Legislators above BJP ethics code
In victory, Steve grieves over loss
Read my smile, says Mamata
Why wash dirty linen in public?
Calcutta Weather

New Delhi, April 6: 
The BJP has decided that the proposed code of ethics announced with fanfare by K. Jana Krishnamurthi in the first news conference he addressed as party president will not be enforced on its MPs and MLAs.

Instead, the BJP has set up a five-member committee, headed by former party chief Kushabhau Thakre, to “draw up a code of ethics for the partymen who hold offices in various elective bodies other than in Parliament and state legislatures”, according to BJP vice-president Pyarelal Khandelwal. Party sources stressed that this committee’s brief would merely be to evolve a framework for working out the code and not implement it or even monitor its implementation. “That work will be done by another authority,” they said.

In his news conference of March 28, Krishnamurthi had declared: “There is a need to evolve a code of conduct for the party’s elected representatives, which would govern their conduct. I will ask my party colleagues to prepare a note on that subject, which I will place before the national executive at its next meeting.”

Krishnamurthi made it clear that even ministers, including Central ministers, would come under the purview of the envisaged code. The circumstances in which Krishnamurthi was anointed — after his predecessor, Bangaru Laxman, was implicated in the defence deal set up by the Tehelka sting operation — had necessitated such a move, BJP sources said after he made the announcement. The “need of the hour”, they maintained, was to show the party was “serious” about cleaning up its own stable after none other than the party president was caught “red-handed”.

Asked what caused a climbdown, BJP spokesman V.K. Malhotra said: “MPs’ and ministers’ conduct would come under the ambit of the Lokpal Bill. The BJP wants to include even the Prime Minister within the purview of the Bill. Besides, the Rajya Sabha’s ethics committee has already prepared its report while the Lok Sabha committee is still at work. So the conduct of MPs will be governed by these committees.”

When it was pointed out that the Lokpal Bill had still not been tabled in Parliament, there was no reply. Neither did Malhotra have an answer to why the BJP had linked parliamentary legislation on the conduct of MPs of all parties with its own proposals for a prescriptive code, especially when it claimed to be a “party with a difference”.

If these elected representatives were excluded from the purview of the code of ethics, it would only apply to members of smaller local bodies like sarpanches and zilla parishad members, who were described by BJP sources themselves as “small fish in a large pond”.

Sources said in states like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, Krishnamurthi’s declaration had raised the hackles of MPs and MLAs who saw the code as an “infringement” on their “working”.

They said a couple of days ago Atal Bihari Vajpayee had sounded out Thakre on reconsidering Krishnamurthi’s proposal. Thakre enjoys a better rapport with the Prime Minister than Krishnamurthi and is still the main conduit between the BJP and the government. They added that the idea of the BJP’s writ running over its ministers and MPs was resented by a section. The distinction between the party and the government had to be “respected and maintained”.


Margao, April 6: 
For India, the 2000-2001 season began last October with a hobbling Chris Cairns slamming the door in the ICC KnockOut final at the Nairobi Gymkhana.

It ended on much the same note today, though without the same stunning effect. As it turned out, the phenomenal Michael Bevan took Cairns’ place and Australia that of New Zealand’s.

Yet, as it was in Nairobi, Sourav Ganguly’s team received a round of applause at the Nehru Stadium here. Beaten, yes, but not crushed in the five-match Pepsi series.

Few remember losers, but India did well in taking the world champions the distance. Only, they ought to have done better in the decider: scoring 20-odd runs more or being disciplined in the opening overs.

The margin for error, at this level, is always thin and it’s very narrowly then that India failed to record a double — winning both the Test and ODI series.

Of course Sourav, back among the runs after weeks, was quick to point out the ODIs shouldn’t be seen in isolation. Rather (and rightly so), his team be judged on the Test performances as well.

In fact, Steve Waugh himself acknowledged this evening’s victory won’t lessen the disappointment of losing the Tests 1-2. Despite the four-wicket win (reaching 269 for six in 48 overs), there actually was little emotion in the Australian dressing room.

Perhaps, ODIs don’t mean half as much as Tests. Or, possibly, after almost two months of demanding cricket, the Australians just wish to be home. Perhaps, even the emotions got exhausted in the immortal Test series.

About the only hint of emotion was when Steve said: “This is my last visit to India but, hopefully, there will be other teams which will win a Test series in India...”

Sourav, who has years ahead of him, used the series-end to cock a snook at critics: “The world of cricket has now seen what this team is capable of. Also, that this isn’t just a team of gifted individuals, but one where team spirit is sky-high.”

For good measure, the Indian captain added: “Being aggressive on the field or whatever, everything was intended... However, at no time did we go outside the laws of cricket. Not once did we violate the spirit of the game...”

Sourav timed this observation, again largely aimed at baiters holding the Australian passport, smartly.

Later, Sourav said he would give his team “eight out of 10” for the overall performance against Australia. Smiling, he added: “Every mark, you’ll agree, has been well deserved.”

To return to the ODIs, it’s ironical that Matthew Hayden, who wasn’t supposed to play any role at all, emerged Man of the Series. But for a 24-carat exhibition throughout the Tests (549 runs), he would have been home after Chennai. Indeed, possibly to remind the world there wasn’t an element of fluke in his five-day performances, Hayden totalled 303 in four of the five ODIs.

Adjudicator Cammie Smith didn’t have to sweat in nominating his Man of the Series. “It’s been an amazing two months... More than a dream come true,” conceded Hayden, a stand-out example of overcoming limitations to be bracketed with established stars.

Australia’s top gun of the day, though, was Bevan. A one-day specialist — and, frankly, there hasn’t been anyone more consistent — he anchored the chase with a brilliant unbeaten 87. Really, for Australia, Bevan was more than the Man of the Match.


