BJP dangles Cabinet bait before Munda
Delhi team eyes soft targets, guards flock
‘Tricked’ hills sulk in silence
Friends of Sonia camp in capitals on poll-eve
Mulayam counts on Prasada expulsion
MD assaulted by workers in Durgapur
Sarabhai guide to good life
Naidu earns World Bank pat
Pillai backs judicial inquiry into firing
Plan to prune bureaucracy irks ministers

 
 
BJP DANGLES CABINET BAIT BEFORE MUNDA 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Nov. 9: 
The BJP and the Centre are still trying to pacify Karia Munda with the offer of a full-fledged Cabinet post, BJP sources said. But Munda has not indicated whether he will bite the bait or brew trouble for the party for not being chosen Jharkhand’s first chief minister.

This morning, Munda, a senior BJP vice-president, reportedly refused to meet Narendra Modi, party general secretary in charge of the organisation. Although Modi said Munda was not at home when he arrived, sources close to the Jharkhand MP said he wished to remain “incommunicado”, as he was “deeply hurt” at being passed over by the high command for Babulal Marandi.

Munda also told reporters the leadership ought to take disciplinary action against Marandi for “declaring” himself chief minister before the legislature party had formally met to elect its leader and the BJP’s allies were consulted.

Later, however, Munda denied having made such a statement when BJP spokesman Jana Krishnamurthy telephoned him. Krishnamurthy said: “All that he said was when the party had said the Jharkhand leadership issue was still open, making statements and claims to the contrary was not proper. He said he never sought disciplinary action against anyone.”

Yesterday, Krishnamurthy attempted damage control when he said there was no question of humiliating a senior leader like Munda. “After all, he is on the nine-member parliamentary board of the party, which is its highest decision-making body,” he said.

Krishnamurthy also disagreed with the assessment of Kailashpati Mishra, in-charge of Bihar affairs, that the decision to make Marandi chief minister was taken in haste and insisted that a final decision had yet to be taken.

Discounting chances of Munda revolting against the BJP in case he was not made chief minister, BJP sources admitted that it was a “mistake” not to have offered him a full-fledged Cabinet post. Munda was instead offered the post of minister of state in place of Marandi, after the latter resigned ostensibly to take on the Jharkhand government mantle.

More than Munda turning against the party, the leadership fears the prospect of a rebel party leader in a state in which Shibu Soren has already raised the banner of revolt against the BJP for denying him the chief minister’s post.

Acknowledging his contribution in creating a base for the BJP in the tribal belt through RSS-affiliates like the Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram and Friends of the Tribals, party sources said if Uma Bharti could “blackmail” the top brass and bag a Cabinet post, a veteran like Munda, who had made a larger contribution to the BJP, should not be denied a post befitting his experience.    


 
 
DELHI TEAM EYES SOFT TARGETS, GUARDS FLOCK 
 
 
FROM TAPAS CHAKRABORTY
 
Patna, Nov. 9: 
Rattled by the Karia Munda episode, the Prime Minister’s crisis management group today launched a “goodwill exercise” to keep the NDA’s Jharkhand flock together.

Atal Behari Vajpayee’s emissaries, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and Nitish Kumar, set their sights on at least six JMM and Congress MLAs to neutralise the JMM-RJD combine’s bid to strike at ‘soft’ NDA targets. The JMM-RJD has targeted the alliance’s smaller partners to meet its deficit of six.

“We have been approached by MLAs from both the JMM and the Congress who don’t want Jharkhand’s interests to drift just because one or two big leaders were not made chief minister. They will join us to provide stability to the NDA-led government,” said Naqvi.

The NDA’s chief minister-designate, Babulal Marandi, who’s busy meeting Jharkhand MLAs, said the region’s legislators were “united” in their choice of chief minister. “It could be anyone,” he said. “It would be announced only on November 14 at Ranchi.”

