GNLF promises Siliguri ‘scare’
Unity show rolls at same time in 37 seats
Violence-shut mill suicide
Panja prescription: dump Cong
PDS to focus on ‘biased’officials
Ambush top gun held in Nepal Naxalite hub
Graffiti replaces guns in hamlet
Desam damper on rail budget
CPM’s mike muscle fails to move Mamata
SC rejects plea on CBI chief

Siliguri, April 20: 
The GNLF today sprung a surprise by deciding to contest the Siliguri Assembly seat held by urban development minister Ashoke Bhattacharya.

GNLF chief Subash Ghising endorsed the recommendation of the branch committees of Darjeeling, Kurseong and Kalimpong that the party put up a candidate from Siliguri. The GNLF has nominated Dhuba Bomzan, described in party circles as a “political unknown”.

While the party has renominated sitting MLAs Shanta Chhettri and Gaulon Lepcha from the Kurseong and Kalimpong constituencies, Nar Bahadur Chhettri has been replaced in Darjeeling. D.K. Pradhan, chairman of the Darjeeling municipality will be the new nominee.

GNLF’s Kurseong unit chief Indra Narayan Pradhan said the party would give Bhattacharya a “run for his money” in Siliguri. “We intend to encash on the 28,000-odd electorate in the Mirik segment of the constituency. It will also be an acid test for increasing our influence in the plains. The party has a sizeable support base among the Nepali-speaking voters in Siliguri and Matigara segments of the constituency,” he said.

Political analysts in Darjeeling pointed out that the GNLF was out to marginalise Bhattacharya’s possible lead from Mirik, which had helped him win in two earlier polls.

“The GNLF will not allow anyone a cakewalk in Mirik. The party will possibly help the Congress-Trinamul combine in the Siliguri seat by taking the lead in Mirik,” said an analyst.

The three-party pro-Gorkhaland combine of the Gorkhaland United Front (GUF) constituents, Communist Party of Revolutionary Marxists (CPRM), the Akhil Bharatiya Gorkha League (ABGL) and the Intuc-affiliated National Union of Plantation Workers (NUPW) has also decided to contest the three Assembly seats.

CPRM general secretary and former Rajya Sabha member Ratna Bahadur Rai said: “The GUF constituents have decided to contest a seat each. While the CPRM will field a candidate for the Darjeeling seat, the Kurseong seat will be contested by NUPW, and ABGL will contest from Kalimpong. We have not yet been able to name our candidates as some of our leaders are behind bars on suspicion of being connected with the attack on Ghising.”


Midnapore, April 21: 
Only Nandarani Dal was dressed for the occasion: a starched white cotton sari with grey border and with embroidery in white thread.

For the rest — Purnendu Sengupta, Sushanta Ghosh, Krishnaprasad Duley, Khagen Mahapatra — it is business as usual, save for the meticulous paperwork.

The Left Front’s candidates in all of Midnapore’s 37 Assembly constituencies today submitted their nomination papers, showcasing their organisational discipline.

“This is no exception. We do it everytime,” says Dipak Sarkar, the CPM’s district committee secretary.

Between 1977 and 2000, the Left Front has fought 23 parliamentary, Assembly, municipal and panchayat polls — a rate of an election every year since it came to power in 1977.

Candidates of five Assembly constituencies — Purnendu Sengupta (CPI, Midnapore), Sushanta Ghosh (CPM, Garbeta East), Krishnaprasad Duley (CPM, Garbeta West), Khagen Mahapatra (CPM, Salboni) and Nandarani Dal (CPM, Keshpur) — drove to the SDO’s office one by one to file their papers.

Each of them has contested in at least one election a year.

For Sushanta Ghosh, the junior transport minister, this is the fifth time in the Assembly polls. In 1967, Nandarani Dal was the only CPM MLA from Midnapore district.

In the district committee office of the party, local appartchiki — district committee secretary Sarkar is one of them — supervised the paperwork.

