic resolution which branded the Vajpayee government as “anti-national”. However, he maintained he attended the Manch seminar in Agra last June to address a session on “character-building”.

Sushma attacked the Kashmir policies in the Nagpur conclave of the BJP last month, but on previous occasions, she gave the impression of being on Kalyan’s side when he was locked in a war of attrition with the Prime Minister.

Her husband Swaraj Kaushal, a Rajya Sabha MP from the Haryana Vikas Party, embarrassed the government by demanding to know in the Upper House if the Prime Minister’s US entourage included an ass and an elephant.

Bharti gave the government disconcerting moments when in her first stint as a Central minister, she sulked and refused to work under Murli Manohar Joshi, and in her second innings, resorted to agitational politics in Bhopal while holding office. When she resigned, Vajpayee accepted her decision without ado.

Other Advani acolytes, BJP sources said, have been “smarter” and played along with the shifting power balance more skillfully. It was said that information technology and parliamentary affairs minister Pramod Mahajan, inseparable from Advani since the Ram Rath yatra days, had “switched sides” to the “other camp”during Vajpayee’s 13-day tenure in 1996 and had remained “loyal” since.

Minister of state for information and broadcasting Arun Jaitley, took a little longer to move away from Advani, according to BJP sources.

Jaitley, who was the first, along with Govindacharya, to take up cudgels for Advani when he was implicated in the Hawala scam — and the other, office-bearers began distancing themselves from him — kept a low profile in Vajpayee’s first full-fledged stint as the Prime Minister.

But with his induction in the Rajya Sabha, and later in the ministry, Jaitley was clear on who his master was.

Ditto for the other Arun — Arun Shourie, minister of state for disinvestment. From being an active proponent of hardline Hindutva, Shourie today does not pull his punches while taking on the Sangh’s swadeshi lobby as he goes gung-ho with PSU disinvestment and, in the process, has reportedly won over Vajpayee’s confidence as much as Jaitley.

BJP sources said when Vajpayee made it clear to Laxman he would not have Govindacharya in the list of office-bearers, even Advani did not come to his protege’s defence.

“Advani goes along with the popular mood in the party, and when he sensed that apart from the PM, the other heavyweights like Murli Manohar Joshi and Thakre were equally determined not to have him around, he did not say a word,” BJP sources said.

As for the RSS, although Govindacharya was one of its main conduits with the BJP, when push came to shove, its leaders too washed their hands off him.

“When the RSS loans one of its dedicated members to the BJP, it expects them to be low-profile and non-controversial. This was not the case with Goindacharya,” alleged sources, citing the “factional wars” that had erupted in the states of which he was in charge (notably Bihar) and his penchant for peddling the Mandal line of politics as examples.    

New Delhi, Sept. 9: 
Giving a fresh twist to the K.N. Govindacharya controversy, former BJP president Kushabhau Thakre refused to say whether he had received a letter from the BJP general secretary, expressing a desire to relinquish his party post and go on a two-year “study” leave.

Govindacharya, who Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee wants dropped as general secretary, maintained that in March, when Thakre was the BJP president, he had written to him to give up his official position in the party because he wanted to study in depth the impact of globalisation on the Indian economy.

The general secretary has been at pains to explain his point of view after reports from the BJP and the Prime Minister’s Office said his name was deleted from Laxman’s team on the Prime Minister’s insistence.

Govindacharya claimed that Vajpayee had nothing to do with the decision, it was he who wanted to go on a two-year “sabbatical” and the leadership was “kind enough” to “oblige” him.

Despite persistent queries from the press, Thakre was tight-lipped about Govindacharya’s letter and said: “I will neither confirm nor deny. My lips are sealed.”

BJP sources interpreted Thakre’s silence in two ways: one, to cast doubts on the veracity of Govindacharya’s version, and two, to nail the growing suspicion that he was indeed dropped by the leadership from Laxman’s new team and not “obliged” with a request for “study leave”.

