Advani & party rally behind Atal
Ghising plot prime suspect in net
Tax troops tap stock nerve centre
Hong Kong beckons as home hots up
Calcutta Weather

New Delhi, March 24: 
The BJP today expressed full-blooded solidarity with the Vajpayee government and resolved to resist the Opposition’s call for the government’s stepdown in the aftermath of the Tehelka tapes scandal.

A political resolution adopted on the opening day of its national executive accused the Opposition of engineering instability. “Some political parties are attempting to create instability in the country by asking a government with a popular mandate and a parliamentary majority to quit,” the resolution said. “Their agenda is chaos and the BJP shall prevent the nation from being inflicted with this malady.”

More direct and specific, home minister L.K. Advani accused the Congress of plotting a “sinister conspiracy” to destabilise the government through “anti-democratic means”. “The true purpose of the campaign of lies and slander against the BJP and the NDA government launched by the Congress party, using the Tehelka tapes as a pretext, is now out in the open,” Advani said.

After initial reluctance, the RSS, too, had supported the government.

Advani said the Congress could not reconcile itself to a BJP-led, non-Congress government at the Centre and was “frustrated” at the NDA regime’s “success in providing stable and effective governance” which had earned the “goodwill” of the Indian people and enhanced “our country’s prestige abroad”.

Though Advani focused on the conspiracy theory, he was forced to admit that the episode had “served to remind the party to look within and counter the negative influences that have gained ground within the organisation”.

Despite the counter-offensive, K. Jana Krishnamurthi — whose appointment as party president was ratified today — left little scope for the rehabilitation of his disgraced predecessor, Bangaru Laxman, in the near future.

“All of us look forward to the day, which may be sooner than later, to see that Shri Bangaru stands vindicated and found as an innocent victim caught in a web of conspiracy,” Krishnamurthi said. “I can assure that once he comes out of this agni pariksha ... his services are sure to be utilised fully befitting his personality and in the best interests of the party.”

The lack of commitment to reinstate Laxman as party president was in sharp contrast with the unequivocal declaration by a galaxy of leaders to rehabilitate George Fernandes.

BJP sources said the leadership was unhappy with Laxman’s reported back-room manoeuvres to steer himself back to a position of strength through the Dalit lobby.

Interest rate plea

Krishnamurthi today requested the Centre to review its decision to reduce the interest rate on small savings. Though the move was taken to encourage investment, he said “in a democracy it becomes necessary for the government to carry as large sections of people as possible with it”.


Siliguri, March 24: 
After a massive hunt spread over four months and two countries, police have finally got their hands on militant Gorkha leader Chhattray Subba.

Darjeeling police claimed they arrested Subba, the prime suspect and mastermind of the strike on GNLF leader Subash Ghising, from a hideout on the border with Nepal early today. The GNLF believes that Subba, who heads the Gorkhaland Liberation Organisation (GLO), had plotted the assassination attempt on Ghising.

Subba had warned Ghising of “dire consequences” if he did not pull out his men from the hill council by December 31, 2000. The GNLF chief had brushed aside the ultimatum.

Subba’s arrest comes a day before the GNLF deadline for the arrest of the conspirators of the February 10 ambush. The party had threatened an indefinite hill bandh from Monday if the police failed to show results. It will meet tomorrow to decide whether to go ahead with the bandh.

Announcing the arrest today, inspector-general of police (north Bengal) N.R. Das said: “We picked up Subba from the Gorkhaland Liberation Army hideout at 4th Mile, Pashupatty, near Sukhiapokhari on the Indo-Nepal border around 1 am. But two of his associates, possibly his Naga bodyguards, escaped.”

The special investigation team had made at least five trips to Nepal to nab Subba and the other suspects over the past two months.

The militant leader, also wanted for the Tinkataria shootout in Kalimpong last November, was produced in the subdivisional magistrate’s court in Kurseong. He will be in police custody for 14 days.

While the police claimed they had arrested the GLO chief from the Indian side of the border, intelligence sources in Nepal told The Telegraph that Subba was nabbed in the Himayalan kingdom at least a couple of weeks ago.

“Subba was arrested in a joint operation by the special investigation team from India and a squad from Nepal police sometime ago. But the news could not be divulged because of diplomatic bottlenecks. There is no extradition treaty between the two countries. Therefore, the arrest had to be shown much later and that too on Indian soil,” an official said.

Claiming that Subba had “confessed” to masterminding the ambush, Das said: “Subba’s interrogation has revealed that he hatched the conspiracy to assassinate Ghising after the Tinkataria shootout between suspected Naga militants hired by him and the police. He set up the Gorkhaland Liberation Army by regrouping sympathisers from Opposition parties and some disgruntled elements within the GNLF.”


Mumbai, March 24: 
Tax raids continued today against the six stockbrokers, including Ketan Parekh and former Bombay Stock Exchange president Anand Rathi, whose rash of transactions over the past few weeks sparked a severe meltdown on the markets and nudged the Calcutta and Mumbai bourses to the brink of a payment crisis.

