Mamata pounces on Buddha ‘lie’
Student rage silences varsity phones
Govt bonanza for fishermen
Naxalites rounded up in pre-poll flushout
Advani’s team of four in poll forefront
Tehelka-tainted govt pins hope on Jaswant
Karunanidhi rift with Vaiko widens
CPM blasts ‘absurd’ sops
Trinamul recast to calm poll have-nots
BJP to focus on Mamata betrayal

 
 
MAMATA POUNCES ON BUDDHA ‘LIE’ 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, March 30: 
Gifted a surprise poll plank by the court verdict on Chhoto Angaria, a triumphant Mamata Banerjee today coined a fresh slogan to buffet the CPM with: “Buddha told a lie, court ordered CBI”.

Claiming the order for a CBI probe into the January massacre was a “vindication” of its long-standing demand, Trinamul Congress youth president Sanjoy Bakshi said the party would kick off a campaign against the ruling Left on the issue tomorrow.

“We will organise meetings and processions in the city and districts and raise the slogan to expose the CPM,” Bakshi told reporters this afternoon.

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, however, said that in principle the CBI should not be dragged into the case as law and order was a state subject.

“What happened in Chhoto Angaria is purely a law and order issue which is a state subject. We don’t believe that the CBI should be brought in,” he said.

Trinamul had raised the demand for a CBI probe after 11 of its supporters were allegedly massacred by CPM men in the Midnapur village on January 4. But the state government had turned down the plea, and ordered a CID inquiry instead.

An upbeat Trinamul today trained guns on the chief minister for allegedly doing his best to “suppress” the massacre. Chairman of Trinamul’s policy-making body Pankaj Banerjee said: “We had urged both the Centre and the state to initiate a CBI probe, but our plea was turned down. At last, we stand vindicated by the high court directive.”

He added that the probe would “reveal the truth and help nab the culprits who masterminded the killings. It marks the beginning of the end of the CPM in Bengal”.

Determined to exploit the verdict to the hilt, Mamata today met with senior party leaders to chalk out campaign strategies for the Assembly elections.

“We had wanted a CBI probe, but the state government was clearly against it. The chief minister, who initially denied knowledge of any massacre or even a clash at the village, later tried to hush it up by ordering a CID inquiry. But the CID has failed to make any breakthrough,” Banerjee said.

This is the second time that Mamata’s plea for a CBI inquiry into a major incident has been upheld by court. A few years ago, a CBI probe was ordered into the “disappearance” of jute mill worker Bhikhari Paswan.

Exim policy protest

The CPM has urged the people to shun foreign goods which will be easier to obtain under the new exim policy to be unveiled by the Centre on April 1. CPM state secretary Anil Biswas said the party would hold street-corner protests meetings in the city on Sunday.

“We will urge people not to go for any of the 1429 items which will be available in the city from April 1... we will request them to purchase goods produced in our country to help industry and commerce,” he said.

   

 
 
STUDENT RAGE SILENCES VARSITY PHONES 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Santiniketan, March 30: 
The telephone network of Visva Bharati University has collapsed after students went on the rampage inside the PBX office last evening.

Students totally destroyed the main machine and damaged several other equipment. All six lines are out of order.

Trouble started when the PBX office was shut down in the afternoon to repair a line which has been functioning erratically.

All departments were informed about the shutdown, but some students, claiming they had not been intimated, ransacked the office. University authorities are at a loss on what could have provoked them.

A Vinay Bhavan student said the PBX office ransack had nothing to do with the shutdown. “An operator made obscene remarks to a girl student while she was speaking to her mother over phone,” the student alleged.

Visva Bharati vice-chancellor Dilip Kumar Sinha said: “I can’t imagine this type of vandalism by my students. However, we have lodged an FIR with the Bolpur police station. I have told the police to take action.”

The ransack is the last in a series of violent incidents over the past few months.

Science and arts students had earlier ransacked their own departments over exam results.

   

 
 
GOVT BONANZA FOR FISHERMEN 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, March 30: 
The state government has announced a Rs 10-crore fishery infrastructure project at Digha in Midnapore.

Fisheries minister Kiranmoy Nanda made the announcement a day before the expected announcement of Bengal election dates tomorrow. He said country boats for deep-sea fishing would be mechanised with government funds.

