Swearing-in cut short in post-natal mess
Soren looks for friends in Jharkhand jungle
It’s either Marandi or President’s rule for BJP
Laloo bids adieu, Rabri promises gifts
‘People’s crown’ for JMM boss
Fernandes seeks deputy ouster
Value education in IIT holiday homework
BJP student push in Left revolution cradle
Third front stars at Basu farewell
MP panel to focus on cable

Dehradun, Nov. 10: 
Aftershocks of its tumultuous birth continued to rock Uttaranchal today with two Cabinet ministers-designate boycotting the swearing-in to protest against the crowning of an “outsider” as chief minister.

Senior BJP leaders Ramesh Pokhriyal and B.S. Koshiari, who were in the running for the crown along with Nityanand Swami, fell in line only after the Centre sent a message asking them to “backtrack or face the music”.

The swearing-in has been carried over till tomorrow as angry rebels disrupted proceedings and forced it to be cut short. Five Cabinet ministers and five junior ministers were sworn in today.

A third BJP leader, Narayanram Das, who was supposed to be appointed minister of state, also boycotted the swearing-in. Supporters of Tilak Raj Behad, who was left out of the ministry, threatened to “turn into Veerappans” and disrupt law and order.

Rebel BJP workers took to the streets in anger, stalling traffic and stoning vehicles. Some gheraoed the party office, threatening to “storm” the swearing-in. Others targeted the state guest house, smashing window panes.

A jittery Swami, who claimed the “outbursts” were a case of extreme indiscipline, finally sought the Centre’s help to restore order.

Following the Centre’s intervention, the rebel leaders watered down their reasons for skipping the swearing-in. But bristling party workers held out the threat of stalling ministry formation again tomorrow.

Pokhriyal said he had made his stand clear to A.B. Vajpayee, L.K. Advani and BJP chief Bangaru Laxman, but insisted he had been “held up” by supporters.

“They were so furious that matters could have gone out of hand. We could have had a law and problem,” he said.

Koshiari held his cards close to the chest, but said party workers had a right to air their grievances. Asked if he, too, had been “held up”, he said: “I will not take back what my supporters said.”

Another MLA, Lakhiram Joshi, put up an open show of defiance, saying the rank and file could be quietened only by Swami’s ouster. “No one wants him as Uttaranchal’s chief minister,” he said.

Angry Behad supporters threatened to “destroy every-thing in sight” in Udhamsinghnagar, forcing the district administration to sound an alert. “Schools, colleges, banks, offices —- everything will be destroyed,” warned Indra Singh, a loyalist. Some people celebrating the appointment of Parkash Singh Badal as Governor were beaten up.

At the end of the day, a BJP MLA remarked: “It’s easy to build a house but difficult to keep it in order. The hills are not reverberating with sounds of joy but are clouded with uncertainty and anger. We can only blame the high command for the mess.”    

Patna, Nov. 10: 
The television screen roars to life with images of two lions preying on a hapless deer. His eyes glued to the screen, Shibu Soren could not have missed the symbolism of the law of the jungle: might is always right.

The torchbearer of the Jharkhand struggle, Soren can now only watch helplessly the crown, which he had always considered his right, slipping away from his grasp.

Shunned by the BJP, which controls the bulk of the MLAs from the new state, Soren had clutched the hand extended by the Congress, only to find himself out in the cold again.

A section of the Congress, led by Soren’s detractor from Chaibasa Babun Sambrui, has written to the state high command that the party should reconsider supporting the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha leader as the state’s first chief minister.

The Left parties, too, after making statements of support, sang a different tune. The CPI said it would refer the case to Delhi and leave the final decision to it. The CPI(M-L) has refused to take sides, saying it could consider supporting Soren from outside.

“Support from outside? What does that mean? Will it not cut down our numerical strength?” the JMM leader shrieked, before turning his eyes to the TV where the lions continued to maul their prey.

His son Durga’s flat is the ideal setting for the backstage drama. Groups of party workers were huddled outside the apartment, discussing the intricacies and intrigues of the numbers game.