Sources said around March, it was expected that Thakre would be given a second term as the BJP president after it was clarified that an amendment in the party’s constitution — giving a three-year term for the national and state unit presidents — would come into prospective effect and not apply to the existing office-bearers, including Thakre.

It emerges that Govindacharya, who was not in the best of terms with Thakre, too, had more or less reconciled to this possibility and had prepared the ground for his own departure from the BJP to return possibly to his alma mater, the RSS.

Thakre, who calls the shots in the Madhya Pradesh BJP, has never taken a kind view of the clout of Govindacharya’s close associate Uma Bharti and she was a sticking point in his relations with the former party president.

But even after the change of guard and Laxman’s takeover, Thakre continues to play an important role in the BJP’s decision-making and is regarded as the pivot of a new power line-up, which also includes Vajpayee and human resource and development minister Murli Manohar Joshi. Thakre was present in almost all the consultations held between Laxman and Vajpayee to draw up the new list of office-bearers.

The party has taken a grim view of the attempts of Govindacharya and earlier that of Sushma Swaraj, to articulate their viewpoints to the media and suggest that all was not well in the BJP by refusing to take up party posts.

Laxman said nobody was “indispensable” in the BJP. A senior party vice-president said of Sushma: “She crossed over to us from the Socialist Party just the other day, and just because she speaks well she was rewarded disproportionately well. It will do her and our party good if she is out in the cold for a couple of years.”

Laxman’s list seems to have run into problems again with a section of the national and the Delhi BJP objecting to the inclusion of the former chief ministers Madan Lal Khurana and Sahib Singh Verma in the team. Khurana was tipped to become a vice-president and Verma the Kisan Morcha chief.

But after Laxman and Vajpayee’s call to maintain discipline in the BJP and not allow anyone to cross the Lakshman rekha, their appointment was questioned as both were seen to have crossed the rubicon in the past and indulge in “anti-disciplinary” activities.    

New Delhi, Sept. 9: 
The Congress today won all four key posts in the Delhi University Students’ Union polls.

It romped home taking advantage of the political backlash from the student community who refused to withstand the cultural commissars of the BJP.

The party has long been hoping for a foothold in Delhi as its victory in the November 1998 Assembly polls was more of a fluke. Many leaders see in this win a chance of the Congress winning the trust of the urban youth. Sections of the young urban electorate, especially the first time voters, have felt alienated from the party.

Delhi University has traditionally remained a strong citadel of the BJP-affiliated Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP).

Today’s results are being seen in the context of infighting within Sangh parivar and as a rejection of the threat of “cultural policing”.

It is also being viewed as an opening for the Congress which has the image of a jaded and corrupt party among the young.

UPCC chief Salman Khurshid said at the AICC headquarters that the victory was an indication of the shape of things to come.

Linking it with the warm response to Sonia Gandhi’s rail visit to Uttar Pradesh on Thursday and Friday, he said youngsters were getting disillusioned with the Vajpayee government.

While Congress leaders sought to give credit to Sonia, others said the mandate was a rejection of the threat of “cultural policing” as the ABVP had threatened to enforce a dress code (which meant ban on micro-minis, tubetops, hipsters, etc).

An informal ban on Pepsi and Coke in university canteens, imposed by some over-enthusiastic workers, had strong repercussions among the MTV inspired generation-next.

The Congress-affiliated National Students’ Union of India (NSUI) trounced the ABVP and bagged the posts of DUSU president, vice-president, general secretary and joint secretary.

President-elect Amit Malik, Neetu Verma, Tarun Kumar and Harsh Chaudhry got an audience with Sonia Gandhi. “Well done, keep it up,” a beaming Sonia said while thrusting ladoos in Neetu’s mouth.

The win has added significance because the DUSU is considered the breeding ground of future politicians. It has also groomed some members of the Vajpayee Cabinet.

The Law School, the Delhi School of Economics and the School of Buddhist Studies are nurseries where young politicians learn their craft.