Both Marandi and Naqvi, who reached here this morning, were given a warm welcome by party workers at the airport. While the two met members of the BJP legislative party of Jharkhand, Union agriculture minister and Samata leader Nitish Kumar held talks with his party MLAs.

In a separate meeting, Janata Dal (United) MLAs asked their Jharkhand unit to stay together. The Dal (U) has three MLAs and the Samata five in the new state’s proposed Assembly.

Boosted by the support he got, Marandi appeared confident of making it to the top. But there were small “irritants”. At least three MLAs, believed to be among those sympathetic to Munda, stayed away from his meeting.

This group, led by Nilkant Singh Munda from Khunti, became the focal point of another round of persuasion by senior leaders like Kailashpati Mishra, BJP vice-president in charge of Bihar. But they haven’t relented yet.

The “goodwill interactions” went a step further to “dinner diplomacy” at the Patna Club. While BJP legislators parleyed for Cabinet berths, Marandi, careful not to alienate his rival’s supporters, praised Munda as “the tallest leader of the BJP in Jharkhand”.

“We have all come from his overcoat. We all have sympathies for his sentiments,” Marandi said. He is believed to have offered his “full attention” to MLAs close to Munda, who still insists that he is in the race and expects a “fair deal”.

But though NDA leaders said that with 42 MLAs they had an “unassailable” lead, a confident Laloo Yadav predicted that the political drama in Ranchi on November 15 “would be a replay of what happened in Patna in March”. The RJD boss has been meeting the legislators individually.

Soren said he has been promised support by 36 MLAs. The JMM chief talked to AICC general secretary Mohsina Kidwai this morning.

Sources said Laloo and Soren are banking on disgruntled Samata or Dal(U) MLAs who are going to miss out on a Cabinet berth. In fact, NDA leaders are themselves not sure of their support. Many feel that with a BJP chief minister set to head the government, some Samata MLAs might avenge Nitish’s humiliation in March when he had to give way to Rabri Devi.

However, neither Soren nor Laloo appeared to be in a rush. “We are not in a hurry and you’ll hear from us very soon,” said Soren. “Let me count my chickens before I go hunting with my bow and arrow.”    


 
 
‘TRICKED’ HILLS SULK IN SILENCE 
 
 
FROM ANAND SOONDAS
 
Dehradun, Nov. 9: 
A hush has settled in the hills a day after the birth of Uttaranchal. But the silence is of gloom, not relief.

Catch anyone in the streets, and chances are he will say he has been tricked. “All my friends are unhappy. They say that ‘raaj to mila, lekin raja baahar se laye’. I think so too. I am not happy at all,” Bhimsen Ghildiyal, gatekeeper of a local hotel, said.

All fingers are trained on the BJP. Having shouted from the rooftops so long that it is the “party behind the new pradesh”, the BJP is now finding it difficult to explain to the people why it picked Swami for chief minister or Dehradun for state capital.

The people are bristling at having been “bullied by the BJP”. Hundreds of them, including former servicemen and women who spearheaded the statehood agitation, held rallies of protest and vowed to carry on their struggle for a “true Uttarakhand”.

Local BJP leaders, however, washed their hands of the turn of events. “What could we have done?” asked an anxious hill legislator. “The decision was superimposed on us by the party high command. I don’t know how to go home and explain this to my people.”

Others conceded that “the Centre had failed to grasp the resentment that would be caused by the coronation of Swami”.

Minister of state for culture Ramesh Pokhariyal refused to pull his punches when asked how people were reacting to a “non-pahari” chief minister. “I don’t have to say anything. Look around and you will get the answer,” he growled.

The new chief minister did not help matters either. Stung at being called an “outsider”, he burst out: “If I’m an outsider, then people from Haridwar and Udhamsinghnagar can never aspire to be Uttaranchal chief minister.”

