Lockout for one, opening for Mamata
Furious, but still friends
Jumbo prize & problem
Kerala row over Governor ‘skip’
Pervez brings cheer to peace-pedaller family
Sangh frowns on Kashmir focus

New Delhi, June 30: 
The crisis in Chennai appears to be having an unexpected impact on the emerging political situations in West Bengal and Tamil Nadu. While one lady literally cocked a snook at Atal Bihari Vajpayee, another used the occasion to come to the aid of the Prime Minister.

While the incidents have virtually closed the doors of the NDA for chief minister Jayalalitha, whom some BJP interlocutors were trying to bring back to the coalition, it has given Trinamul Congress chief Mamata Banerjee an opportunity to prove her support for Vajpayee.

Jayalalitha planned to split the DMK after becoming chief minister. Sources said the ADMK chief was planning to first split the 12-member DMK parliamentary party if Karunanidhi lost the polls. At least six DMK MPs, sources claimed, were being targeted, and it would have pushed up the ADMK’s strength to 17. It could then drive a hard bargain with Vajpayee on support to the NDA. A section of BJP leaders was not averse to the idea.

The incidents have, however, benefited the Congress. Now the ADMK chief cannot take the Congress for granted as the Centre cannot think of imposing President’s rule without their support in Parliament.

After her spectacular electoral victory, Jayalalitha has been contemptuous of the Congress and had said the alliance was limited to the elections. Now virtually isolated across the political spectrum, she badly needs Congress backing in Parliament. On its part, the Congress, which is short of a simple majority in Pondicherry, needs the support of the three-member ADMK there.

As Vajpayee was grappling with the crisis, Mamata telephoned NDA convener George Fernandes from Calcutta and assured her party’s unflinching support to Vajpayee in whatever steps he deemed fit to tackle the situation in Tamil Nadu. Mamata told Fernandes that Trinamul joins the NDA in “condemning” the arrest of former Tamil Nadu chief minister M. Karunanidhi.

Mamata, who quit the NDA immediately after the Tehelka expose, demanding the resignation of Fernandes as defence minister, has been trying to cosy up to the Vajpayee establishment after her party suffered a drubbing in the Assembly elections.

The NDA leadership was so happy with Mamata’s gesture that a resolution adopted at the meeting had prominently printed her telephonic missive.

While the chances of the Trinamul chief coming back to the NDA has improved, the manner in which Jayalalitha defied the Prime Minister’s authority and also “federal polity”, have ensured that her return to the NDA is now a closed chapter.

The BJP was the first to condemn her government’s action today in arresting Karunanidhi and Union ministers Murasoli Maran and T.R. Baalu.

The incidents may also cause cracks in the newly-floated People’s Front led by the CPM and the Samajwadi Party. Jayalalitha was supposed to be a constituent of the People’s Front and had made this clear during her visit to Delhi in early June.

However, the condemnation of the arrests by parties like the CPM, CPI and former Prime Minister V.P. Singh could cast a cloud on Jayalalitha’s relationship with the third front.


New Delhi, June 30: 
Both allies and opponents were unanimous in condemning the manner in which Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalitha booked predecessor M. Karunanidhi in a corruption case today.

Jayalalitha’s trusted allies like the Left, the Tamil Maanila Congress and the Congress criticised the Tamil Nadu government for adopting a “vindictive” attitude towards her political adversaries.

Congress spokesman Jaipal Reddy said the manner in which Karunanidhi and other DMK leaders were arrested was “improper and unacceptable”. The party, however, made it clear that it would not back any Central intervention. “We continue to be political friends,” Reddy said. The ADMK is also a part of the Congress-led coalition in Pondicherry.

Congress MP from Tamil Nadu Mani Shankar Aiyar was, however, not aggressive in criticising Jayalalitha. He said the law should apply to all “sternly” and quickly. Congress leaders termed Aiyar’s remarks as “personal”.

The BJP demanded a visit by a home ministry fact-finding team. Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee led the all-round condemnation. BJP president Jana Krishnamurthi said it was unprecedented that two Union ministers were manhandled by state police. He added that Governor Fatima Beevi should take note.

The CPM and the CPI cautioned the state government against adopting a vindictive attitude towards Karunanidhi. CPM leader Sitaram Yechuri said: “All cases of corruption in public life should be pursued in accordance with law.”

