Sonia takes vote war to Prasada hub
America catches up with Africa
BCCI delay puzzles team
Riot-case minister quits
Complaint of duster assault on child
Atal unfurls force to guard flag
Calcutta Weather

 
 
SONIA TAKES VOTE WAR TO PRASADA HUB 
 
 
FROM RASHEED KIDWAI
 
New Delhi, Nov. 11: 
Hours away from a rare showdown, the Sonia Gandhi camp tonight drew comfort from projections which stacked the odds in her favour but conceded that the margin of victory in Sunday’s election would have far-reaching implications.

Aware of the high stakes, Sonia has decided to travel to Lucknow tomorrow to cast her vote in the election to the Congress president’s post. The surprise move is aimed at taking the battle to the enemy camp as challenger-candidate Jitendra Prasada’s supporters have been touting Uttar Pradesh as their stronghold.

With the Uttar Pradesh Congress in a mess before and after the exit of Salman Khurshid, the AICC chief’s presence may influence the voting pattern and have a sobering effect in the context of the recent violence.

Uttar Pradesh has 1,126 delegates in the 8,356-member electoral college that selects the party president. If Prasada manages to win more than five to 10 per cent of the votes, Sonia will have to remove from her inner circle some of the Congressmen described by Prasada as “coterie”. The poll will also reflect the undercurrents of dissidence in the party and the level of Sonia’s acceptability.

The Sonia camp is promising to usher in “sunrise Congress” — a more dynamic and vibrant party — to replace the confusion and lack of direction on key economic and political issues. In this scenario, Sonia’s victory will be the last chance for her to set the house in order. The current crop of Congressmen may not be as loyal and docile as many of her courtiers would like Sonia to believe. The fate of ‘Chanakya’ P.V. Narasimha Rao and ‘Mandalite’ Sitaram Kesri is a pointer that partymen do not spare the leader who fails to deliver.

In Lucknow today, nervous over facing Sonia, Prasada spelt out his future plans in his latest missive to partymen, emphasising two points: that his challenge to Sonia should not be seen as a revolt against her and that the battle for restoration of inner-party democracy will continue. “Election is not an end but the beginning of inner-party democracy,” Prasada said.

Sources close to the rebel leader said that he had no plans to leave the Congress in the event of a defeat. “He is merely eyeing the space for principal dissident leader. The whole strategy is aimed at countering Arjun Singh, Madhavrao Scindia and other regional satraps as number two in the party,” a Prasada aide said.

However, many senior party leaders feel it would be difficult for Prasada to stay on if he loses by a huge margin. “The so-called coterie will push him into a corner so much that he will have no option but to leave the party. I think he will have to look outside the Congress like Sharad Pawar and others,” a party leader said, pointing at the “bitterness” that the polls have caused.    


 
 
AMERICA CATCHES UP WITH AFRICA 
 
 
FROM K.P. NAYAR
 
Washington, Nov. 11: 
America has three presidents, at least for the weekend.

The disputed election to choose the 43rd president of the US bordered on the bizarre on Saturday with the Republican candidate George W. Bush virtu-ally declaring himself president-elect to pre-empt the Democrats from taking the political battle into the courtrooms.

The Bush campaign has moved court against a hand-recount in Florida -- the first legal action by a political party in this election. So far, only indi-viduals had approached the court.

Appearing briefly before re-porters at the governor’s man-sion in Texas, Bush said he was preparing for transition of the presidency from Bill Clinton. “I believe it is the responsible course of action for us to prepare and that is what I am doing,” he said.

With the results in Tuesday’s election far from conclusive, the situation was reminiscent of post-poll disputes in Africa, and most recently, in Yugoslavia after Slobodan Milosevic refused to accept the results.

Democrat Al Gore kept a low profile and pretended to be unruf-fled, with TV networks showing him playing football with his family on the lawns of his vice-presidential home here. But it is clear that his partymen, who have already taken to the streets in Florida, consider Gore as the rightful inheritor of Clinton’s mantle since he has secured the majority of popular votes.

Gore’s campaign chairman William Daley expressed frustra-tion over the Republican attempt to hijack the presidency. He said the unexpected wait was “unpleasant for all of us, but sug-gesting that the outcome of a vote is known before all the ballots are properly counted is inappropri-ate”.

While the succession drama unfolds into the unknown, Clin-ton, the actual president whose lame duck status has been de-layed by the election deadlock, is going about his business as usual. The delay in choosing a successor has given fresh impetus to his Middle East peacemaking and other official initiatives.

While Americans are hoping that the election dispute will not sink into a state-by-state, county-by-county nail-biting wait for recounts and subsequent court-room battles, it is clear that the posturing by both sides is pre-cisely aimed at avoiding that eventuality.

The Democrats received a shot in the arm on Friday with unoffi-cial results awarding Oregon’s seven electoral votes to Gore. But their joy was shortlived as the final tally from New Mexico put Bush in a slender 17-vote lead over Gore. Only 189 “emergency” ballots now remain to be counted.

