CM retires, the soldier remains
Is it true? asks Atal
Legal weapons lined up in match-fixing
Cricket board bans gang of five
CBI to reveal all facts to ICC
Calcutta weather

 
 
CM RETIRES, THE SOLDIER REMAINS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Nov. 3: 
Nothing much was different. Jyoti Basu walked out of Writers’ for the last time as chief minister brisk and curt. Perhaps, a little less curt. At times, even apologetic.

On June 21, 1977, before stepping into Writers’ for the first time as chief minister, he had addressed a meeting organised by government employees in front of the VIP gate. On November 3, 2000, he did the same before stepping out.

Nothing much was different. Or, was it? The crowds that had gathered outside for a glimpse of Basu filled the stretch of road in front of Writers’. On June 21, 1977, tens of thousands had taken to the streets in post-Emergency euphoria. The crowds had thinned, as had Jyoti Basu’s hair, in the wear and tear of 24 years.

Minutes before 11.30 am, Basu’s white panjabi, set off by a beige sleeveless jacket, flashed briefly in the corridor of power as he marched into his room, looking straight ahead, just as he has done always. Next to him was chief minister-designate Buddhadev Bhattacharya.

“What’s scheduled for today? Hand me the work, it’s the last day for me here.”

For the next half-hour he cleared files. The last file to bear his signature was on government control over cold storage hiring charges.

Bhattacharya and finance minister Asim Dasgupta filed in next. Some more files were brought in. Basu had had enough for his last day.

“No more files for me. Buddha will look after things from next week. Take them to him.” Thus Bhattacharya was initiated into chief ministerial responsibility.

Nothing much was different. Reminiscing later before journalists, Basu said: “Bidhanbabu amay bolechhilen, tomay chairey boshiyei jabo (Bidhan Roy had told me that he would depart after putting me in the chair).”

The memory brought a smile to his taciturn face as he autographed a picture of himself with Bidhan Roy in Writers’ Buildings.

Before that, at 12.35 he had walked out of his office, spending just over an hour, almost half of it taken up in accepting donations to the chief minister’s relief fund and in receiving well-wishers.

As the visitors placed their bouquets, Radhika Jeevan Dhar, a driver at Writers’ for years, presented the chief minister a painting. It was a portrait of Basu done by Dhar’s 14-year-old grandson, the background tomato red.

Basu’s face lit up for a moment. He refused mishti offered to him throughout the day as steadfastly as he said he was retiring for health reasons. “I cannot carry on as chief minister any more. Please extend your co-operation to the new chief minister.”

It was a line that kept coming back through the two hours he stayed at Writers’. Addressing government employees, he said: “For the past few months, you might have been dissatisfied with my curt answers. What could I do? It was my illness that prevented me from talking at length.”

His parting words of apology did not come without a mild rebuke. There were moments when people’s needs had been given the go by, he told the gathering of mainly CPM-dominated coordination committee members.

Basu did not deny those expecting a touch of self-criticism. “We have at times drifted from the people. We shall have to strive not to hide anything from the people,” he said, drawing the curtain down on a stage where he occupied the centrepoint for so many years.

Some are refusing to look at life without him. Ashok Dogra, who drives his car in Delhi, had come over to see Basu off to retirement. He will not chauffeur any other chief minister.

“Does one ride a smaller animal after riding an elephant?” Dogra is refusing to change.

“Communists are soldiers,” Basu said before stepping down from the dais to cheers of Jyoti Basu lal salam.

Someone reminded him that he had walked from Raj Bhavan to Writers’ after being sworn in chief minister. “I was younger then. I prefer to take my car back home this time,” Basu replied.

At 1.43 pm, WB-02E 0001 pulled away.

After Monday, Jyoti Basu will not be chief minister. But he remains president of the union at British Oxygen, a position he has held for double the number of years he has been chief minister. Today, one of his last acts was to sign an agreement as leader of that union.

Nothing much is different.    


 
 
IS IT TRUE? ASKS ATAL 
 
 
BY INDRANIL GHOSH
 
Calcutta, Nov. 3: 
Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and chief minister Jyoti Basu, who often in jest describe each other as “the right leader in the wrong party”, had a long telephone talk this evening.

