Bright spark after dark cloud
Clintons can’t digest dinner
Sangh in swadeshi church cry
Atal first, ‘Advani’ next for surgery
Hammer hovers over hijacked plane
Calcutta Weather

 
 
BRIGHT SPARK AFTER DARK CLOUD 
 
 
FROM LOKENDRA PRATAP SAHI
 
Nairobi, Oct. 7: 
Come what may, destiny reigns supreme.

Till last evening, young Yuvraj Singh’s neck was on the line. If Sridharan Sriram was to make it as opener (captain Sourav Ganguly would have batted down the order), it’s Yuvraj who would have had to make way in the ICC KnockOut Kenya 2000 quarter final.

Late last night, Sourav decided he would open and, so, Yuvraj got to play his second one-day International. He was, clearly, destined to and today emerged matchwinner against world champions Australia. India are now through to the semi-finals and await the winners of Tuesday’s South Africa vs England face-off.

“We’re prepared for any team... Won’t make a difference,” pointed out an emotional Sourav, pleased as punch and not concealing his joy.

Yuvraj batted with panache rarely seen among Indians, to top-score with 84, and then proved outstanding in the field. Father Yograj may have been an uncompromising disciplinarian, but the fruits of that upbringing were in evidence at the Nairobi Gymkhana packed with Indian supporters.

After posting 265 for nine, the Indians bowled out Australia for 245 with a minimum of eight deliveries remaining. “No excuses... We put up an ordinary performance,” remarked Steve Waugh, while Sourav had the maximum praise for Yuvraj.

“Hopefully, this is the first of many such performances from Yuvraj... Yes, I’m all for youngsters, capable youngsters. The difference that they can make has been in evidence in this tournament,” Sourav said.

The Indians, of course, batted with purpose and bowled sensibly, tempting the Australians into errors. But more than that, Sourav’s team fielded like champions: two great run outs (including that of dangerman Michael Bevan) and some exceptional catches.

India’s task was made easier by the Australians, who overshot bowling 50 overs by 23 minutes. It cost them two overs, no light penalty in a needle match. With good reason, then, Steve seemed upset over what appeared to be a shocking lack of communication between the dressing room and the middle.

Always chewing gum, Yuvraj, the toast of millions, dedicated his performance to “family and friends”. He confessed to having been “nervous” initially, but overcame that after facing “two-three balls”.

Yuvraj’s body-language stood out, just as Glenn McGrath’s took a beating. He was unplayable in the last set of India-Australia engagements. Today, Sachin Tendulkar knocked the halo off him.

Every victory is sweet, but more so when it comes in the aftermath of a crisis. Sachin advising Sourav; Sourav walking up to vice-captain Rahul Dravid; Anil Kumble rushing with a suggestion...

All that and the team’s vibrancy made for compelling watching. It made India’s first win over Australia in two years that much more special.    


 
 
CLINTONS CAN’T DIGEST DINNER 
 
 
FROM K.P. NAYAR
 
Washington, Oct. 7: 
The biggest dinner in the history of White House for a foreign visitor has left a bad taste in the mouth: not for the chief guest, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, but for his hosts, President Bill Clinton and his wife. Three weeks after 700 guests turned up on the lawns of White House to break bread with Vajpayee, the controversy surrounding the guest list is refusing to go away. With Hillary Clinton’s Senate bid from New York in its final stages, her role as co-host at the Vajpayee dinner is repeatedly coming under the microscope.

The difficulty for the President and the First Lady in defending the dinner stems not from its size or its extravagance, but from the fact that almost one out of every six guests had virtually no connection with India. Of the 700 invitees to the dinner, just over 50 were from the Indian delegation that accompanied Vajpayee.

According to investigative reports in the US media, of the remaining 646 guests, more than 100 had a common bond. All of them had contributed to the First Lady’s election campaign. Four of them had made donations in excess of $20,000 while eight had written out cheques for over $10,000. Seventeen paid more than $5,000, but less than $10,000.

America’s campaign fund-raising laws permit individual contributions per candidate of up to $2,000, but there is no limit on funding campaign efforts on behalf of the candidate, such as a TV advertisement sponsored as “friends of Hillary” or on behalf of a non-profit organisation supporting her. Such contributions, known as “soft money”, have become the First Lady’s nemesis in her Senate campaign.