Inside the flat, Soren’s close aides, their cellphones stuck to their ears, were busy in their mission to win over enemies. Not many had responded, though. Half an hour ago, a former Congress minister had zipped in on his Enfield, securityguard in pillion, taken a look and zoomed off again.

A few supporters, incorrigible enthusiasts, began rehearsing slogans for the November 14 rally. Soren was unmoved as he pondered his future, his hands caressing his flowing beard.

The ring of the mobile breaks the spell. “Kitne murge gin liye ab tak (How many chickens have you counted so far)?” It was Laloo Yadav, Soren’s new-found friend, inquiring about the number of MLAs he has been able to woo.

Sab to jungle me hai. Mere pas aa nahi rahen hai (They are still in the jungle. They are refusing to come to my side),” replied Soren, a wry smile on his lips.

The others in the room break out in laughter, but soon stop.

Beginning his career as a jungle leader and a tribal crusader in Dumka, where he became a rebel after his father was murdered at the behest of a moneylender, Soren had never before found himself in such a spot.

Getting a group of youths to launch the “matka foro” movement (where they would break earthen liquor jars to get the tribals to kick their alcohol addiction) 40 years ago was easier. Even designing poisoned arrows had been less tough.

But the shenanigans of backroom manoeuvres was beyond him. Buying MLAs is infinitely tougher than being bought.

“I’m one who becomes loyalist of different schools,” Soren admits, when reminded that he has switched allegiances on innumerable occasions. “But I still believe someone who promises me something,” he mumbles before returning to the TV, flickering with images of another display of the jungle law.    

New Delhi, Nov. 10: 
Determined to instal a BJP-led government in Jharkhand, the NDA leadership has kept ready a contingency script, just in case Babulal Marandi fails to come up with the magic number of 41 on November 15.

The NDA’s gameplan is to bring the country’s youngest state under President’s rule to thwart the Shibu Soren-Laloo Prasad Yadav axis from wresting control.

But that’s the worst-case scenario. For the NDA, the most visualised scene is Marandi taking oath on Wednesday and then convening the House in February to prove his majority, much along the lines of Ajit Jogi’s coronation.

Chhattisgarh’s Congress chief minister, who was sworn in on November 1, did exactly the same thing. Even before electing a Speaker, the House has been adjourned till February for presenting the regular budget and electing the presiding officer. Rules allow the new government to draw funds from the Consolidated Fund for the first six months.

NDA sources said the Chhattisgarh precedent will come in handy for the BJP if Marandi is called to form Jharkhand’s first government. But NDA leaders fear that those MLAs who would miss out on ministerial berths could defect to the JMM chief.

In handing out ministerial berths, the BJP, with 32 legislators, will have the lion’s share. The ratio being worked out for the others is: two berths for the Samata Party, which has five MLAs and one each for the Janata Dal (United), which has three MLAs, and the United Gondwana Democratic Party (UGDP), which has two.

The leadership is apprehensive of the reaction of the remaining “power-hungry” MLAs in the Samata, the Dal (U) and the UGDP, some of whom are already in touch with the RJD boss.

“This ratio (of ministerial berths) will straightaway land six rebels into Laloo’s lap,” said a senior leader. Comparing the situation to something like what Nitish Kumar faced in Bihar last March, he said the turn of events could rob Marandi of his majority and pave the way for Soren’s takeover.

It was because of this that NDA leaders were keeping ready the option of President’s rule, he said. “To scuttle the installation of a JMM-led government in Ranchi, we will go to any extent. If no Marandi, it is President’s rule.”

NDA sources said they were even hoping for large-scale violence to erupt in Ranchi on or before D-day so that the Governor could recommend Central rule. Both Marandi and Soren have claimed majority. But neither has got the needed support in writing. Governor-designate Prabhat Kumar will take charge on November 15. Before that, the two are expected to be ready with their lists.

NDA sources claimed Marandi already has the support of 40 MLAs in the 81-member House (the Assembly’s strength was reduced after a CPI legislator died recently). They expect that Kumar, immediately after taking oath, will call Marandi on the ground that the NDA is the largest combination.

As there is no Governor at the moment, Soren, even if he has the support of 41 MLAs, cannot prove his majority, they said. “The main trick is who gets invited since there will neither be an Assembly nor a Governor in place till D-day,” said a senior NDA leader.    

