Lost and found in UP: Vajpayee’s charm
Temple not on BJP poll list
Mayavati slams doors on alliance
We can’t be ignored in talks: Hurriyat
VP rebuts Babri charge
Naidu walks, but in vain
Laden men held
US sanctions on chopping block
DDT weapon in kala-azar war
Court grants bail to hoax e-mail sender

Saharanpur, June 16: 
Bogged down with factionalism, cadre apathy and differences over leading a patchwork coalition to the Assembly polls, the BJP has decided to play the “Atal card” to retrieve its fortunes in Uttar Pradesh.

At the end of the two-day meeting of the UP BJP Working Committee, sources said the message which will be spread among the masses will be: “Uttar Pradesh is Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s state. A vote for the BJP here would translate into a vote in favour of Atalji and his government.”

Although it conceded that Vajpayee’s “charm and charisma” did not work in the state during the last Lok Sabha polls, the state unit decided to fall back on him after a tentative assessment of Rajnath Singh’s brief tenure.

“Some members pointed out that Rajnath Singh’s main weakness was (that) he kept making one major policy announcement after another without bothering to implement them. He has been labelled a ghosana mantri (a minister of announcements) by our opponents. Whatever little our government has achieved has not been propagated,” said an MP.

Sources said the party has more or less decided not to “go overboard” in projecting Rajnath as the next chief minister. Instead, election posters are expected to have larger-than-life pictures of the Prime Minister with smaller ones of both Rajnath and state unit chief Kalraj Mishra. “This will cut both ways. It will throw open the leadership issue to speculation while Mishra’s presence will reassure the Brahmins that this is as much their party as that of the Thakurs,” they said.

Sources said the BJP also decided to evolve a “strict” criteria for giving tickets. Om Prakash Singh, a senior minister, is learnt to have said that relatives of leaders must not be considered. “The BJP is a party with a difference and we must show we do not believe in bhaivaad-bhatijavaad (the politics of accommodating one’s kith and kin),” Singh reportedly said.

Although there was an undercurrent of sentiment against renominating corrupt ministers and legislators, sources said no one openly articulated the demand.

“It’s a question of who will throw the first stone because there are so few clean ones left. Also, our leaders fear such action may trigger large-scale rebellion even before ticket distribution starts,” they said. However, it was openly said that the 29 legislators found to have cross-voted in the legislative council election last year must be debarred from contesting.

Leaders also discussed the problem of faction feuds. Almost every speaker at the session referred to the turf war among the big four — Rajnath, Mishra, Lalji Tandon and Om Prakash Singh. The in-fighting, they said, had done “irreparable” damage to the government and the party’s image.

Pyarelal Khandelwal, the BJP general secretary in charge of elections, set the tone for a discussion on this issue by alluding to their rivalry in his opening address yesterday. Most members said the damage could still be contained if the quartet campaigned together. But some were sceptical. “What hope do we have if the chief minister takes one stand on banning Simi (the Students’ Islamic Movement of India) and the state party chief another?” a leader asked.


Saharanpur, June 16: 
The demand for a Ram temple on the disputed site in Ayodhya is unlikely to figure on the BJP’s agenda in the Uttar Pradesh elections, said state party president Kalraj Mishra.

Briefing newspersons shortly before the Uttar Pradesh working committee concluded its two-day meeting here today, Mishra said the BJP’s main issues would be “political stability, farmers’ well-being and development”.

Maintaining that the Ram mandir plank was “not a political issue but a nationalist one”, he said: “There is already a functioning temple on the Ayodhya site where puja is conducted daily and offerings are made by pilgrims. A permanent structure would have to come up but the matter will be resolved by a negotiated settlement. And there is already a court case. This is the Centre’s stand and we will abide by it. We will tell people this in so many words.”

Mishra alleged that it was not the BJP but its opponents who kept raking up the Ayodhya dispute. “Everybody has views on the subject but we speak far less on it than our opponents,” he said.

Asked what stand the BJP would take once the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) revived the agitation after its one-year deadline expired in February, he said: “The VHP is not a political outfit but a cultural one. We don’t interfere with their programmes and neither do we set their agenda.”

The Uttar Pradesh BJP chief also indicated that ministers and legislators involved in corruption cases may not be allowed to contest. “The opinion of most members in the state executive meeting was that those implicated in corruption cases should not be given tickets,” he said. He, however, was silent on whether the party’s allies would also be asked to use the same norm.