“The manner in which Karunanidhi was arrested was unfortunate and it will have an adverse impact on people,” D. Raja of the CPI said. But Raja and Yechuri made it clear that the development would have no bearing on their alliance with the ADMK.

The Tamil Maanila Congress, too, joined the Congress and the Left in condemning the arrests.


Guruvayoor, June 30: 
Till last night, people in this temple town was under the impression that Jayalalitha would arrive here today to offer an elephant at the famous Sri Krishna temple.

This morning, they heard of Karunanidhi’s arrest. They also heard that Jayalalitha had postponed her trip by a day, a decision she had taken at 8.30 last evening.

But at six, they learnt that the Tamil Nadu chief minister had postponed — for the fourth time; the earlier ones being on June 13, 20, 30 — her appointment with Lord Guruvayoorappan. Instead of Sunday, she would now arrive here on Monday morning.

The anxiety that had gripped the town subsided. For, the arrest of Karunanidhi seems to have made all the difference to how people in this town in central Kerala look at Jayalalitha.

What was once seen as a benign gesture by a political personality to the town’s favourite deity is no longer perceived that way.

People now are afraid that some of the trouble that has troubled Tamil Nadu, would come visiting here as well.

The extensive security arrangements put up by the Kerala government with 250 security personnel led by the director-general of police and six deputy superintendents of police have only aggravated the sense of foreboding.

According to information with the state administration, Jayalalitha will arrive at Nedumabassery airport at Kochi on Monday morning and will drive down to Guruvayoor directly from there.

She will be accompanied by her constant companion Sasikala and astrologer Parappanagadi Unnikrishnan, who apparently advised her to offer the elephant.

It is, however, not clear whether she would make the other two visits — to Parappanangadi Hanuman temple in Malappuram district and Taliparamba Raja Rajeshwari temple in Kannur district — planned earlier.

Guruvayoor may be anxious, may be brooding, but Kannan, the elephant Jayalalitha will offer, remains tethered near the Panchajanyam guest house here, unperturbed.


Kochi, June 30: 
A legal and political controversy is brewing in Kerala after Governor Sukhdev Singh Kang skipped a paragraph that criticised the Left while reading out his prepared speech in the Assembly.

Legal circles are divided on the merits of the Governor’s action, but the Congress-led ruling United Democratic Front has openly criticised Kang’s omission.

The fourth paragraph in his speech that the Governor skipped says: “In the annals of Kerala polity, the recent elections are significant in many respects. The most notable among them was the reflection of (the) people’s spontaneous endorsement of the constructive criticism voiced by the UDF against the last five years of misrule of the Left Democratic Front and the exemplary style of functioning of the UDF as a responsible Opposition. Through their ballots, the people of Kerala have denounced the inaction, misrule, corruption and violence that the LDF (had) unleashed during (its) tenure in office. The attempts of the LDF government to promote their party and the cadres at the expense of the welfare of the people and the development of the state invited public wrath. Fed up with the corruption and excesses of the LDF rule, the people of Kerala had yearned for a change in government. In 1996, the LDF came to power defeating the UDF with a margin of 1,69,418 votes. But in 2001, the people voted UDF back to power with 99 seats and a margin of 842,561 votes....”

Minutes after the omission, the UDF leadership demanded an explanation from the Governor. “If the omission is a mistake, it is all right. But if it is deliberate, then it is serious,” said UDF convener Oomen Chandy. He added that the Governor should clarify the position.

Legal experts have taken position for and against the Governor. According to Kelu Nambiar, senior advocate of the Kerala High Court, Kang’s action “is an affront to the government and is unconstitutional as the Governor is expected to act in accordance with the advice of the council of ministers”. He said it would not be surprising even if a demand was made for the recall of the Governor.

M.M. Abdul Majeed, another senior lawyer, however differed. The Governor, he said, need not be a mouthpiece of the government.

S. Parameswaran, a senior advocate, echoed his views, saying though the Governor is normally supposed to read the speech approved by the Cabinet, the government cannot take any proactive action against him. “All that it can perhaps do is point out the impropriety of the Governor’s action,” he added.


Lucknow, June 30: 
The Singh household has suddenly come alive once again. After months of agony and exasperation, the walls echo with laughter and family members go about with beaming faces. Curtains have been changed and packets of laddoos stocked for celebration. And with good reason. Vikas Singh would finally be coming home after 14 years.