At last week’s debate between presidential candidates Al Gore and George W. Bush, the Republican nominee brought up the issue of access to the Clinton White House. At issue during the debate was not the Vajpayee dinner, but a row about how the Clintons allowed major campaign contributors to sleep overnight in the Lincoln Bedroom of White House.

Under sustained media pressure, White House released a few days ago a list of 361 overnight guests. It turns out that one out of four of the overnight guests had contributed to the First Lady’s election bid. Excluded from the list were 43 others because they were friends of Chelsea, the First Couple’s daughter.

The only Indian among the 361 presidential guests to have slept in the Lincoln Bedroom was Vinod Gupta, who owns an Internet-based marketing company in Nebraska. Gupta contributed $100,000 to the Democratic National Committee and helped raise an equal amount through a $1,000-per-plate dinner for Hillary at his home. Gupta was also an invitee for the Vajpayee dinner.    


 
 
SANGH IN SWADESHI CHURCH CRY 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Oct. 7: 
RSS chief K.S. Sudarshan today told Christians to “prove” their “nationalist credentials” by throwing “foreign” missionaries out and working towards a “swadeshi” church.

Delivering the customary annual speech at the RSS base in Nagpur on Vijayadashami, Sudarshan accused foreign churches of instigating a political conspiracy to destabilise the nation. But Sudarshan kept a usual flogging horse, the economic reforms, out of the sermon’s focus.

“Why are these foreign churches allowed to carry on their activities on our soil?” he asked. Giving a “certificate of patriotism” to the majority of Christians, he urged them to set up a swadeshi church on the lines of the Orthodox Syrian church and the Marthoma church of Kerala. Unlike the Catholic church, the two have nothing to do with the Vatican.

He asked them to emulate China and see to it that all foreign churches and missionaries working on “Indian soil” were “evicted”.

Sangh sources said the immediate provocation for Sudarshan’s outburst was the Vatican’s opposition to a joint declaration at the recent New York religious summit placing all faiths on a par. The statement was ratified by nearly 1,000 delegates at the summit.Sudarshan recalled that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, reading out the Pope’s response, had said: “By placing all religions on a par, we are crossing the limits of tolerance.” The Pope had also reportedly said Roman Catholicism was the only means of “salvation”.

Observers, however, placed the RSS chief’s outburst in a larger context. They said the Sangh resorted to this strategy whenever the Congress’ popularity graph was seen to be on the upswing.Added to this was the BJP’s recent debacle at the Gujarat local bodies’ elections and its sliding fortunes in Uttar Pradesh.

Sudarshan’s comments coincide with efforts by a section of the Sangh parivar to attribute the reverses to the BJP’s attempt to woo minorities.Sources pointed out that the party’s bid for an image makeover had antagonised both the RSS and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad.

From Christians, Sudarshan turned his focus to Muslims, asking them to “prove” their patriotism by keeping vigil on ISI operatives.

He demanded “Indianisation of Islam”. Urging Muslims to join the cultural mainstream, the RSS chief asked: “When Indonesian Muslims can acknowledge Lord Ram and Krishna as their ancestors and describe the Ramayana and the Mahabharata as their cultural books and remain Muslims too, why do Indian Muslims not do the same?”    


 
 
ATAL FIRST, ‘ADVANI’ NEXT FOR SURGERY 
 
 
FROM DEBASHIS BHATTACHARYYA
 
Mumbai, Oct. 7: 
Advani will follow Atal Behari Vajpayee when the Prime Minister checks in at Breach Candy for his knee operation.

The home minister’s namesake is the next patient to come under New York-based surgeon Chittaranjan Ranawat’s scalpel.

S.J. Advani, a hotelier, will have his left knee operated at Breach Candy hospital on Wednesday, a day after Vajpayee’s knee replacement surgery.

Hospital sources said Vajpayee will be Ranawat’s sole patient on Tuesday. But the next day, he would work on the hotelier’s knee which is afflicted with osteoporosis, a bone malady that makes climbing stairs impossible.

This not Advani’s first encounter with Ranawat, who last year operated on his right leg. What he has to say about the doctor should lift Vajpayee’s spirits.

“Dr Ranawat is a genius. He put me on a spinal anaesthesia during my operation. I heard the sound of my bone being cut. Little wonder, the Prime Minister chose him for this surgery,” he said.

