Atal puts Ram before allies
Furious Mamata calls MPs for action talks
Phone tap reveals Hrithik target
Calcutta weather

 
 
ATAL PUTS RAM BEFORE ALLIES 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Dec. 14: 
In a consummate performance that relied heavily on the famed Atal Behari Vajpayee style but offered little of substance, the Prime Minister today refused to retract any of his controversial statements on the Ayodhya dispute, leaving allies like the Trinamul Congress gnashing in outrage.

The Congress claimed it had been vindicated about the BJP’s “hidden agenda”.

In response to the dramatic departure of Trinamul MPs from the House after his speech, the Prime Minister returned to say what has been stated often before: that his government will abide by the court verdict. He could scarcely have said otherwise.

Dissatisfied, Trinamul MPs went into a huddle in Mamata’s chamber threatening to abstain. TDP leader Yerran Naidu joined them. Vajpayee emissaries Jaswant Singh and Pramod Mahajan persuaded a sulking Mamata to vote against the motion that was defeated by 291-179 votes.

The vintage Vajpayee was at his evasive best in his 50-minute speech in the Lok Sabha rejecting the Opposition’s demand for removal of L.K. Advani, M.M. Joshi and Uma Bharti chargesheeted in the Babri demolition case. The Prime Minister stood his ground to emphasise that the Ram temple movement was an expression of “national sentiment”. His Ayodhya remarks cheered Hindutva hawks with VHP leader Giriraj Kishore quickly voicing welcome.

Caught between Hindutva hardliners and NDA’s “secular allies”, Vajpayee initially appeared to be treading on thin ice but, with 40 years in Parliament behind him, he performed with ease.

Vajpayee asserted that his government will work within the parameters of the national agenda for governance, but kept the hawks happy equating the Ayodhya movement with the Somnath temple reconstruction. He recalled that the first President, Rajendra Prasad, had publicly associated with the Somnath reconstruction. “The Ayodhya movement is similar to that,” he said.

Claiming that the Indian ethos was not “anti-religion”, the Prime Minister said his government had patronised 300 years of Khalsa and now planned to celebrate the 2600th birth anniversary of Bhagwan Mahavir.

There was high drama in the Lok Sabha when Vajpayee concluded his speech. Trinamul MPs sought further clarifications seconds before the division. Vajpayee responded: the “court verdict will be respected” amid thumping of desks from treasury benches.

The BSP declined to vote for or against the motion while Mulayam Singh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party staged a walkout and then voted for the motion.

Before succumbing to the Trinamul demand that he express his government’s readiness to abide by the court verdict, Vajpayee in his main speech had asserted that the Ayodhya issue could only be resolved either through a judicial order or an agreement between Hindus and Muslims. He did not say his government will abide by the court verdict.

“There is no third way to resolve the issue. I only said this last week but my statement was misinterpreted,” Vajpayee said.

The Prime Minister said the demand for the exit of three ministers was a result of one-up-manship between the Congress and the Samajwadi Party. Displaying his quick wit, Vajpayee advised the Congress not to compete with Mulayam to appease minorities. “He went to the extent of ordering firing on kar sevaks,” he said.

For the record, he declared that his government was committed to the NDA agenda that promised to keep away contentious issues dear to the BJP.

He claimed that the trio’s resignations were not required under the Constitution nor under any other law. While the BJP benches thumped desks, some of the NDA allies appeared upset. He even announced that if they quit, he would not accept their resignations.

Vajpayee accused the Opposition of creating the impression that he and Advani did not see eye to eye. Showering lavish compliments on the home minister, he recalled that Advani had resigned from the Lok Sabha on his own when he was chargesheeted in the hawala scam. After the vote, Advani said his name figured in the Ayodhya chargesheet because he participated in the movement.

Vajpayee suggested that a code of conduct — binding on all parties — could be evolved on resignation by ministers.

   

 
 
FURIOUS MAMATA CALLS MPS FOR ACTION TALKS 
 
 
FROM KAY BENEDICT
 
New Delhi, Dec. 14: 
Atal Behari Vajpayee’s bid to please hardliners in the party and the Sangh parivar has “terribly upset” Mamata Banerjee, who had expected the Prime Minister to retract his statements on Ayodhya.

“I have nothing, just a bag. I can take it and go anytime. They are talking about the BJP agenda. We may be a small party, but we have principles,” an agitated Mamata was quoted by a party source as saying after the vote in the Lok Sabha.

Seething with anger, Mamata and the eight other MPs of her party walked out of the House after Vajpayee’s speech. They told Jaswant Singh and Pramod Mahajan to convey to the Prime Minister they were going to abstain from voting.

Mahajan informed Vajpayee and returned to tell Trinamul members that the Prime Minister will clarify his views to their satisfaction. They rushed to the House a minute before the lobbies were closed for the electronic voting.

After Vajpayee’s clarification, Trinamul members voted, but expressed strong dissatisfaction subsequently. Sources close to Mamata said she is meeting her MPs tomorrow to decide the course of action.

She refused to speak, nominating Sudip Bandopadhyay instead. He said: “We are not satisfied. Though the Prime Minister said the government will stick to the NDA agenda, he has not bothered to clear the confusion.”

Other allies like the Telugu Desam Party, the Indian National Lok Dal, Janata Dal (United) and the National Conference are also not happy. But they have not gone public.

Trinamul sources said that after Vajpayee’s speech, Mamata contacted leaders of these parties. “They told us they were not satisfied with Vajpayee sticking to the hardline agenda.”

