Stash not in India deal: Hindujas
Rowdyism greets Shah reminder on respect
With dip and darshan, Sonia steps on VHP toes
Subhas vows not to contest polls
Calcutta Weather

 
 
STASH NOT IN INDIA DEAL: HINDUJAS 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Jan. 22: 
The Hinduja brothers are understood to have admitted to the CBI that “certain money” was received by them in three coded Swiss bank accounts, but they have denied that the deposits flowed in as kickbacks from either the Bofors deal or any other Indian transaction.

Not satisfied with the response from the Hindujas, the CBI will interrogate the brothers, especially S.P. Hinduja, for the fourth successive day tomorrow.

It is not clear why the bureau is deferring the interrogation of G.P. Hinduja and P.P. Hinduja, but sources said “they will be questioned and examined in due course”. The sources, however, added that G.P. Hinduja and P.P. Hinduja were interrogated over the past two days, but “they need to be questioned at length”.

CBI sources said they will “do all they can” in the next seven days — the time given by the trial court today — to elicit information from the Hindujas who, since their first encounter with investigators on January 19, have maintained that they “are fully cooperating” with the agency.

Emerging from the CBI headquarters after being grilled for about an-hour-and-a-half, Srichand Hinduja said: “I have provided CBI officials with all the information sought by them. I am not to be satisfied but I think all my queries have satisfied the interrogators.”

But CBI sources said he was unable to explain from which particular deal an amount of 81 million Swedish kroners was deposited in three Swiss bank accounts. “If they claim that it (the money) is not linked to any kickbacks related to the Bofors gun deal, they should not have any hesitation in disclosing from which deal they became the beneficiaries,” an official said.

The CBI could make little headway after Srichand Hinduja’s interrogation today, but sources said they have enough evidence to establish a link between the Swiss bank accounts, into which money was transferred, and the payoff from the Howitzer deal.

“They are saying the money in the accounts do not relate to the (155mm Bofors gun) deal but some other deal. The onus is on them to prove from which other deal money was deposited in those accounts,” an official said.

The Swiss bank accounts identified by the CBI are Lotus, Tulip and Mont Blanc. Some bank documents linking the Hindujas to the kickbacks could be secured by the CBI from Swiss authorities though the final set of papers are still awaited.

Apart from this, the CBI also claims to possess other evidence, including the statement of AB Bofors to the Joint Parliamentary Committee and a report of the Swedish National Audit Bureau providing details of deposits made into the three accounts.

   

 
 
ROWDYISM GREETS SHAH REMINDER ON RESPECT 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, Jan. 22: 
Four days after Viren J. Shah reminded the Opposition of the respect due to a Governor, Congress and Trinamul Congress legislators heckled him in the Assembly.

Congress-turned-Trinamul MLAs obstructed his path when Shah was entering the House and tried to prevent him from delivering his address on the first day of the last session of this Assembly.

During Shah’s half-an-hour address, these legislators, assisted by a host of other Congress and Trinamul MLAs, demanded imposition of Article 356 at the top of their voice, tore up business papers and tossed paper balls at Shah, a few of which landed on his head.

Assembly attendants tried to deflect the missiles with their hands and one of them even held a piece of cardboard in front of the Governor’s face like a cricket bat to ward off the bombardment.

In a departure from last year’s incident where they had retaliated in kind to Opposition rowdyism, Left Front MLAs did not react. The Governor remained unfazed and read through his 26-page speech.

After completing his speech, Shah again faced a battery of Congress and Trinamul MLAs blocking his path on the way out. He was escorted by the Speaker and police in plainclothes. The security guards struggled to tackle the unruly MLAs.

Legislators Dilip Das and Sabuj Dutta suddenly threw themselves at the feet of the Governor and the Speaker. Shah’s steps faltered and Abdul Halim lost his balance.

Wiser by his experience last year when a Congress MLA had thrown himself in front of his car, Shah headed for the gate on foot and walked back to Raj Bhavan, but not before at least one MLA climbed on the bonnet of his car.

The curtain parted on the winter session this afternoon under tight security. Governor Shah arrived at 3 pm to the strains of Chal Chal Chal, Urdha Gaganey Bajey Madal to deliver his address.

As soon as Shah stepped into the House, an MLA rushed to close the huge oak doors and the Governor’s path was blocked by legislators demanding President’s rule. Some of them wore kurtas with slogans emblazoned across.

After over five minutes of struggle, Shah made it to the Speaker’s podium. As he read the speech, some MLAs climbed atop the back-rest of their benches. “We will not listen to a speech full of lies,” they cried out loud. Still others piled one table on top of another, climbed on it and shouted slogans: Vande Mataram, Bamfront Sarkar Aar Nei Darkar.

A Trinamul MLA tried to get past the heavy security cordon around chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, but was shoved aside.

Asked if the letter written by the Governor’s secretary, Neera Saggi, to the Opposition to maintain decorum was “counter-productive”, the Speaker said it merely contained what Jawaharlal Nehru had said.

The Congress Legislature Party today announced they would move a breach of privilege motion against Saggi.

   

 
 
WITH DIP AND DARSHAN, SONIA STEPS ON VHP TOES 
 
 
BY RASHEED KIDWAI & ANAND SOONDAS
 
New Delhi & Lucknow, Jan. 22: 
Sonia Gandhi today took a symbolic dip at triveni and met the Shankaracharyas to score a political point that Hinduism was not the sole domain of the Sangh parivar.

