Basu steps down, reminding party to stay close to people
Buddha steps in, ear to ground
Vajpayee snubs Soren
Mongia gets his facts wrong
Match-fix shadow on counties
Calcutta Weather

Calcutta, Nov. 5 
A section of the CPM has become complacent and is showing signs of alienation from the people, Jyoti Basu told The Telegraph in an interview.

“In many areas, we have stopped going to the people, listening to their woes and criticism. As a result, we have become weak. The sooner we correct the situation the better,” he said.

When the CPM was small, the cadre used to be in constant touch with the people and were aware of their needs, aspirations, anguish and struggle.

“We would deal with them in a proper way, listening to them and their criticism. We would not always be in a position to mitigate their problems, but we would be honest and tell them about our inability,” Basu said.

His message to the party is to ensure that it does not lose touch with the people and that it woos the new voter.

“Many may think that we will win elections on the basis of our performance. Performance alone cannot be a factor, otherwise, we should have won the Calcutta civic polls, considering what we have done for the city. The new voter has to be viewed in a different context — of unemployment, capital and talent outflow, technology and the all-pervading television culture,” he said.

The party has become “physically weak” because of internal differences in North 24-Parganas and Calcutta. Basu said that in the North 24-Parganas unit the division was over participation in a Central government.

“Things are improving and the debate on participation is behind us,” he added.

Basu dismissed the popular notion that his successor Buddhadev Bhattacharya was only interested in cultural activities.

“You people have no idea how he has changed over the past two years. Go and find out from the chambers of commerce how well he is handling complex subjects. Not very many people know that it was Buddha who took the initiative in information technology after we told him that we are already late, you take charge. He gets things done. Please give him some time.”

Basu said Buddha was acceptable to the people, the party, the Front and industry. “He will be a fine leader.”

The outgoing chief minister would try to campaign for the Assembly polls. “I have asked them (party) to find out if we can use a helicopter for campaigning,” he said.    

Calcutta, Nov. 5: 
Buddhadev Bhattacharya, who takes over as chief minister tomorrow, says his government would strive to be more responsive to people’s needs.

“The government must reach out more, for which speed will have to be imparted to its functioning,” Bhattacharya says.

A state government cannot solve fundamental problems of the people because it has to function in a federal structure, but it can still adopt a long-term programme for welfare.

“People are aware that a state government has to work within limits. It cannot neutralise the impact of the Centre’s policies on the state’s economy, industry and social structure. But it can certainly try to reach out by adopting a humane outlook.”

Bhattacharya says the prospects for industrialisation have brightened following the Left coalition’s positive attitude to investment. He expects Bengal to witness major developments in information technology because of the state’s natural advantage of skilled human resources.

“We are in talks with various foreign companies which have shown a keen interest in investing in IT projects here.”

Bengal’s success in agriculture will be the basis for the planned leap in industrialisation, Bhattacharya says. “Even industry admits that Bengal is an exception amid the economic downturn we are witnessing across the country.”

His immediate objective is reconstruction of flood-ravaged districts, for which the government will have to find internal sources of funds.

With the Centre seen to be slow to respond to demands for assistance, the state will have to work out budgetary allocations, Bhattacharya says, asserting that it has performed the task of preliminary reconstruction admirably.

“We have vowed to carry out the reconstruction within the time-frame worked out. This is going to be our priority No. 1.”

Bhattacharya realises that the departure of Jyoti Basu will create an administrative void which will prove difficult for an individual to fill.

“Since we are fully aware of the fact, coalition partners will try to improve collective functioning.”

He does not believe the Trinamul Congress-BJP combine can be an alternative to the Left Front. According to him, the reasons are: its programme is bereft of social, political and economic ideals and its penchant for violence.

“It is increasingly becoming a creature of violence, gimmicks and cheap politics. People will see through it.”    

New Delhi, Nov. 5: 
Dangling several consolation posts before the JMM, a meeting headed by Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee today rejected the party’s demand for the chief minister’s chair in Jharkhand.

The leaders of the ruling coalition at the Centre tried to keep the intransigent JMM leader, Shibu Soren, in their flock by offering to help renew his Rajya Sabha term and induct him into the Union Cabinet later.

The alliance also promised to make his nominee deputy chief minister of Jharkhand, scheduled to come into being on November 15. But Soren refused to budge.

The coalition has made it clear that it would back the claim of only a BJP candidate to the chief minister’s post. However, the leadership is still hoping that Soren will reconsider his stand and accept the sops. Sources said talks will continue at an informal level.

Soren had met Vajpayee yesterday for 30 minutes. The Prime Minister told Soren that he would convey the JMM leader’s views to coalition convener George Fernandes. Soren held two rounds of talks with Fernandes today but in vain.

The decision to reject Soren’s demand and endorse the BJP’s nominee was taken at a meeting between Vajpayee and Fernandes this afternoon. Fernandes had also briefed L.K. Advani.

