Yes Prime Minister, party can’t agree more
Cong stands by Rao
No-trust ghost haunts Koirala
Mamata to target Buddha on tense terrain
Licence test after delivery death
CPM plays ‘fair’ with blood relief
Subhas to stay with party
‘Dead’ baby comes alive at burial
Thrashed lover commits suicide
Ganja remand

New Delhi, Jan. 2: 
The BJP’s deification of Atal Bihari Vajpayee seems complete.

If the Prime Minister pronounces that fast-paced economic reform is what the country needs and not swadeshinomics, the BJP nods its assent. If he says Ayodhya should be put on the back-burner, so be it. If he decides one year later that the Ram temple has to be built, the BJP agrees again.

A week after that, when Vajpayee muses from Kerala’s idyllic backwaters on secularism and snarls at the VHP, the BJP agrees in silence.

The Prime Minister’s article on Ayodhya sought to “clarify” his remarks describing the Ram temple construction as an “expre-ssion of nationalist sentiments”.

BJP spokesman Jana Krishnamurthy said: “I do not find any observation of the Prime Minister that is not consistent with his views. He has reiterated the views he has been holding.”

On what prompted Vajpayee to “reiterate” his views, especially after the issue was “clinched” following the debate in the winter session of Parliament, Krishnamurthy said the Prime Minister found it necessary to clarify his stand because of the way his views were interpreted by his political opponents.

Krishnamurthy stressed there was “no ambiguity in Vajpayee’s approach earlier and even now”. He added: “This article should put to rest all speculation by our political adversaries.”

Asked to explain whom Vajpayee was addressing when he stressed there was a need to find a “peaceful and amicable solution” to the Ayodhya problem, Krishnamurthy indicated it was the judiciary. “An impression has been going around for the last eight years that if only the judicial process had not got so delayed, things would have taken a different turn,” he said.

BJP sources said Vajpayee’s emphasis on a negotiated settlement along with the judicial process would “prepare” the Opposition and the Muslim leadership for a formula — on starting construction outside the disputed site while trying to find an alternate site in the vicinity to rebuild the masjid.

The party also feels that Vajpayee was warning the VHP not to say anything “intemperate” at the Dharam Sansad later this month.

Bangaru on Ayodhya

BJP president Bangaru Laxman told PTI today that Ayodhya may have outlived its utility as an electoral issue and the controversy over Vajpayee’s remarks has not affected the party’s attempts to widen its base among Muslims.

Ahead of the forthcoming Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, Laxman appealed to the Vishwa Hindu Parishad to reconsider its decision to fix a date and programme for the temple construction at Ayodhya.

“I am of the opinion that there can be no single agenda which could electorally help the party for all times to come,” he said.


New Delhi, Jan. 2: 
Several years after tendering an apology for the demolition of Babri masjid, the Congress today stood behind former Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao, claiming that he did “whatever he could” to prevent the catastrophe in 1992.

The Congress stoutly defended Rao while commenting on Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s remark that the Rao regime had remained a silent spectator and adopted delaying tactics during the Ayodhya crisis. Party spokesman Anil Shastri disagreed with Vajpayee, saying: “The Rao government did everything it could to prevent the demolition.” Pointing out that law and order was a state subject, he added: “The state BJP government had given an undertaking to the Centre and the Supreme Court.”

The Congress spokesman accused Vajpayee of doublespeak, claiming that he was in the “habit” of changing statements. Shastri said if the Prime Minister was so concerned about Rao’s handling of the situation, he should ask the Babri trio — L.K. Advani, Uma Bharti and Murli Manohar Joshi — to step down as they have been chargesheeted by the CBI.

“The principle conspirators have been avoiding going to court on one pretext or the other. If the Prime Minister is serious about Babri demolition, he should not defend those responsible for the demolition,” Shastri said.

The Congress’ volte face on Rao’s role comes three years after the party leadership denied him a Lok Sabha ticket to contest the 1998 general elections. The party’s revised stand on Babri makes a mockery of Arjun Singh and the others who had formed the breakaway Tiwari Congress to protest against Rao’s handling of the Ayodhya crisis. In fact, Rao’s actions in the run-up to the Babri demolition was the most important factor for his political downfall in spite of successfully running a minority government and ushering in sweeping reforms.