Patna, Nov. 10: 
“Separation has always been agonising and we had to undergo this feeling a couple of times in Bihar,” Laloo Prasad Yadav said.

The Rashtriya Janata Dal chief, who once said “Jharkhand will be made on my dead body”, said this while addressing members of the joint state Assembly at a special session to bid farewell to MLAs of the new state.

“We were first separated from Bengal and Orissa, and now our tribal brothers will be going,” he said. “Magar bichadne se najdikiyan badhti hain” (separation deepens relations), he said, amid laughter from members in the House.

Laloo joined chief minister Rabri Devi for a photo session with the MLAs, and the latter invited them to dinner. The chief minister promised each of them a wrist-watch.

“I will give one to Sushil Kumar Modiji too, though he is the Opposition leader,” she said in a lighter vein. The government initially had no plans for a farewell session.    

Ranchi, Nov. 10: 
The Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) is going to hold a public coronation of party chief Shibu Soren as the chief minister of Jharkhand on November 14 even as the Ranchi district administration is putting the final touches to the official swearing-in of the Governor and the chief minister a few hours later at the stroke of midnight at Raj Bhavan here.

Preparations have begun to crown Soren the people’s chief minister at a public rally at the Jaipal Singh stadium at 2 pm.

JMM sources said Soren’s public coronation was being planned ahead of the official ceremony to demonstrate the people’s choice to the world and to make public the deep-rooted conspiracy that the BJP and other NDA allies had hatched to keep the JMM out of power in Jharkhand.

JMM spokesman Shailendra Bhattacharya said several lakhs of people who had gathered in Ranchi at the Vijay Rally on October 21 at the Ranchi Morabadi grounds had endorsed their choice of Soren as chief minister without waiting for the other parties to make their official decision.

In deference to the people’s mandate, Bhattacharya said, despite the backtracking by the BJP and NDA leaders and JMM’s announcement that it would pull out from the NDA, the party was determined to carry on with the coronation.

He added that the coronation would be followed by a march past of all MLAs from different parties to demonstrate the support that the JMM enjoys in the Jharkhand Assembly. The JMM would then officially stake its claim to form the first government in the new state.

Bhattacharya said the function, to be held a day before the birth anniversary of tribal leader Birsa Munda, will strictly follow the Indian code unlike the official functions that will follow British norms.

Bhattacharya alleged that the official functions are a deep-rooted conspiracy by the Centre. He said according to the official agenda, the Jharkhand Governor was to be sworn in first which was to be followed by the swearing-in of the chief minister.    

New Delhi, Nov. 10: 
Defence minister and NDA convener George Fernandes impressed upon Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee that minister of state for defence Harin Pathak must be asked to step down immediately for being chargesheeted in a rioting and murder case in Ahmedabad.

Fernandes, who met Vajpayee this afternoon, stressed that Pathak should be asked to put in his papers before the winter session of Parliament, which begins on November 20, said sources close to the defence minister. They said the Prime Minister did not indicate his opinion on the matter.

In a case heard in an Ahmedabad court on Tuesday, Pathak, a Lok Sabha member of Parliament from Ahmedabad, and Gujarat health minister Ashok Bhatt were chargesh- eeted for rioting and murder during the anti-reservation stir in 1985.

Gujarat police head constable Laxman Desai was killed by a mob inside the walled city of Ahmedabad.

The chargesheet stated that Pathak, then a councillor in the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation, and Bhatt had instigated the mob.

BJP sources said a decision on the two would be taken after vice-president in charge of Gujarat Jana Krishnamurthy returned from Ahmedabad on Sunday. Krishnamurthy was in Gujarat to ascertain details of the charges against Pathak and Bhatt after consulting Governor S.S. Bhandari, chief minister Keshubhai Patel and other leaders.    

New Delhi, Nov. 10: 
Students in Delhi’s Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) may spend their next summer vacation with non-governmental organisations, doing “socio-spiritual” work as part of their training in value education.

Recently, two workshops were held in the campus for putting together a value education “package”. IIT faculty members want value education to be made a compulsory course for the students by next July.