The hero of the show is Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf. On the eve of his summit with Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee, Pakistan has decided to release Singh, the globetrotter from Lucknow who was put behind bars in Peshawar on May 31, midway through his world peace mission.

Vikas, a 42-year-old engineer from Benaras Hindu University, had set off on his mission for peace on foot from Lucknow 14 year ago. He had already covered 62 countries when his peace mission was dramatically cut short on the last and “most crucial leg of his mission” — Pakistan.

He was caught sneaking into Pakistan from Afghanistan in February. Two months later, a Peshawar court sentenced him to three years in jail for illegal entry. At that time, the Pakistani authorities had refused to listen to his entreaties and ignored his “credentials” as messenger of peace.

Soon after the news of his arrest reached Lucknow, his parents had written to the Pakistan high commissioner expressing an “urgent wish” to meet Musharraf, so that “two old parents could ask for their son” from the only man who could help them.

Today, unable to control her tears, Vidhya Singh, Vikas’ mother says: “We got confirmation this morning from the ministry of external affairs that Pakistan, on the insistence of General Musharraf, has agreed to release Vikas.”

As neighbours trickle in at the Ashiana Colony house, Surendra Singh, Vikas’ father, says between mouthfuls of laddoos: “Nothing could have happened had the Vajpayee-Musharraf talks not materialised. We had written to almost everybody and the MEA had spoken to their Pakistani counterpart nine times.”

On June 18, Rohit Saran, an official at the PMO, had written to Singh, saying his letter to Vajpayee seeking Vikas’ release had been forwarded to the foreign secretary. Saran promised “appropriate action”, but nothing happened. Pakistan refused to intervene in “such a grave matter of illegal entry”.

As Surendra shows copies of his letters to President K.R. Narayanan, Vajpayee, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, the human rights commission, the Uttar Pradesh chief minister and Amnesty International, his wife interjects: “Now these will just be reminders of a painful period in our lives.”

This morning Pakistan had relayed the message that “as a goodwill gesture we are releasing Vikas Singh and the order has already been sent to the relevant authorities in Peshawar”.

The message from the Pakistan external affairs ministry came with a rider though. “Vikas Singh should have applied for a visa...”. It added that instead of talking about what had happened “we should look at the future and help build a more conducive and friendly atmosphere for the Vajpayee-Musharraf talks”. Vikas could continue on his peace mission or return home, the message added.


Kanpur, June 30: 
The RSS has said Kashmir should not be the focus of the mid-July summit between Prime Minister A.B.Vajpayee and President Pervez Musharraf.

In a resolution passed by the Akhil Bhartiya Karyakari Mandal (the RSS working committee), the Sangh top brass categorically said “Pakistan has no role in the internal dispensation with regard to the Kashmir Valley”.

The national executive, attended by K.S. Sudarshan, H.V. Sheshadri, Narendra Modi, Ashok Singhal, Praveen Togadia and Kushabhau Thakre raised doubts about the “legitimacy of the present military government in Pakistan”, though the Prime Minister was the first to address Musharraf as president.

The national executive put it in no uncertain terms that Vajpayee has to “first make a few fundamentals explicitly clear to the Pakistan supremo”.

The RSS said “a few lakh of Muslims in the Valley are a very small part of India and they can claim no special status about which Pakistan should talk”. It iterated that historically, legally and constitutionally, the whole of Jammu and Kashmir, including the parts in the illegal occupation of Pakistan, are an “integral part of Bharat”.

Indirectly asking Vajpayee not to waver from India’s well-trodden path on Kashmir, the RSS working committee “hoped” that “no sense of misplaced generosity to extricate the Pakistan government from its internal and international predicament is allowed to dilute our (the RSS) stand”. Asking Vajpayee to fall in line, the RSS said “Kashmir is not an issue that is to be exclusively addressed by the political parties alone”.

Asked if the RSS was not keen on the talks, Sangh spokesman Madhav Govind Vaidhya said: “We cannot comment on the government’s views.” He quickly added that the RSS welcomed Vajpayee’s initiative, but said India could at most discuss Pak-occupied Kashmir. There are other issues that can be addressed, like terrorism in the Valley and cross-border terrorism, Vaidhya said, adding that the RSS believes the LoC should not be converted into an international border.

“As far as the RSS is concerned, Musharraf has no role to play in Kashmir; Kashmir is not an issue to be discussed, that is the stand of the Sangh,” Vaidhya said.


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