Left is all right, right is not
Maruti prices up in grim signal
‘Flirt’ Uma breathes fire in apology chase
Mamata sings back to work
Calcutta Weather

 
 
LEFT IS ALL RIGHT, RIGHT IS NOT 
 
 
FROM DEBASHIS BHATTACHARYYA
 
Mumbai, Oct. 10: 
Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee had his left knee joint replaced in a “successful” operation in Breach Candy hospital today, but his other “weak knee” may still trouble him.

Dr Chittaranjan Ranawat, the New York-based surgeon who operated on Vajpayee, said he found the Prime Minister’s right knee also afflicted with osteoarthritis. The knee could do with a joint replacement operation, but Vajpayee had no plans for another surgery immediately, the doctor added.

Describing the osteoarthritis — a degenerative bone disease — in Vajpayee’s right knee as “moderate”, Dr Ranawat said he avoided operating on both his knees simultaneously considering the Prime Minister’s age and health.

The surgeon said patients aged 45 to 65 years suffering from osteoarthritis often have both their knees operated on simultaneously. Dr Ranawat did not say how soon the Prime Minister would feel the need to have his right knee joint replaced as well.

Assisted by three doctors, Dr Ranawat operated on Vajpayee for a little more than an hour, starting at 10.10 am. The Prime Minister, put on “regional” anaesthesia, was “awake” all through, talking to his anaesthetist as he did not feel anything, a hospital official said.

Asked what Vajpayee said, Dr Ranawat said: “A surgeon does not talk to his patient during operation.” The doctor said the operation was “successful” and added that Vajpayee would get back to work after some time. He said the Prime Minister in future would do well to walk with a cane to take the pressure off his weak knees.

“If the Prime Minister uses a cane, it will be a good thing for him,” Dr Ranawat said. Vajpayee’s aides found him cheerful after the operation.

The operation on the most important arthritis patient in the country came two days before World Arthritis Day.

Attorney-general Soli Sorabjee was also successfully operated by Dr Ranawat for a right knee joint replacement at Breach Candy.

Vajpayee was in good humour throughout. Last night, the Prime Minister watched Kaun Banega Crorepati on television sitting in his seventh-floor hospital room, Ashok Tandon, his media adviser, said. “It is one of his favourite programmes and he did not want to miss it.”

After dinner, he made and received a few phone calls, then strolled down the hospital corridor on the seventh floor. He read a bit before going to sleep around midnight, Tandon said.

The 76-year-old leader was “in a good mood” when he got up at 6 am, his usual timing. Before being taken to the operation theatre, Vajpayee pored over several English, Hindi and even Marathi newspapers, especially to find out what they had written about his operation. The Prime Minister spoke to his adopted daughter Namita and son-in-law Ranjan Bhattacharya immediately after the operation.

“I am feeling well,” Vajpayee was quoted as telling his daughter just after the operation. He also exchanged a few words with Union home minister L.K. Advani waiting at the hospital.

Dr Ranawat said the Prime Minister, put on physiotherapy after the operation, would be able to “stand on his feet” tomorrow. After that, he would slowly try to walk “step by step” with the aid of a walker. To avoid any infection, no one except family members and close friends will be allowed to meet him in the next three days.

The surgeon said Vajpayee might have to stay at the hospital “five to 15 days”, depending on his progress. “He will leave the hospital when he can walk enough.”

Asked if the operation would leave the Prime Minister with a limp for the rest of his life, Dr Ranawat said he did not think so. “It is very rare.”

The makeshift Prime Minister’s Office started operating in full swing in Mumbai today. Forty-three officials, including the Prime Minister’s 15 securitymen, were camping here, turning the city into the seat of power.

“The Prime Minister is well and is in full control,” Pramod Mahajan said.    


 
 
MARUTI PRICES UP IN GRIM SIGNAL 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Oct 10: 
Maruti Udyog Ltd, the country’s largest car maker, today raised the prices of most of its models, including the best-selling Maruti 800.

The price increase is a stark signal that the industry, which has seen a slump in demand, is unable to absorb the rising production costs.

Maruti raised the price of Maruti 800 by Rs 3,500-4,500. Zen LX Euro-II will be costlier by Rs 3,499, while the price of the diesel version will rise by Rs 10,000. The prices of the various Esteem models have also been raised by Rs 3,000-Rs 5,000.

The price of the Baleno — the company’s top-end model — is being increased by over Rs 22,000. However, the prices of Wagon-R, Gypsy and Alto have not been touched.

Other car makers like Hyundai Motor and Daewoo will hold board meetings next week to review the recent hikes announced by Maruti.

Car production costs have been rising steadily because of higher steel prices and increasing cost of plastic products. The problems have now been compounded by the recent hike in petroleum product prices which will lead to an all-round increase in auto component prices. A falling rupee has also raised the cost of imported components.

Maruti Udyog had indicated that a 12 per cent sales tax recently imposed by various state government would lead to marginal increase in the prices.

“The 12 per cent increase in sales tax has affected all car makers,” Daewoo officials said. “Our board will have to decide how much we ought to pass on to the consumers.”

