Atal discovers warning on tapes
PM to go on taint-wash yatra
Table set for talks, seats are prickly
Sleeping bomb lies in Netaji vault
Lover or Laxman, look before you cheat
Calcutta Weather

 
 
ATAL DISCOVERS WARNING ON TAPES 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, March 25: 
Slipping into his famous introspection mode, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee has conceded for the first time that the Tehelka exposé had brought to the fore “shortcomings in the system” which needed to be rectified by evolving a mechanism.

The Prime Minister, who had asked the media to stay away from military matters after the Tehelka storm broke, also acknowledged its role in “alerting” the government. “There is need for introspection. A suitable mechanism should be evolved to ensure that such incidents (the shortcomings) do not recur,” Vajpayee said today after the BJP’s two-day national executive concluded here.

The admission was in sharp contrast with the orchestrated chorus within the BJP, which sought to condemn the sting operation as part of a “conspiracy” meant to destabilise the country’s economic, social and political structures.

At the national executive yesterday, home minister L.K. Advani, too, had branded the exposé a “campaign of lies and slander” launched by the Congress.

However, with the haunting images of the Tehelka tapes touching a chord across the country and the tremors refusing to die down, Vajpayee said: “I do not blame the media as they have done their job. They have alerted us. There are some shortcomings in the system and these need to be rectified.”

The Prime Minister had advised the media against interfering in affairs of national security at a seminar on the role of the military in democracies in the middle of this month.

The stirrings of a rethink of strategy within the government came last week when editor-turned-minister Arun Shourie justified the use of a spycam by the Tehelka team.

The conspiracy theory has been parroted by most allies, but not those which have a bigger stake outside the government at the Centre. The ruling coalition’s solidarity meet failed to draw two key allies from the south. The DMK, which is facing an impending election in Tamil Nadu, and the Telugu Desam skipped the show of strength.

At the national executive, too, Vajpayee tried to rise above partisan politics and underscored the need to make party funding more “transparent” because elections were becoming increasingly expensive. His political rival and Congress chief Sonia Gandhi has also been talking about cleaning up the funding process ever since the corruption scandal erupted.

Vajpayee pointed out that while individual spending on elections was monitored and accounted for, there was no provision for vetting the expenditure incurred by political parties.

He dwelt at length on the BJP’s “aajiwan sahyogi nidhi” scheme. He explained that it was based on the philosophy of decentralisation of political funds to minimise the dependence on big money. The scheme hinges on the principle of collecting small amounts from a large number of BJP sympathisers.

However, BJP sources were sceptical. “Mainly modest amounts of up to Rs 10,000 are deposited through this system. Those who want to make huge donations prefer not to do so by cheque,” a leader said.

   

 
 
PM TO GO ON TAINT-WASH YATRA 
 
 
FROM RADHIKA RAMASESHAN
 
New Delhi, March 25: 
The BJP-led coalition has decided to send Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee on a cross-country tour to address public rallies and counter the Opposition’s “disinformation campaign” on the Tehelka tapes.

Vajpayee will speak at four meetings in Mumbai, Bhubaneshwar, Bangalore and Lucknow, his constituency, between April 1 and 15.

Former defence minister George Fernandes, who remains the convener of the coalition, and home minister L.K. Advani will address the meetings along with Vajpayee.

Fernandes and Advani are expected to attend rallies in other major cities. The alliance has shortlisted 50 leaders, including Central ministers, chief ministers and party leaders, to participate in the meetings and tell people the “truth”.

The coalition is keen to cover the country before Parliament reconvenes on April 16 to fortify the government. The Opposition had managed to stall the House for much of the first lap of the budget session following the Tehelka disclosures.

The decision to hit the road was taken during an emergency meeting of the alliance held at the Prime Minister’s house shortly after today’s Delhi rally, whose turnout also helped crystallise the proposal.

“The idea is to counter the Opposition’s disinformation campaign and tell people how in spite of the government’s best efforts and all the good work it is doing, the Opposition is saying all this. Tehelka is only a part. The Opposition is boycotting Parliament and rejecting the judicial probe. The people must know all this,” rural development minister M. Venkaiah Naidu said after the meeting.

Fernandes said the campaign would cover all state capitals and major population centres.

“We will carry the campaign right down to the districts,” he said. The full schedule of places and dates will be released tomorrow.

Asked whether the thrust of the attack in the nationwide blitzkrieg will be on the Congress, as it was today, and not include the Left and others, Fernandes said: “Left is the tail of the Congress. When you have attacked the head where is the need to attack the tail?”

