Cong firefight job left to Mamata
Promise to end rally raj
Advani kills two birds with one temple
Tiffin-box bomb at power centre
Calcutta Weather

New Delhi, April 11: 
Tired of the seat squabble in Bengal, the Congress central leadership today threw at the rebellious band the daunting prospect of having to settle their differences directly with Mamata Banerjee.

AICC general secretary Kamal Nath, who is in charge of Bengal, said: “As the leader of the alliance, it is for Mamata to resolve ground-level problems.” Nath said the Congress had already declared Mamata as the chief ministerial candidate and it was up to her to resolve “day to day” problems through the campaign period.

Nath claimed that A.B.A. Ghani Khan Chowdhury had already taken up the dispute over Englishbazar — the Malda seat he is refusing to give up to Trinamul — with Mamata.

The Congress central election committee cleared 53 names tonight and deferred till tomorrow a decision on the remaining four seats — two each in Malda and Murshidabad. Sonia Gandhi once again underlined the need for unity, restraint and sacrifices, hinting that she did not approve of the disquiet in the Bengal Congress.

Nath said the Congress will announce its nominees tomorrow to coincide with Mamata releasing her list of candidates in Calcutta. It is clear that 13 sitting party MLAs will not get tickets.

Abdication of the high command’s role came after Nath spoke to Trinamul leader Sudip Bandopadhyay thrice and to Mamata once. Bandopadhyay, however, insisted that Mamata would not interfere in what she considers to be an internal affair of the Congress.

“A memorandum of understanding was signed jointly by Mamata Banerjee and Kamal Nath and it is up to the Congress leadership to stem the growing dissension in the party,” he said.

Mamata was unavailable for comment.

Ghani Khan, who has been refusing to make any sacrifice in Malda for the sake of the alliance, hit the streets today at Englishbazar and Old Malda — both conceded to Trinamul.

Adhir Chowdhury, of Murshidabad, wrote to Sonia requesting her to extract more seats from Trinamul to quell unrest.

Nath denied reports that Englishbazar had been allotted to the Congress, emphasising that there was no change in the seat-share deal. With the Congress leadership taking this stand, if Ghani Khan and Adhir Chowdhury have to be accommodated, the gesture will have to come from Mamata.

Nath said the alliance was well-defined, based on mutual respect. “The idea is to pool resources and bring together energy from both sides.”

He reminded Bengal Congressmen that an alliance is born of compromise and sacrifice. “In any tie-up, adjustment or seat-share, both sides have to show maturity, compromise and make sacrifices,” Nath said.

Central leaders were also pointing to statements made earlier by Ghani Khan that without Mamata, Congress in Bengal was “zero”. “Has Barkatda changed his opinion?” they asked.

For the rest of Bengal, his opinion remains the same. But Malda, his fief, is different. There, “Mamata is not needed”.

Ghani Khan, who addressed rallies in Englishbazar and Old Malda in support of Congress candidates this afternoon, said he would not bow to pressure from the high command. He renewed his threat to put up candidates for all Malda seats if Englishbazar was not conceded to him.

“I am not going to give up Englishbazar to Mamata as Goutam Chakraborty is the sitting MLA. How can I dump Goutam to please Mamata?” he asked. “I will campaign for him, come what may.”

Echoing his elder fellow-traveller, Adhir Chowdhury said: “In Murshidabad, we have eight MLAs who have the potential to win. How can we give the seats to Trinamul which has practically no existence in the district?”

The largest organised group of dissident partymen — the Save Congress Committee — announced it would field nominees against Trinamul, but not against the Congress. “We are confident of contesting at least 80 seats. We are receiving feelers from many party members and finally our list of candidates may exceed 100,” said the front’s chairman, Abul Laskar.


Calcutta, April 11: 
Mamata Banerjee intends to ban processions in the city on weekdays and earmark Shahid Minar for political rallies to maintain “work environment” if the Trinamul Congress comes to power in the state.

“Political parties will be permitted to take out processions only on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays,” says the party manifesto.


New Delhi, April 11: 
A day after expressing regret for the demolition of the Babri masjid, home minister L.K. Advani today rekindled the debate by arguing that in the eyes of the law, a temple already stood on the disputed site.