In Congress circles, the “reluctant revolutionary” has now been reduced to a persona non grata. Rao’s humiliation was complete when he was convicted in the JMM bribery case for buying votes to save his government during a trust vote in July 1993. A last-minute split had helped the Rao-led government survive in office for the next three years.


Kathmandu, Jan. 2: 
For Nepal Prime Minister G.P. Koirala it would be a “taste of his own medicine”.

Nine months ago, Koirala was instrumental in ousting then Prime Minister K.P. Bhattarai, who was forced to resign even before a no-trust motion, similar to the one which Koirala faces, was put to vote.

On Thursday, the ruling Nepali Congress will decide the fate of Koirala — also the party chief — when it votes on a motion calling for him to step down.

Nepali Congress secretary Benup Raj Prasad has asked all 113 party members in the 205-member Lower House of Parliament to attend the meet on Thursday to vote on the motion.

The rebels led by former Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba had moved the motion with the support of 56 party MPs last Thursday. The dissidents require 57 votes.

The dissident group last week signed a resolution urging Koirala’s removal, saying he had failed to fulfil election promises. They accused Koirala of failing to contain a “Left insurgency” that has claimed more than 1,500 lives, fight corruption and provide good administration.

Though the no-confidence proposal had signatures of 56 members, Bhattarai, who pledged support to the dissidents, did not sign it.

The latest move is the biggest political challenge to Koirala, who is under pressure to sack deputy prime minister and home minister Ram Chandra Poudyal following the riots over alleged anti-Nepal comments by Indian actor Hrithik Roshan.

Party sources said the drive to vote out Koirala was not linked to the alleged remarks but to the long-standing feud in the faction-ridden party.

Though the Deuba group is claiming to have a pledge from three ministers in the Koirala Cabinet, at least four of the earlier signatories have “openly” withdrawn their support to the motion.

The Koirala camp is boasting of votes of 61 MPs on their side. MPs Ram Janam Chaudhari and Janak Ram Giri joined hands with Mahendra Kumar Raya and Nagendra Kumar Raya to publicly announce their support for Koirala.

Another dissident, Khum Bahadur Khadka, who had so far shown support to the Deuba camp, denied that he was “bargaining” with the Koirala camp for party vice-president-ship and Cabinet berths for some other rebels.

Envoy meet

Nepalese ambassador Bhek Bahadur Thapa today met foreign secretary Lalit Mansingh and apprised him of the situation in Nepal in the aftermath of the Hrithik Roshan controversy.

The meeting comes close on the heels of the Nepalese council of ministers acknowledging that the violence last week was a result of unsubstantiated media reports.


Keshpur, Jan. 2: 
Trinamul Congress leader and railway minister Mamata Banerjee will relaunch her campaign for the coming Assembly polls at a public rally here tomorrow in an atmosphere charged with tension.

She will address a public meeting here for the first time after Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee became chief minister. The Trinamul leader is expected to highlight “the CPM’s terror reign” in the one of the most politically volatile regions in the state.

But political antennae will be straining to pick up signals on how she plans to meet the challenge posed by the new chief minister’s aggressive, public relations-driven style of functioning — a formula finetuned to perfection by Mamata herself.

Trinamul sources said Mamata would target Bhattacharjee for asking police to shoot down criminals disregarding human rights. She will try to hammer home the concern that the directive would be misused to target opposition political activists after dubbing them antisocials.

State and district Trinamul leaders have spared no effort to ensure a massive turnout. The chief minister had addressed a huge gathering here a month ago. The Trinamul leaders, who have complained of continued intimidation of party workers by the CPM, said they expected over two lakh people at the rally.

Pankaj Banerjee, chairman of the Trinamul’s policy-making body, said victims of the CPM’s violence would attend the rally. “Our boys, whose hands and legs have been chopped off by the CPM cadre, will be present in large numbers,” he said.

Banerjee alleged that the CPM deliberately organised a public meeting at nearby Garbeta today with state CPM secretary Anil Biswas as the main speaker only to “intimidate our party workers and foil our rally”.

The Trinamul leader, who has of late faced criticism from some Muslim leaders for her association with the BJP, will also try to underscore her party’s secular credentials at the rally which is likely to draw a large number of people from the community.

The Trinamul today hailed Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s promise to maintain status quo at Ayodhya. Trinamul chief whip in the Lok Sabha, Sudip Bandyopadhyay, who is accompanying Mamata to Keshpur, said: “Vajpayeeji is a firm believer in secularism. We are happy that he has clarified his stand.”

