Seat tremors jolt Cong from Bengal to Delhi
Mamata pledges to do Tehelka on Left
Babri bleeding-heart prays for mandir
Terror stench in river of dead
PM mid-air missive to Musharraf
Calcutta Weather

New Delhi & Calcutta, April 10: 
Delhi was singed by the fire raging in the Bengal Congress with state party chief Pranab Mukherjee today walking out of a meeting in exasperation at differences over selection of candidates.

Although Mukherjee returned after 15 minutes to resume the first meeting of the screening committee to pick 57 candidates, at the end of the day the party was still left to stew in the juice of Malda leader A.B.A. Ghani Khan Chowdhury’s vow to put up candidates for all 11 seats in his district.

In Murshidabad, the other rebel leader, Adhir Chowdhury, had decided to field seven Independents. This means that in these districts, the alliance with Trinamul is as good as defunct, if the Congress leadership fails to amicably settle the issue.

Sonia Gandhi might have spoken too soon when she confided in an aide: “Tell me, what have I done to deserve this?” She did not know then that the Save Congress Committee, formed by sitting MLAs who are not getting tickets, was lining up 75 candidates to contest under its banner. Five have already decided to file nominations.

These pockets of rebellion, if allowed to simmer, will only lead to a division of opposition votes, exactly what Mamata and Sonia had tied up to avoid.

Word also possibly had not reached her then that two Bengal leaders — Mukherjee and Priya Ranjan Das Munshi — were fighting with their claws out over a candidate for Durgapur. Mukherjee wanted Chandrashekhar Banerjee to be given the seat, but Das Munshi opposed his candidature, describing him as an outsider.

In the middle of the tussle, Mukherjee abruptly left the meeting and came back only after AICC general secretary Kamal Nath called up, requesting him to resume talks. A few days ago, Sonia had witnessed a similar walkout by Kerala leader K. Karunakaran.

Later, the two said sorry to each other. Nath said after that everything went off well. “Nothing untoward happened,” he added.

Sources said the meeting cleared 49 names and left eight to be decided by the central election committee that is likely to gather tomorrow. Most of these candidates belong to Malda, Murshidabad and Dinajpur where Ghani, Adhir Chowdhury and Das Munshi are pushing for their nominees. Of those selected, 14 are minorities, seven SC/ST candidates and four women.

Ghani followed up the letter he had written to Sonia yesterday, seeking a clear position from Mamata on two Malda seats the Congress had conceded to Trinamul, with a phone call to Nath. “We will not bow to any pressure from outside and will put up Congress candidates for all the seats here, come what may,” he said.

Ghani said he would not allow anyone to interfere in Malda. “If Trinamul fields candidates, it will be suicidal because Malda is a Congress domain.”

He was, however, prepared to campaign alongside Mamata. “But she need not come to Malda because it is not necessary.”

Truckloads of Congress supporters from Bharatpur, given to Trinamul, arrived at Adhir Chowdhury’s doorstep for justice. “Grievances of ordinary party workers are genuine,” he said.

Ranks of the dissident Save Congress Committee also swelled with five more MLAs joining it.


Calcutta, April 10: 
Mamata Banerjee is committing her party to investigating what it calls “corrupt deals” of the Left Front.

In the election manifesto expected to be released by Mamata tomorrow, the Trinamul Congress vows to provide a “transparent and healthy administration, free from corruption”, if voted to power.

Living up to the spirit of the times — with Tehelka fresh in people’s minds — the manifesto promises to institute “probes into the corrupt deals of the CPM-led government during the past 24 years and bring the persons behind them to book”.

The Opposition party is also targeting what it sees to be the Left Front’s Achilles’ heel — “sluggish industrial development in the state”. Somewhat grandly, it promises the beginning of a “new era of industrialisation with adequate infrastructure growth”, throwing in a pledge to examine the problems of closed and sick units.

It expects “a positive response from NRIs and investors from other states to ensure West Bengal’s all-round development”.

The charter of good intentions includes “vital changes in the spheres of education and health care which have been grossly neglected by the Left Front government during its long tenure”.

The manifesto expresses the party’s determination to improve work culture among government employees.

For north Bengal, the party has put on the table a package that contains a “comprehensive flood-control plan” and promotion of agro-based industries. To keep its ally in the region, the Kamtapur People’s Party, happy, it promises to recognise their language.

Alleging a sharp decline in law and order and politicisation of the law enforcement machinery, it vows to establish “the rule of law under which the police will play a non-partisan role”.

Following a complete break with the BJP, Mamata is now in a position to stress her party’s “secular credentials”, but she goes farther than that, accusing the Left of an “indifferent attitude towards the well-being of the minorities.”


New Delhi, April 10: 
Describing December 6, 1992, as one of the “most depressing days in my entire life”, home minister L.K. Advani today said “the wrongs of a medieval past could not be righted by a similar wrong in modern times”.

The destruction of the Babri masjid was “unfortunate, painful and distressing”, Advani said in his first deposition before the Liberhan Commission investigating the demolition.

Echoing Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s Kumarakam musings, Advani continued: “If medieval wrongs are to be corrected, that too would have to be done by due process of law, which is precisely what we had committed to people when we spoke about constructing Ram temple at his janmabhoomi in Ayodhya.

But the minister rejected a court settlement. “We had proposed to construct the Ram temple through a legislation or through a negotiated settlement (with the Muslim community) and we feel litigation in a court of law is not an answer to the problem.”

