Atal ready to make room for Sangh
Mamata nominee for Keshpur retires hurt
Hinduja hand haunts Brajesh
Web vandals mock Pakistan phobia
Margin, not rival, worries mayor
Naidu in greener valley
Calcutta Weather

New Delhi, May 7: 
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who has often tested the patience of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), seems to be mending fences with his alma mater.

Well-placed BJP sources said the Prime Minister appeared to be willing to “give in” to the Sangh’s requests, barring a “bombshell” demand.

The sources said Vajpayee may induct Seshadri Chari, editor of the RSS mouthpiece, Organiser, as one of his media advisers. Chari is reportedly being backed for the job by the RSS veteran, H.V. Seshadri. The Sangh elder has been regularly in touch with the Prime Minister ever since sarsanghachalak K.S. Sudarshan moved his base back to Nagpur from the capital.

But an issue that could become a sore point is the Sangh’s move to step up pressure on Vajpayee to ease out finance minister Yashwant Sinha when the Cabinet is recast. The Sangh is believed to be keen to replace Sinha with human resources development minister Murli Manohar Joshi.

A section of the BJP is resisting the move, saying the finance minister’s post was far too senior a position to be “compromised”. “We respect Dattopantji, he is a senior and learned person. But his direct attack on the finance minister did not go down well with us,” said a BJP office-bearer, referring to the swadeshi ideologue and Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh founder Dattopant Thengadi’s description of Sinha as a “criminal” at a recent rally in the capital.

“How can Sinha be blamed for the WTO (World Trade Organisation) which is within the purview of the commerce minister? How can he be faulted on agriculture matters when the person to be attacked is the agriculture minister or industrial policies for which the industry minister is directly responsible?” asked the BJP leader.

Sources said the BJP’s view was that Vajpayee must not cave in to the demand to remove Sinha just because the Sangh’s swadeshi lobby was unhappy with him.

“He was their nominee for the job in the first place. They fought tooth and nail to get him in as finance minister. The Prime Minister should not give in to their whims and fancies because, after all, he has presented so many budgets and seems well settled in the job,” the BJP leader said.

Sinha was initially backed by the Sangh, which was instrumental in vetoing Vajpayee’s original choice for finance, Jaswant Singh. But the Sangh started distancing itself from Sinha after it started seeing a pro-reforms tilt in his policies and budget.

It is learnt that another RSS member and editor of Hindi mouthpiece Panchajanya, Tarun Vijay, is also interested in a slot in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). But Vajpayee is not too keen as his journal has been extremely critical of the government of late, according to BJP sources.

Chari, on the other hand, has managed to do the balancing act by tempering criticism of the Centre’s policies with the argument that a government has to maintain continuity in crucial spheres, whatever be the ruling party’s ideology.

A former pracharak (whole-timer), Chari was “loaned” to the BJP in the eighties and became general secretary of the Mumbai unit. But, with the ascendancy of Pramod Mahajan in Maharashtra politics, Chari returned to the RSS and took over Organiser in 1993.

The RSS-BJP equation was one of the main subjects of discussion at a recent one-to-one luncheon session between Vajpayee and home minister L.K. Advani.

BJP sources said both felt that a “stronger” bridge should be built between the Sangh and the government, mainly to dilute the RSS’ periodic tirades against the ruling establishment. The possible induction of Seshadri is being seen as part of that effort to build “such a bridge”.


Calcutta, May 7: 
Three days before Bengal goes to polls, the Trinamul Congress candidate in trouble-torn Keshpur has withdrawn from the fray.

Rajani Dolui took the decision in protest against the “terror” unleashed by the CPM. But as far as the Election Commission is concerned, he remains a candidate.

Chief electoral officer Sabyasachi Sen said: “The last date to withdraw candidature was on April 26.”