In July, Maruti had cut the prices of three models, the Maruti 800, Omni and Wagon-R, for a three-month period. Today’s decision means that the Maruti models will be priced higher than they were before the July price cuts.

Maruti has been going through a rough period with its market share dropping to a little over 50 per cent from around 68 per cent at the start of the year.    


 
 
‘FLIRT’ UMA BREATHES FIRE IN APOLOGY CHASE 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Oct. 10: 
Uma Bharti and her supporters laid siege to The Week’s office early this morning and demanded an apology for an interview carried in its latest issue. The interview quoted the BJP MP as saying she was an “innocent flirt” who was once in love with K.N. Govindacharya.

The Week, however, stood by the interview and refused to apologise. In a press release, its editor-in-charge T.R. Gopalakrishnan said Uma had agreed to the interview “fully aware of the identity of our correspondent and our magazine”. He said there was no motive behind its publication “other than news interest”.

She denied having given the interview and alleged that it was part of a “deep-rooted conspiracy”.

However, Uma managed to coax a retraction from the correspondent of Hindi daily Hindustan, which had also carried her interview with contents similar to that in The Week. Correspondent Vrijendra Rawat’s apology was circulated in the BJP office. It alleged that the interview in question was one of a three-part dialogue with her, but its “heading and introduction” were “distorted”.

Addressing Uma as “respected Didiji”, Rawat said he was an unwitting player in a “larger conspiracy” to defame her and expressed his regrets.

Uma along with her supporters parked herself outside the Kochi-based weekly’s office on the second floor of the INS building, which houses the offices of outstation news publications. She announced that her dharna would continue till the magazine apologised. Her supporters plastered the walls of the corridor outside The Week office with posters declaring, “Apologise, apologise” and “Shameful conspiracy” and refused to allow the staff to enter the place.

Though the BJP stood by Uma, only former Delhi chief minister Madan Lal Khurana briefly joined her dharna. She called off her protest after speaking to a representative of the magazine. Sources close to the sanyasin said it was Swadeshi Jagran Manch ideologue S. Gurumurthy who persuaded her to leave the place.

“The publication of the interview was the saddest day of my life after my mother’s death. But my faith in God and humanity has not lessened because of this,” she said before calling it a day.

Coming close to tears, she said: “My fault is I am candid. Please do justice to me. Every word (in the interview) is wrong and I did not exchange even gossip with the correspondent.”

Conceding that Uma had been “harmed” by the interview, BJP spokesman Jana Krishnamurthy said: “She has gone on record that she never gave the interview. If the concerned person denies an interview, the party accepts her denial.”

An embattled Uma is not expected to press her resignation from the Lok Sabha nor her demand for a sub-quota for OBC women in the women’s reservation Bill, sources close to her said.    


 
 
MAMATA SINGS BACK TO WORK 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, Oct. 10: 
As he recuperates from his knee surgery at Breach Candy, Atal Behari Vajpayee would be glad to know that Mamata Banerjee left for Delhi today with Tagore music, and not rock ‘n’ rollback, on her mind.

In her first known public performance — not the slogan-shouting variety — Mamata sang before an unsuspecting and hastily-gathered crowd at a puja pandal at Sribhumi near Lake Town a Tagore song: Gaaney gaaney tobo bandhano jaak tootey.

Mamata dropped by on her way to the airport. The image, one of the largest crowdpullers this year in the city, was taken out for immersion after she visited the pandal at around 4.30 pm.

She was greeted by the local councillor and chief organiser of the puja, Sujit Bose, and the local club president, Santosh Das, who ushered her up to the dais.

As news of Mamata’s arrival spread, people rushed to the pandal. She made a brief speech, at the end of which she said she had a surprise waiting for the audience. For the next three-four minutes they listened in stunned silence as she sang without accompaniment, selecting a song that is not commonly heard.

If there was a message hidden in the song (Let music break your shackles...), it wouldn’t have gone unnoticed in an area where the Trinamul Congress has established an electoral alliance with CPM dissident Bose, a close associate of Subhas Chakraborty, transport minister.

Incidentally, Chakraborty left for Delhi on the same plane as Mamata.

Mamata is known for her penchant for breaking into songs. She has sung to her Lok Sabha colleagues Tagore songs like Jodi tor dak shuney keu na aashey, tobey ekla cholo rey, which was Indira Gandhi’s favourite and quoted frequently by politicians of all hues. She would also play melodies on her Yamaha synthesiser.

After Friday’s news conference where she announced withdrawal of her resignation, Mamata has been away from the public eye. Since this morning, she has been itching to get back to work and clear the files that have piled up in her absence from the railway ministry, which she has not visited for several weeks now.    


 
 
CALCUTTA WEATHER 
 
 
 
 

Temperature

Maximum: 33.4°C (+1)
Minimum: 25.7°C (+1)

Rainfall

Trace

Relative humidity

Maximum: 97%
Minimum: 64%

Today

Partly cloudy sky. Possibility of light rain in some parts of the city and suburbs

   
 

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