Mishra also tried to dilute the “negative” impact of state vice-president Satyadev Singh’s statement yesterday that the BJP is likely to have a post-poll alliance with the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). “Ask the person who spoke of it in the first place. On my part, I assert that there will be no, I repeat no, alliance with the BSP, pre-poll or post-poll,” Mishra said. BJP sources said several members had protested the suggestion of a tie-up with the BSP on the plea that it amounted to conceding defeat even before the fight had started.

“We will come back with a full majority and there is no question of an alliance with the BSP. His (Singh’s) was probably a reply to a question from the press. We are clear we will fight only with those parties who are part of our government. There is no problem in this. Even Jayalalithaji had fought the elections with a lot of allies but when her party got a majority on its own, she formed a government without their support,” Mishra said.

Mishra unveiled a programme, Chalo Gaon Ki Suno (Listen to Voices of the Village), which will be launched on June 23.

Under this programme, all ministers and legislators, including the chief minister, will be required to visit as many of the 8,000 nyay panchayats in Uttar Pradesh as possible to try and understand the problems of farmers and portray the achievements of the Central and state governments.


Lucknow, June 16: 
Political posturings have begun in Uttar Pradesh even before the announcement of the date of elections with Mayavati sighting “devious designs” behind the BJP’s line that it was not averse to a post-poll alliance.

Lashing out at the BJP “for misleading people”, Mayavati said her party could see through the BJP’s devious designs of dividing the BSP’s Muslim votes. “They (the BJP) are desperate to survive because they know it is the end of the road for them,” Mayavati said, adding that the weak can go to any extent to align with the powerful when their existence is in doubt.

A day after the BJP thinktank sent alliance overtures, Mayavati hurriedly convened a press meet to slam the door on the ruling party. She said “till elections are over, such stories will keep getting circulated… There is neither going to be any pre-poll nor a post-poll alliance with the BJP”.

The ruling party had indicated yesterday at the Saharanpur party conclave that it was open to alliances, and would “reciprocate in kind” if the BSP was willing to ally with it. Though it had stopped short of saying that the BJP was working towards a tie-up, party president Jana Krishnamurthi said “nothing could be ruled out”.

Maintaining that the question of aligning with the BJP did not arise, Mayavati said the BSP would form the next government in Uttar Pradesh. The realisation of this “fact” was driving other parties to desperation, she added. The BSP would fight the polls alone as it was confident of a landslide victory without help from any other party.


Srinagar and Islamabad, June 16: 
The All-Party Hurriyat Conference today said it could never be sidelined in any talks on Kashmir.

“A political forum which... the people of Kashmir have laid down their lives for and a forum which represents the blood of youth can never be sidelined,” Hurriyat chairman Abdul Gani Bhat said.

He dismissed the notion that the Hurriyat, “which represents the political aspirations of Kashmiris”, has been “isolated” in Kashmir as “wishful thinking”. “Let them understand that such forums are never marginalised,” he said, making it clear that the Hurriyat has to be involved in any talks on Kashmir.

“Both the Indian Prime Minister and the Pakistan chief executive will be talking about Kashmir. Obviously, Kashmir means the people of Kashmir, their aspirations, their future and, therefore, they will have to unavoidably involve the Hurriyat in talks,” Bhat said.

“We understand we cannot figure physically at the summit, but at a later stage we have to be there. You discuss us and don’t ask us. It is strange,” he added.

Bhat, who was put under house arrest yesterday, said Hurriyat leaders were ready to meet both Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Pervez Musharraf. “If our meeting with both Vajpayee and Musharraf takes shape on the sidelines of the summit, the doors of understanding and communication will open up,” he said.

The Hurriyat stand received a shot in the arm with Pakistan foreign minister Abdul Sattar saying that the Kashmiri aspiration for participation in the peace process must not be denied.

In an interview with a Pakistani agency in Canada, Sattar said Kashmiris would not accept an arrangement reached between India and Pakistan.

Kashmiris had every right to demand participation in the effort now in hand to move towards a settlement on Kashmir. After all, it was their fate and their future that was at stake and, therefore, they must not be left out, he said.

Trying to settle the Kashmir issue without the Kashmiris was akin to playing Hamlet without the Prince of Denmark, he quipped. He was confident Kashmiri representatives would find their rightful place on the table.

Pro-India militant shot

Hizbul Mujahideen militants today gunned down a top pro-India militant leader at Shehlipora Achabal village in Anantnag district. Official sources described the killing of Ghulam Nabi Mir alias Nabi Azad as a major setback to counter-insurgency operations.


New Delhi, June 16: 
V.P. Singh, who headed the Centre at the time the Ayodhya controversy peaked, is once again stepping into the controversial arena after “provocative” depositions by L.K. Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi before the Liberhan Commission.

“I have asked my lawyer to move the commission because I want to clear certain issues which should be part of the historical record on Ayodhya,” the former Prime Minister said.