Some BJP leaders saw in Swami’s statement an attempt to create a separate constituency in the hills. Others fumed that it was a statement issued by an “anti-hill” chief minister who had his “roots” elsewhere. Union minister Murli Manohar Joshi rushed to contain the damage in a meeting with partymen, “advising” Swami not to say things that would go against the party or “be dissected by the media and partymen alike”.

Other hill leaders, who had promised that Gairsain would be the capital and a pahari the chief minister, said they would find it tough convincing people about the “logic and validity” of the decisions.

A senior BJP leader, who was a minister in Uttar Pradesh, said: “These two decisions have taken away a lot that the BJP has so painstakingly gained.”    


 
 
FRIENDS OF SONIA CAMP IN CAPITALS ON POLL-EVE 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Nov. 9: 
The Congress high command is bracing for D-day on Sunday. It has sent party stalwarts to all state capitals to prevent any “internal sabotage” even as the Jitendra Prasada camp demanded scrapping the list of delegates from Uttar Pradesh.

The Bengal Congress unit has unanimously elected Pranab Mukherjee as its leader for the next term. Pranab has been asked to be present in Bhubaneswar on the day of polling. The high command, unsure about the voting pattern in Orissa, has deputed Pranab hoping that his experience will ensure smooth sailing for party chief Sonia Gandhi.

Ambika Soni will be camping in Chandigarh to look after Punjab, Haryana and the union territory of Chandigarh. Madhavrao Scindia is going to Mumbai while Ghulam Nabi Azad will be in Bangalore.

As Jitendra Prasada and his supporters will be concentrating on Lucknow, Salman Khurshid, Mohsina Kidwai, Narain Dutt Tiwari and Madhya Pradesh deputy chief minister Subhash Yadav have been asked to be in the Uttar Pradesh capital.

Sonia, who is a delegate from Uttar Pradesh, will cast her vote in Delhi as a special case. According to the Congress constitution, delegates can exercise franchise after obtaining prior permission from the central election authority led by Ram Niwas Mirdha.

Prasada scored a minor victory today when Mohammad Aslam Khan, a former state minister and Salman Khurshid associate, joined him. Khan resigned as the PCC delegate to protest irregularities in party polls. He said the party constitution was being violated. Referring to Article 24 (1) of the Congress constitution, Khan wondered how Chagu Ram and Savita Chauhan continued to be members of the state election authority when they were also PCC delegates.

Prasada’s spokesman Vinod Sharma objected to the omission of Prasada’s picture in the party mouthpiece, Congress Sandesh. “The issue has two pictures of Sonia filing nomination while there is no reference to Prasada,” he said. Asked to comment on the omission, AICC spokesman Anand Sharma said: “It went to the press the day Sonia Gandhi filed nomination. Prasada had filed nomination the next day.”    


 
 
MULAYAM COUNTS ON PRASADA EXPULSION 
 
 
FROM KAY BENEDICT
 
New Delhi, Nov. 9: 
The Samajwadi Party is waiting for Jitendra Prasada’s expulsion from the Congress to forge a new political front in Uttar Pradesh.

Prasada, who is contesting against Sonia Gandhi for the party’s top post, expects to be expelled on charges of “anti-party” activities. “Once he is axed, he would join hands with us,” a senior Samajwadi leader said.

Samajwadi sources said Prasada is toying with the idea of floating a new outfit in Uttar Pradesh if he is expelled. He expects at least three Congress MPs and seven MLAs to join him.

Samajwadi chief Mulayam Singh Yadav held talks with Prasada and Naresh Aggarwal, leader of the Loktantrik Congress Party. The Samajwadi-Loktantrik-Prasada is counting on support from Union minister Maneka Gandhi, who is expected to allow her son Feroze Varun Gandhi to campaign for the Samajwadi-led front. The realignment will take shape in the run-up to the Assembly elections.

The combine will form the next government in Uttar Pradesh as it has a wider caste base, Samajwadi sources claimed. The party has a strong Muslim-Yadav base. It will also get some upper-caste votes because of the efforts of Prasada and Amar Singh. The banias may vote for the front because of Naresh Aggarwal.