The late P.R. Kumaramangalam’s political skills were honed in the Law faculty and so were Arun Jaitley’s.    

Srinagar, Sept. 9: 
Rattled by a militant ban on census, government employees in Jammu and Kashmir have asked the state to suspend the population count “so that the lives of 22,000 staffers are not thrown into the jaws of death”.

The second round of census is scheduled to begin in the state from Monday. The Employees and Workers’ Confederation has issued a statement expressing their members’ inability to associate themselves with the census.

The confederation said the government “has no right to endanger the lives of thousands of employees by forcing them to join the census operations”.

The Hizb-ul-Mujahideen had threatened “to eliminate all those government officials who will participate in the census”. Hizb chief spokesman commander Masood said that “in the prevailing situation when the people here are in disarray and most of them had to leave their home and hearth, a reliable census cannot be conducted”.

However, the state census director, Feroze Ahmad, expressed hope that the employees would join the second phase of census.

He said the state government has made elaborate arrangements for carrying out the census from Monday.

Another controversial dimension was added to the census with former Union minister Saif-Ud-Din Soz alleging that “demographic changes are being brought about by manipulating census data in the state”. Soz said that right from the beginning of census operations in 1951, the data indicate a steady decline in Muslim population of the state. This, according to Soz, is “wilful manipulation of data by officials”.

He warned that “efforts aimed at changing the Muslim majority character of the state will have disastrous consequences and will create cracks in the secular edifice of India”. The Hizb hailed Soz’s statement, saying: “Despite his secular ideology Soz, has realised the Indian gameplan against Kashmiri Muslims.”

However, a state government spokesman sought to allay the apprehensions about the authenticity of the census operation. “There was no scope for changing the demographic pattern of the state,” he said. “While it is fact that all persons residing on the dates of enumeration at any place are required to be counted, there are specific columns to identify persons like migrants and members of the armed forces,” he added.

DFP activists arrested

The president of Democratic Freedom Party, Shabir Ahmad Shah, and six other activists were arrested when they tried to disrupt vehicular traffic. They had been stopped from proceeding to the UN Military Observers Group Office at Sonawar to submit a memorandum.

Police arrested Shah, his close associates Hakeem Abdul Rashid, Saleem Geelani, Ashiq Delnivi and four other workers. All of them were lodged in Ram Munshi Bagh police station. Ghulam Qadir Rah, who fell down from the moving police vehicle and got injured, was shifted to hospital.    

Hyderabad, Sept. 9: 
The National Human Rights Commission has directed Andhra Pradesh to explain why police fired on the power tariff hike agitators on August 28.

Following the government’s refusal to order a judicial inquiry on the police firing, the state Congress and the All-India Democratic Women’s Association had made representations to the commission. The state government has been directed to file its report within four weeks.

The commission’s decision has come as a surprise to the Chandrababu Naidu government which argued that extremists had also participated in the rally and that the agitators had come armed with a jeepload of stones. “One of the dead was a rowdy-sheeter,” Naidu had said.

One more agitator, Ramakrishna, who had received bullet injuries in the rally, died yesterday, bringing the tariff agitation toll to five. While three persons died in the police firing in the capital, two others had died in the districts during the 90-day-long agitation.

The panel has sought the government’s explanation on other incidents of state repression, including lathicharges on women at Vijayawada on June 21, at Kurnool on July 28 and at Warangal on August 2.

It has also sought clarification on the police action on women at Vishakhapatnam.

The Congress and the Marxist legislators however, brought an abrupt end to the 11-day-long hunger strike. The tariff agitation is expected to take another turn with the Congress and the CPM leaders launching a padayatra all over the state.

The padayatra will also become part of the campaign for the parties in the forthcoming panchayat polls in October.

The controversy over the World Bank aided power reforms entered a new phase with the disclosure in the state Assembly that the interest charged by the IBRD was not five per cent but 13.5 per cent on the $ 1 billion loan.

The Congress leaders dramatically exposed the half-truths of Naidu by tabling the loan agreement in the House.    


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