The district administration has deployed Eastern Frontier Rifles as well as a dozen police pickets throughout the Keshpur block as a precautionary measure.

The recovery of two skeletons from a marsh has added to the tension with the CPM and the Trinamul Congress claiming them to be those of their supporters. They were identified as the remains of Shyamsundar Singh and Srimanta Bhuniya, the police said.

Nandarani Dal, a CPM legislator who has worked hard for the success of the Garbeta rally, insisted that residents of Keshpur would not attend Mamata’s meeting. “People from other areas of the district may turn up at the meeting,” she said.

Trinamul leaders feared that their supporters at Keshpur may be forced to leave their homes tomorrow. Motorcycle-borne CPM activists were seen moving in and around Keshpur today, urging the villagers to keep away from the Trinamul rally. Tension was also apparent from the manner in which district Trinamul leaders were supervising construction of the dais under police protection.


Burdwan, Jan. 2: 
Health authorities today ordered a probe into the death of Sarbani Mondal in a nursing home at Khoshbagan after giving birth to a girl.

Chief medical officer (health) Pradyot Kumar Saha said a three member-committee had been set up to ascertain if the nursing home in question and others in Burdwan had valid licences to carry on business. The committee would submit its report shortly.

A district health department source said several complaints citing overcharging, poor quality of service, wrong diagnosis, unnecessary medical investigations and prolonged hospitalisation has also prompted the inquiry.

In Burdwan town, most of the nursing homes do not have the facilities to meet the requirements of the West Bengal Clinical Act.

Several of them run without a resident medical officer, trained nurses and proper sanitation and infrastructure. Pathological centres and other diagnostics wings operate without specialist doctors.

Muhammad K. Amin, secretary of the district Consumers’ Forum, said the government had not taken any action despite repeated complaints. He said there are over 40 nursing homes in Burdwan town, most of them unlicensed.

Ramkrishna Banerjee, Sabhadhipati of the Burdwan Zilla Parishad, said he had requested the medical officer a few days ago to ensure the upgradation of infrastructure and other facilities at nursing homes in Burdwan town.

According to reports, complaints have also reached the district authorities against certain medical officers who are alleged to have helped the some nursing homes and clinics to function without meeting the stipulations of the Act.

Dr C.R. Maity, principal of the Burdwan Medical College, said the authorities were aware of the fact that many nursing homes and clinics were without valid papers. The government would have to make serious efforts to upgrade the health care system in the district, he added.

The administration is awaiting the findings of the post-mortem on Sarbani Mondal who is alleged to have been attended to by a doctor with no specialised knowledge of either medicine or anasthetics.

No resident medical officer was available during the night of Sarbani Mondal’s hospitalisation.

A few days ago, Mukul Debnath, who had got admitted to a nursing home for an operation died after anesthesia.


Garbeta (Midnapore), Jan. 2: 
State CPM secretary Anil Biswas today sought to create a non-partisan image of his party by offering money to the family members of four BJP workers killed in clashes with CPM activists here.

Launching the CPM’s poll campaign a day before Trinamul Congress boss Mamata Banerjee’s meeting at Keshpur, Biswas called upon “sensible citizens” to join his party and bring it back to power for the next five years.

Conceding that the CPM has been “at fault at times”, he said: “Some of our men might have done wrong things at times. That is why four BJP supporters were killed along with seven CPM workers in political clashes here during the past two years.”

Biswas handed over Rs 3 lakh to district CPM secretary Dipak Sarkar for rehabilitation of the families of the 11 slain political workers. “Remember that none of those who were killed here was a rich man. Our party, unlike the BJP or the Trinamul, always fights for the poor,” he said.

Launching a broadside against the Mamata without naming her, Biswas said: “She is talking about resurrection in the villages. What kind of resurrection does she want? If her resurrection means awakening of the people, the Left Front has already brought it in the countryside.

“But if she means by resurrection only annihilation of the CPM activists, she is wrong. I warn her not to try it again. She has burnt her fingers by trying it once. If she tries it again, it will boomerang on herself and her party,” the CPM leader said.

Biswas dubbed Mamata a “liar” for holding the CPM workers responsible for “biting off” the tongue of a Trinamul activist, Gaur Khanra, sometime back.