At the alliance meeting, Orissa chief minister and BJP leader Naveen Patnaik is believed to have raised the issues of inadequate allocation to his state in the railway budget and the parlous fiscal position after the super cyclone.

Playing down the DMK’s decision to skip today’s rally, Naidu said: “The party was preoccupied with election preparations and finalisation of candidates. They said Vaiko (the MDMK chief) will represent the NDA on behalf of Tamil Nadu.”

   

 
 
TABLE SET FOR TALKS, SEATS ARE PRICKLY 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, March 25: 
The courtship period over, Trinamul and the Congress got down to the task of working out the marriage contract and immediately ran into problems.

Trinamul has refused to concede more than 40 seats to its parent party. Mamata Banerjee is not willing to hand to the Congress any seat in Calcutta, adding a twist to the seat-sharing talks.

Mamata is keeping the progress of talks a closely-guarded secret, dealing only with the AICC general secretary in charge of Bengal, Kamal Nath, in Delhi.

“I know they (Congress) are discussing the details of the poll pact with our party among themselves. As soon as there is a concrete development, I will let you know,” she said at her south Calcutta residence this evening.

The Trinamul leader remained indoors, not even stepping out — which was expected of her — to receive the colourful procession that the party’s candidate from Alipore, Tapas Pal, led up to the doorstep of her home.

The Congress is already finding it difficult to openly join hands with Mamata until she formally casts off her Bengal ties with the BJP, though the Prime Minister said in Delhi the chances of a poll alliance between Mamata and his party appeared “unclear”.

The Congress has now been posed another troublesome prospect of not contesting a seat in Calcutta. “Seat adjustments with the Congress in Calcutta will give rise to many problems. For instance, if Tapas Roy is withdrawn from the Sealdah constituency to accommodate former state Congress chief Somen Mitra, Roy will have to return to his old constituency of Vidyasagar where MP Ajit Panja’s daughter, Mohua Mondal, has already been declared the candidate,” said a senior Trinamul leader.

The Congress is learnt to have mounted pressure on Bengal chief Pranab Mukherjee to get the high command to talk to Mamata so that she could concede a few seats in the city.

Sources said Mamata is also insisting that a number of Congress MLAs like Somen Mitra (Sealdah), Atish Sinha (Kandi), Sanjiv Das (Shyampur), Tapas Banerjee (Asansol) and Sailaja Das (South Contai) not be renominated from their constituencies.

Still confident of a deal, Mukherjee said the party would not impose any time-frame.

Within Trinamul a divide has appeared over Mamata’s delay in spelling out in unambiguous terms her position on the adjustment with the BJP. Leaders like Sudip Bandopadhyay, Ranjit Panja and Ananda Mohan Biswas want to snap all ties with the BJP, a party, they feel, that has been “tainted” by the Tehelka tapes.

   

 
 
SLEEPING BOMB LIES IN NETAJI VAULT 
 
 
FROM CHANDAN NANDY
 
New Delhi, March 25: 
If declassified, a set of pre-Independence documents on Subhash Chandra Bose, locked away in the vaults of the Intelligence Bureau and the home ministry, could unleash “public disorder”, especially in West Bengal.

These documents, essentially inputs provided by British intelligence to the then Cabinet, does not concern Netaji’s mysterious disappearance. Nor do the documents provide any clue to his so-called incarceration in a Soviet “gulag” when Josef Stalin was in power.

The Cabinet papers, marked “Top Secret”, contain several references to Netaji, which, according to top sources in the Vajpayee government, “would lower his esteem in the eyes of the public”.

Because of the very nature of the contents — seven to eight Cabinet notes prepared on the basis of information provided by British intelligence — the file will never be declassified by the government, which claims complete privilege over it.

This means that the Centre will try and keep the matter under wraps even if the Justice Manoj Kumar Mukherjee Commission, instituted by the Vajpayee government in November 1999 to probe Netaji’s death and the circumstances leading to it, applies pressure for their submission before the one-man panel.

“As of now there are no plans to hand over the documents to the Mukherjee Commission. There is no question of declassifying the papers,” the sources said.

They added that “under no circumstances” will the government make public the pre-Independence documents, though their declassification would also put to rest, “once and for all”, speculation that the much-talked about papers have anything to do with Netaji’s death, disappearance or imprisonment in a Soviet prison.

Refusing to disclose the nature of the information contained in the British Cabinet papers, the sources said the remarks against the commander of the Indian National Army and Forward Bloc leader are “personal”, but “have the potential to unleash large-scale public disorder, especially in West Bengal”.