“I understand from newspaper reports that you are retiring. Is it true?” Vajpayee asked.

“What you have gathered is true. I have had a long stint in office. So I am calling it a day now,” Basu replied.

Enquiring after his health, Vajpayee hoped Basu would continue to be active. Vajpayee also made a few remarks about his own health.

“But you are still a young man,” Basu said, telling the Prime Minister not to allow health concerns to weigh on his mind.

“What little I can make out of newspaper or magazine photographs, your operated knee is behaving fine. Even though you are walking with the aid of a stick, I think your movements will be normal soon,” Basu said.

Speaking to The Telegraph after the chat, Basu said with a smile: “He offered me his good wishes.”    


 
 
LEGAL WEAPONS LINED UP IN MATCH-FIXING 
 
 
FROM R. VENKATARAMAN
 
New Delhi, Nov. 3: 
The law ministry has recommended that the tainted cricketers should be booked under laws dealing with espionage and foreign exchange violation.

The file containing CBI’s damning report, which was forwarded to the law ministry, was cleared by minister Arun Jaitley before he left for Chennai.

The notings, as directed by officials and then approved by Jaitley, will be sent back to the sports ministry as well as to the finance and home departments.

The law ministry’s tough advice is in sharp contrast to sports minister S.S. Dhindsa’s diffidence in recommending strong action against the three players who have admitted taking bribes from bookmakers. Even solicitor-general Harish Salve had not found much legal depth in the CBI’s report.

The law ministry has recommended that the corrupt cricketers be tried under the National Security Act (NSA), since Tada has lapsed, the Foreign Exchange Management Act (Fema) and other “espionage laws” for their “nexus with the underworld, subversives, international money launderers, traffickers of women (honey traps) and smugglers”. These activities “have direct bearing on national security and integrity (of the nation),” it said.

The ministries of sports, home and finance have been asked to take action on: concealment of ill-gotten money and evasion of taxes; the hawala angle as large sums changed hands in foreign exchange and Indian currency in India and abroad and the players’ links with the underworld

“The law ministry has advised the government that these three aspects may be investigated further and action taken accordingly to preserve, protect and safeguard national interest,” a source said.

The law department wants the three ministries to conduct further inquiries and take “action accordingly”. “It implies booking of these cricketers under the relevant laws as stated,” a source said. “The law ministry has a battery of legal advisors relating to every ministry and in this case the legal experts of all the three related ministries pooled in the opinion,” the source added.

The finance ministry has been asked to carry out an Enforcement Directorate (ED) probe into the hawala angle. “The ED should commence its action immediately as it need not wait for the I-T report and the volumes of materials seized during raids on the cricketers,” sources said. The home ministry has also been advised to “investigate the links of the players with subversives and anti-national elements and take action under NSA and other criminal and espionage laws”. The ministry believes an espionage case can be built up against the players for “bartering away the country’s interest and waging war against the state through covert hawala route”.    


 
 
CRICKET BOARD BANS GANG OF FIVE 
 
 
FROM LOKENDRA PRATAP SAHI
 
Mumbai, Nov. 3: 
Over the years, batsmen have been known to shy away from fearsome quicks. Today, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) capitulated, ahead of yet another meeting convened by hawkish Union sports minister Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa.

Even without slipping into flannels, then, Dhindsa is calling all the shots.

Some 18 hours after declaring it would await an internal assessment from commissioner of investigations K. Madhavan before acting against the five Indian players named in the CBI’s report, the BCCI did a stunning U-turn to ban all five.

That Manoj Prabhakar, who last played a first-class game aeons ago, has also been banned is reflective of the rattled state the BCCI is in. The others barred from all matches recognised by the BCCI are: Mohammed Azharuddin, Ajay Jadeja, Nayan Mongia and Ajay Sharma.

Of course, this is a temporary step and permanent action will be initiated after the CBI’s report has gone through the BCCI’s own protocol: Madhavan to the disciplinary committee to the working committee.

“We preempted a possible directive from Dhindsa... Yes, we could have acted yesterday itself, but what’s the harm in a re-think?” asked a very influential BCCI member. Absolutely nothing, but the BCCI’s image has suffered another dent.