“The whole environment is against value education and we can no longer afford to pay just lip-service to its need,” said Prof. R.R. Gaur, head of mechanical engineering, who played a key role in structuring the value education course.

As soon as the institute receives money from the Centre, it will establish the National Resource Centre for Value Education in Engineering.

Value education is not entirely a new concept in the IIT curriculum. For more than a decade, it has been offering an elective course in science and humanism. “But this was more an indirect way of teaching value education. The time has now come to address the issue directly,” Gaur said.

The “threat”, he added, comes from forces of liberalisation and also from secularists, who have alleged that value education is equivalent to “saffronisation”.

“Any talk about value education immediately makes the secularists sit up and they think it is an attempt to saffronise education and culture,” the professor said. He insisted that the basic thrust of their package will be on combining professionalism with ethics and nationalism.

In this backdrop, a course in value education gains special importance. This time, it will not be just a course in science and humanism but an entire package.

The four-year curriculum will begin in the first year and include a series of intensive discussions between groups of students and teachers. For instance, a teacher will be in charge of a group of 10 students, who at the end of four years will be asked to respond to situations of moral dilemma. “This will be part of an assessment of their personalities,” Gaur said.

On the kind of evaluation it would be, Gaur said nothing concrete has been worked out yet.

But he has suggestions like presenting a hypothetical situation before a student where he or she has to choose between money and morality.

Some faculty members are concerned about the increasing trend among students to just “make money” and a “mad” rush to join the information technology sector.

The course aims to tackle this “problem” by exposing students to social and practical realities. “We feel that value education should be integrated with the National Social Service (NSS) and other cultural activities,” Gaur said.

Before launching the course, orientation courses will be held for teachers. There are already some 25-odd faculty members who have shown keen interest in teaching the course.

“There will have to be a couple of permanent faculty members for this course and the rest can be part-timers,” Gaur said.    

Calcutta, Nov. 10: 
In the mid- sixties, College Street was the hotbed of Left extremist revolutionary rhetoric. In the seventies, the Congress student wing ruled with a heavy hand. The CPM’s Student Federation of India has held sway since.

Today, thousands of BJP-affiliated Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad members virtually took over Calcutta’s education hub.

Over 5,000 activists of the BJP’s student arm swarmed into College Street from across the city and the districts, causing more than mild surprise. They held a meeting on busy Bankim Chatterjee Street opposite Sanskrit College, throwing traffic out of gear for hours. Later, they marched to a venue on C.R. Avenue to attend a three-day state conference of the Parishad that began today.

Police officials confirmed that several thousand ABVP activists took part in the rally in violation of traffic rules. “We have initiated cases against those attending the rally,” said an official of Amherst police station.

Amitava Chakraborty, the Parishad’s state secretary, claimed the rally was proof that they were a force to reckon with in Bengal. The BJP, which had no elected representative from Bengal till 1998 when Tapan Sikdar was elected MP, has two Parliament members now and two MLAs.

“Today, we have representatives in nearly 75 colleges across the state and also control students’ unions in three colleges, including one in Kidderpore,” Chakraborty said.

Organising secretary Amal Chatterjee said the membership was less than 8,000 five years ago. “But today we have enrolled more than 20,000 members and another 10,00 have applied,” he added.

Parishad leaders claimed that those sidelined in the SFI and Chhatra Parishad had joined them. “Our next year’s target is to enroll more than 30,000 members,” they said.

Concerned over the Parishad’s growth, SFI leaders confirmed that the BJP students’ wing had begun to court “disgruntled” members.

“Though the Parishad is yet to build an effective organisation in colleges, they are constantly trying to woo our cadre,” they said.

Of 372 colleges where elections are held on a regular basis, the SFI controls 254, while the Opposition — Congress and Trinamul Congress — has unions in 110 colleges.

Kallol Ghosh, general secretary of SFI, termed the recent trend of anti-SFI forces joining hands with the Parishad dangerous. “We have won the elections in North Bengal University defeating all anti-SFI forces, including some in the Left,” he added.