Congress supporters threw a ring around her as a substitute for the “inadequate security” provided by the Kumbh mela administration. At 3 pm, Sonia took a boat that carried her to the confluence of the Ganga, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati where she performed religious rites amid chanting of shlokas.

Before that, she met Jagatguru Shankaracharya Swami Swaroopanand of Dwarikapeeth and called on Hari Chetanya, head of Akhara Tikar Mafi.

In a token victory for her efforts, immediately after the meeting, the Shankaracharya proclaimed that the Ram mandir “should be built by sadhus” and that the VHP “is not the true and sole representative” of Hindus.

That the ruling BJP in Uttar Pradesh was rattled was clear from senior leader Lalji Tandon’s angry reaction. “Everyone tried to dissuade her for administrative reasons, but she would not listen. I appealed to her personally.”

Sonia brushed aside the objections, calling them “unnecessary hurdles”, and criticised the VHP for politicising her visit. Sonia and the Congress termed her visit a “private-religious affair”.

Her purpose was clear, though. Before the bath, she met the Shankaracharya of Dwarikapeeth, who is bitterly opposed to the VHP, and, after, paid a visit to his Kanchi counterpart. She also addressed Congress Seva Dal workers at Kumbh.

She performed Ganga puja under close scrutiny of party workers and amused onlookers. Sonia stood in waist-high water, bowed and scooped a palmful and sprinkled it over her head and body before joining her palms in a prayer.

Party leaders like family retainer Makhanlal Fotedar, Narain Dutt Tiwari and Sri Prakash Jaiswal could not resist clapping till she acknowledged their appreciation.

Not many in the milling Kumbh crowd were around to watch Sonia. This was one fear — the possibility of a mob going berserk — that had been expressed by the mela administration to stop her from coming.

Congress spokesman Anand Sharma said: “Like any other citizen of the country, she (Sonia) had the right to go to Kumbh.”

For once the boot was on the other foot. Usually at the receiving end of criticism for bringing religion into politics, the BJP today alleged that her visit was politically motivated. Tandon said Sonia was trying to split the ranks of the akhadas before the most auspicious January 24 dip. In Delhi, BJP vice-president Jana Krishnamurthy said: “I don’t know why the Congress president has suddenly decided to go. It certainly cannot be faith, but probably her advisers thought this was an opportunity to steal the limelight for political purposes.”

At 24 Akbar Road, Congressmen were elated over Sonia’s “success”.

   

 
 
SUBHAS VOWS NOT TO CONTEST POLLS 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Katwa, Jan. 22: 
Transport minister Subhas Chakraborty today announced that he will not contest the coming Assembly polls even at the request of mentor Jyoti Basu.

“I am determined not to contest the polls this time and will not budge an inch even at the request of Jyoti Basu,” Chakraborty told newspersons.

Basu recently criticised the CPM leadership in Bengal for “not being fair to Chakraborty”. At Bhubaneswar, where the CPM central committee and politburo are meeting, Basu said he would try to “keep Chakraborty in the party”.

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee was inducted into the politburo today at the end of the party’s three-day session. He became the 18th member of the CPM’s highest policy-making body.

That was about the only good — but also expected — news Bengal’s new chief minister received as it became apparent that Chakraborty’s recent comment that he might not figure in the next Left Front ministry if the combine won the election was not a one-off remark meant to simply throw the leadership off-balance.

Today, he built on that statement to indicate a gradual process of increasing the distance between himself and the party, even though he stopped short of saying that he would quit the CPM before the polls.

The state CPM leadership had planned to offer Chakraborty the Belgachia (East) seat that he represents now.

Chakraborty also signalled he would continue to violate the party line, saying that he was going ahead with the plan to organise a non-political conference of unorganised sector labourers in February. The government recently announced a provident fund scheme under which it offered to match the contribution made by a worker. The scheme was seen as a sop to Chakraborty who has been championing the cause of the unorganised sector for some time. But that hasn’t obviously won peace.

The CPM’s state secretary, Anil Biswas, had earlier said he would talk to Chakraborty on the plan to hold the conference.

But Chakraborty today said he would not “discuss the matter with Biswas”. “I don’t know what Biswas had said about my conference. But I will not talk to him about it. I will organise it in February”, he said.

Trade unions of the Trinamul Congress, Congress and the BJP are likely to join Chakraborty’s “non-political conference”. If that happens, Chakraborty will be pushing the party leadership to the limit of its patience.

The transport minister has the option of joining breakaway leader Saifuddin Chowdhury’s new political outfit. Asked if he planned to do that, Chakraborty said: “Let us see. Wait for the future and you will know what I am going to do.”

Chakraborty also avoided the question about quitting the CPM before the polls. “I will not make any comment on this,” he said.

He had come here ostensibly to lay the foundation stone for a sports complex for the disabled. But he met Harmohan Singha, former CPM MLA from Katwa, who had been expelled from the party a couple of years ago. Singha is close to Saifuddin Chowdhury.

   

 
 
CALCUTTA WEATHER 
 
 
 
 

Temperature

Maximum: 29.8°C (+3)
Minimum: 13.4°C (-1)

Rainfall:

Nil

Relative humidity

Maximum: 98%,
Minimum: 37%

Today

Partly cloudy sky. Minimum temperature likely to be around 14°C
Sunrise: 6.24 am
Sunset: 5.12 pm
   
 

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