Front forced to spare Basu for Delhi
Parent penalty on Mamata hit list
Somnath rethink on resignation
Protocol puzzle over First Fiancée
Calcutta weather

 
 
FRONT FORCED TO SPARE BASU FOR DELHI 
 
 
OUR BUREAU
 
Calcutta, Oct. 28: 
Jyoti Basu tonight submitted his resignation as chief minister after the Left Front set aside dissenting notes from the CPI and the Forward Bloc and put its official seal on his decision to step down. The Front also unanimously nominated deputy chief minister Buddhadev Bhattacharya as Basu’s successor.

Bhattacharya is scheduled to be sworn in chief minister on November 6. Till then, Basu will be caretaker chief minister.

The Front wanted to appoint Basu as its chairman and had sounded him over the past 48 hours. But the CPM prevailed upon its partners to reconsider the proposal.

The CPM was not keen on the post as it is contemplating a “larger role” for Basu in national politics. The party felt that his experience and charisma should be used to rebuild the third front for the battle against the BJP-led coalition in Delhi.

Efforts to revive the alternative front were launched during the Thiruvananthapuram party plenum, where Basu succeeded in persuading general secretary Harkishen Singh Surjeet to agree to the retirement plan.

The CPM also feared that if Basu formally took over as the Bengal front chairman, it might create an impression that a “parallel government” was running the state and deny the new chief minister a chance to develop and project a style of his own. Some allies felt that Basu’s stature had attained such a level that the chairman’s post was not apt for him.

The party sought to pacify the disappointed partners by assuring them that Basu would remain the “father figure” of the coalition. “He will be available to everyone as an adviser. The only difference will be that he will not go to Writers’ Buildings,” a party leader told the Front meeting.

Basu told The Telegraph that he was not interested in taking over as chairman. “Instead, I will continue to attend Front meetings and guide my party as usual if my health permits.”

The Front will give a farewell to Basu at Netaji Indoor Stadium on November 6. After an emergency meeting, the front decided to send a formal resolution on its decisions to Governor Viren J. Shah in Darjeeling tomorrow.

Before the Front meeting, the CPM state secretariat met to finalise Basu’s resignation letter.

The entire Cabinet will stand dissolved once Basu’s resignation is accepted. A new ministry will be formed under Bhattacharya, but there will be no changes. With Bhattacharya’s elevation as chief minister, the post of deputy chief minister will be abolished.

All the partners asked for the withdrawal of Basu’s decision, but two — the CPI and the Forward Bloc — got their protests registered. “We feel this is an ill-timed move and will harm the ruling coalition. As we are in the Front, there is no alternative but to accept this. But at the same time, we intend to record our protest,” said state Forward Bloc secretary Ashok Ghosh. The CPI also submitted a similar note.

The partners were moved when Basu formally informed them of his decision. “I am ageing and find it difficult to continue as chief minister with my failing health. It is not proper for a chief minister to come to Writers’ Buildings just for half-an-hour and spend the rest of the day at Indira Bhavan. So, I have decided to step down,” he said.

Transport minister Subhas Chakraborty, who is reported to have strained relations with Bhattacharya, said: “I have no hesitation in accepting him as leader of the government even though he is younger to me in age and joined the party after me.”

But Chakraborty said Basu’s departure from Writers’ might later lead to problems, which he hoped the new chief minister would be able to tackle effectively.

Mamata calls for polls

Trinamul Congress leader Mamata Banerjee called for immediate elections since Bhattacharya was “not a people’s choice”.

Terming Basu’s resignation as “escapism”, the railway minister said: “We would have been happy if he could continue till the elections and seek the people’s mandate.”    


 
 
PARENT PENALTY ON MAMATA HIT LIST 
 
 
FROM MONOBINA GUPTA
 
New Delhi, Oct. 28: 
After the price standoff, Mamata Banerjee is again headed for a showdown with the government. But this time on an unlikely issue: education.

The Trinamul Congress, which is determined to make universalisation of elementary education part of its campaign agenda, is ready to cross swords with the Vajpayee regime on the 83rd constitutional amendment Bill to make education a fundamental right.

Mamata is upset with the Centre for incorporating several “draconian” clauses in the legislation — particularly the one which put the onus of education on parents, making them liable for punishment if they fail to send their children to school.

Mamata, the railway minister, will fight out the battle on the floor of the Lok Sabha in the winter session of Parliament beginning next month when the government will have a discussion on the Bill.

The Group of Ministers discussing the proposed law has met to thrash out the difficulties arising from several clauses under fire.

Last week, representatives of the National Alliance for Fundamental Right to Education met Mamata to seek her support against many of the Bill’s features which, they said, went against the spirit of universalisation of elementary education.

Trinamul leaders, including the party’s general secretary, were convinced by the argument. The clauses, especially the one on punishing parents, are draconian, Mamata said, and assured the delegation that her party will contest them in Parliament.

“She will definitely raise a ruckus in Parliament on the clauses which have become controversial,” said an alliance representative.

The Bill makes its clear that it is the fundamental duty of parents to send their children to school, failing which they will be punished. “The right to free and compulsory education shall be enforced in such manner as the state may by law determine,” the Bill says.

Already, 14 states have enacted laws empowering the government to punish parents who are not able to send their children to school. “In Tamil Nadu and Rajasthan, parents of child workers have been fined for not sending children to school,” said the alliance member.