“I had instructed the district secretary to suspend the party comrade named by the Trinamul in connection with the incident without verifying the facts,” he said. Displaying the medical report on the injury suffered by Khanra, Biswas said: “The report says Khanra had bitten his tongue with his teeth. I apologise to the suspended comrade and have ordered withdrawal of his suspension.”

Neither the state CPM secretary nor his district counterpart referred to the recovery of two skeletons at Keshpur yesterday. Neither did they try to contest the Trinamul Congress’ claim that the skeletons were those of two missing supporters.

Bus services between Midnapore and Garbeta remained virtually suspended throughout the day as more than 200 buses were taken away by the CPM for carrying its supporters to Garbeta and Chandrakona road where another rally was addressed by Biswas.

The two successive meetings at a short interval reflect the CPM’s resolve to retain the Garbeta Assembly seat, represented by minister of state for transport Sushanta Ghosh. Ghosh, who has been dubbed by the Opposition as the “brain behind the CPM’s terror in Midnapore”, and district party secretary Dipak Sarkar also addressed the rallies.


Calcutta, Jan. 2: 
Ruling out all speculation, transport minister Subhas Chakraborty today made it clear that he had no plans to quit the party.

The transport minister, who has become a controversial figure in the party for his outspokenness, today said he had been a leader for a long time and was still a leader of the CPM.

“Whatever some people may think of me, I shall act in my own style. I will always be myself,” Chakraborty said.

During the day, he held a meeting with finance minister Asim Dasgupta at the latter’s chamber for release of funds for different projects.

Chakraborty, who is vocal against Dasgupta for his delay in releasing funds, urged the finance minister to provide money for the projects under progress.

The transport minister convinced Dasgupta that there would be an adverse effect among the people before the elections if projects, which are already announced, are not implemented.

Chakraborty sought funds to hire a helicopter and purchase a hovercraft. Speaking to reporters, Chakraborty said: “We have decided to start helicopter and hovercraft services in the districts and a lot of money is required for that. As Dasgupta controls the funds, I urged him to release the required funds for the projects.

Maintaining his earlier stand on work culture, Chakraborty said he had given his personal opinion that the exercise in restoring work ethics was started by Jyoti Basu and it was nothing new.

“I am ready to explain it to the chief minister if he calls me and wants my opinion,” he said..

Chakraborty said he had no plan to quit the party. “Have I told anywhere any time that I shall quit the party ?’’ he demanded. I am fully satisfied with the current situation,” he said.


Durgapur, Jan. 2: 
A medical officer and a nurse of Bishnupur sub-divisional hospital were suspended today for allegedly declaring a new-born baby “still born” without verification.

Hospital superintendent Prakash Barai said Anjana Bibi of Katandhar village near Bishnupur town was admitted last night. “She gave birth to a baby late at night. Though it was a normal delivery, it was premature and the baby was suffering from acute breathing trouble,” he said.

However, medical officer Dipak Roy and nurse Aparna Ghosal found the baby “not responding” at 5.30 this morning. So they declared him “dead”.

The baby’s father, Sk. Abu Bakkar, said in a complaint lodged with the police that they found the baby alive when they were trying to bury it.

Hundreds of people gathered at the site when news broke and rushed to the hospital demanding punishment of the doctor.

Health minister Partha De and Bankura chief medical officer (health) Sunil Patra went to the hospital. De also ordered an inquiry into the incident following which the doctor and the nurse were suspended.

The baby is now in the same hospital. Dr Barai said its condition is normal.


Durgapur, Jan. 2: 
A youth committed suicide after he was beaten up by a man who caught him having an affair with his daughter at Parulia village.

Panchu Ruidas had caught 25-year-old Sisir Ruidas and 17-year-old Lakshmi, who has been deserted by her husband, in a compromising position. Angered, Panchu and his family members thrashed Sisir and locked him up in a room in their house. The youth hanged himself from the ceiling.

Durgapur circle inspector Asit Ranjan Dasgupta said Sisir’s father Moloy has lodged a complaint that his son was murdered.


Durgapur, Jan. 2: 
A dismissed CRPF jawan arrested with ganja and a gun has been remanded in police custody for 10 days.

The former jawan, who had deserted the force in 1998, was caught yesterday on the Panagarh-Moregram National Highway with an AK-47 rifle, a hand grenade and 327 kg of ganja.


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