It’s final: Basu fixes exit date
Depart the CM, enter the leader
Storm signal for Bengal
Gift of intern for new home
Calcutta Weather

 
 
IT’S FINAL: BASU FIXES EXIT DATE 
 
 
OUR BUREAU
 
Calcutta, Oct. 27: 
Jyoti Basu, India’s longest-serving chief minister, will relinquish office on November 5, bringing to an end a 24-year innings.

Announcing his retirement today at Writers’ Buildings, Basu, 87, said his party had cleared his long-pending wish to lay down office on grounds of failing health.

“It has been a good innings. Though I shall not remain chief minister, I will be very much in the CPM. The retirement issue has been pending with the party for the past year. I am happy they have finally realised that I am not keeping good health,” a relaxed Basu told newspersons in his office at the state secretariat.

As reported by The Telegraph today, Basu’s successor Buddhadev Bhattacharya is expected to be sworn in chief minister on November 6.

At Basu’s behest, chief secretary Manish Gupta has begun consultations with Raj Bhavan to fix the date and time for the swearing-in. Governor Viren Shah, now visiting Darjeeling, is expected to return cutting short his trip. Basu had kept the Governor informed of his plan to retire.

“Early November we will get a new chief minister. But I will go on serving the party till death,” Basu said.

The bowout on November 5 was discussed and approved by the CPM’s state secretariat, which also decided to place the proposal at a Left Front meeting on Saturday for formal endorsement.

Anil Biswas, Bengal CPM secretary, said Basu’s retirement was settled “within five minutes” at the state secretariat meeting in the morning.

Minutes before the meeting, Biswas had a talk with CPM general secretary Harkishen Singh Surjeet in Delhi. During the conversation, Surjeet is believed to have reaffirmed that he suggested to Basu “to please hang on a few more months before we revisit the issue of retirement for a final decision. But he would not listen”.

Biswas said the state secretariat today set in motion the politburo’s decision taken in July to relieve Basu. “For quite some time now, Jyotibabu has been seeking retirement on health grounds. It had been discussed at our party’s politburo meeting in July. The politburo had said the decision would be taken and implemented by the state secretariat and that is how it was.”

Two senior leaders, Nirupam Sen and land reforms minister Surya Kanta Mishra, argued forcefully for Basu’s continuance in office till the Assembly polls.

Sen and Mishra are perceived as belonging to the lobby in the CPM which feels Bhattacharya requires to serve as understudy for some more time to be fit to slip into Basu’s chair.

Basu’s businessman-son Chandan, too, is believed to have unsuccessfully tried to dissuade his father from relinquishing office.

Biswas and other leaders expressed the hope that Left Front constituents would “wholeheartedly accept our proposal regarding Buddhadev” at tomorrow’s meeting. But the partners were still not ready to give up the fight to retain Basu. “It is unacceptable to us.We will request him to continue. We will request the Central leadership, if necessary. We can’t just let him go like this before the (Assembly) elections,” said Ashoke Ghosh, Bengal Forward Bloc secretary.

RSP state secretary and irrigation minister, Debabrata Bandopadhyay, felt that the issue should have been discussed in the Left Front before an announcement. “It would have been more becoming that way,” he said.

Sources in the chief minister’s secretariat said Basu’s last official programme will be on November 4 when he is scheduled to inaugurate the Indian Road Congress.

But Basu made it clear he would campaign for the Left Front during the Assembly polls, if his health permits. “They have arranged helicopters for me and I will address meetings which the party decides for me,” he said.

Somnath to quit

Following in Jyoti Basu’s footsteps, CPM parliamentary party leader Somnath Chatterjee today offered to resign the post of chairman of the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation, citing ill health.

“I wanted to resign a long time back, but could not as Jyoti Basu asked me not to quit as long as he continues as the chief minister. Now that he has decided to step down, I do not want to continue in office,” Chatterjee said. He added that he would concentrate on his duties as parliamentary party leader.

Bengal CPM secretary Anil Biswas said Chatterjee has not yet informed the party of his decision.    


 
 
DEPART THE CM, ENTER THE LEADER 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Oct. 27: 
Buddhadev Bhattacharya spent several years waiting to be anointed Jyoti Basu’s successor. Since September 1999, he has served as the officially-appointed apprentice chief minister. His days as understudy may not be over yet.

Indications emerging from the CPM and its partners suggest that Basu may become the Left Front chairman, still calling the shots on important issues.

Sources said the party and Front constituents want Basu as chairman to coordinate the functioning of the coalition. Basu will bring to the largely titular chair, now occupied by Sailen Dasgupta, the glamour and power associated with his stature and act as a supreme leader to whom Bhattacharya will look for guidance.

Front constituents, too, will approach this super-power centre for political and administrative advice, as they routinely have whenever there has been trouble in the government.

Basu is the adhesive that holds the coalition together. A measure of the desperation of Front constituents to hang on to Basu was evident today when Forward Bloc leader Ashoke Ghosh said they would do everything they can to keep him.

Retirement is now an issue beyond debate. The best CPM’s partners can hope for is to have Basu as Front chairman.

Many of them are edgy about Bhattacharya who has a reputation for being brusque and impatient. They will feel secure in the continued presence of Basu as the supreme authority with proven ability to carry the Front with him.

It suits the apparatchiki at CPM headquarters on Alimuddin Street, too. Some of them are unhappy to see Bhattacharya succeed Basu and would have liked the chief minister to continue until the Assembly elections. Their calculation was that if Bhattacharya lost the election, a possibility since he has to contest from the Calcutta constituency of Jadavpur, they could foist on the party and the Front someone of their choice.