Dolui said he would not reconsider his stand even if Mamata Banerjee asked him to do so. He also demanded that elections in Keshpur in Midnapore be scrapped. In a letter to chief election commissioner M.S. Gill, Dolui said he was withdrawing in protest against “coercive methods and inhuman atrocities adopted and unleashed by the communists”.

The candidate also accused the Trinamul leadership of not heeding fax messages he had sent to Calcutta. “No one cared about the messages I sent. I have spent Rs 15 lakh to provide shelter, food and clothes to about 1,000 Trinamul supporters who were driven out of villages in Keshpur and Garbeta over nine months.

“I have had enough and am even prepared to resign from this indisciplined party,” Dolui said, writing in a separate letter to Mamata that he did not want to be held responsible for mass killing of his supporters by contesting the election.

“In three successive fax messages, I gave you a graphic picture of panic-stricken Keshpur. Possibly, you did not have time to think over the matter in the midst of your hectic election tour and send your valuable suggestions.

“In this situation, I have decided in consultation with block Trinamul leaders to withdraw from the contest as it is presumed that you will endorse my stand,” Dolui wrote, hours before Mamata’s visit to Midnapore town tonight.

Trinamul Congress leader Pankaj Banerjee called the chief electoral officer to communicate Dolui’s decision. “I have not heard from the Keshpur candidate himself,” Sen said. He pointed out that all of Dolui’s allegations were investigated. Sen said police protection for Dolui was beefed up and the district magistrate and the Keshpur observer were asked to deal with the issue of Trinamul supporters living in relief camps.

“Chief election commissioner M.S. Gill instructed us that people in relief camps be allowed to return to their villages. If they cannot, we will ensure them full escort to their respective booths so that they can cast their votes and return,” Sen said.

Dolui, in his letter to Gill, said: “In spite of writing to you 25 times, it is shocking and surprising that no fruitful measure has yet been taken. As a result, I am withdrawing myself from the election fray. At the same time, I request you to cancel this election in Keshpur.”

“I have not been allowed to campaign. Gun-toting CPM cadre are intimidating our voters. Photo-identity cards and ration cards of our supporters have been snatched. My polling agents are scared. Vulgar slogans have been written against me,” he wrote.

CPM candidate Nandarani Dal said she was not happy with Dolui’s decision.


New Delhi, May 7: 
The Hinduja brothers, accused in the Bofors payoff scam, were apparently used by the Vajpayee government to gain access to Tony Blair’s Labour government.

The controversy has resurfaced in London, with leading British newspapers carrying prominent articles about a meeting, where Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s principal secretary and national security adviser Brajesh Mishra was also present. The revelations are certain to have an impact here and create another embarrassing situation for the ruling BJP-led coalition in Delhi.

In lead articles, The Times and the Independent questioned why the British Prime Minister, who has set up an independent inquiry into the so-called “cash-for-passports” affair, failed to disclose his meeting with the billionaire brothers in June 1998. The Hindujas were already under investigation in the Bofors kickbacks case.

The newspapers quoted a Tory MP for Chichester, Andrew Tyrie, as saying that he released a letter to Blair’s chief of staff, Jonathan Powell, from Srichand “SP” Hinduja, referring to a private meeting. Tyrie said he would seek to table a private notice question in the House of Commons to ask why details were apparently not given to Sir Anthony Hammond, the former civil servant who probed the decision to award a British passport to S.P. Hinduja.

“If this turns out to be the case, he has been duping his own investigator, parliament and the country, and the Hammond report would be shown to be a charade,” Tyrie was quoted as saying.

The Times also noted that the Hinduja brothers donated £1 million for the Faith Zone in the Millennium Dome.

The British government has acknowledged the meeting but said the Hindujas were part of the delegation that accompanied the principal secretary for a briefing with the British Prime Minister. “The meeting related to India and Pakistan conducting nuclear tests and not to passport applications,” Downing Street was quoted as saying.