Recently, parents of a child labourer in Rajasthan were penalised by court for keeping their child away from school. According to a section of observers, this is one way of transferring the responsibility of universalisation of elementary education from the state to parents.

If the Bill is passed in the winter session, all states will have to put in place the law within a year. “How can you punish parents for failing to send children to school in a situation when it is essentially poverty that acts as a deterrent?” wondered Janki Rajan of the State Council of Educational Research and Training.

The other clause which has raised Mamata’s hackles is that the Bill brings under its purview only children between 6-14 years, leaving out an entire population in the 0-6 age-group. “What is going to happen to these children?” asks Sanjeev Kaura, member of the alliance.

The alliance is carrying out a campaign in 14 states to apprise the grassroots volunteers working in education about the Bill and some of its negative clauses.    


 
 
SOMNATH RETHINK ON RESIGNATION 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Oct. 28: 
Somnath Cha-tterjee has agreed to reconsider his decision to quit as chairman of the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation.

Chatterjee, the CPM’s parliamentary party leader, had yesterday offered to follow in the footsteps of Jyoti Basu and resign, saying ill health did not permit him to hold two posts.

Chief minister-designate Buddhadev Bhattacharya and CPM state secretary Anil Biswas today contacted Chatterjee and requested him not to resign immediately. Chatterjee reportedly told them that he had not changed his mind, but at the same time he would not force them to decide on the retirement issue.

At a news conference later, Biswas said Chatterjee would continue to head the corporation in the “interest of the party”. Bhattacharya and Biswas are expected to meet the senior leader tomorrow to try and address his grievances on some issues.

CPM insiders see Chatterjee’s request to resign as a sign of the rocky road ahead. Many of Basu’s loyalists could now try to dissociate themselves either from the government or the party.

Known as a Basu loyalist, Chatterjee was determined to resign from the chairman’s post once the chief minister made a final decision to step down.

Chatterjee had said yesterday that he wanted to quit a long time ago, but could not because Basu requested him to stay on as long as he remained chief minister.

Chatterjee, however, made it clear he had “no” discussion with Basu today on the issue.    


 
 
PROTOCOL PUZZLE OVER FIRST FIANCÉE 
 
 
FROM PRANAY SHARMA
 
New Delhi, Oct. 28: 
The stiff upper lip of the Indian Establishment had to stretch into a welcoming smile when Iceland President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson announced his decision to bring along girlfriend Dorrit Mousaieff as part of his delegation.

Grimsson, who arrived this morning with a large delegation that included over 200 tourists from Iceland and Mousaieff, is the first President from Rekjavik on a state visit to Delhi. The official part of his visit, however, will begin from Monday. During his six-day stay, he will visit Agra and Mumbai. He was received at the airport by minister of state for foreign affairs Ajit Kumar Panja.

The decision to bring along his girlfriend, who is being described by officials as the President’s “fiancee”, is unusual, if not unprecedented, in India’s protocol history. In the West it may have been a normal thing to do, but in Delhi it did give Indian officials anxious moments.

When the government first learnt about Mousaieff’s inclusion, it went into a huddle. It was not so much a “moral” question, but more a problem of protocol. Usually visiting heads travel with their husbands or wives who are given the official status of “spouse”. Not only are spouses included in all official programmes, including the ceremonial reception, but often a separate programme is also drawn up for them.

Flustered, but keen not to embarrass the head of state from Iceland, the Indian Establishment, particularly Rashtrapati Bhavan, decided that Mousaieff will be given the status of “official hostess”. This is also an unusual gesture as either the daughter, granddaughter or close relatives of the President are given this status.

Since Mousaieff cannot be treated as First Lady or “spouse”, no woman diplomat was officially deputed to be with her during her stay in India. But a woman official of the foreign ministry will escort her to the forecourt of Rashtrapati Bhavan during Monday morning’s ceremonial reception.

Grimsson is a widower. South Block officials pointed out that he got engaged to Mousaieff recently. “She may not be his wife yet, but since she is the President’s fiancee it does help matters a little,” an official said.

The Iceland President is known to be a “friend of India” who had expressed his keenness to visit the country to experience the multi-faceted Indian culture. A few years ago, he won the Nehru Peace Prize.

Grimsson is accompanied by his foreign minister Haldor Assgrimsson and other senior officials. His ambassador to India, who is based in London, Thorstein Palsson, is also part of the official team.

Grimsson is scheduled to meet President K.R. Narayanan and Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee. Indian foreign minister Jaswant Singh and other senior Indian leaders are also scheduled to call on him.

The two sides will attempt to build up a closer relationship in the economic sphere — with trade between the two countries at a marginal $ 2.4 million. Focus will be on the information technology field where India’s expertise is now being recognised in different parts of the world. Delhi in turn may seek technological help from Iceland in producing fishing nets, particularly a special variety which catches the big fish, but allows the small ones to escape. As part of this endeavour Grimsson is scheduled to interact with the captains of Indian industry in Delhi and Mumbai.    


 
 
CALCUTTA WEATHER 
 
 
 
 

Temperature

Maximum: 25.1°C (-6)
Minimum: 25.2°C (-1)

Rainfall:

33 mm

Relative humidity

Maximum: 98%,
Minimum: 87%

Today

Morning mist or fog, one or two spells of light or moderate rain in some parts of the city and its suburbs,
Sunset: 4.58 pm
Sunrise: 5.44 am
   
 

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