Naxalite leader Asim Chatterjee, who had led the student movement in the sixties and who is now a convert to parliamentary democracy, wondered how Parishad members mustered the courage to overrun College Street. “This shows that the Sangh Parivar’s students’ union has made steady inroads in the state during the past few years,” he added.

Chatterjee recalled that the Left students’ union of Presidency College had forced the authorities to suspend classes for over four months in 1966.

“Today, I feel ashamed to think that a students’ union controlled by the Sangh Parivar wields its influence on students of the College Street area,” he said.    

Calcutta, Nov. 10: 
The CPM and the ruling Left Front will organise a felicitation for Jyoti Basu at the Yubabharati Krirangan in Salt Lake, either on November 29 or 30.

Four former Prime Ministers, Assam chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mohanta, RJD chief and former Bihar chief minister Laloo Prasad Yadav and Mulayam Singh Yadav are expected to attend the function.

The CPM is planning to engage Basu in “reviving” the third front. All those invited to the function were active partners of the United Front formed a few years ago. Basu’s felicitation will give the former partners an opportunity to discuss the front’s reorganisation.

Though Basu personally is not very “optimistic” about the third front and told his party colleagues that the job of reorganising the front will be very difficult, the CPM state leadership is now willing to engage Basu in the “difficult job”.

The CPM has allotted Basu a separate chamber at their Alimuddin Street headquarters, where the octogenarian leader will sit and “work for the party”.

CPM state secretary Anil Biswas said that Basu had agreed to lead the party during the 2001 Assembly polls. “We are depending on him and he has also agreed to lead us,” Biswas said.

The state CPM and Left Front have set up a committee comprising important CPM ministers and MPs for Basu’s felicitation. Finance minister Asim Dasgupta and transport minister Subhas Chakraborty are among the ministers who will be in the committee.

The decision to organise the function was taken in Basu’s presence by the CPM state secretariat, which met this morning at Alimuddin Street.

Another reason for organising the felicitation in a big way is the “resentment among party workers and members over the previous felicitation, which the Left Front had given him at the Netaji Indoor Stadium”. Thousands of party supporters could not witness the felicitation because of limited space.

Many zonal and local units of the CPM had also complained to the district and state party leadership that they had “missed an historic event” and urged the leadership to organise another function in a larger venue. “I think everyone would be able to attend the function at Salt Lake stadium. It is a big venue,” said a CPM secretariat member.    

New Delhi, Nov. 10: 
Information and broadcasting minister Sushma Swaraj today said the consultative committee of Members of Parliament, meeting on November 19, will devote itself exclusively to issues relating to the cable industry.

Swaraj said the introduction of the conditional access system is a top priority on her agenda as it will give consumers a wider choice and help check malpractices with regard to artificial ratings and viewership.

The conditional access system with entail installing a set-top box in subscribers’ houses.

The box will enable the subscriber to select the channels he wants and pay for only those. It will also allow broadcasters to keep count of the number of viewers subscribing to their channels, taking care of their long-standing complaint that cable operators under-report to deny them their rightful revenue.

Welcoming the national debate on foreign direct investment in the print medium, the minister said it would help her assess the gamut of opinions.

Swaraj pointed out that the print medium is not just another sector of trade and justified the caution in opening it up. But she agreed that the climate has changed since the government’s 1955 resolution barring foreign entry in the print medium. “We should see the matter in the light of year 2000,” the minister said. But she added the government might reiterate the 1955 resolution even after a rethink.

The government is taking an open-minded look at the issue, Swaraj said. She has received representations from the Indian Newspaper Society and National Union of Journalists and will meet the Editors’ Guild on November 18. Her assessment of the mood in the industry is that 80 per cent is against foreign participation and 20 per cent in favour.

Swaraj said the government may take a decision within a month.

Guidelines under the recently-announced policy relating to setting up direct-to-home (DTH) television platforms are expected in a few days, Swaraj said.

On filling up vacancies of a chairman and three part-time members on the Prasar Bharati board, Swaraj said the government has issued a renotification for a three-member committee to recommend names of likely candidates.

The committee includes Vice-President Krishan Kant, the chairman of Press Council of India, and government nominee T.V.R. Shenoy.    


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