Fernandes sent back with snub
Three options for compromise
Sydney says goodbye in best-in-the-business glory
Putin comes to encash IOUs
Calcutta Weather

 
 
FERNANDES SENT BACK WITH SNUB 
 
 
FROM RADHIKA RAMASESHAN
 
New Delhi, Oct. 1: 
George Fernandes returned “empty-handed” from his meeting with Mamata Banerjee yesterday, said sources close to the defence minister.

Fernandes — deputed by the Prime Minister to persuade Mamata to withdraw her and Ajit Panja’s resignations and stay with the National Democratic Alliance — informed him there was “absolutely no breakthrough” even as A.B. Vajpayee said he was “hopeful” she would continue supporting the government.

Before attending the BJP national executive, Vajpayee said: “Talks are going on. We hope her support (to the government) will continue.” Observers were left wondering why Vajpayee chose not to say that he hoped Mamata would return to the government.

Asked to react to Mamata’s charge that she was not a party to the decision, he said: “She was in the NDA meeting (where the matter was discussed), but she had a different opinion on some issues. But then she went by consensus.”

Sources close to Fernandes also said he politely told Vajpayee that he would not return to Bengal as the Prime Minister’s emissary again. Sources said Fernandes, along with PMO official Sudhindra Kulkarni, was “kept waiting” for over four hours in Mamata’s Calcutta residence yesterday as she was in Krishna Bose’s house following the death of her husband, Sisir Bose. After his “patience ran out”, Fernandes himself went to Krishna Bose’s house hoping to meet Mamata there, said sources.

Even as hopes for an early resolution of the impasse receded, the Centre stood its ground on the petro price rise, over which the Trinamul leader quit the government and threatened to walk out of the NDA as well, setting a three-day deadline for rollback.

After the day-long session of the national executive, BJP vice-president Jana Krishnamurthy, when asked about the possibility of withdrawing a part of the price increase, replied: “What rollback? The government is saying that the burden on the people is only minimum.”

Privately, BJP sources admitted that with Mamata “politicising” the issue, it is extremely difficult for the Centre to even consider a rollback because it will “undermine” the credibility of decisions on key economic issues. “If the Centre goes back on its decision, it will look as if it is being blackmailed by an ally for political considerations. Economic decisions must not be allowed to get politicised,” said a BJP office-bearer. The BJP appealed to Mamata to “appreciate” the “compulsions of circumstances” in which prices were raised and said it was “sure” she would “understand them”.

The BJP, which yesterday was stunned by Mamata’s decision, today seemed reconciled to her leaving the NDA close to the Bengal elections and joining hands with the Congress.

Its assessment is that Mamata may not stick to her three-day ultimatum and part with the NDA yet if the government refuses to reverse the price hike.

“It’s early days yet as far as firming up an alliance with the Congress is concerned. She will continue making threatening noises and use the intervening period to clinch seat-sharing and leadership questions with the Congress. Once that’s done it will be good-bye to BJP. If she takes the ultimate step right away and her alliance with the Congress falls through for some reason, she will be falling between two stools,” said BJP sources.    


 
 
THREE OPTIONS FOR COMPROMISE 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, Oct. 1: 
After Vajpayee- emissary George Fernandes’ early morning talks with Mamata Banerjee, three scenarios are emerging in which the Trinamul Congress continues its ties with the Central coalition.

One of these is a small rollback of the increase in prices of cooking gas and kerosene that touch popular sentiment more than petrol and diesel.

The second is the induction of another Trinamul leader, Sudip Bandopadhyay, into the ministry.

The third is that Trinamul stays out of government but continues to support the National Democratic Alliance.

Another BJP ally, N. Chandrababu Naidu, to whom Mamata has sometimes turned for support, has advised her not to foreclose her options with the BJP.

Having set a three-day deadline for the Centre to decide on a rollback, Mamata has already committed herself to doing just that if Delhi does not respond favourably.

Like Naidu, who she referred to recently as “elder brother”, she can, however, not be part of the NDA but still support the government.

Both sides stuck to their stands today — the Centre ruled out a rollback and Mamata made it clear she won’t settle for less. Party sources said she even refused to take calls from the Prime Minister’s Office.

“I made it clear to Fernandes that there was no alternative than to resign taking the common people’s interest into account. If people are hurt, I’m hurt too,” she said.

With the Prime Minister saying in public today that Mamata had been kept abreast of the impending price hike and that, though she did not agree with the move, she decided to go by consensus, a question has begun to be asked by observers.

They are wondering why she did not threaten to resign at the NDA meeting where it was discussed, but chose to wait for the public announcement to deliver the blow. The conclusion emerging from this line of argument is that she was merely looking for a provocation to break with the BJP before the Assembly polls.