The project at Digha to build infrastructure to produce dry fish will be jointly funded by the state government and the National Co-operative Development Corporation (NCDC). He said the project will be completed within a year.

Nanda said fishermen would be trained in modern techniques. “This project is the first of its kind in India. The fishermen can avail the new facilities by forming several co-operatives,” the minister added.

He predicted a huge market for dry fish in India. “The existing method of producing dry fish is not scientific and inconvenient to the producers. After the project is over, both the quality and quantity will be increased and there is also the possibility of exports,” Nanda said.

He lauded his department’s performance. “Our achievement in the fisheries sector is the best in the country for which we have received the national award four consecutive times.”

But he admitted his failure to introduce the wireless system in deep-sea fishing. He blamed the Centre’s “non-cooperation” for not being able to keep the promise he had made some years ago.

“I am sure the Left Front will come to power again but there is no guarantee I will be the fisheries minister again. But I am leaving after clearing project proposals worth Rs 75 crore,” Nanda said.

Almost all ministers and senior officers at Writers’ Buildings were busy disbursing funds and issuing government orders for several projects of different departments today, the last working day of this fiscal year.

But the day turned out to be a bad one for state government officials who did not get their pay.

A number of employees at Writers’ expressed dissatisfaction and anger for non-payment of salary, but a senior finance department officer dismissed the matter as “routine”.

“Government employees get their salary on the last day of every month except March. They will get their pay on April 3,” the officer said.

   

 
 
NAXALITES ROUNDED UP IN PRE-POLL FLUSHOUT 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Midnapore, March 30: 
Six MCC and PWG activists were arrested during a pre-poll raid in the Naxalite-dominated forests of Belpahari and Kankrajhore over the past 24 hours.

The arrests were made from Amlasole village, district police superintendent A.K. Maliwal said.

The raid, which was part of the programme to ensure peace during the Assembly elections, comes three days after a meeting of inspector-general of police (western range) J.R. Bhagat with the superintendents of Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia.

Maliwal was stationed in Jhargram since Wednesday to chalk out details of the swoop.

A 100-strong force made up of jawans of the Eastern Frontier Rifles, Rapid Action Force and the State Armed Police was deployed in the area with automatic weapons and sophisticated wireless communication sets.

Police sources said that after the “mystery massacre” at Chhoto Angaria in Garbeta, the growing activity of the Maoist Communist Centre (MCC) and the People’s War Group (PWG) in western Midnapore came to light.

Since then, the police have intensified their vigil and found that MCC and PWG workers hold arms training camps in the forests.

When Maliwal led a force to arrest wanted MCC activist Mangal Mura during the raid, the police were gheraoed by women Naxalites. Three women were arrested apart from Mangal Mura and two of his associates, Kartick Mura and Ratan Mura.

Officials said the MCC group targeted by the police broke up into smaller groups and went deep into the forest, crossing into Bankura and Purulia.

The activities of the radical Naxalite groups have affected the district’s tourism. The Forest Development Corporation has opened a 12-suite resthouse for tourists visiting Kankrajhore forest. Though the resthouse was thrown open to tourists on March 20, not a single suite has been booked so far.

Fear is writ large on the faces of villagers who never seen so many security forces in the area.

   

 
 
ADVANI’S TEAM OF FOUR IN POLL FOREFRONT 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, March 30: 
L.K. Advani’s backroom boys have jumped onto the party centrestage ahead of the Assembly elections upsetting some BJP functionaries.

It was decided at an informal meeting called by Advani earlier this week that four Union ministers — Pramod Mahajan, Ananth Kumar, M. Venkaiah Naidu and Sushma Swaraj — will be in charge of the five states which will go to polls shortly.

Mahajan has been given charge of Assam, Ananth Kumar Kerala, Naidu Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry and Sushma Bengal.

Mahajan had been sounded out on Assam by former BJP president Bangaru Laxman. A committee of five ministers headed by him had been constituted to look after various aspects of election management in the state, including ticket distribution, campaign and strategy-planning.

The allocation of the other four states to the Union ministers coincides with the anointment of K. Jana Krishnamurthi as BJP president.

Laxman’s departure and Krishnamurthi’s appointment were interpreted in party circles as a sign of change in the power equation. Laxman was a hand-picked nominee of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and human resources development minister Murli Manohar Joshi, both of whom had begun to call the shots in the party organisation. Krishnamurthi, on the other hand, is close to Advani, although he let it be known that he would throw his weight behind the NDA government fully.