Emergency ballots are votes cast by those who had earlier opted for postal voting, but changed their minds on election day. Gore had earlier been con-sidered the winner in New Mex-ico and given the state’s five elec-toral votes.

The confusion in New Mexico resulted from the discovery of 257 “missing” ballots which were discovered in a locked box in a side room of a warehouse where counting was in progress.

Adding to the confusion was a cyber attack on the web page of a county where voting figures in the state were being posted.

In Florida, police said they found a locked ballot box at a hotel. But they did not confirm whether it had ballot papers.

The next major development in the breathtaking saga of US elections is expected on Tuesday when a Florida court will hear petitions from voters in Palm Beach County seeking a repoll on account of alleged irregularities.    


 
 
BCCI DELAY PUZZLES TEAM 
 
 
FROM LOKENDRA PRATAP SAHI
 
Dhaka, Nov. 11: 
The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) may have convinced itself it is following procedure by having referred the explosive Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) report to its commissioner of inquiries, K. Madhavan, but that hasn’t quite impressed present team members.

The CBI has indicted three players who, till earlier this year, were doing national duty: Former captains Mohammed Azharuddin, Ajay Jadeja and senior pro-wicketkeeper Nayan Mongia. Manoj Prabhakar and Ajay Sharma have also been named.

After insisting it would await Madhavan’s assessment, the BCCI did a quick somersault and slapped a temporary ban (technically a suspension) on all five.

The permanent penalty will be announced once Madhavan (who began cross-examinations today) has done his bit and the designated BCCI committees have reached their conclusion. This, more than anything else, has left current India players confused.

Besides everything else, the CBI has quoted Sachin Tendulkar himself as saying he didn’t think Azhar gave “hundred per cent” when he (Sachin) was captain. Also, that he “suspected” Azhar’s links with bookies. Significantly, even when there would be whispers of unethical dealings, the team always had a clean players’ ‘club’. Now, the ‘club’ members, in particular, are finding the BCCI-authored signals baffling.

One of the players, who requested anonymity, pointedly asked The Telegraph: “But must the BCCI sit in judgement on the CBI? Isn’t the CBI’s (player-specific) report damning enough? Why have an internal inquiry?” That, by the way, is a question doing the rounds nearly everywhere.

Another player, who too didn’t wish to be identified, wondered whether the BCCI’s flip-flop response was a ploy to put “everything on hold.” That the temporary ban was imposed only hours before BCCI president A.C. Muthiah’s meeting with the then Union sports minister, S.S. Dhindsa, hasn’t gone unnoticed. Dhindsa, it is understood, would have asked the BCCI to act straightaway. And, so, the BCCI in effect pre-empted a directive. Top BCCI sources acknowledged it.

What hasn’t gone unnoticed either has been Dhindsa’s departure from sports. The general impression is that the BCCI won’t, today, be as much on the back foot as it was when Dhindsa was calling the shots.

While the BCCI needs to be complimented for consulting not just captain Sourav Ganguly, but vice-captain Rahul Dravid and Sachin, in the lead-up to appointing John Wright as coach, not interacting with the players on stunning off-field developments smacks of unimaginative management.    


 
 
RIOT-CASE MINISTER QUITS 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Nov. 11: 
Minister of state for defence Harin Pathak, charged in a case of rioting in which a policeman was killed, resigned tonight, helping the Centre avert a confrontation but arming the Opposition with a potential weapon to target L.K.Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi.

Pathak, along with fellow-accused and Gujarat minister Ashok Bhatt, had pleaded innocence in the evening but put in his papers after meeting Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee late in the night. Bhatt is expected to step down tomorrow.

The two were chargesheeted in connection with a riot in 1985 during the anti-reservation agitation. The duo said they had been implicated in the first information report as they moved the high court against police atrocities.

The law ministry was understood to have informed the Prime Minister earlier that the continuance of a chargesheeted minister was “untenable”, though legally he could remain in power until found guilty. Vajpayee had sought the ministry’s opinion immediately after the chargesheets were filed.

Sources said experts in the ministry reportedly felt that “technically” a person could even contest elections until a guilty verdict, but it was “moral” and “almost a practice” for the minister concerned to step down on “his own”.

Throughout the day, BJP leaders argued that since it was a “political case”, Pathak need not resign. “The case against Pathak and Bhatt relates to a political agitation and does not involve public morality as in a corruption case. The same stand was taken in a Babri Masjid demolition case. This aspect cannot be ignored,” a BJP leader said.

However, Pathak’s resignation is expected to punch a hole in the BJP’s rationale for ridiculing demands for the resignation of home minister Advani and human resources development minister Joshi, who have been chargesheeted in the Babri case.

The BJP has been staving off the Opposition clamour for the senior leaders’ resignation on the ground that the issue was a “political case” .

With the winter session of Parliament a little over a week away, the Opposition is likely to pounce on the issue and renew the demand for the exit of Advani and Joshi.    


 
 
COMPLAINT OF DUSTER ASSAULT ON CHILD 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Nov. 11: 
A six-year-old boy was severely injured when his school teacher hit him on his head with a wooden duster, according to a complaint lodged with the Shibpur police station. The boy’s condition is stated to be serious as he has been vomiting since Thursday when the incident took place.