Drama: Basu

Chief minister Jyoti Basu said on Sunday Mamata Banerjee was simply play-acting for political gain. “She (Mamata) is indulging in antics to neutralise public resentment at the price hike and show that she was not involved with the decision in any way,” Basu said.

Referring to his talks with agriculture minister Nitish Kumar on flood relief, Basu said Mamata “was actually a party to the Cabinet decision”.

“I wonder why she is clamouring for a rollback in prices now and has resigned from the Cabinet,” he said, adding, “I am not bothered about her resignation. Let her do what she likes.”    


 
 
SYDNEY SAYS GOODBYE IN BEST-IN-THE-BUSINESS GLORY 
 
 
FROM SUJIT BHAR
 
Sydney, Oct. 1: 
At the rip-roaring hour of the biggest and brightest party on Earth, the Sydney spectacle was crowned the “best Olympic Games ever”.

The acknowledgement came from the marathon man of Olympics, Juan Antonio Samaranch, who has been at the helm of the Games committee for 20 years.

There were several firsts at tonight’s closing ceremony. The athletes, brought onto the ground, were kept on the ground, the flame was extinguished under a crescent moon exactly when an F-111 RAAF aircraft roared across, as if it had been carried away. The original Olympic Flag was around, so were the Greek priestesses from the temple of Mount Olympus.

Then there were the stars: Golfer Greg Norman, supermodel Elle Macpherson, Paul Hogan of Crocodile Dundee, singer Kylie Minogue and Priscilla, the drag queen. Norman was driving a white shark, Macpherson was catwalking on a giant camera and Hogan on his massive trademark hat.

If technical glitz was the hallmark of the Los Angeles Games, fun was the theme and Slim Dusty’s Waltzing Matilda, the unofficial theme song at Sydney. Savage Garden, Men at Work and INXS kept the adrenaline flowing.

Outside, near the harbour, the night exploded in a blaze of fireworks, dubbed one of the biggest pyrotechnic extravaganzas on the planet. The Bridge, an indelible part of Australia’s enduring picture postcard image, basked in the blinding brilliance of the fireworks display that outsparkled the millennium celebrations.

The bill for the fireworks feast, spread out by experts from five continents, alone totalled $ 1.7 million.

The two parties swinging at Stadium Australia and by the harbour were bridged by a “river of lightning” that illuminated the Paramatta river. It was a breathtaking climax for a fun-loving city, and Athens will have a tough time competing with Sydney in 2004.

“I am proud and happy to proclaim that you have presented to the world the best Olympic Games ever,” Samaranch, presiding over his last Games, declared. “To you, all the people of Sydney and Australia, we say: These have been your Games,” said Samaranch, whose Games were tinged with tragedy when his wife died as he was flying home to Spain to be at her bedside.    


 
 
PUTIN COMES TO ENCASH IOUS 
 
 
FROM PRANAY SHARMA
 
New Delhi, Oct. 1: 
When President Vladimir Putin lands here, it will be payback time for a generation of Indians which had once made Russia the politically correct destination for higher education.

Putin is likely to seek the help of the large number of Russian-speaking Indians, particularly those who had been trained in the former Soviet Union, to rebuild his nation. A meeting is scheduled at the Russian embassy here on Wednesday afternoon during which the President will interact with the Russian-speakers.

Many Indian researchers specialising in Russia will be honoured by him, but he will also ask for their help to train Russian youth in management and supervisory skills. Putin may offer jobs to these Indians to train youngsters in information technology and allied spheres. Many Russians, who are now forced to go to Europe for such training, can save a considerable amount if the Indians accept Putin’s offer.

Russians can also take advantage of the Indians’ knowledge of English. Since Putin is trying to project Russia as a modern state to foreign investors, knowledge of English will come in handy.

The President’s pitch will give the Russian-speaking Indians a chance to go to the aid of the land of their alma maters. However, several of the alumni are communists’ children who had chosen the socialist Soviet Union as an alternative to the capitalist US and UK. It remains to be seen whether a Russia without the Soviet prefix and communists at the helm will have the same allure.

The President is also expected to look at how Russian students can train in India. Over 12 pacts covering cooperation in science and technology, agriculture and telecommunications are likely to be signed during the visit. Another area of cooperation is the film industry — Moscow could be a cheaper option than western Europe for Mumbai producers. Putin was keen to watch a Hindi film shoot, but time constraints may stand in the way    


 
 
CALCUTTA WEATHER 
 
 
 
 

Temperature

Maximum: 27.9°C (-4)
Minimum: 24.6°C (-1)

Rainfall

51.2 mm

Relative humidity

Maximum: 96%
Minimum:87%

Today

The weatherman warns that the wet patch is not quite over yet.Expect a shower or two
   
 

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