BJP sources said while it was understood that the original brief of the four ministers would be to actively campaign in the respective states allotted to them, it is now expected that theirs would be a more “proactive” role.

A BJP general secretary, asked to respond to the decision, kept quiet. Another functionary wondered what would be the role of the official BJP prabaris who are in charge of states.

The upper hand gained by the government over the party has caused some heartburn in the BJP, said sources. The feeling was that the functionaries were “neither here nor there” while the ministers were “enjoying the best of both worlds” — the government and the party organisation.

The work allocation to the four ministers has been read as the first signal that Advani will have a greater say in BJP’s affairs after being left in the cold during Kushabhau Thakre’s and, later, Laxman’s tenure.

Mahajan, Naidu, Sushma and Ananth Kumar were an integral part of Advani’s team when he headed the party, along with K.N. Govindacharya and Arun Jaitley.

The combination of theoretical understanding and practical acumen this team possessed was regarded as a valuable input in the BJP’s ascendancy to power. However, once Thakre took over the reins of the party, most of Advani’s backroom boys, barring Naidu, kept away from the party and got involved in their ministerial jobs.

Explanation on George

The BJP has demanded an “explanation to the nation” from Congress president Sonia Gandhi on the CBI case against her secretary Vincent George .

“Sonia Gandhi’s silence is surprising and more so in these circumstances when a person who worked out of her home for 10 years openly accepted gifts in cash and kind. Even after the CBI filed its case, there has been no reaction from Sonia,” BJP spokesman Narendra Modi said.

   

 
 
TEHELKA-TAINTED GOVT PINS HOPE ON JASWANT 
 
 
FROM K.P. NAYAR
 
New Delhi, March 30: 
The Atal Bihari Vajpayee government, rattled by the Tehelka revelations, is looking up to external affairs minister Jaswant Singh’s visit to the US next week to project the impression of normal governance in New Delhi.

Singh’s meeting with US secretary of state Colin Powell in Washington, which would otherwise have been a routine meeting between two foreign ministers, has acquired a larger-than-life profile in the light of the political crisis in New Delhi fuelled by the defence purchase expose.

If the external affairs minister is able to create even a semblance of a breakthrough in Indo-US relations under the new Republican administration during his talks with Powell and defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government will use it to maximum advantage to demonstrate that all is normal on Raisina Hill and that the Tehelka revelations were little more than a storm in a tea cup.

It will reinforce the dominant view in the BJP that the arms purchase sleaze was nothing more than a passing phase in New Delhi’s stormy politics and that the worst of the crisis is over.

South Block’s hopes of “fruitful” meetings between Singh and the new men and women holding the levers of power in Washington have been bolstered by the recent telephone conversation between President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and the US President’s letter to the Prime Minister.

Neither side has released the contents of the letter: the White House has not even officially confirmed the verbal communication although it announced that the two leaders had talked on the phone.

Sources privy to the letter from Bush, however, said the Republican President emphasised the need for continuity in US policy towards India despite the change of guard at the White House.

Bush particularly expressed the hope that Vajpayee’s peace initiative in Kashmir on the one hand and vis-a-vis Pakistan on the other would bear fruit.

South Block is interpreting this as a endorsement by Bush of the line pursued by his predecessor Bill Clinton as far as US policy towards Indo-Pakistan disputes are concerned. For the external affairs minister who is preparing for his first exchange with the new American administration, this is seen as a very good augury.

Such overt optimism in South Block over Singh’s visit is not, however, shared by better informed diplomats in the capital’s diplomatic enclave.

The caution among the mandarins of Chanakyapuri is the result of severe pressure which several foreign governments have been facing from Washington in recent months not to deal with India in matters related to defence.

More than one ambassador posted in New Delhi told The Telegraph that the Republican White House had threatened several foreign governments with retaliation if sophisticated arms or dual-use technology were sold to India.

These ambassadors said their governments had so far resisted US pressure against dealing with India, but pointed out that such an attitude was in line with the new US administration’s public position clubbing India along with North Korea and Iran as beneficiaries of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

   

 
 
KARUNANIDHI RIFT WITH VAIKO WIDENS 
 
 
FROM T.N. GOPALAN
 
Chennai, March 30: 
Tamil Nadu chief minister M. Karunanidhi tonight virtually snapped ties with his NDA ally Vaiko.