The Soren faction, which has the support of 12 legislators in the 82-member House, is now left with the choice of either accepting the deputy chief minister’s post or pulling out of the coalition.

Soren, who has already announced that the alliance is over if his party does not get the chief minister’s post, is expected to take a formal decision in a day or two. As a first step, Soren is likely to announce the snapping of ties at the state level tomorrow.

“We will wait till tomorrow. After the coalition’s decision is made known to us, we will be free to chalk out our future course,” PTI quoted Soren as saying.

Sources said Laloo Yadav has told Soren that the moment he pulled out, he would be able to split the Janata Dal (United) and Fernandes’ Samata Party to prevent the BJP from staking claim.

If Soren backs Laloo’s “secular front”, it will be within striking distance of forming a government with the help of Independents and breakaway legislators.

But the BJP with 32 MLAs is not sitting idle. The sources claimed that if Soren walks out, the loss will be made up by “converts” from Laloo’s party as well as the JMM. A few Congress legislators may also cross over to the NDA, they said.

Blasting the BJP, U.K. Tiwari, a leader close to Soren, said the party has 32 MLAs because the election was a “referendum” on Laloo. “Next time, the BJP will be wiped out from the tribal region. None of its Jharkhand leaders can gather a crowd of even 25,000 people,” he said.    

Nov. 5: 
Banned cricketer Nayan Mongia today said he was not a member of the team in the two matches which the CBI quoted Mohammed Azharuddin as saying were fixed.

But statistics speak otherwise. According to the scorecard of the two ties, Mongia played in both, scoring three and 11 runs and bagging two catches behind the wickets.

The CBI report on match- fixing says Azharuddin accepted fixing a Titan Cup match between India and South Africa at Rajkot in 1996. The other was a Pepsi Cup match with Pakistan at Jaipur in 1999.

Mongia today told PTI in Baroda: “His (Azharuddin’s) statement is totally false. The absurdity of the allegation can be gauged by the fact that I was not a member of the team in the two matches referred by Azharuddin.”

However, the record book shows that Mongia scored three runs in the Rajkot match, which India lost. Ajay Jadeja, who is also under the temporary ban, scored 26 runs.

In the tie against Pakistan, Mongia made 11 runs and gloved two catches. But Jadeja top-scored for India — as he said yesterday in his point-by-point reaction to the CBI report — with 61.

In the report, Azharuddin is quoted as saying a match was fixed in the Pepsi Asia Cup in Sri Lanka in 1997. The former captain did not specify the match. Mongia did not take part in that tour. “My record speaks for me. Since 1995, I have never dropped any catch or missed stumping chances in the matches I played for the country,” Mongia said.

Madhavan call

The five banned cricketers and former physiotherapist Ali Irani named in the CBI report will be called to appear before K. Madhavan, the inquiry commissioner of BCCI, to explain their conduct.    

London, Nov. 5: 
Another worm came crawling out of cricket’s rotten woodwork today with the revelation that the England Cricket Board is investigating allegations of two matches between Lancashire and Essex being fixed as many as nine years ago.

Board chairman Lord McLaurin told BBC Radio 5 Live that an inquiry was going on.

The Sunday Telegraph newspaper said the allegations that the results of the matches — one a county championship game and the other a Sunday League limited-overs fixture — were fixed originally came from former Zimbabwe coach and Essex player Don Topley.

His claims in a series of newspaper articles were dismissed some years ago but the Sunday Telegraph said the ECB had decided to reopen investigations after fresh witnesses came forward.

In the championship match, Essex won by eight wickets and went on to take the title. In the Sunday League match, Essex made a modest 169 for six from 40 overs after being put in and Lancashire knocked off the runs with five wickets and five balls to spare. Lancashire went on to finish runners-up to Nottinghamshire for the title.

McLaurin told Radio 5 Live: “We haven’t completed the inquiry. It is ongoing. I’m not prepared to say any more.”

Malcolm Gray, the new president of the International Cricket Council (ICC), told the same programme that the CBI had done “an excellent job” in probing corruption in the game.

“But the fact that people have been mentioned doesn’t mean they are guilty,” Gray said. “Some of the names mentioned are not mentioned for doing anything wrong. In fact, some of the mentions are doing the exact opposite and are exonerating people.”

Sir Paul Condon, head of ICC’s anti-corruption unit, told The Mail on Sunday tabloid that there would be no hiding place for those who have cheated at any level in the first-class game.

“If anyone is found guilty, they have a great deal to fear,” he said. “My advice to any cricketer who had done something wrong is not to compound the issue by prevaricating.”

England’s Alec Stewart is one of the players named in the report as having received Ł5,000 from bookie Mukesh Gupta. Stewart has denied the charge.

David Gower, the former England captain, has strongly backed Stewart. Gower said in an interview to the Sun newspaper: “If I was a betting man, I’d bank on Alec Stewart being innocent.”

Gower raises a philosophical question in regard to Stewart who toured Australia with him in 1990-91. “I wouldn’t say I know him well but how well do we really know anybody, even our closest friends?”    



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