The raids are likely to continue tomorrow. “We want to complete our investigations by Sunday so that brokers can trade when the markets open on Monday without being spooked by the thought of continuing raids,” said an income-tax official.

Another tax official tried to play down the significance of the raids, claiming that this was a normal end-of-the-fiscal-year exercise.

On Friday, the Sensex had plunged in the last hour of trading after news of the raids reached the market.

The investigators are likely to finish gleaning the records seized during the operation and reach a conclusion by Tuesday.

It was learnt that even before Friday’s raids began, the sleuths from the income-tax department and the CBI had sought details of a long list of “irregular” transactions from the BSE and depository participants like Stock Holding Corporation Ltd to determine how the bottom fell out of the markets and who had piled the gains.

Depository participants are market intermediaries who play a crucial link between retail investors and the depositories that serve as a warehouse for dematerialised shares — stocks that are no longer physically exchanged to confirm ownership.

A.N. Joshi, executive president of BSE, told The Telegraph: “The income-tax department has sought details of certain specific transactions from the exchange.”

Joshi declined to say whether the information sought by the tax sleuths pertained to only the six brokers targeted in the raids — Parekh, Rathi, Radhakishan S. Damani, Nirmal Bang, Rakesh Jhunjhunwalla and Shankar Sharma of First Global.

“The department seeks details on a regular basis and we always co-operate with them,” Joshi said.

It is also certain that tax authorities had sought the help of the other premier bourse in the city, the National Stock Exchange.

The investigators also approached the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) and enlisted the capital market regulator’s help. But Sebi chairman D.R. Mehta declined comment.

Broking circles in Mumbai were puzzled how Ajay Kayan and his firms, notably C. Mackertich, and the two leading foreign institutional investors — J.M. Morgan Stanley and Credit Suisse First Boston — had been left out of the investigations.


New Delhi, March 24: 
Sonia Gandhi is flying off to “celebrate” the Sindhi new year in dragon island Hong Kong, far away from the Tehelka storm, the disproportionate assets case against private secretary Vincent George and the Bengal developments.

K. Natwar Singh, who is accompanying Sonia, said the leader of the Opposition is going to Hong Kong on Sunday night at the invitation of Indian community president, Harilila.

Another 10 Janpath favourite, Ambika Soni, is also part of the junket, for which Sonia has called off her Amethi visit, kept Mamata Banerjee waiting and handed over the onus of keeping her “war call” against the BJP alive to less important leaders.

Sonia has asked party general secretary Kamal Nath to hold “preliminary” talks with Mamata and fix her meeting with the Trinamul chief after March 28. She will return to Delhi on Wednesday night.

Kamal Nath, Pranab Mukherjee and Priya Ranjan Das Munshi met at A.B.A. Ghani Khan Chowdhury’s residence to finalise “guidelines” for a tie-up with Trinamul. The Congress will insist on tickets for all sitting party MLAs and claim Assembly segments where the party finished first or second during the 1999 general elections.

Not everyone in the Congress is happy with Sonia’s unexpected jaunt at a time when the main Opposition party is engaged in a “do or die battle” with the NDA over the Tehelka tapes. “After all, the leader should lead from the front instead of savouring delicacies from Chinese cuisine at Hong Kong Bay. Look at the way Atal Bihari Vajpayee and L.K. Advani are fighting the battle even with their backs to the wall,” a disgruntled party leader said.

Sonia has made an elaborate plan to involve the party rank and file in the agitation programme, but many Congress Working Committee members are sceptical of its success. Gone are the days of picketing outside Central government offices and observing fasts against corruption, said a CWC member. “It is 2001, and not 1942. Nowadays you should be seen as doing things which you keep preaching.”

Partymen in Bengal are upset over the delay in striking a deal with Mamata. They said most of the ground-level problems have been sorted out and Sonia should have taken a lead in inviting Mamata for “formal talks”. Kamal Nath has been busy with a rally being organised by the Delhi Congress. He will be free tomorrow evening to attend to Bengal, sources said.

Sonia’s Hong Kong visit will be her first as leader of the Opposition. She had to call off her visit to the US to participate in the UN’s Millennium Summit as daughter Priyanka was expecting. Then she delegated Natwar Singh and A.R. Antulay to honour Iraq president Saddam Hussain’s invitation to visit Baghdad, fearing that a one-to-one with the dictator would not reflect positively. But partymen wonder if Hong Kong is the best place to launch “statesman Sonia”.




Maximum: 33.7°C (-1)
Minimum: 22.5°C (+1)



Relative humidity

Maximum: 89%,
Minimum: 49%


Mainly clear sky. Maximum and minimum temperatures likely to be around 34°C and 22°C
Sunrise: 5.40 am
Sunset: 5.45 pm

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