At a hurriedly called news conference at the DMK headquarters here, he accused Vaiko of instigating the MDMK cadre to come out in the open against him and spreading canards. “This is simply not on in an alliance,” he said.

“The hitch after all is over three seats and that could be sorted out. But even if we patch up now, I wonder how the cadre of the two parties would work together after so much recrimination in public,” Karunanidhi said.

When pressed whether he was severing ties with the MDMK, he said: “I leave it to your inference.”

The DMK had agreed to leave 21 seats to the MDMK but problems cropped up when it came to seat identification. MDMK’s demand was met in 21 seats but problems remained with three others.

Earlier in the day, Karunanidhi had issued a thinly veiled warning that the MDMK might find itself out in the cold if it was adamant in its demand. But Vaiko refused to take the hint and get back to him with a compromise and Karunanidhi chose to precipitate the issue.

“The DMK will not stand in the way and be an obstacle if the MDMK chooses to go it alone. Even if the issue is settled, I have my doubts whether the initial goodwill displayed by the MDMK will be exhibited during the electoral battle,” he had said.

“In the name of maintaining democratic traditions, we cannot forgo everything to uphold democracy in the front led by the DMK. We have also to think about ourselves,” he added.

After rebuilding his bridges to his mentor, Vaiko suddenly finds himself in a no man’s land.

ADMK chief Jayalalitha will not be willing to welcome him back to her front and Vaiko is in no position to go it alone. Karunanidhi is determined to drive home the point that he has no option but to come back to him.

Vaiko is now looking upon the BJP to bail him out of the predicament. He had always sought to present himself as the Tamil Nadu ally closest to Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpyee. When the DMK refused to part with more than 21 seats to the MDMK, Vaiko was insisting on being treated at par with the BJP, which had been given 23 seats.

The BJP had come forward to cede two of the seats allotted to it to the MDMK. It is also rumoured that the two parties have agreed to switch camps after the elections if Jayalalitha emerges triumphant.

In the circumstances, the BJP would come to Vaiko’s rescue, MDMK circles believe.

   

 
 
CPM BLASTS ‘ABSURD’ SOPS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, March 30: 
Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and CPM central committee member Nirupam Sen today asked party workers to intensify their campaign against Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamul Congress.

Speaking at a function organised by the district committee of the Paschimbanga Ganatantrik Mahila Samity, both leaders said it was Trinamul and not the Congress which was the Left’s main Opposition. The coming Assembly polls, they said, would be the most crucial since 1977, the year the Left came to power.

Sen, considered a “CPM think-tank”, lashed out at Mamata’s “attempts to befool” voters. “We had become accustomed to see her inaugurating a new train almost every month,” he said. “But the Chittaranjan Locomotive Works had neither received new orders nor had new coaches been produced for running the new trains.”

He said Mamata, as railway minister, had “introduced 44 new trains ... without appointing a single driver” and blamed her for ignoring passenger “safety”. The railway board, he said, had identified 18,000 km of tracks as unsafe but “Mamata had taken care of only 3,500 km for repair”.

He criticised Mamata for assuring members of the minority community that 70 per cent of government jobs would be reserved for them. “This is absurd,” he said. “The Indian Constitution does not permit any one to do this. She is aware of it, but still made her commitment to woo the minorities.”

Bhattacharjee said it was not yet clear how the opposing parties were placed.

“I think it will be clear within a day or two,” he said. “But we have to fight all — the Trinamul, BJP and the Congress.”

He said the Left would face a tough battle in Calcutta as the Opposition parties were “more powerful in the city than in other parts of the state”.

“So you have to be careful while campaigning for our candidates in the city,” he told party workers. “We are non-believers... But thousands ... have faith in god which communal parties like the BJP is exploiting. You have to be careful that people who have faith in god are never hurt by our campaigns.”

Bhattacharjee said they would ask voters two questions during campaigning. “We will ask what they want — anarchy or development of the state?”

“Mamata is interested in creating a reign of terror and anarchy in the state,” he said. “That is why she instigated her supporters in Keshpur, Garbeta Pingla and Sabong in Midnapore to kill our people.”

   

 
 
TRINAMUL RECAST TO CALM POLL HAVE-NOTS 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, March 30: 
Mamata Banerjee has initiated organisational changes on the eve of the Assembly polls to compensate some of her confidants who did not get party tickets.