He also challenged the Vajpayee government to revive the Ordinance that Singh had withdrawn for referring the Ayodhya dispute to the Supreme Court.

BJP leaders, who appeared before the Liberhan Commission probing the demolition of the Babri Masjid have charged Singh with withdrawing the Ordinance that, they claimed, could have settled the Ayodhya dispute.

“If a simple Ordinance could have provided a solution, what is preventing the BJP government now from bringing it?” Singh asked.


Warangal, June 16: 
N. Chandrababu Naidu today tried to win hearts at Telengana by walking 5 km to lay the foundation stone for an irrigation project on river Godavari.

He also tried to win over the women ahead of the panchayat polls in the state by promising 15 lakh LPG connections under the Deepam scheme, 33 per cent reservation in the panchayat polls and girl-protection programmes.

The Andhra Pradesh chief minister came down heavily on the Congress, the Telengana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) and extremists.

But there were few takers for his tirade against the Congress and extremists among the people who had been brought from all over Telengana to the chief minister’s meeting at Warangal. Within 15 minutes of his speech, a large number of women sitting in the front rows started to leave, but they were kept back by police.

Naidu’s rally was a reply to the roadshows of the TRS headed by Desam dissidents and the Congress. The meeting was held amid tight security. There were around 2,000 policemen and about 1,000 plainclothesmen over the 50-acre grounds of the Azam Zahi Mills where Naidu addressed the rally.

“We are prepared for any eventuality after last night’s killings of six police informers by the PWG in Karimnagar district,” said district superintendent of police Vinay Apte.

Naidu appealed to the extremists to stop their activities and help the government develop the state. Referring to the double standards of the Congress, the chief minister said: “The Congress in Karnataka and Chhattisgarh were creating trouble for the development of Telengana.”

Contending that the Desam alone can promote growth in the region, Naidu said over 53 per cent of the funds raised for power and water reforms was spent in Telengana region alone.

The Desam leader termed the meeting as the launch of his campaign for the panchayat and local body polls the notification for which was expected in a day or two. He urged the women to ensure that their men voted for his party as he had plans to improve their lot.


New Delhi, June 16: 
Delhi Police claim to have arrested two accomplices of the notorious Osama bin Laden and foiled their plans of bombing the US embassy in Delhi.

A Sudanese national, Abdel Rauf Hawas, and his Indian accomplice, Shameem Sarvar, were today produced in court. Police claim to have arrested them from a park near Nizamuddin yesterday afternoon.

However, Hawas claimed he was arrested a month and a half ago. The two were remanded in police custody till June 26.

According to Ashok Chand, deputy commissioner of police (special cell), the duo was working for bin Laden and had set up base in Udaipur in Rajasthan. “We have also been conducting raids in Udaipur, where Hawas had set up a base. In Udaipur today we arrested Abbas Sheikh, an accomplice of Hawas,” Chand said.

Police sources said Hawas was in possession of 6 kg of RDX, a pencil timer and a detonator. He was to buy a car which would be used to carry the consignment to bomb the US embassy.


Washington, June 16: 
The US has decided to lift all sanctions imposed on India after its nuclear tests in 1998, The Mercury News of San Jose quoted deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage as saying.

Only the precise date for lifting the sanctions remain to be decided, the newspaper said in its weekend edition, adding that US officials had said this could take place before the end of this year “and possibly much sooner”.

The action will pave the way for US arms sales to India, export of sensitive and hitherto restricted dual-use equipment for civilian and military use and open up the full range of bilateral economic relations, the daily said.

“It is very difficult to walk people back,” Armitage, who visited New Delhi recently, was quoted as saying in the interview while talking about India’s nuclear programme.

He pointed out that South Africa, Taiwan and other closet nuclear powers had given up their atom bombs voluntarily. “They didn’t do it under sanctions or do it under pressure,” Armitage said acknowledging the Bush administration’s view that punitive steps are ineffective in such situations.

He stressed that removing sanctions did not mean that Washington was no longer concerned about the nuclearisation of south Asia. But a shift in strategy was needed to deal with the problem and the best way “is to try to develop relationships in South Asia”.

The daily, however, made the point that withdrawing sanctions would be a tacit acknowledgement that India, having broken the nuclear monopoly of the five big powers, will remain nuclear-armed.

The newspaper quoted unnamed White House officials as saying that President George W. Bush could visit India early next year. He has ordered increased security cooperation with India and wants greater trade, the report said. “We want to include India in a strategic calculus,” White House officials said.

The Mercury News said the turning point in the sanctions debate here came during external affairs minister Jaswant Singh’s meeting with Bush in the White House Oval Office in April.