Ankan, a Class I student of Howrah Vivekananda Institution, was hit “mercilessly” by Shyamal Roychoudhury on the head with a wooden duster when he was found talking in class, Debashis Chakraborty, Ankan’s father said. The police complaint said that Ankan was hit “so hard” that he started bleeding and fell to the ground screaming.

“I admit that my son is very restless and talkative but is that any reason to beat a child so brutally?” Chakraborty asked.

He said on seeing Ankan bleed profusely, he rushed him to a local doctor who stitched the wound before sending him home. Since then, Ankan has been vomiting constantly, Chakraborty said. “He is complaining of severe headache.”

The school authorities, however, denied that Ankan was hit by a teacher. Secretary of the school Bimal Chandra Ghosh said that the boy got hurt while “fighting” with his class friends in the schoolground, but was unable to say which classmate had hit him.

“It was creditable of us to have rushed him to a doctor after he got hurt,” Ghosh added.    


 
 
ATAL UNFURLS FORCE TO GUARD FLAG 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Nov. 11: 
Is the national flag haute couture?

With the Malini Ramani episode fresh in mind — socialite Bina Ramani’s designer daughter had appeared in the Tricolour — the Vajpayee government has instituted a committee to check the “misuse” of the national flag.

The “misuse” has always been an issue, but Malini Ramani had stirred a hornet’s nest during the Fashion Week in the capital by appearing in the Tricolour cut according to the contours of her body.

The Sangh parivar’s “moral police” had taken to the streets, protesting against the “insult” to the national emblem. On the other hand, petroleum minister Ram Naik had unleashed a pro-national flag campaign, favouring the display and hoisting of the Tricolour by the public and not merely by the government on national days.

Though three months have passed after the Ramani furore died down, the NDA government has come up with a committee headed by home ministry additional secretary P.D. Shenoy and comprising joint secretaries of the ministries of defence, external affairs, law, culture and consumer affairs.

The committee will “examine various issues relating to the use/display of the national flag including the extent to which unrestricted or liberal use of the national flag by members of the public may be permitted, advisability of enacting a separate legislation governing the display and use of the national flag and other related matters”. The committee will also consider and “suggest prescriptions” for the use of the emblem and the mechanism for enforcing the prescriptions.

“The objective is to liberalise certain of these Acts and the committee will study all aspects in the course of its deliberations and then decide on what particular areas and how much should be liberalised. Specific cases of alleged insult to the National Flag will be taken up and studied in the backdrop of the laws and whether such acts should be considered insult to the Triclour,” an official said.

The laws of some western countries will also be studied, he said, adding: “Once the report is submitted to the home minister, it will be up to the government to consider accepting the recommendations.”

Officials are tightlipped on whether the laws will actually be given more teeth. The maximum punishment for violating the provisions of the Acts governing the “hoisting and use” of the flag ranges from imprisonment for three years or a fine or both. In certain cases, especially with regard to national emblems and names, a person can be fined a maximum of Rs 500 or face prosecution.

The committee may recommend amendments to archaic Acts which regulate the use of the National Flag — Emblems and Names (Prevention of Improper Use) Act, 1950 and the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, 1971 — which have been in operation for decades.

The second Act says a person who burns, mutilates, defaces, defiles, disfigures, destroys, tramples upon or otherwise brings into contempt the National Flag or the Constitution in any public place shall be punishable with imprisonment for three years.

“The objective is to liberalise certain of these Acts and the committee will study all aspects in the course of its deliberations and then decide on what particular areas and how much should be liberalised. Specific cases of alleged insult to the National Flag will be taken up and studied in the backdrop of the laws and whether such acts should be considered insult to the Tricolour,” an official said.

The laws of some western countries will also be studied, he said, adding: “Once the report is submitted to the home minister, it will be up to the government to consider accepting the recommendations.”

Officials are tightlipped on whether the laws will actually be given more teeth. The maximum punishment for violating the provisions of the Acts governing the “hoisting and use” of the flag ranges from imprisonment for three years or a fine or both. In certain cases, especially with regard to national emblems and names, a person can be fined a maximum of Rs 500 or face prosecution.

The committee may recommend amendments to archaic Acts which regulate the use of the National Flag — Emblems and Names (Prevention of Improper Use) Act, 1950 and the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, 1971 — which have been in operation for decades.

The second Act says a person who burns, mutilates, defaces, defiles, disfigures, destroys, tramples upon or otherwise brings into contempt the National Flag or the Constitution in any public place shall be punishable with imprisonment for three years.    


 
 
CALCUTTA WEATHER 
 
 
 
 

Temperature

Max: 33.3°C (+3)
Min: 19.9°C (+1)

Relative humidity

Maximum: 96%
Minimum: 37%

Rainfall

Nil

Today:

Mainly clear sky. Minimum temperature is likely to be around 20°C

Sunset: 4.50 pm, Sunrise: 5.52 am.    

 

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