In the same breath, Advani said he and his party “firmly” and “steadfastly” believed that construction of the Ram temple was a symbol of “national self respect”. The party was committed not to allow “vested interests” to give it communal colour.

The minister blamed “impatient” kar sevaks mobilised by his countrywide rathyatra, for the “wrongful course”. “Anger,” he said, “was swelling among them” when they were told that they had been denied permission to perform kar seva.

“The anger exploded and the mosque was demolished,” Advani said. “I do regard it as an unfortunate and a painful event which distressed me so greatly that day.”

“December 6, 1992, has been one of the most depressing days in my entire life. Many others there were ecstatic, a mood I just could not share... I have seldom felt as dejected and downcast as I felt that day,” Advani said.

“The happening was unfortunate from the point of view not only of the country as a whole, but even from the point of view of the cause which my party, BJP, was promoting when it supported the Ayodhya movement,” he added.

“But the mood was that of the Bhagalpur blinding case. I felt so outraged. But when I visited Bhagalpur, local people endorsed it and even lawyers of Bhagalpur took out a procession in favour of the police (who had blinded some undertrials). So a person who is a believer of rule of law and democratic process cannot assess what common people feel as wrong and right.”

The leaders of the Ayodhya movement wanted the temple built through “legal means”, he said, echoing RSS chief K.S. Sudarshan who had made the same statement before the Liberhan panel a few weeks ago.

But litigation was time-consuming and the case had been dragging since 1946.

This “delayed and prolonged” judicial process was why the BJP believed “there are only two ways in which this issue can be sorted out — one is a negotiated settlement, failing which by appropriate legislation” in Parliament.


Habibke (Ferozepur), April 10: 
Even for this battle-hardened and once terror-haunted hamlet near the border, it was too much to stomach: a pack of dogs returning from the Sutlej riverbed with chunks of human flesh spilling out of their mouths.

Almost 20 years after the region became one of the bloodiest killing fields of militancy-maimed Punjab, Ferozepur froze again as 50 bodies and a mystery floated up the Sutlej over the weekend.

“We realised that something was amiss when we were hit by the stench of decaying flesh. Then we saw the dogs...,” says Shivji of Kunde Hussainiwala, where six of the bodies were found.

The corpses, most of them reduced to skeletons, surfaced when the water-level receded from the normal 12 feet to one foot after the sluice gates of the Hussainiwala barrage were closed for repairs. Some bodies were in gunny bags with stones tied to them.

Police suggested that the bodies could have been thrown into the river by villagers who could not afford cremation. “Throwing bodies into the river has been the practice in the region for the past 30 to 40 years. We know of some persons who have admitted to the practice,” Ferozepur DIG H.S. Dhillon said.

But the state government has ordered a probe and DNA tests after Akali leaders underscored the fact that the region was one of the hotbeds of Khalistani terrorism in the eighties.

“It was a good hiding place for terrorists with the Pakistan border in close proximity and the Harike wetlands providing a safe shelter. It was also here that the Centre had launched one of its most sustained campaigns against the terrorists,” said Charan Singh Lohara, general secretary of the Akali Dal (Mann).

The incident has also brought back memories of the discovery of some bodies from the Indira Gandhi canal a decade ago. The Akalis had then said the bodies were of those killed by the police at the height of militancy — a claim which was eventually upheld by a CBI probe.

Akali leader and senior Punjab minister Natha Singh Dalam said the issue had unnerved the government and efforts were being made to ensure that people were not unnecessarily harassed in the region.

“The government will go into the depth of the matter and any foul play will be dealt with effectively,” he added.

Dhillon said villagers along the river, right up to the border with Pakistan, have been asked to inform the police about missing persons.

But 38 of the bodies were cremated by the villagers, who alleged that the police laughed them off initially when they informed them of the bodies.

The police have been able to send only 12 bodies for post-mortem.

“ When we went to the police, they laughed and said it was our problem and we have to solve it ourselves. We then approached the Ferozepur Welfare Club (known for conducting the last rites of unclaimed bodies),” said Harbans of Habibke.

The club’s president, Prithvi Raj Moga, echoed the villagers, saying he had little option but to cremate the bodies as the police “asked me to sort out the problem myself”.


Tehran, April 10: 
Flying towards a potential ally which could help counter Pakistan’s influence in the region, Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee today sent a mid-air message of goodwill to “His Excellency, General Pervez Musharraf”.

At 12.30 pm, crossing Pakistan territory en route Iran, Vajpayee flashed a statement: “As I overfly Pakistan, I would like to convey my best wishes for the progress and the well-being of the people of Pakistan. We remain committed to establishing peaceful, friendly and cooperative ties with Pakistan.” Such courtesy messages are routine, and Vajpayee had sent one to Musharraf during last year’s trip to US. However, a subtle change was squeezed in today.

The message then was addressed to the “Chief Executive” of Pakistan, without referring to the name. This time, it was upgraded to “His Excellency, General Pervez Musharraf”. The amendment suggests that Delhi is trying to keep alive the hint of a warmth that crept in after Pakistan sent relief material to Gujarat.




Maximum: 35.8°C (0)
Minimum: 27.5°C (+3)



Relative humidity

Max: 92%
Min: 65%


Partly cloudy sky, with possibility of development of thunderclouds towards evening.
Sunrise: 5.23 am
Sunset: 5.52 pm

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