Kisans ground Kalraj’s bullock cart
BJP targets blood and flood
Mamata finds Big Brother and biryani in sou
Food drops with death
Flood relief drive in Bengal
Saffron chants Nagpur mantra
6 undertrials shot dead under police nose
Midnight cable blackout in capital

Nagla Chandrabhan (Mathura), Sept. 25: 
Kalraj Mishra’s efforts to “connect” with the peasants of western Uttar Pradesh have come a cropper.

As the new BJP state chief launched his Kisan Jagran Yatra from this village off the Delhi-Agra highway, toil-weary residents saw his theatrics as a mockery of their daily struggle to cope with deep-rooted problems.

Mishra’s attempt at local flavour — he donned a saffron pagdi and went around on a decked-up bullock cart — was lost on the villagers, burdened with reduced fertiliser subsidies, rising diesel cost, low procurement price for wheat, a bad monsoon and a rotten potato yield.

Even the BJP’s choice of symbols seemed inapt. The yatra was flagged off on the birth date and birth place of Jan Sangh founder and ideologue Deen Dayal Upadhayay and is expected to end on October 2 in Ramnagar — the birth date and birth place of Lal Bahadur Shastri.

“Neither of these leaders, however great they may be, are kisan netas (peasant leaders),” said Rattan Singh of Rahimpur village, adjacent to Nagla Chandrabhan. “They were scholarly persons. A leader like Charan Singh would have been more suited for the occasion.”

The bullock cart ride was dismissed as a “cruel” joke. After just 20 minutes on it, Mishra went inside his plush mechanised rath, complete with a lounge and a couch.

The rath’s only “concession” to kisans was two huge cut-outs of bulls on either side and a gaudily-painted slogan, “Chalo gaon ki aur (Come on, head straight for the village).”

“Mishra himself is not known as a peasant leader. On top of this, he has resorted to all this drama. If they are really serious about redressing farmers’ problems, let them not increase the diesel and kerosene price,” said Hiralal Sharma, a student from a peasant family of Daulatpur village.

Sharma and his friend, Hari Singh Tarkar, both BJP activists, revealed that the roadside receptions on the yatra route were a “camouflage”.

“If we hold black flags, we will be arrested. If we stand with marigold garlands, there’s a chance he may smile and stop. Then we can narrate our woes. This is the only way to grab these politicians,” said Tarkar.

The traders, too, had their share of grievances. Hari Prasad Jaiswal, a party worker from Barari village, said: “We are fed up with the law and order problems. Abductions and murders have become the order of the day.”

Jaiswal, who sounded uncomfortable with party chief Bangaru Laxman’s new fondness for minorities, admitted he was a “hard-core Sanghi” (RSS member). “When Mishraji stops to talk to us, we are going to tell him to stop all this nonsense of embracing minorities,” he said.

“We are loyal to the BJP because it’s a Hindu party. But if it dilutes its identity, we may consider opting for Mulayam Singh Yadav who at least has a clear agenda for traders.”

Local BJP leaders saw Mishra’s rural foray as more of a pre-election stunt. “We all know that elections in Uttar Pradesh are round the corner. If, at all, the BJP is in a position to form a government again, it won’t be under (chief minister) Ram Prakash Gupta. Mishra is looking at such a scenario and this yatra is meant to project himself all over the state,” said a former Agra legislator.

Mishra, however, denied this. “As the BJP chief, I want to establish contact with my workers and the people at large,” he asserted.

But local party workers maintained that it was “more a show of netas and less of workers”. They pointed to the presence of 20 state leaders, including ministers, sharing the dais with Mishra and just about 100 workers listening to their speeches.    

New Delhi, Sept. 25: 
Keeping the heat on West Bengal, the BJP national executive session here on October 1 will focus on the state’s law and order and the rampaging flood that has claimed more than two-hundred. The parlance for the meet is: “blood” and “flood”.

Though the devastating deluge has for the moment taken the punch out of Mamata Banerjee’s campaign against the Jyoti Basu government, the BJP today hinted it would keep its guns trained on Bengal’s violence spiral till next year’s Assembly polls.

BJP sources said though the party has made it clear that it was against imposing President’s rule in Bengal, “blood” — alluding to the violent turf war in some districts — and “flood” will be discussed at the national executive meeting.