“For the last 51 years, from 1950 to 2001, what stands there (at Ayodhya) is a temple... first a de facto temple...and today a temple both de facto (in practice) and de jure (according to law). Prior to 1992, by virtue of worship, it was a temple and the super-structure was a mosque,” Advani told the Liberhan commission investigating the December 6, 1992, destruction.

Referring to a Faizabad civil court order of 1950 in which the judge noted that Muslims had not offered prayers at the site for many years but Hindus were worshipping there, he added: “This is an order which in a way confers on the place recognition as not only a de facto, but a de jure temple as well.”

By interpreting earlier court orders to insist that the worship of Ram Lala had been going on for a long time before the demolition, Advani sought to send the message to hardliners that they should realise it was difficult to build a temple at Ayodhya and there was no need for a new structure.

At the same time, he was trying to play on Hindu sentiments by insisting that the mosque had lost its importance as a place of worship.

Advani’s statement was not based on any archaeological finding but on court rulings. Yesterday, he had suggested that the legal process took time and one should not depend on the judiciary for finding a solution to the Ayodhya tangle.

Reading extensively from the 1950 order, Advani said: “From 1936 onwards, Muslims have neither used the site as a mosque nor offered prayers and the Hindus have been performing puja. This is not something that someone else has pronounced but the courts have decided...The court’s order is that status quo cannot be changed.”

Advani said that following the 1950 order, “it had not become a major issue so much so that the Central government and the state government, both belonging to the Congress party, seemed to cooperate in the locks on the temple being removed and shilanyas being performed”.

At this, the commission’s counsel, Anupam Gupta, asked Advani how he could say that a “de jure” temple existed at the site and whether he was legitimising the demolition as a legal fait acompli.“So far as the courts of law are concerned, I am a humble citizen. I cannot at all contemplate presenting the courts a fait accompli. But I can say that what I have in mind that various organisations and political parties, who have all been party to the dispute, all along prior to 1992...even they thought it was a temple by virtue of a court injunction,” Advani said.

Defending the use of the phrase “de jure temple”, he said: “I used the word somewhat loosely...describing it also as a de jure temple. I would like to emphasise again that I am not using this phrase as against the possibility of courts deciding something else finally in that regard.”


New Delhi, April 11: 
Within four months of the raid on Red Fort, a bomb with a timer and detonator was found in the North Block parking lot last night.

North Block houses the home and finance ministries. Its parking lot, where the bomb was found in a tiffin box lying next to a scooter, is just across the road from the Prime Minister’s Office in South Block. The defence and external affairs ministries also have their offices in South Block.

Around 9 last night, police received information through a wireless van stationed at the Rashtrapati Bhavan main gate that a suspicious-looking tiffin box was lying in the parking lot of the finance ministry, Gate Number 2, North Block.

The police rushed to the spot, found the tiffin box wrapped in yellow polythene and cordoned off the parking space. The police bomb disposal squad examined the tiffin box and found it to be an improvised explosive device. Help was sought from the bomb disposal squad and the dog squad of the army and the explosives bureau of the security wing of the civil aviation ministry to defuse the device.

The device was made up of two electronic detonators, one ABCD timer, one 9-volt battery and white explosive powdery substance.

Joint commissioner of police Suresh Roy said the explosive was not very powerful and belonged to the nitrate group, used by militants in a blast in Delhi in 1997.

At 8.45 pm, Sunderam, personal assistant to minister of state for finance Balasaheb Vikhe Patil, had stumbled on the device. Stepping out after work, he saw the tiffin box lying next to his scooter. He called the constables on duty who found that it was too heavy for a tiffin box. The constables alerted their guard commander who informed the police wireless van.

Roy said: “It is a parking area for scooters for the ministry of finance... Vehicles of those people who are not authorised to park in that area will be taken away. We are mounting a special vigil all over Delhi.”

He ruled out the role of the Lashkar-e-Toiba, the Pakistan-based militant group which had carried out the attack on the Red Fort in December and had threatened a strike on the Prime Minister’s Office. “The operation did not bear the marks of expertise with which one has come to associate Lashkar operatives,” Roy said, adding that it could be the job of a “peripheral fundamentalist group”.

The police have filed an FIR. The Abdul Karim Tunda group involved in blasts in Uttar Pradesh in the nineties, Pakistani militant Abdullah and Kamran are among the suspects.




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