The BJP is not going to benefit from the belated appointments of Rajnath Singh as chief minister or Uma Bharti as Union minister, according to an SP strategist. A member of the backward Lodh caste, Uma Bharti could have some influence in her home state of Madhya Pradesh, but not in Uttar Pradesh, he felt.

“Mulayam Singh Yadav could not influence the Yadavs in Bihar. Similarly, Laloo Yadav has no Yadav fan following in Uttar Pradesh,” the strategist said. He added that Uma Bharti may not succeed in denting former BJP chief minister Kalyan Singh’s hold over the Lodhs.

With Rajnath Singh’s anointment as chief minister having only a limited impact on Rajputs, Samajwadi general secretary Amar Singh, also a Rajput, is working overtime to prove that he is more popular among the babusahebs.

“The BJP has been identified with Brahmins. The BJP’s state unit president is a Brahmin, the Governor is a Brahmin, the chief secretary is a Brahmin, the DGP is a Brahmin,” Amar Singh said. Recent appointments have exposed the BJP’s anti-Dalit, anti-backward face, he added.

In the 1999 parliamentary elections, the SP bagged 26 seats despite being a political pariah for having wrecked the Sonia-Surjeet bid to install a non-BJP government at the Centre, Amar Singh said. He added that this time round the party is on a stronger wicket.

“Some Muslims who supported the Congress will not waste their votes this time as only the SP can take on the BJP in Uttar Pradesh,” Singh claimed.

The party’s strategy is to campaign against the Congress and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) as much as it would against the BJP. Mulayam Singh Yadav has already painted the BSP with a pro-saffron brush.    


 
 
MD ASSAULTED BY WORKERS IN DURGAPUR 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Durgapur, Nov. 9: 
The managing director and three senior officials of Durgapur Projects Limited were assaulted by workers when they visited the company’s coke oven plant today. Last night, three plant workers had been mercilessly beaten up by the security staff.

The workers had intercepted six trucks laden with hard coke from the plant without any valid documents. The truck drivers, however, produced ‘passes’ issued by the security staff. As news of the hold-up reached the security office, a large number of securitymen arrived and made an abortive bid to free the vehicles and the drivers. In the ensuing clash, three workers were seriously injured. They were later admitted to the DPL hospital.

When the managing director, Amiya Ghosh, accompanied by joint MD Tarun Chatterjee, chief security officer Aditya Mukherjee and the plant’s works officer visited the site today they were manhandled by the workers. The workers also prevented SDPO K.B. Dorjee from entering the plant to get the officials released. But the officials were freed after the intervention of trade union leaders. Two security officers, S.K. Dutta and Anup Ghosal, who were on duty last night, were suspended.

Intuc leader Umapada Das blamed the smuggling racket for the fracas. “Coal smuggling from DPL is not new. Right from the top to the security staff, all are in the racket,” Das said. Citu leader Pabitra Pal said “Despite several deputations to the authority, no steps have been taken to check corruption in this loss-making company.”

State power minister Mrinal Banerjee, who described the incident as unfortunate, said: “A one-man committee under joint MD Tarun Chatterjee has been set up which will submit its report within three days.”    


 
 
SARABHAI GUIDE TO GOOD LIFE 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Nov. 9: 
If you want Mallika Sarabhai to take you on a guided tour of the plush, new 21-storey Ambani family home, Sea Wind at Mumbai’s Worli, switch on CNN’s latest lifestyle programme, Style South Asia. The show, starting on Saturday at 9 pm, is a CNN-UTV joint venture.

Hosted by the glamourous Sarabhai, Style South Asia will showcase art, architecture, design, fashion, food and the good life in general. The launch programme will feature a face-to-face with the senior Ambani bahu, Nita Ambani, and allow a peek into the family life of one of the country’s leading business dynasties. The Ambani episode will also feature Nita’s beautification of Jamnagar and the revamping of Harkishendas Hospital she will undertake shortly.