“Arabinda, Arabinda,” someone shouts for Sushanta Ghosh’s election agent, Arabinda Banerjee. “Where is your photograph?” Even poll agents have to be identifiable.

In Kharagpur, minister for panchayat and rural development Suryakanta Mishra is among the candidates to submit their nominations.

He is contesting from Narayangarh. The others are the candidates for Kharagpur (town), Kharagpur (rural), Keshiari, Danton, Debra and Pataspur.

“I won by a margin of 27,000 votes in the 1996 Assembly polls. In the 1999 Panskura Lok Sabha elections, the margin was down in my segment to about 7,500. This time I will win by considerably more than the 1996 margin,” Debra CPM candidate Jehangir Karim claims. Karim is contesting for the fourth time — meaning, if he wins, he might well be an MLA for 20 consecutive years.

Since the last Assembly polls in 1996, Midnapore district has 85,994 new voters. In the Midnapore collectorate, there are more police and the staff is agog for a glimpse of the candidates — it is a big day. Many of the staff have not been through an election before.

“Earlier, big processions used to accompany our candidates when they went to submit nominations. There would be so many people that you would not be able to walk through the lane to our party office. Now the Election Commission guidelines forbid it,” says Sarkar.


Calcutta, April 20: 
A worker of the closed Baranagar Jute Mill killed himself today in his living quarters adjacent to the factory.

Police said the body of Rajkumar, 45, was found hanging from the end of a rope tied to a hook that protruded from the ceiling of his small room at Chini Kothi Line.

The mill hit the headlines in January when a rampaging mob set on fire two executives after one of them shot dead a worker in the course of an argument.

The mill has been shut since January 13 as government investigators led by home secretary S.N. Roy inquired into the cause of the violence and also tried to find out its ownership.

The chief minister had ordered a CID probe immediately after the incident.

Rajkumar killed himself on a day when Roy submitted to the government a report on the circumstances that led to the January violence and recommended ways to tackle the volatile situation in many of the crisis-ridden mills. Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said he would address the issues raised in the report shortly.

Officers from Baranagar police station said Rajkumar was the first “victim of poverty” from among the nearly 1,500 mill workers.

The workers of Chini Kothi Line first noticed the closed door of Rajkumar’s room. Rama Shau, who lives next door, said: “We knocked on the door repeatedly. But there was no response.” The workers then informed the local police. Officials from Baranagar police station broke into the room and found the body.

As news of Rajkumar’s suicide spread, panic gripped the area where the labourers reside. Mukesh Shau, one of the jobless employees, said Rajkumar was staying here alone and his wife and children are in Bihar.

“He visited his family one year ago. A few days earlier, he told me to give some money. He wanted to go home. As I am also jobless, I could not help him,” Mukesh said.

According to Rajkumar’s neighbours, he had appeared depressed for the past couple of days. He had not spoken to the people residing nearby for the past two days.

“Last night, Rajkumar shut his door around 9 pm. It was too early. We decided not to disturb him. As it remained closed till 11 this morning, we knocked on his door,” said Rakesh Jadav.

A section of workers has started doing odd jobs to earn a living. Some mill employees are earning their bread by pulling hand-carts.

“We are trying our best to survive. Rajkumar should have attempted to get some other job,” Jadav said.


Calcutta, April 20: 
A day after saying he still considers himself part of the National Democratic Alliance, Ajit Panja today urged the Trinamul leadership to dump the Congress “if it wants to achieve good results” in the Assembly elections.

“The Congress does not stand any chance to win seats, but the people will vote for Trinamul Congress, though with anguish,” he said when asked to comment on the prospects of the seat-share deal between his party and the Congress.

Launching a fresh offensive on Mamata Banerjee, Panja said: “Even if we suppose that the party has become her private property, she has clearly failed to take care of it and shown callous indifference towards it.”

In an attempt to provoke Mamata, the former Union minister extended his “open support to A.B.A. Ghani Khan Chowdhury’s strong reservations” on seat adjustments with Trinamul in Malda. “He knows the pulse of his people and how to protect his constituency,” Panja said.