Calcutta, April 6: 
A beaming Mamata Banerjee stepped out with Kamal Nath after a two-hour meeting that crawled into early Saturday morning to suggest that the alliance partners had tied up the loose ends.

She set at rest persistent questions about the outcome of talks with the statement: “I hope you can understand from my smile. This is the smile of change.”

Earlier this week, Trinamul and the Congress had announced a sharing arrangement covering 276 constituencies, leaving 18 undecided. When Mamata and Nath hold a news conference tomorrow, they are expected to declare the deal on all 294 seats closed.

But for now — as the hours crept towards sunrise — food was on their minds. “Kamal Nathji has invited me. I will just have some bhat-dal with him,” Mamata said.

A mini-rebellion by three Congress leaders and the task of wrapping up the alliance with Trinamul brought Kamal Nath to Calcutta late this evening.

Before going into the meeting with Mamata, Nath expressed confidence that the alliance would ride out the storm kicked up by the trio unhappy at the high command conceding to Trinamul seats they see as rightfully theirs.

“These are minor hurdles and we will be able to clear them shortly,” Nath, the AICC general secretary in charge of Bengal, said.

Three MPs — A.B.A. Ghani Khan Chowdhury, Adhir Chowdhury and Priya Ranjan Das Munshi — have objected to Mamata’s claims to seats in their Lok Sabha constituencies.

If the smile on Mamata’s face was any indication, she would have mostly got her way at the talks with Nath. This means conceding another five-six seats at the most to the Congress.

Before meeting Mamata, Nath set about calming leaders angry at 17 sitting party MLAs being denied tickets in the deal with Trinamul. “Negotiations are going on and a clear picture is expected to emerge by tomorrow,” Nath said at a news conference with MLA Somen Mitra after an hour-long meeting with him and Bengal party chief Pranab Mukherjee.

“I have full faith in my leaders and they are now discussing the issues raised by us,” Mitra said.

Nath is scheduled to meet Ghani Khan tomorrow. He has been the most vocal of the lot.

Sonia Gandhi despatched Nath to Calcutta after Mamata complained about objections raised by the three MPs to the seat-sharing in Malda, Murshidabad and North Dinajpur districts.

Das Munshi met the Trinamul leader to discuss his problems, but Ghani Khan and Adhir Chowdhury do not intend to concede a single seat in their strongholds.

Ghani Khan said yesterday he would put up candidates in all 11 Malda seats, though the high command has conceded Englishbazar and Old Malda, which have sitting Congress legislators, to Trinamul.

Ray denial: Former chief minister Siddhartha Shankar Ray has said he has no intention of contesting the Midnapore Lok Sabha seat.


Mumbai, April 6: 
The bodies bent double, the heads buried between the legs, the hands pumping the air.

This is what struck a sight-seeing Bill Clinton as odd of the Mumbai washermen beating furiously the dirt out of their clients’ clothes on stone slabs at Dhobighat today.

Preferring to wash the dirty linen in the confines of a home — unless it spills out accidentally into the public domain, as it did in Monicagate — Clinton stood amazed for more than 15 minutes at what’s arguably the financial capital’s largest washing arena for the dhobis.

“He asked me why they were washing the clothes in public. He wanted to know all about the dhobis after I told him what the word meant,’’ said Mumbai historian Sharada Dwivedi, who showed the former US president around.

Dwivedi, co-author of Bombay: The City Within, said Clinton was “genuinely concerned” when she told him about the lives of the washermen, their low standing in society and the economic hardship they face.

“He is not just intelligent and charming, but very very caring,” she said. “If he had his way, he would have walked down the steps and met the washermen.”

After skipping dinner at Taj’s high-end Tanjore restaurant — where executive chef Hemant Oberoi waited in vain with his dishes of kebab and prawn till midnight, the former US president did not touch the breakfast fare Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar prepared for him this morning.

The American had a glass of fruit juice instead at Pawar’s home on Peddar Road, where he had gone to discuss reconstruction of quake-devastated Kutch district.

Pawar, vice-chairman of the National Disaster Management Committee set up by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to help rebuild the quake-hit Gujarat, praised Clinton for touring Bhuj “for six hours in the hot sun”.

The meeting over, Clinton left for the much-touted lunch with the Ambanis at their seafront skyscraper, Sea Wind, on upscale Cuffe Parade. His partying had just started.

Over vegetarian dishes, he talked mostly about his days as president, especially how he had failed to pull off a peace accord between Israel and Palestine, a subject close to his heart.

The lunch lasted for about an hour and it was a “strictly private” affair. Only a few close associates of the family, including Congress leader Murli Deora, were present. Clinton was accompanied by few leaders of the American India Foundation, including McKinsey chief Rajat Gupta.

From Sea Wind, Clinton embarked on his “Mumbai-darshan” with Sharada Dwivedi and went straight to Dhobighat in Mahalaxmi, where he spent about 15 minutes.

Now it was shopping time for the American leader and a security ring was thrown when he arrived at a handicrafts shop on Colaba causeway a little later.

Taken with the bric a brac, he fingered ethnic Indian jewellery and carpets on display, before buying a silver idol of Ganesha and a marble box studded with gems. They cost him less than Rs 15,000 and he paid by card. The shop owner presented him with a marble saucer with the image of Ganesha emblazoned. He posed with the sales clerks for photos.

As dusk fell and lengthened into evening, the city’s glitterati headed for the Taj hotel, where the American India Foundation threw a dinner. It was off-limits for the media.




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Partly cloudy sky, with possibility of development of thunderclouds towards afternoon or evening.
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