The other two capsules in the debut episode will cover a lifestyle shop in Colombo called Paradise Store and feature fashion designer Rohit Bal.

The CNN-UTV partnership will release another new show on Saturday at 11 pm called CNN Indiadotcom. Hosted by Anish Trivedi, the show will cover all aspects of information technology. Says Trivedi: “What distinguishes this show from others is the quality of reporting and the way it is made.” But he adds: “This is not a PR show.”

Says Rena Golden, executive vice-president and general manager, CNN International: “We are committed to offering news and information programming that is relevant to our viewers.” Who are the viewers? Research has shown that they are a decision-making, English-speaking, upwardly-mobile crowd. Golden said the channel is also addressing the huge diaspora of audience.

Bill Baggitt, vice president and managing editor, CNN International, Asia Pacific, said the new CNN-UTV programmes are marked by excellent quality, regional content, but international reach. Besides, the programmes are interactive.

Golden added that CNN Indiadotcom was more global in character while Style South Asia had a more regional character.    


 
 
NAIDU EARNS WORLD BANK PAT 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Hyderabad, Nov. 9: 
Andhra Pradesh chief minister N. Chandrababu Naidu has another feather in his cap, having managed to impress World Bank chief James D. Wolfensohn.

“I am thrilled to be here and the progress made is also above our expectations,” Wolfensohn said about the work at Medchal in Andhra Pradesh, even as he chided women of self-help groups for sitting in the back rows. “When the next World Bank president comes to meet you, I hope you will be in the front rows,” he said.

The 10-member World Bank team, led by the Bank chief, which arrived 50 minutes late, was met at the airport by Naidu and Andhra Pradesh finance minister Y. Ramakrishnudu.

Soon after reaching here, the team flew to Medchal, Kamadanam and Koilsagar villages. At Medchal, they interacted with the women leaders of self-help groups. Wolfensohn’s wife, who was part of the group, visited handicraft exhibitions. The couple, however, politely refused gifts of Pochampally sarees and other handicrafts by the women of the self-help groups.

This evening, Naidu will have a one-to-one meeting with Wolfensohn at his residence. The chief minister will later make an hour-long presentation on the implementation of the World Bank reform project at Hitec city. Wolfensohn’s visit to Andhra Pradesh was, however, marred by protests by Left activists. The demonstrators were lathicharged by police.

Karnataka projects

Earlier, the World Bank president had commended Karnataka’s fiscal management and long and medium term development plans, particularly for fighting poverty in rural areas and spreading the use of information technology, adds PTI.

“The actions of the chief minister taken in the last one year are exemplary,” Wolfensohn said. He said he was impressed by Krishna’s presentation on various projects, adding that the Bank and Karnataka had agreed on a common vision of good governance, fiscal prudence and investment in social infrastructure as the most effective way to alleviate poverty.

Wolfensohn said the Bank would extend Rs 12,000 crore as loan assistance to Karnataka in the next seven years for various development projects, including poverty eradication programmes.

The Bank president lashed out at critics of globalisation, terming as “nonsense” criticisms that the World Bank was more interested in promoting international trade and globalisation rather than development of the third world.

He also flayed the protests in Prague during the International Monetary Fund and World Bank meeting. Wolfensohn admitted that the World Bank was instrumental in promoting globalisation and added “if someone wants to hang me for that, it is okay”.    


 
 
PILLAI BACKS JUDICIAL INQUIRY INTO FIRING 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Imphal, Nov. 9: 
Senior Union home ministry official Gopal K. Pillai today backed the demand for a judicial inquiry into the killing of 10 people in allegedly indiscriminate firing by Assam Rifles personnel at Malom village near here last week.

However, he said the onus was on the state government to order a judicial probe into the incident.