BJP national chief Bangaru Laxman, who visited the state recently, is preparing a report on the law and order situation. The national executive will also discuss Laxman’s report.

The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) had on Saturday passed a resolution condemning the current impasse in the districts, where terror-stricken people have been forced to flee their homes.

Earlier, George Fernandes and an NDA MPs’ team filed reports on the situation. Both had blasted the CPM-led government for the “constitutional breakdown” in the state.

The war of words between the BJP and the CPM continued today with BJP spokesperson M. Venkaiah Naidu asking Basu to explain his stand on Article 356 and the Bengal chief minister issuing a strongly-worded statement on comments made by some NDA leaders.

“Comrade Jyoti Basu says Central intervention will be a body blow to parliamentary democracy. We would like to know the CPM stand with regard to Central intervention in states. What is your stand on Article 356 or its abrogation?” Naidu asked.

In his terse retort to NDA criticism, Basu had shot back, saying: “We do not need to be advised about the role and functioning of democracy by those who destroyed the Babri Masjid in 1992, which led to communal riots.”

CPM sources said the Left Front is organising a rally in New Delhi tomorrow to highlight the Trinamul Congress campaign for President’s Rule in the state as also the “interference by the Centre in West Bengal’s affairs”.

Naidu said that Basu should have a consistent stand “at the fag end of his career”. He asked the Bengal chief minister to justify his party’s support to imposition of Article 356 on Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh and Rajasthan.

“These governments were dismissed even though there was no single incident of law and order breakdown,” Naidu said.

“How do you justify your support and your acceptance of the United Front government’s decision to dismiss the Gujarat government with no trace of constitutional breakdown?” Naidu asked. “Does he regret the imposition of Article 356 on Gujarat. If it was good for four states, why is it bad now?”

“According to the CPM-led government itself, 800 people were killed in West Bengal. They said after the BJP-led government came to power at the Centre, 800 people were killed in the state,” Naidu said to drive home the point that the law and order situation in the state was enough ground to take action against the state government.

He said the talk of Article 356 was not because of failure of law and order, but because of the state aparatus letting lose a regin of terror.    

Hyderabad, Sept. 25: 
Mamata Banerjee has found her elder brother in Hyderabad.

Hailing Chandrababu Naidu as a “most popular international leader, my elder brother”, the railway minister, in true sisterly spirit, promised that she would sanction him whatever he asks for from her ministry.

Mamata, who wants Naidu by her side in her fight against Jyoti Basu, arrived in Hyderabad last night. She breakfasted for over an hour at the chief minister’s residence, during which Mamata made a direct appeal for the big brother’s help.

“Taming the Marxist party-led government is not just my demand. It is the demand of the people of West Bengal,” she said.

After the Andhra fare of spicy curries and idli, poori, pesarattu (dal dosa) and some fish and prawn items, Mamata signed a Rs 60 crore MoU for a joint-venture on three major suburban railway routes linking the Old City of Hyderabad with Secunderabad and Secunderabad Cantonment.

“I am ready for any project but it has to be under joint venture as the railways have no funds,” Mamata said.

Skipping the lavish lunch organised at the Jubilee Hall by Naidu, Mamata asked for a packed container of Hyderabadi biryani and the well-known local sweets Kurbani-ka-meetha and Double-ka-meetha. She told the chief minister that the biryani was delicious and ditto for the sweets.

Mamata also visited the Ramoji Film City. She spent almost two hours there and watched a video show.

The railway minister met several Bengali artisans at the film city. About 75 to 100 Plaster of Paris artists are employed there. She also met some artists from the Bengali channel of Eenadu TV.

Mamata also visited a self-help group of women in Medchal, about 40 km from Hyderabad. She attended a computer presentation on the activities of the organisation, Direct Assistance to Women and Child Agency.    

Calcutta, Sept. 25: 
Gokul Bairagi and his neighbours were waiting in a huddle for three days for food to arrive.

When it did, it came with death.

Gokul Bairagi was crushed to death under sacks of chira and gur dropped by the army at Khanakul in Hooghly district.

This morning the whine of an approaching helicopter sliced through the moist air, carrying in its belly food for starving Bairagi and his fellow villagers who gathered quickly on a dry patch of land.

When the first few packets streamed down from the skies, they rushed to collect them. They were looking up at the sky to follow the path of the sacks being dropped by the helicopter hovering above them.