Mamata today reiterated her claim on Englishbazar, Old Malda and Gajol Assembly seats despite objections raised by Ghani Khan.

Panja made no bones about his close relationship with the BJP, reiterating that he would continue to support the NDA from outside. He said he would abstain from voting in the Lok Sabha only on the Tehelka issue as per “the unanimous decision taken by the party”.

State BJP leaders welcomed Panja’s stand and said the party’s door is open for him. “He was a Central minister until recently and we still have good relations with him. He is welcome to join our party,” state BJP president Asim Ghosh said.

Trinamul sources said the party did not wish to discuss “Panja’s grievances” now. “There is no question of our party supporting the NDA or pulling out of the poll pact with the Congress in West Bengal,” Trinamul general secretary Mukul Roy said.

Sources said Mamata has urged party workers to ignore Panja’s “tantrums” and concentrate on the battle with the communists. She has also ruled out any discussion with Panja on organisational issues before the elections despite his offer to “talk to her if she comes forward”.

Mamata tried to play down Panja’s revolt, saying: “He is an important leader and everything will be sorted out.” She maintained that Panja would be invited to campaign for party candidates who wanted his help. However, no Trinamul candidate has so far invited Panja to campaign.

Pingla clash

Three Trinamul Congress supporters received bullet wounds in a clash with CPM activists who prevented them from entering Pingla village from the neighbouring Moyna block.

The Trinamul workers were among the 100 ousted party supporters who tried to return to their villages after learning that the Left Front candidates and their supporters had gone to Midnapore to file their nominations.


Calcutta, April 20: 
The breakaway group of the CPM today accused the Left Front of politicising the administration and said its candidates will make it a campaign issue.

Releasing its election manifesto, Party for Democratic Socialism (PDS) treasurer Tapas Bose alleged that the entire administration — from Writers’ Buildings officials to district and block functionaries — followed the CPM diktat.

“Bureaucratism has infiltrated every sphere of the administration during the last 25 years,” the eight-page document says.

“An undemocratic government controlled by the party in power can never deliver goods to the people of Bengal.”

The manifesto says that if the PDS is voted to power, it would overhaul the administration to make it more effective and people-friendly.

Alleging that the CPM had failed in maintaining law and order, the party said that crimes, from murders and dacoities to petty thefts, were on the rise. The PDS also criticised the Left Front for its lack of initiatives.

“It is sad to say that the CPM has ruined Bengal industrially as it is now in the 19th position industrywise,” the manifesto says.

Taking a dig at the deteriorating health and education systems, the document says the medicare administration had collapsed during the Left regime. The PDS also felt that the progress of primary education was not up to the mark.


Siliguri, April 20: 
Investigators claimed to have wrapped up the ambush case with the arrest of the elusive “kingpin”, Vijay Dewan alias Dhiren Rai, from a suspected Maoist hideout in Nepal’s Jhapa district on Monday.

Vijay was picked up by Nepal police from Magurmari village in Jhapa district, some 5 km from Kakarvitta on the border. Vijay is the husband of Dimple Dewan, who was arrested on charges of plotting the assassination attempt on Subash Ghising on February 10.

Vijay was arrested from a camp run by the Naxalite Maoist Communist Centre (MCC).

An official of the special investigating team that visited Nepal to question Vijay said though the Himalayan kingdom’s police have arrested him, they are reluctant to “hand” him over to the team from India.

“Vijay Dewan was arrested from one Yadav Rai’s house at Magurmari by a special team of the Nepal police in Jhapa district of eastern Nepal on Monday morning following a tip-off. However, our Nepalese counterparts are reluctant to ‘hand’ him over to us,” the official said.

Hinting at a “joint operation”, he added: “We had kept Vijay under close observation and tipped off Nepal police on Monday when he was alone in the house. We could not make the arrest on our own as we have no jurisdiction in Nepal. The entire matter was, however, dealt with at the highest level between the countries. But Vijay’s apparent dual citizenship has become a hurdle for us.”