Terming the law and order situation in the Manipur as “serious”, Pillai told newspersons here that the Centre was ready to announce a ceasefire with militant outfits in Manipur, provided the latter came to the negotiating table. He also said the Centre had instituted an inquiry into allegations of a nexus between politicians and militants in the state. “Intelligence agencies have informed the home ministry that some politicians and bureaucrats in the Northeast have links with militants. The matter is being investigated,” the joint secretary (Northeast) added

On the killing of 10 civilians by Assam Rifles personnel at Malom village on November 2, the home ministry official said it was an “unfortunate” incident. “The home ministry is not averse to a judicial inquiry to find out the truth. But the probe has to be instituted by the state government,” he said. The W. Nipamacha Singh-led coalition government has ordered a magisterial inquiry, but has been silent on the people’s demand for a judicial probe.

Pillai said if any Assam Rifles personnel was found guilty of indiscriminate firing, he would be prosecuted in accordance with the rule of law. He said there was no need to be pessimistic about the outcome of the inquiry as security personnel guilty of such excesses had been prosecuted earlier.

Pillai, who arrived here yesterday to assess the law and order situation, today held a meeting with top Army, police and para-military officials. He will be leaving for Tamenglong district tomorrow to address a seminar on development.

On the demand for withdrawal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act from Manipur, the home ministry official said the legislation had been misinterpreted by some people. He said the Act would come into force in a particular area only when the state government declared it as “disturbed”. Pillai said if the state government withdrew the “disturbed area” tag, the Act would automatically cease to exist.

The senior bureaucrat rued the fact that there was nobody to remove misconceptions about certain issues. “The onus is now on the people to find a solution to the problem. Three things are required to take Manipur forward — maintenance of law and order, focus on generation of employment and a marked improvement in the standard of governance,” he said.    


 
 
PLAN TO PRUNE BUREAUCRACY IRKS MINISTERS 
 
 
FROM DEBABRATA MOHANTY
 
Bhubaneswar, Nov. 9: 
Two Orissa ministers have come out openly against the BJD-BJP government’s plan to downsize the bloated bureaucracy of the state.

Addressing a conference of Orissa Administrative Service officers this morning at Soochana Bhavan, panchayati raj minister Surendranath Nayak and revenue minister Biswabhusan Harichandan said they would oppose any move to downsize the bureaucracy, if it meant bringing down the number of OAS officers in Orissa.

Nayak is a Biju Janata Dal leader from Kakatpur while Harichandan is the chief of the BJP Legislature Party in the Orissa Assembly.

“Just because the World Bank or some other foreign agencies are forcing us to accept this plan, we should not accept it. We can’t just sell ourselves for some amount of loan. Downsizing the bureaucracy is not the best option for the state,” Nayak said.

Finance minister Ramakrushna Patnaik had in his budget speech this year had announced the downsizing of the bureaucracy by 20 per cent as the debt burden had gone up to Rs 18,000 crore.

The government, a few days ago, had indicated that the total number of OAS officers may be brought down as part of the measures to trim the bureaucracy.

Vigilance chief’s plea: In his fight against corruption, chief vigilance commissioner N. Vittal now wants school and college students to be “watchdogs” and “reporters” of corrupt activities in public offices.

The high-profile official in his letter to the Union education secretary recently, mooted the formation of “national vigilant groups” in every school and college across the country. “Educational institutions are the best places where values of the next generation can be shaped,” Vittal wrote. The NVGs, to be formed on the lines of the National Cadet Corps and National Service Scheme, would, comprise NSS volunteers.

The NVG is a part of the 14-point programme drawn up by the CVC roping in youth to fight corruption. A few groups would be started on an experimental basis in a few universities of the country including Utkal University in Orissa.

Though the exact modalities of the NVGs are yet to be chalked out, the CVC wants the youth to work like the “student reporters” of a Tamil weekly magazine, which selects students from districts to write reports on injustice meted out to people. “These groups can keep an eye on corrupt officials and intimate the CVC through email,” the CVC said.    

 

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