Bairagi, too, was running with them. A sackful of chira and gur fell on him. Cut off by water all around, he could not be taken to a doctor. Bairagi died on the spot.

Thousands of marooned people at Khanakul, less than 100 kms from Calcutta, have gone without food for about three days as the area is inaccessible. Army helicopters had also failed to make sorties for bad weather.

In official records, Bairagi’s death went down as one of the 418 people who have so far died in the flood. Two hundred are estimated to be missing.

For the over-3 million people who have been affected by the flood, life was getting back a semblanc of normality in the 4,000 camps across six districts.

Water is receding in Murshidabad, Burdwan, Birbhum and Hooghly. “Nadia is still badly hit as the water draining out of Murshidabad, Burdwan and Birbhum is flowing through it,” Bengal finance minister Asim Dasgupta said.

The swollen Jalangi, flowing through Nadia, caused flooding in areas that had not been affected so far. But, with discharge from Massanjore and Tilpara dropping to zero, the fear of fresh flooding has faded. “Unless there is a recurrence of rainfall, the situation should ease gradually. But, with the high tide in the Hooghly starting from Tuesday midnight, the rate at which water will recede will decrease,” Dasgupta said.

Deputy chief minister Buddhadev Bhattacharya, who surveyed the flooded areas with Dasgupta, blamed the Met office for inadequate warning.

“We have gone through the reports from the weather office and there was no indication there of such a deluge,” he said.

After yesterday’s police firing in Nadia to quell a protest, a report from still-submerged Katwa in Burdwan district said people demanding relief besieged the block development officer.

“What else will they do if they go without food for days and we can’t reach them relief because of inaccessibility,” chief minister Jyoti Basu said.


Calcutta, Sept. 25: 
Ramakrishna Mission and Bharat Sevasram Sangha have started extensive relief work in the flood-hit districts of West Bengal.

Swami Smaranananda, the general secretary of Ramakrishna Mission Ashram, Belur Math, in a press release from the ashram on Monday, stated that food is being served daily to the flood-affected people. Ramakrishna Mission is also carrying out relief work in the tornado-affected villages of Gaighata in 24-Parganas (north).

Bharat Sevasram Sangha is supplying food daily to 25,000 victims of the flood-affected districts. The ashram is also working in Gaighata. Supply of relief materials is being hampered due to transport problems, ashram sources said.

The ashram is also supplying saris, dhotis, polythene and tarpaulin to the affected areas.    

New Delhi, Sept. 25: 
With elections due early next year in five states, including Uttar Pradesh, the BJP has drawn up a campaign plan to educate the masses on the “Nagpur message” and make the BJP “the preferred party of good governance”.

The Nagpur message propounded by party chief Bangaru Laxman stresses the need to allay the apprehensions of the minority community about the BJP. Laxman’s message will be printed in a booklet in different languages and distributed among the people. Booklets in Hindi and English were released today.

The party decided to take the message, also underscoring the need to expand the BJP’s social base, to every “nook and corner” of the country. BJP will also address its own negative features that kept certain sections of society away.

The BJP national executive slated for October 1 will draw up an action plan to publicise the Nagpur message, said party spokesperson M. Venkaiah Naidu. He said the party will also highlight the achievements of the BJP-led government.

The BJP national council held in Nagpur last month gave a call to make the “next century as India’s century and we have decided to educate the workers on this”, Naidu said.

The national executive will also discuss the party’s stand on social, economic and other issues. It will also discuss its ideological orientation and a broad outline will be drawn up.

Tamil Nadu, where Assembly elections will be held along with four other states, will receive special focus. Senior leaders, including Jana Krishnamurthy and Venkaiah Naidu, toured the state extensively in recently.

Two zonal conferences were held at Ponamallie and Hosur last week. Another zonal conference will be held at Pollachi, near Coimbatore and will be addressed by Laxman.

Two more conferences — at Salem on October 14 and at Nagercoil on October 21— are being planned.

These meetings will be followed by district-level conferences and in January, a state-level rally will be held at Chennai. Before the Chennai rally, the party plans to have “four yatras” led by senior leaders which will converge at Trichy.

Venkaiah Naidu claimed that the popularity of the BJP is soaring “day by day”. He said Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and home minister L.K. Advani have become “household” names and more people are joining the party.