On March 23, Gorkhaland Liberation Organisation (GLO) chief Chhattray Subba was arrested from Birta, also in Jhapa district, in connection with the ambush. A month before that, leader of the now defunct Gorkha Volunteers’ Cell Sharan Dewan and his compatriot Arjun Lama were arrested from Chayanpur in eastern Nepal.

Since Nepal does not have an extradition treaty with India, the three were “clandestinely” handed over to the investigating team on the border.

Media focus on the “arrests” has put Nepal authorities in a “tight” situation, both politically and diplomatically.

The authorities are reluctant to hand over either Devan Gurung — suspected to be a prime conspirator — or Vijay to save themselves from political embarrassment.

“Both allegedly are holders of dual citizenship. While Vijay’s assumed Nepalese name is Dhiren Rai, Gurung holds Nepalese citizenship in the name of Dipendra Rai,” the official said. However, Vijay, during interrogation by the investigating team, had “confessed” to being the “operational kingpin” in the conspiracy.

Vijay was among the closest associates of Chhattray Subba, the official said. His Pradhan Nagar residence was the “operational control room” from where the ambush was monitored.

“Vijay was the most vital link between the masterminds and the militants who ambushed Ghising. We are hopeful that we will be able to convince our Nepalese counterparts to part with him. A team of officials will leave for Nepal tomorrow with Vijay’s ration cards and other relevant documents to convince the authorities that Vijay was indeed an Indian citizen,” the official added, hinting that another “arrest drama” may be staged to show Vijay’s arrest on Indian soil.


Pyrdiwah, April 20: 
Life in Pyrdiwah village is limping back to normal. Today, residents led by the village headman, Poji Nongrum, visited the area that has been occupied by the Bangladesh Rifles and the Bangladesh army since Sunday evening.

BSF director-general Gurucharan Jagat also visited Pyrdiwah today. Jagat went to the BSF outpost in the village after Mahendraganj where he had gone to receive the bodies of the slain BSF jawans.

Trade along the Dawki-Tamabil route continued to remain paralysed. Superintendent of customs Apolok Das said even though the conflict in Pyrdiwah has been resolved, permission to open trade could not be given because of security reasons.

The thousands who have been rendered homeless are reluctant to go back. However, chief minister E.K. Mawlong is hopeful that they will return soon.

DIG V.S. Ahlawat said Thursday night passed off peacefully and the jawans have taken control of the village. “Henceforth there will be no violation of the 1975 agreement,” Ahlawat said.

Not a single bullet was fired and villagers for the first time after five days could go back to their village to see their broken homes. Khajal Lamin, a villager, said the sight was “disgusting”. Most houses, he said, had been ransacked. They had not even spared churches and the only school in the village, he said.

A visit to Pyrdiwah explained Lamin’s disgust. There was graffiti all over the church walls that read aita Bongo desh (this is Bangladesh) and joi Bangla (hail Bangladesh). Villagers demanded: “The Bangladeshis will have to compensate for this.”

Nongrum said the state government would be asked to convey their sentiments to the Centre to tell the Bangladeshi government to “pay for all that they have done to the villagers”.

The only thing missing in the village was the now familiar sight of BSF jawans with light machine guns, mortars and shoulder-propelled rocket launchers on hill tops and trenches. Most jawans have abandoned their positions. Only the BSF camp has been strengthened with more men.

Two companies of the BSF are still positioned at Pyrdiwah, while three have been pulled out. Security is being tightened around neighbouring villages on the border like Lyngkhat and Umkrem.

The local dorbar of Pyrdiwah, which falls under Raid Mukertilla, is meeting today to take stock of the situation. The syiem of Hima Mylliem, Laborious Manik Syiem, with other representatives of Khasi traditional dorbars is scheduled to attend the meeting.

Representatives of the Federation of Khasi States said a message would be sent to the Centre that henceforth three instead of two parties should settle border disputes. The villages along the border, too, have a stake and they should be involved in any dialogue between India and Bangladesh, federation spokesperson John Kharshiing said.