Dhindsa himself laughed when The Telegraph asked whether he would have issued such a fiat, in itself extraordinary but, then, these aren’t ordinary times. Speaking from his New Delhi residence, Dhindsa said: “Now that the BCCI has acted, main kyon kuch kahun? So, please leave it at that...”

The minister, however, added that BCCI president A.C. Muthiah, who met him this afternoon, has “promised” to get back “within 15 days” on the permanent action against those indicted.

“Mr Muthiah has assured cooperation and, when we meet next, will also present a point-by-point rebuttal of the CBI’s criticism of the BCCI which, too, is contained in the report,” Dhindsa stated.

One understands Muthiah set the rethink ball rolling around 9 am and either himself spoke to all those who matter, or got secretary Jaywant Lele to sound them out. The consultations ended around 10.30 am, well before Muthiah’s post-lunch appointment with Dhindsa.

Apparently, everyone felt it would be better for the BCCI to take “credit” for slapping the ban, rather than allow Dhindsa to occupy even more of centrestage.

“Mr Dhindsa’s former deputy, Shahnawaz Hussain, claimed credit for dropping the tainted cricketers (in early September) when, in fact, the initiative was wholly ours. This time, even if we announced our decision after meeting Dhindsa, the impression would have been that the minister got us to act. And, so, we went public before Muthiah called on Dhindsa,” explained a top BCCI source.

Incidentally the feisty Mongia, who is in the city, told reporters: “It’s a sad day... Tomorrow, if I allege I paid off Sachin Tendulkar, will the BCCI ban him?” Mongia has been indicted (and banned) only on Azhar’s testimony.    


 
 
CBI TO REVEAL ALL FACTS TO ICC 
 
 
FROM CHANDAN NANDY
 
New Delhi, Nov. 3: 
The CBI is prepared to share every information it has on match-fixing with the International Cricket Council’s team of anti-corruption investigators.

A day after the CBI’s damning report was made public, the ICC decided to send a two-member team under Sir Paul Condon, who heads the supreme council’s anti-corruption unit. Sir Paul, a former London police chief, is expected to arrive here for consultations with the CBI and the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) to unravel the involvement of nine foreign cricketers.

A PTI report this evening quoted BCCI president A.C. Muthiah as saying that Sir Paul and his team had reached the country and held discussions with board officials. A CBI source, however, denied that Sir Paul had arrived, but said the bureau was awaiting his arrival in a day or two.

“Two of the topmost officers (director R.K. Raghavan and special director Gopal Achari) are out of station,” a CBI source said, adding: “Sir Paul will obviously want to meet the special director who was in overall supervision of the inquiry.”

Sources said the investigating agency “will be prepared to share all information and facts” with Sir Paul whenever he gets in touch. Depending on what he wants, Sir Paul will be handed over the signed statements of the five cricketers, especially Manoj Prabhakar’s, and the bookmakers, including Mukesh Kumar Gupta’s.

Prabhakar has said he introduced Gupta, also known as MK and John, to a host of foreign cricketers such as England’s Alec Stewart, Australians Mark Waugh and Dean Jones, West Indian Brian Lara, New Zealander Martin Crowe, Sri Lankans Arjuna Ranatunga and Aravinda de Silva and Salim Malik of Pakistan.

According to his statement to the CBI, soon after the introductions, MK approached the foreign cricketers to pass on various kinds of information in exchange for money ranging from £5,000 to $40,000. Most of the nine foreign players named in the CBI report have denied having accepted any money from bookies, though they have not denied having been approached.

“We have statements of all those who were questioned and Sir Paul is free to request us for any of them which elaborate on how Indian bookies approached and even offered money to the foreign players. Moreover, the statements have been signed by each of those questioned. There is no question of them being doubted,” an official said.

The CBI sought to clarify that the disclosures in the report are based on the statements of those questioned. “At no place has it been mentioned that the agency has evidence to prove that the foreign players accepted the money,” an official said.    


 
 
CALCUTTA WEATHER 
 
 
 
 

Temperature

Maximum: 31.5°C (+l)
Minimum: 22.8°C (+3)

Rainfall:

Nil mm

Relative humidity

Maximum: 98%,
Minimum: 62%

Today

Partly cloudy sky. Minimum temperature likely to be around 22°C    
 

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