Bush spoke about his desire to build a National Missile Defence (NMD) “and was delighted by Singh’s positive response”, the paper quoted an unnamed “veteran” state department official.

The newspaper made the point based on the interview with Armitage that Washington’s new warmth towards New Delhi did not mean that Islamabad was being snubbed.

However, it said the Bush administration is still debating whether to lift sanctions against Pakistan. “We are going to do it together if we can,” it quoted an unnamed White House official.

The newspaper said the dominant view in the Bush administration was that sanctions had pushed Pakistan further towards Islamic militancy.

Armitage said the state department is leading a review of US policy towards Pakistan and specifically referred to its foreign minister Abdul Sattar’s visit to Washington in a few days.

Rejecting the idea that friendship with India was aimed at containing China, Armitage said in the interview: “We are not going to develop a relationship with India based on a third country, because if we do, that is not sustainable and it is not credible. They will never believe that we are interested.”


Calcutta and Patna, June 16: 
A new five-year initiative that the Centre hopes will eliminate kala-azar from four states was launched by health minister Dr C.P. Thakur in Patna today.

The states are Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Bihar and Bengal, where the incidence of the disease is fairly high.

“Bangladesh and Nepal are also involved, but owing to the situation in Kathmandu, the international part of the programme will not be taken up now,” the minister told The Telegraph.

The project proposal has been worked on for the last six months and emanated from a WHO inter-country meeting on the disease held in Dhaka last year.

Under the programme, the Centre will supply the medicine and insecticide to the states for the treatment and elimination of the disease.

“In our efforts to eradicate the disease, we are involving three countries,” said T.K. Balia, the WHO representative in India. He said kala-azar patients in Bihar might have contributed to the spread of the disease as it shares a porous border with Nepal.

“The Planning Commission has approved of the funds required for the project,” Thakur said. According to him, Rs 100 crore to Rs 125 crore will be needed.

Kala-azar, or Leishman’s disease (named after the scientist who identified the parasite that causes it), is a potentially fatal infection that is transmitted by the bite of the sandfly.

Once the parasite enters the body, it invades the cells of the lymphatic system, spleen and bone marrow, causing enlargement of the liver and spleen, anaemia, weight loss and an irregular fever.

“Most districts in Bihar, at least four districts in Jharkhand, three in UP and about eight in Bengal are affected by the disease,” said Thakur, who has a special interest in kala-azar, having worked on prevention and treatment programmes of the WHO in the early 1980s.

In Bengal, the majority of the cases occur in North and South 24-Parganas, Purulia, Bankura and parts of Burdwan and Midnapore. Recently, two cases were detected in Calcutta for the first time.

The sandfly mainly thrives in damp and unhygienic surroundings. “It can be easily eliminated with the spraying of DDT,” Thakur said, and this would be one of the two main aspects of the new initiative.

Asked about the ban on the chemical, the minister said this restriction, which had come about as a result of the “machinations of international politics”, had been relaxed. “There is no harm if walls and corners of homes are sprayed, as long as food items are covered.”

The disease is treated with drugs containing antimony and a supplementary of pentamidine. Last year, spurious medicine for the treatment of kala-azar had claimed the lives of three patients under treatment at the School of Tropical Medicine.

“We have taken care of that problem. The Centre will supply the medicine under the new programme,” Thakur said.


New Delhi, June 16: 
In the country’s first case of an anonymous e-mail bomb hoax, a court today granted bail to accused Joseph Jose, who had sent a hoax e-mail to an English daily saying six bombs had been planted at Connaught Place.

Jose’s bail is subject to his furnishing a bond of Rs 15,000 and two sureties of like amount.

Pavan Duggal, India’s leading cyber law expert and advocate in the Supreme Court, argued on behalf of Jose, saying “no case of either hacking or tampering was made out against the accused”. He added that there was no nexus between his client and the alleged anonymous e-mail.

“The police do not have any strong evidence against Jose. The material investigated by the police does not lead to Jose. The mail came from an anonymous person. The only evidence provided by the police leads to the machine. But this not prove that Jose committed the crime,” said Duggal.

“Section 66 of the IT Act was not applicable, since this section deals with hacking, which is a technical crime. Jose did not hack the account, his crime falls under the category of theft or stealing an account,” he added.

An English daily received the e-mail hoax last week, which was passed on to the police. The cyber cell of the Delhi crime branch traced the e-mail to Wave International company.

When the police contacted its director, he said only the e-mail account belonged to the company. On further investigation, the police discovered that the telephone to which the terminal was connected belonged to Jose, a senior executive with a multinational bank.


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