A Downing Street spokeswoman said: “Mr Blair was too busy to have a substantive discussion with Mishra and instead the Indian official and the Hindujas met senior Downing Street officials. Mr Blair did come into the meeting, but only.”

But it is the presence of Mishra at the meeting that is interesting. The Vajpayee government may now have some explaining to do as to why it had to turn to the Hinduja brothers, currently restrained from leaving the country, to gain access with Blair.

In the letter seeking the meeting, the Hindujas apparently requested the Blair government to ensure that the proposed UN Security Council sanctions against India and Pakistan, following their nuke tests, are not enforced. Despite a strongly-worded resolution asking the South Asian twins to dismantle their nuclear and missile programmes, no sanctions were imposed. Officially, the Indian government has not reacted to the reports.


New Delhi, May 7: 
Why does Delhi have terrible traffic jams?

Because the ISI has sneaked so many cars and trucks into the Indian capital.

Why did your child score low in school?

Because the Pakistani intelligence agency has made the curriculum so tough.

These wisecracks greeted Indian missions across the world on Monday morning when they logged onto the official website of the ministry of external affairs.

The mandarins in South Block woke up to frantic overseas calls to realise that someone was busy hacking the website while the government was busting an “ISI plot” to kill the Tehelka team.

The site has been blocked off since then to wipe it clean of the sarcasm-dripping missiles at Delhi’s ISI-fixation.

Ministry officials feel that the website was hacked either late on Saturday night or early Sunday, but it was noticed in Delhi only when the diplomatic missions pressed the panic button. The hackers, who have not yet been identified, have left a note saying that they belonged to a mysterious group called GFORCE. “We got (sic) owned by number one activist force GFORCE,” one of the notes read.

They signed off with a threat to hack several “important” government websites in the next few weeks. American and Chinese Netizens were recently locked in a hacking blitz called May Day War after the spyplane stand-off.

The hackers tampered with some of the newspaper headlines on the website to read: ‘India Declared a Terrorist State’ and ‘India-Russia to Have **** Relations’.

Some of the other notes were more political. Most expressed solidarity with insurgents in Kashmir, saying ‘Kashmir soon to be a free land’, and ‘When will Indian atrocities in Kashmir end?’

The Indian foreign office did not officially react to the Web vandalism. But, in private, officials felt that it was the handiwork of the usual suspects: pro-Pakistani elements. The officials pointed out that the sentiments expressed by the hackers echo the official pronouncements of Islamabad. Some officials also took pains to claim that the hacking of many international websites have been traced to surfers in Pakistan.

The foreign ministry website, which has been in operation since 1998, is one of the more popular and better-designed sites of the government. In the past four months, it had recorded 2.5 lakh hits. Officials claim that the hackers have not been able to upset the main section and only the central piece of the front page was damaged.

The site is designed and maintained by a private firm and, as with most other sites, firewalls are built around it to ensure that hackers do not have easy access to it. “But now it shows the precautions we had taken were not enough and we will have to take more steps to block it from hackers in the future,” an official said. The site is expected to be up and running again in a day or two.


Calcutta, May 7: 
This is, admits Calcutta’s first citizen Subrata Mukherjee, a fight he has never fought before — fighting an unknown entity. “I don’t know whether he is white or black or green or yellow,” says Trinamul Congress’ candidate from the city’s most affluent constituency, Chowringhee, and Calcutta’s mayor.

“I don’t even know his full name,” he adds, rubbing it in. He thinks for some time, wracking his brains to say something he knows about his rival, gives his twinkling-eyes grin, and then comes up with this: “All I know for sure is that he is not red.”

Not that it’s making things more difficult for Mukherjee. He is fighting a shadow but he has fought enough in his three-decade political career to watch his step.

But there’s something that worries him: his margin of 1996 when he defeated his nearest rival by about 28,000 votes.

“Even if I win by 27,000 votes this time, people are going to say my popularity is on the decline,” explains Mukherjee.