Throughout Vajpayee’s speech Mamata and TDP leader Yerran Naidu sat with glum faces and did not clap when he finished.

Earlier, Mamata delivered an impassioned speech, calling the Babri masjid demolition a heinous crime.

Mamata said she was not appeasing Muslims but Article 28 of the Constitution “covers protection of minorities”. The Trinamul leader ended her speech saying “Ramzan mubarak” and wished Christians on Christmas.

“We do not want to topple this government. We do not want to embarrass anybody. We do not want to feel embarrassed either. We want to see the response of our beloved Prime Minister,” she said.

Without mentioning the BJP, she said no political party should be allowed to misuse religion. If any party did so, it should be banned. “Mandir, masjid, girija, gurdwara ye hain hamara sab ka pyara,” she said. It is the duty of the majority community to protect the minorities, she said. “We cannot divide the country along communal lines. My heart is aching.”

Mamata said she was not blaming anyone. “I am blaming myself. We are in the NDA. BJP is a big party. We are a small party. A small party can sometimes give some vision.”

“The Prime Minister’s recent statement on Ram temple construction has created confusion and a message must go from him to clear the air. There should be no hidden agenda,” she said.

   

 
 
PHONE TAP REVEALS HRITHIK TARGET 
 
 
FROM DEBASHIS BHATTACHARYYA
 
Mumbai, Dec. 14: 
The message was stern and simple: get “takla (bald)” Rakesh Roshan to allow son Hrithik work for a Dawood Ibrahim-funded film. Or else...

The gangster had asked Rizvi to get in touch with Hrithik, who is the current Bollywood rage. “Tell him his (Hrithik) life will be in danger if he refused to sign for the (Rizvi-produced) films,” Shakeel was quoted as telling the producer.

After the Roshans presumably turned Rizvi down, Shakeel was heard saying on the cellphone that he would “soon do something about takla”, which was viewed by the police as a threat to kill Rakesh Roshan.

The police have already provided father and son with armed security, an officer said. The elder Roshan was shot at and wounded in Mumbai in January after he refused to sell the overseas rights of Kaho Naa...Pyar Hai to “interested” parties the gang had suggested.

Angry with Shah Rukh for turning down offers to work for the Dawood-funded films, Shakeel asked Rizvi to make “hakla” change his mind. Police said the gangster described Shah Rukh as hakla, or stammerer, because the star reportedly has a speech problem.

During a conversation recorded on November 20, Rizvi informed Shakeel of the mobile phone number of Kumar Mangal, secretary to Ajay Devgan, to intimidate the star into delaying the December 29 release of his productionRaju Chacha.

The reason being to give Chori Chori Chupke Chupke, the film Rizvi produced allegedly with Dawood’s money, a headstart.

The multi-crore blockbuster, starring Salman Khan, Rani Mukherjee and Preity Zinta, was scheduled for release on December 22. All prints of the film were seized by the police yesterday, making its release impossible.

The police said Rizvi and Shakeel also discussed the “tidy sum” they had planned to net from the film. Police might question Bharat Shah, the big ticket financier of Bollywood, for being involved with the film.

Shah, who had funded Mani Ratnam’s Dil Se and Rajkumar Santoshi’s China Gate, was financier of Chori Chori Chupke Chupke as well.

The gangster had asked Rizvi to get in touch with Hrithik, who is the current Bollywood rage. “Tell him his (Hrithik) life will be in danger if he refused to sign for the (Rizvi-produced) films,” Shakeel was quoted as telling the producer.

After the Roshans presumably turned Rizvi down, Shakeel was heard saying on the cellphone that he would “soon do something about takla”, which was viewed by the police as a threat to kill Rakesh Roshan.

The police have already provided father and son with armed security, an officer said. The elder Roshan was shot at and wounded in Mumbai in January after he refused to sell the overseas rights of Kaho Naa...Pyar Hai to “interested” parties the gang had suggested.

Angry with Shah Rukh for turning down offers to work for the Dawood-funded films, Shakeel asked Rizvi to make “hakla” change his mind. Police said the gangster described Shah Rukh as hakla, or stammerer, because the star reportedly has a speech problem.

During a conversation recorded on November 20, Rizvi informed Shakeel of the mobile phone number of Kumar Mangal, secretary to Ajay Devgan, to intimidate the star into delaying the December 29 release of his production Raju Chacha.

The reason being to give Chori Chori Chupke Chupke,the film Rizvi produced allegedly with Dawood’s money, a headstart.

The multi-crore blockbuster, starring Salman Khan, Rani Mukherjee and Preity Zinta, was scheduled for release on December 22. All prints of the film were seized by the police yesterday, making its release impossible.

The police said Rizvi and Shakeel also discussed the “tidy sum” they had planned to net from the film. Police might question Bharat Shah, the big ticket financier of Bollywood, for being involved with the film.

Shah, who had funded Mani Ratnam’s Dil Se and Rajkumar Santoshi’s China Gate, was financier of .Chori Chori Chupke Chupke as well.

   

 
 
CALCUTTA WEATHER 
 
 
 
 

Temperature

Maximum: 25.8°C (-l)
Minimum:13.4°C (-1)

Rainfall:

Nil

Relative humidity

Maximum: 88%,
Minimum: 75%

Today

Sunny day. Clear night. Minimum temperature likely to be around 14°C
SUNRISE: 6.15 am;
SUNSET: 4.50 pm
   
 

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