Naidu said the party has penetrated those social sections, which were earlier antagonistic. He claimed that the BJP has become a favourite of women, minorities, weaker sections and the youth. Naidu said the recent constitutional amendment enforcing job reservation for SC/STs and the appointment of a Dalit as BJP president has gone down well with the Dalits in Tamil Nadu.

Dubbing the recent meeting of leaders of the ADMK, the CPM, the CPI and the Tamil Maanila Congress as “partisan”, Naidu said the so called secular front is a peculiar front. The ADMK used the occasion to attack the DMK, while the CPM, the CPI and others attacked the BJP. The parties which called Jayalalitha “corrupt” were now queuing up before her, he said, adding that the BJP never dubbed her corrupt as the matter is sub judice.


Lucknow, Sept. 25: 
In a shootout between two rival underworld groups, six undertrials travelling under police protection from Deobandh jail to Saharanpur district court were today ambushed and shot dead.

One undertrial is reported to be battling for life at a Saharanpur hospital. Three policemen suffered serious injuries.

The incident took place in the presence of a posse of policemen who could neither stop the shootout nor identify any of the assailants, around 10 in number.

The policemen were escorting the undertrials on a 50 km journey from the sub-jail to the district court.

The undertrials, all being tried in a case of double murder committed in February this year in Merethpur of Saharanpur district, were ambushed at Sankankala village around 11 am.

Aditya Ram, one of the policemen injured in the shootout, said that a tractor blocked the path of the police van near a bridge at the village.

As the police alighted from the van to find out who had parked the tractor across the bridge, armed men hiding behind the tractor opened fire indiscriminately.

The six who died on the spot have been identified as Mokham Singh, Samsher Singh, Shiv Kumar, Tej Pal, Shailesh Singh and Biswas.

Police sources said the role of the policemen escorting the undertrials was also being investigated as there was no evidence of any challenge from at least four of them.

Police teams have fanned out in the nearby districts in search of the assailants.

While the police maintained that it was premature to say anything specific about the assailants or the motive behind the attack, they did not rule out the possibility of a rival gang involvement.

There were no arrests till late this evening.


New Delhi, Sept 25: 
Cable TV will go on the blink in Delhi from midnight, today. The Cable TV Operators United Front, comprising multi-system operators like Siticable, IN Cablenet, Hathaway Datacom, Spectranet, franchisees and independent operators, have decided to shut down transmission for three days from tonight.

All 1,500 cable operators in Delhi have come together on a single platform to protest against the “lopsided amendments to the Cable Networks Act, which holds cable operators responsible for the programmes and advertisements being relayed by Indian and foreign satellite broadcasters”.

Information and broadcasting minister Arun Jaitley has appealed to the cable operators not to go on strike.

He adds that he has not received any official memorandum, but a group of operators met him last week. The minister feels that the cable operators worrying needlessly.

According to Jaitley, there are three main aspects of the amended Act — prohibition of piracy, pornographic programmes and tobacco and alcohol ads.

The minister said his office is already speaking to channels that downlink into India regarding the alcohol and tobacco ads.

STAR and Sony have given their commitment in writing for withdrawing such ads from their channels within a few days.

The ministry is negotiating with Zee Network about the withdrawal of the ads.

This is precisely the issue which is an irritant with the cable operators.

They ask why the carriers or the cable operators should be legally bound and punishable by law when only the generators of such programmes, which use prohibited advertising support, come under the ambit of negotiation.

The cable operators demand that certain critical issues should be addressed by the government on a priority basis.

To absolve cable operators of the responsibility for programmes and ads being relayed by satellite channels, the channels should give an undertaking that they will adhere to the programme and advertising codes laid down by the information and broadcasting ministry.

The government should issue a no-objection certificate without which no programme or ad can be carried by any cable network in the country.

To check piracy and avoid harassment, a single window system to obtain copyrights legally at a reasonable fee should be available to operators on a non-exclusive basis.

A regulatory authority on the lines of TRAI should be established. The cable operators also demand that they should not be held responsible for the collection of entertainment tax from subscribers.

There are several other lesser demands, among which is the demand that police should not interfere with the cable networks.

The cable operators’ front threatened that if their grievances are not effectively addressed, the agitation will be intensified and extended to other parts of the country.

“I am always willing to discuss any issue,” said Jaitley.

But he feels that cable operators are getting agitated over imaginary fears. And ultimately, Jaitley says, piracy is the main issue.    


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