So, he has pulled out all stops to ensure that he defeats his CPM-supported Janata Dal (S) rival, Zahid Hossain, by more than 28,000 votes. For Mukherjee, however, that does not translate into fretting and fuming. That translates into something else: “I just have to ensure that there is a high turnout,” he says.

He is doing just that. As he goes around some of the affluent localities of Calcutta along Ballygunge Circular Road, he makes it a point to tell every voter that democracy is a birthright that should not be wasted. “I am telling them to come out and vote,” says the mayor.

Voters bear out what he is saying. Mukherjee may be the only candidate in Bengal who seems to be fighting for democracy and not for his party. No, he hasn’t asked us to vote for him, say voters in locality after locality. But, yes, we are voting for him, most of them say. There’s no one else to vote for, they explain.

His rival, Hossain, is not only the “CPM-supported” candidate from Chowringhee; without a machinery of his own, he is depending full-time on the CPM to paint Chowringhee walls red, campaign for him, distribute voters’ slips and bring out Left-minded voters out of their homes to the booth on polling day.

Mukherjee has another problem: what to do in case his party gets enough seats to form the next government? Does he give up the mayor’s chair to become a full-time-MLA-cum-minister? Or does he stay mayor-cum-Chowringhee-MLA?

Given a choice, Mukherjee says, he is going to pick the latter. “I was projected as the next mayor during the civic polls. People voted for me as the mayor,” he says. “So why must they be told to endure another mayor for the rest of my term?” he asks.

Besides, the mayor’s job is more important than a minister’s even if Writers’ Buildings is more important than the other red-brick building on S.N. Banerjee Road, he feels.

But there’s that politician’s catch: “I will do what the party tells me to do even if that means going against my personal wishes.”

Mukherjee feels he can afford to speculate on the future but Chowringhee’s voters say Hossain’s candidature has done them one good. It has brought most of them face to face with a real-life tractor for the first time; the tractor is his symbol and voters have seen him go about in a tractor, trying to sprout another crop than the peculiar twin flowers-bearing grass. But it seems that, despite his best efforts, Hossain’s plough hasn’t yet been able to make an impression on the affluent Chowringhee’s metalled roads.


Hyderabad, May 7: 
Chandrababu Naidu, scouting for an alternative promised land ever since Silicon Valley lost some of its sheen, has found a greener pasture in Genome Valley.

The valley, Naidu’s latest pet project, will promote ventures in biotechnology, biomedicine and bioinformatics (a cocktail of biology and information technology).

Genomics, the biotechnology cornerstone which studies human genes, is considered the hottest investment destination after the dotcom dream soured. Biotech companies across the world had raised investments of as much as $40 billion in 2000.

Last year, genomics became a goldmine overnight in the wake of the decoding of the human gene map, which has thrown up innumerable opportunities in medical research and applications.

The sprawling valley of Naidu will stretch across 600 sq km near Hyderabad and cover satellite towns like Medchal, Shamirpet, Kesara and Uppal.

Andhra’s biotechnology policy, unveiled by Naidu today, offers concessions in land price, sales tax, power tariff and relaxation of labour laws. It promises venture capital from government and non-government agencies.

The state government had already set up a biotechnology development fund of Rs 50 crore to attract industries to Hyderabad.

Naidu’s flurry of activity is being seen as an attempt to compete with Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, which had launched their biotechnology initiatives early.

Genome Valley will house institutions and commercial ventures linked to research on embryo transfer technology, vaccines and diagnostics.

Naidu described the valley as a corridor that would link research and development institutions and the network of teaching and training institutions with commercially viable organisations. A knowledge park and a biotech park are coming up in the state.




Maximum: 33°C (-3)
Minimum: 26.9°C (+1)


5.3 mm

Relative humidity

Max: 94%
Min: 56%


Generally cloudy sky, with chance of light rain and thunder in some areas.
Sunrise: 5.03 am
Sunset: 6.02 pm

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