Gautam Bose, the Trinamul Youth Congress leader who served as Mamata’s private secretary when she was railway minister, was initially selected as the party’s candidate for Mohammadbazar in Birbhum district, but did not make the list finally.

Madan Mitra, one of Mamata’s closest during the turbulent early nineties, too, did not get a ticket.

Mamata, having to cope with a large number of aspirants, expressed her inability to provide them tickets despite their “commendable service to the party.”

As compensation, she offered them key positions in the organisation. Bose was made a general secretary a month back. Mitra was given the same post on March 23. Mukul Roy, general secretary of All India Trinamul Congress, informed Mitra of the appointment.

Bose’s job is to interact with the party’s district leaders. Mitra has been asked to undertake party programmes in the city.

He organised a procession of film and cultural personalities in support of Trinamul candidates in south Calcutta on Sunday.

Sources said Mamata may go for an organisational reshuffle after the elections as a number of leaders, holding key organisational posts, are in the fray.

They include Pankaj Banerjee, chairman of the party’s policy-making body, Subrata Bakshi, president of the state unit, Sanjoy Bakshi, Trinamul Youth Congress chief, Jyotipriya Mullick, general secretary, Atin Ghosh, vice-president, and Sonali Guha, president, Trinamul Chhatra Parishad.

Sources said the nature of the reshuffle will depend on the outcome of the Assembly polls. If Mamata wins, most of the key figures contesting the elections, may make it to the Cabinet. This will create a void in the organisation which will have to be filled.

However, a major reshuffle may not be on the cards if the CPM returns to power after the polls. In that case, Pankaj Banerjee and others may be retained in their posts.

Congress protest

The Congress in Manipur is all set to launch a campaign against the Atal Bihari Vajpayee Vajpayee government for the alleged corruption in defence deals, AICC observer Pratap Bhanu Sharma said at a rally in Imphal today.

   

 
 
BJP TO FOCUS ON MAMATA BETRAYAL 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, March 30: 
Mamata Banerjee’s “betrayal and her blatant deviation from value-based politics” will be the BJP’s campaign plank for the Assembly polls.

Union minister of state for communications Tapan Sikdar said this afternoon that the BJP will go all out to expose the Trinamul netri for her “involvement in the Tehelka conspiracy to dislodge the Vajpayee government”.

“We have confirmed information from government sources that Mamata had several rounds of discussions with Congress president Sonia Gandhi much before the Tehelka episode,” he said. “Mamata has proved to be nobody’s friend as she believes only in politics of opportunism,” he added.

When it was pointed out that party president Jana Krishnamurthi had not closed the doors on Mamata yet, he said: “I don’t know what Krishnamurthiji said, but our poll alliance with Mamata is a dead issue in the light of her decision not to support the NDA government.”

Scoffing at Mamata’s decision to resign on the corruption issue, Sikdar said her alliance with the “corrupt Congress” was nothing but a “hypocrisy”.

Though the BJP would target the ruling communists as its prime opponent, party managers would not spare Mamata either. “She (Mamata) will be our target and we will not hesitate to put her in the dock, demanding an explanation form her for stabbing Vajpayeeji in the back,” he said.

Sikdar iterated that the party would field candidates in all the 294 Assembly seats along with some minor partners of the NDA. “We have already identified 75 seats and the rest will be done by tomorrow when the state election committee meets here,” state BJP chief Asim Ghosh said.

However, the BJP said it would not pull out its party’s nominees from the Calcutta Municipal Corporation and district municipal bodies. “Our party members will not resign unless the Trinamul Congress dumps them,” said Sikdar.

The party has taken the decision to avert its political isolation on the eve of the Assembly elections. “If we pull out of the government bodies, we will be nowhere in Bengal,” a key BJP leader admitted.

Contrary to claims that it would rope in key Trinamul functionaries, only a minor peasants’ leader Shivaji Dasgupta switched sides to the BJP today. A general secretary of Mulayam Singh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party, Daroga Singh, also joined the BJP with a few supporters. Samajwadi Party state unit chief Vijay Updhaya later said Singh was expelled for six years for anti-party activities.

   
 

FRONT PAGE / NATIONAL / EDITORIAL / BUSINESS / THE EAST / SPORTS
ABOUT US /FEEDBACK / ARCHIVE 
 
Maintained by Web Development Company