Hospital officials called the scheduling of Advani after Vajpayee “a coincidence”. “You should not read too much into it,” said an official.

All 10 rooms on the seventh floor have been “sanitised and reserved” for the Prime Minister in an unprecedented gesture to “our very special guest”, an official said.

Other patients on the floor were moved elsewhere in the 174-bed hospital, which is serviced by more than 100 doctors and 290 nurses and used to catering to the country’s rich and powerful.

All the rooms on the floor have an uninterrupted view of the placid Arabian Sea, with dots of fishing boats silhouetted against the horizon.

The furniture and curtains have been changed and the walls repainted, done up in a way that any of them is “fit enough” to host the VVIP visitor.

“We will ask him to take his pick. The other rooms will house his family members and officials,” said an official.

Vajpayee’s securitymen are leaving nothing to chance. They have made the authorities build an exclusive entrance for the Prime Minister and his entourage. Traffic outside the hospital, located in an upscale part of south Mumbai, will be restricted.

The coast guard has been asked to patrol the sea along the hospital during Vajpayee’s five-to-seven-day stay.

A long list of probable VIP visitors was the police’s biggest worry as they could pose a security hazard and disturb other patients, a possibility hospital authorities want to avoid.

However, the securitymen’s nightmare eased yesterday when Vajpayee asked Cabinet colleagues and well-wishers not to visit him at the hospital.

Health minister C.P. Thakur and information technology minister Pramod Mahajan visited the hospital last week to make sure that the Prime Minister “enjoys” his stay and returns home a happy man.    


 
 
HAMMER HOVERS OVER HIJACKED PLANE 
 
 
FROM CHANDAN NANDY
 
New Delhi, Oct. 7: 
The government wants to put the hijacked Indian Airlines A-300 up for sale.

Airline officials believe that the ageing aircraft (picture on right), which must be one of the costliest court exhibits, is close to becoming scrap and could lose its air-worthiness.

The authorities filed a petition earlier in the week at the designated court in Patiala, where the hijack case is on trial, requesting the judge to release the plane as the company will lose a lot of money if the aircraft is not sold now.

“It is likely to fetch a good price if it is disposed of right now. If it gets any later, the national exchequer will lose heavily and the plane’s certificate of air-worthiness will lapse,” a source in the airline said.

The plane, on a flight from Kathmandu to Delhi last Christmas-eve, was hijacked by Harkat-ul-Mujahideen militants who took it to the Taliban base of Kandahar after a terrifying odyssey across four countries. They held 160 people hostage and released them after eight days in exchange for the freedom of three militants jailed in India.

The aircraft became a case property soon after the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) took up the probe and decided to put it up, among other things, as one of the key exhibits. A senior CBI official said the agency will “examine the matter legally and in its entirety” before it takes a decision on whether or not to let go of the exhibit.

“The judge may even like to have a look at the aircraft. On the other hand, even photographs, as the plane stood at Kandahar airport, may suffice,” a CBI source said.

But airline officials said they are hopeful that the court will give a positive decision. “We do not think there will be any problem,” a senior official said, adding that “there is no mala fide intention” because the airline is only trying to comply with international regulations which do not permit passenger aircraft older than 20 years.

“However, it is up to the government to decide whether the aircraft has any evidentiary value, especially after everyone knows that it was this plane which was hijacked,” the official said.

The Airbus is part of a fleet of 300 old aircraft that IA plans to sell. “Actually, the board of directors had decided to dispose off the Airbus A-300 four days prior to the hijack,” claimed an airline official.

The aircraft does not fly on any particular sector and its routes keep changing. Soon after it was brought back from Kandahar, the plane flew on the Kathmandu-Delhi sector for a few days. Since then, it has flown on several routes on the domestic circuit.

“There is no hard-and-fast rule that one particular aircraft flies on the same sector all through. It has been flying on several sectors within the country,” an IA official said.    


 
 
CALCUTTA WEATHER 
 
 
 
 

Temperature

Max: 31.9°
Min: 25.9°

Humidity

Max:93%,
Min: 71%

Rainfall

0.1mm

Forecast for today: Generally cloudy sky with possibility of light rain in some parts of Calcutta

wea    
 

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