He said the Khasi states bordering Bangladesh do not accept foreign minister Jaswant Singh’s statement that only a small portion was disputed and the rest has been demarcated. “We do not accept the demarcated border,” he said.

Another meeting of the dorbar of Raij Mukertilla, Hima Khyrim, will be held tomorrow at Umsyiem at 10 am. The meeting will be attended by Manik Syiem and the syiem of Khyrim, Balajied Sing Syiem. After the meeting, the two syiems will visit the Pyrdiwah.

The state government is continuing to supply ration and relief material to the affected villagers. Deputy commissioner Lamba Roy said the district administration is providing two square meals and 100 grams of sugar to each family.

Roy will visit Pyrdiwah tomorrow and explore the possibility of resettling the villagers by repairing their homes. “In that case we may not have to rehabilitate them elsewhere,” he said.


New Delhi, April 20: 
The railway budget was passed by the Lok Sabha today amid pandemonium and a virtual boycott by the government’s alliance partner, Telugu Desam.

The party which is extending crucial support to the NDA government, sources said, did not want to be party to the unprecedented step of getting the budget passed without discussion.

While the House took up the budget for passing, only two Desam members — Ganga Reddy and Venugopal — were present. Most Desam MPs, including parliamentary party leader Yerran Naidu, had left Delhi for their constituencies before the budget was passed.

Yerran Naidu had issued a whip yesterday to the members to be present in the House on April 20, 23 and 24, but himself left Delhi.

Desam MPs like G. Sukhender Reddy and K. Srinivaslu, who were in Delhi, said they were not aware that budget would be passed today. Their leader, Yerran Naidu, had attended the Business Advisory Committee meeting which drew up the agenda for the week yesterday.

Asked why the Desam stayed from the House, Srinivaslu said: “We thought Parliament will be adjourned as usual. Today is Friday and most members have gone to their constituencies.” He denied that the members deliberately absented themselves.

Desam chief Chandrababu Naidu and party member and Lok Sabha Speaker G.M.C. Balayogi are apparently not happy with the government taking recourse to getting the railway budget passed without a discussion.

Sources said the party also had objection to a Joint Parliamentary Committee probe into the Tehelka exposé.

The Biju Janata Dal, which had moved three cut motions on the railway budget, was also peeved at the way the budget was passed. BJD member Bhartuhari Mehatab said the party had not withdrawn the cut motions.

When BJD chief and Orissa chief minister Navin Patnaik took up the issue of neglect of Orissa in the budget the Prime Minister had assured that the government will address some of their concerns, he said.

Several BJD MPs are in favour of a JPC probe, though the party is toeing the government line.

Supporting the Congress demand for a JPC, Mehtab said: “Appointment of a judicial commission cannot just negate the demand. The scope of a JPC was wide whereas terms of reference of the commission is limited. The commission report is submitted to the government and it is up to the latter to table it in the House, whereas the JPC report is submitted to Parliament directly.”

Janata Dal (United) leader Ramakrishna Hegde also favoured a “thorough” investigation into the Tehelka revelations.

He told reporters in Hubli that the Commission of Inquiry had a “limited” scope and the case should be investigated by the CBI.


Namkhana (South 24-Parganas), April 20: 
Braving “Dur hato” slogans from CPM workers, Trinamul Congress chief Mamata Banerjee today held the first of her series of election rallies in this CPM stronghold, 110 km from Calcutta.

As her motorcade approached Ukiler Hat, about 7 km from Namkhana, agitated CPM workers preparing for election meetings shouted over loudspeakers: “Paschim Bangey shontrash baarchhey keno, Mamata Banerjee jabab chaai, jabab daao (Mamata Banerjee, answer why is terror on the rise in Bengal),” they screamed.