Besides, in recent years, the BJP has been attempting to project Netaji as an icon of its own. To some extent, the party has already used Netaji as a counterfoil to the larger-than-life images of Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, projected by the Congress. Netaji’s “patriotic zeal” and his “militant perspective” have added to the qualities that the BJP rank and file have found attractive.

If released, the “too sensitive” documents are also likely to have repercussions in countries such as Japan, Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia where there are still some die-hard Netaji followers.

Sources said the “sting could be taken out in one go only if they (the British Cabinet papers) are declassified”. They argued that “after all”, the remarks about Netaji have been made by British intelligence and officials of the day.

“It (the act of making the documents public) will have to be a political decision,” the sources said.

   

 
 
LOVER OR LAXMAN, LOOK BEFORE YOU CHEAT 
 
 
FROM AMBEREEN ALI SHAH
 
New Delhi, March 25: 
It’s not the Bangaru Laxmans alone who need to be a little more careful while stashing away ill-gotten cash into their desk drawers. Two-timing husbands or wives had better watch out for the secret eyes of the spycam, too.

Look what happened to a Bollywood actor who chose to have his fling in Delhi and thought his wife wasn’t smart enough to catch on.

Suspicious of her husband’s frequent trips to the capital, she hired Lancers Network Ltd to spy on him. After tailing him closely, the detective agency discovered a pattern to the actor’s movements in Delhi.

He would check into a five-star hotel which he would leave in a black Mercedes and stop by at a friend’s house at New Friends Colony. There he would change his car and drive down south to another friend’s house at Green Park.

A white car would come at a particular time and whisk the actor away to a farmhouse near the Delhi border for the rendezvous with his girlfriend.

The private eyes followed the girl, too, and found out that she would visit the actor at the hotel, too. The agency hired a suite adjacent to the actor’s. Enter the spycams now, taking up places in the doorway facing the actor’s suite. It didn’t take much to find out that the girl would enter the suite from the lobby, but leave by the bedroom door.

“We made a complete video movie and gave it to the actor’s wife. But I must say the actor was very smart because we took quite some time to figure out where he was going,” said Kunwar Vikram Singh, managing director of Lancers, looking quite like the mustachioed Hercule Poirot, the detective in many Agatha Christie novels.

For those that are anxious to know what happened to the husband after the wife ran the video for him, as in an Agatha Christie novel, you’ll have to live with your curiosity. Singh isn’t telling.

Tehelka has shaken up the government with its spycam revelations, but detective agencies have been using the gadget — shaking or breaking families — for their undercover operations for quite some time. The actor, for instance, was caught with his pants down as many as four years ago.

Singh has used gadgets like still and video cameras and audio tapes to solve a whole range of cases from extra-marital relationships to fraudulent claims on insurance companies.

“Anything that produces conclusive evidence, be it a tape or a camera that helps in nabbing the culprit by unearthing the truth is valid,” Singh said.

It’s not always that the detective agency is asked to do the job either. Suspecting his wife of adultery, a man went to a detective agency asking for tips on using the spycam.

When his wife was not around and he had the flat to himself, he placed the camera on an elevated platform near the bed and found....

These dangerous — depending on how they’re used — contraptions come really tiny, as a lighter, a pen or even a bookmark.

Subhash Wadhawan, managing director of Detective Network (India) Pvt Ltd, said: “A knife has various functions, like cutting fruits, vegetables, but it can also be used to kill. Similarly, the benefit of a spy camera depends on how it is used.”

A few months ago, a man approached Detective Network. His wife had gone visiting her parents for a few months, and he wanted the agency to record her activities by using a camera. As is his policy, Wadhawan went into the background of the man before starting the investigation. They discovered he was not her husband. He wanted information so that he could blackmail her later.

Nothing to match what a non-resident Indian from Canada tried, though. On a short trip to India, his wife fell ill and died. A death certificate was issued and friends informed of her demise.

A few weeks later, a Canadian insurance company asked Lancers Network to probe the death. With a spycam smuggled into the NRI’s house in India, it soon had pictures of the wife drinking water and reading a magazine. The man was trying to cheat the insurance company, but got caught. Just like the actor, or Bangaru. No one is safe from the spycam.

   

 
 
CALCUTTA WEATHER 
 
 
 
 

Temperature

Maximum: 35.2°C (0)
Minimum: 25.3°C (+3)

Rainfall

Nil

Relative Humidity

Max: 95%
Min: 34%

Today:

Partly cloudy sky, with possibility of light rain and thunder in some parts.
Sunrise: 5.39 am
Sunset: 5.45 pm
   
 

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