One reason for Basu deciding to step down now is the fear of such an eventuality. He wanted Bhattacharya to have a stint in the chief minister’s chair before the elections and give him a chance to prove his leadership ability.

The section opposed to Bhattacharya would want to keep Basu in the Front chairman’s seat simply as a check on the new chief minister’s authority and bide its time until after the elections.

For Basu, the arrangement is a win-win situation. After 24 uninterrupted years in office, Basu most certainly wanted to retire unvanquished. Given the growing public disenchantment with his government, there is a question-mark over the Left Front’s return to office.

If the CPM does not perform to expectations in the polls, the arrows of accusation will be pointed towards Bhattacharya. Any failure is likely to be interpreted as a result of Bhattacharya’s ineptitude by Alimuddin Street.

On the contrary, if the party does well, Basu will still walk away with much of the credit.    


 
 
STORM SIGNAL FOR BENGAL 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Oct. 27: 
Heavy rain and gales with speeds up to 60 kmph are expected to buffet the city and the Gangetic and coastal districts of Bengal and Orissa tomorrow.

The stormy conditions have been created by a depression, whose centre lay less than 350 km south of the city this evening. It is likely to intensify and cross the coast by tomorrow evening.

“The depression is moving in a north-northwesterly direction and is expected to cross the Bengal-Bangladesh coast by Saturday evening,” Alipore met office director R.N. Goldar said. “It may not intensify into a cyclone but could develop into a deep depression.”

Weathermen alerted the state administration and warned fishermen not to venture into the sea till Sunday.

Through the day, there was moderate to heavy rainfall, accompanied by gusts of wind, in the city and coastal areas. The skies remained overcast with low-lying, moisture-laden clouds moving from south to north.

Taking no chances after last year’s supercyclone in Orissa and the recent floods in Bengal districts, the state administration directed authorities in Midnapore, Howrah, North and South 24-Parganas to warn people in low-lying areas to shift to higher places.

“We have sent messages to the district magistrates to take precautions so that loss of life is prevented and damages are minimal,” said finance minister Asim Dasgupta at Writers’ Buildings.

The depression originated on Wednesday as a low pressure area over east-central Bay of Bengal and Andaman Islands. It moved in a north-northwesterly direction and gathered strength.

The weather deteriorated after Kali Puja festivities got over last night. People woke up to a slight chill this morning as the cool winds led to a fall in temperature. The maximum today was 25.4°C compared to 32.2°C yesterday.

Rainfall recorded at Alipore was 28.2 mm and 26.2 mm at Dum Dum till 5.30 pm today. “Rainfall will be much heavier tomorrow,” weathermen said.

All 16 pumping stations have been kept ready to rapidly drain off rain water if the need arises, mayor Subrata Mukherjee said.

There were reports of waterlogging at Thanthania and Free School Street.    


 
 
GIFT OF INTERN FOR NEW HOME 
 
 
FROM K.P. NAYAR
 
Washington, Oct. 27: 
When Bill Clinton packs up and leaves the presidential mansion here in less than three months, he may well take home an intern from the White House with him.

No, it will not be Monica Lewinsky or anyone else whose name has been amorously linked with the President. In fact, it will not even be a woman, but a college boy who may eventually wind up in his new home.

As the self-imposed moratorium by the media on writing about Chelsea Clinton, the President’s daughter, nears its end, it has been revealed that she has a boyfriend: a White House intern by the name Jeremy Kane.

Kane was Chelsea’s classmate at Stanford University before she temporarily gave up her studies to act as the President’s hostess. He became a White House intern this year helping in the speech-writing department and working on programmes associated with the Group of Eight (G8) nations.

Kane was first seen with Chelsea on this New Year’s eve and then the two were seen together at a church with the President, but the media did not write about their relationship.

The American media has respected the First Couple’s request for privacy for the youngest presidential daughter ever to live in the White House with the exception of John F. Kennedy’s infant offspring, Caroline.

This self-imposed moratorium by the media on writing about Chelsea’s private persona or photographing her will end in February when she turns 21.

Titbits about Chelsea and Kane which have been in the gossip columns of dailies and magazines in recent weeks are precursors of what is to follow when the ban on covering her is finally over.

According to these titbits, Kane was the only White House intern to be accommodated at the same hotel in Los Angeles where the President was staying in September for the Democratic Party’s National Convention.

Reports in the US media say Kane enjoys access to the President that is unprecedented for any White House intern with the exception of Lewinsky.

Notwithstanding the moratorium, media interest in Chelsea has increased ever since she travelled with her father to India in March and was widely photographed and filmed all over the country, especially at the Taj Mahal.

After Hillary Clinton entered the Senate election fray in New York, Chelsea has been filling in for her mother on the President’s travels and at White House functions.

Last month, she represented her father at the Sydney Olympics since the President was busy receiving Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee here.

Once her father steps down as President, Chelsea, who has lived either in the Governor’s mansion in Arkansas or at the White House since she was two years old, intends to return to Stanford to complete her studies.

She may later follow her father’s footsteps and go to Oxford.

White House interns, it is said, are delighted by Kane’s relationship with Chelsea.

It will provide a rare opportunity to restore the reputation of their tribe, which had been sullied by the Lewinsky scandal.    


 
 
CALCUTTA WEATHER 
 
 
 
 

Temperature

Maximum:25.4°C (-6
Minimum: 23.6°C (+l)

Rainfall:

28.2 mm

Relative humidity

Maximum: 98%,
Minimum: 72%

Today

A few showers, with one or two heavy showers, under the influence of a depression over north Bay of Bengal
   
 

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