An unperturbed Mamata, accompanied by party MP Nitish Sengupta, emerged from a white Tata Sumo at Indira Maidan at Narayanpur, Namkhana, at 5.15 pm and climbed the steps to the dais. The 30,000-strong crowd turned wild. Breaking the bamboo-pole barriers, the crowd rushed towards the dais. Another 10,000, who failed to get inside the rally ground, waited outside.

Mamata only made a passing reference to the slogans against her. “The Congress and Trinamul have formed an alliance which will oust the Marxists from Writers’ Buildings,” she said to thunderous applause.

“Nine years ago I visited Writers’ last when I had taken a mute girl to meet the chief minister. But I was literally thrown out. On that day, I decided that when I walk into the building next time I will do so with my head held high. May 10 is the day we should take the vow to throw the Left Front out of Writers’,” she told the crowd.

“We have already taken over the small red building (Calcutta Municipal Corporation). Now it is time to take over the larger one. Bodley deen, paltey deen, ebaar pala badaler pala (Change everything. The time has come for a new scenario),” she said.

The Namkhana rally was in support of Mantu Ram Pakhira, Samir Jana and Bankim Chandra Hazra, Trinamul candidates from Kakdwip, Patharpratima and Sagar Island. All these seats now have CPM legislators. Thousands of supporters arrived from Sagar Island and Patharpratima in mechanised boats. A large number came from Kakdwip.

Mamata’s speech was laced with humour. Referring to a skit by Bhanu Bandopadhyay, the late comedian, she compared the CPM to a character who could not stop telling lies. As the crowd laughed, a shriek — Ma, Maago —-pierced the din. It was 26-year-old Tapan Mondal. “She is my mother,” he gushed. “Only she can free Bengal from the hands of the CPM.”

On her way to Namkhana, Mamata was greeted by cheering Trinamul supporters at Diamond Harbour, Kulpi, Jamtala, Nischintapur, Natun Raastar More, Shathitala and every place where she stopped her car to wave at them. At Natun Raastar More, supporters showered petals on her through the car window.

Mamata held up a replica of an electronic voting machine and demonstrated how to use it. “Do you know why I have brought this particular machine?” she asked. “I used this same model to demonstrate before my Lok Sabha polls, the Panskura Lok Sabha bypoll and the Calcutta civic polls. In all cases we won. So this is a lucky model of the EVM for me.”


New Delhi, April 20: 
The Supreme Court today refused to entertain a petition by the Union government seeking modification in the court’s 1998 order on service conditions and appointment of the director of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the central vigilance commissioner.

A three-judge bench of Justice S.P. Bharucha, Justice Doraiswamy Raju and Justice Y.K. Sabharwal, which rejected the Centre’s plea, said there was no ambiguity in its 1998 guidelines.

The process of selection of a new CBI director is on and attorney-general Soli Sorabjee wanted the apex court to clarify whether the government could appoint someone who had less than two years’ service left. The apex court had made it clear that an incumbent should have a minimum two-year tenure.

The court reiterated its 1998 judgment in the Vineet Narayan vs. Union of India case — popularly known as the Jain hawala case — saying: “The director, CBI, shall have a minimum tenure of two years, regardless of the date of his superannuation. This would ensure that an officer suitable in all respects is not ignored merely because he has less than two years to superannuate from the date of his appointment.”

Current CBI director K. Raghavan, who has held the post for more than two years, will retire on April 30 and the appointing authority has to find in 10 days someone to succeed him.

Raghavan’s appointment was successfully challenged before the Bangalore Central Administrative Tribunal bench by Karnataka director-general of police C. Dinakar who had argued that the Centre had not followed the Supreme Court guidelines in appointing him.

According to the apex court the CBI director has to be appointed by a committee headed by the CVC and comprising the Union home secretary and personnel secretary.

The court also said the committee “shall draw up a panel of IPS officers on the basis of their seniority, integrity, experience in investigation and anti-corruption work”.

However, the final appointment has to be made by the Cabinet Committee on Appointments. If no one from the panel is found suitable for the post, the committee has to record the reasons and draw up a fresh panel, the apex court had said in its guidelines.


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