Congman fires at Congman for exposing skeleton
No. 2 hopefuls gang up on Manmohan
Sanctions focus for Rocca talks
Bid to set UN stage for Atal-Pervez meet
Chamling at PM door with income tax plea
IB vacuum kept Advani in the dark
Phoolan ‘killer’ in hospital
Great Kashmir trick ties India up in knots
Quake spawns caste faultlines
Trust first, post next for PM

Bhopal, July 29: 
Faction feud in the Madhya Pradesh Congress took a bloody turn today, with one party leader landing up in the intensive care unit and another in police lock-up.

At 6 this morning, Madhya Pradesh Congress Committee general secretary Inder Prajapat shot at colleague Manak Agarwal with a .22 pistol at his home and surrendered to the police.

The incident took place when Agarwal, another party general secretary, had returned from his usual morning walk and was reading the papers in his lawn. Prajapat, known to belong to a rival camp in the Congress, drove down to Agarwal’s house and walked up to his victim, who was surprised to see his colleague that early in the morning. A composed Prajapat drew out his pistol and shot Agarwal twice in the neck.

Leaving the profusely bleeding Agarwal slumped on the ground, Prajapat drove to the nearby T.T. Nagar police station, handed over his pistol to the officer on duty and surrendered, saying: “I have killed Manak Agarwal. He is no more.” Prajapat has been arrested and a case of attempted murder registered.

Agarwal, who was rushed in a critical condition to the Hamidia General Hospital, was operated upon. Doctors said he is unconscious, but out of danger.

An embarrassed state Congress office is ducking questions, specially after rumours that the motive was Prajapat’s second wife, Vidyut, whom he married three days ago. In a statement, PCC president Radhakishan Malviya said Prajapat has been removed from his post and expelled from the Congress.

Though nobody is willing to pinpoint a definite reason behind the shooting, the trigger is believed to be a front-page article on Prajapat’s second marriage in a local Hindi daily yesterday. The article said Prajapat had married for the second time without divorcing his wife.

It also suggested that Vidyut was a woman of questionable repute from Ujjain. Vidyut, said to be a party worker, and Prajapat were living in an apartment in the city while Prajapat was trying for a divorce to legalise the marriage.

Already fuming over the scandalous report, Prajapat is said to have flown into a rage on being informed that Agarwal had given the story to the daily. Sources believe he shot at Agarwal to take revenge. But enmity between the two rival Congressmen had been brewing for some time. Their rivalry intensified over the past three months, particularly since the state party polls to elect office bearers.

Malviya was re-elected president for a second term in the recent elections while Agarwal, who was at loggerheads with the party chief, was removed. The shock was great for Agarwal, who had enjoyed direct control over the party for the past 10 years.

His humiliation was complete when rival Prajapat was made the party’s general secretary in-charge. Prajapat’s elevation triggered protests in the party, angering the new general secretary.

In fact, Prajapat’s friend and party colleague Govind Goel was stripped in front of the party head office here a few days after the elections.

The bitterness grew as Malviya, under increasing pressure from the high command, finally appointed Agarwal a general secretary. But he was given no responsibilities.


New Delhi, July 29: 
Congress leaders with ambitions of climbing to the number two spot in the party are alarmed at the importance Sonia Gandhi has been giving Manmohan Singh.

Reading the apparent pointers the party president has sent out of late, they have begun to view Singh as already having been officially anointed second only to Sonia and are ganging up against the reforms guru.

Singh, who is Sonia’s counter-part in the Rajya Sabha, is seen as a threat to Pranab Mukherjee, Madhavrao Scindia and Arjun Singh, all aspirants to the number two slot.

The powerful Congress chieftains believe that Sonia is setting Singh up as a “prime ministerial candidate”. On economic matters, Sonia has made it clear that Singh will have the first and the last word.

His report on party funding is an indication of the confidence she has reposed in Singh. A number of leaders — Pranab Mukherjee and Kamal Nath — urged the leadership to go “slow” on the report’s suggestion of accepting donations by cheque only because of “practical” problems. In private, many party leaders said the “all-white” image of the Congress may look good on paper but will pose serious problems during elections.

“We are all for electoral reforms but unless the polity changes its character it will be very difficult to act as change agents,” said a party functionary known to be handling monetary aspects. He pointed out that even during Gandhiji’s time, money matters were not entirely transparent. “Even British intelligence sometimes could not figure out the source of Congress income,” he said triumphantly.

Senior Congress leaders are unwilling to take Sonia’s off-the-cuff remark in the US lightly: “There are many qualified and deserving prime ministerial candidates” in the Congress. Sonia went on to add that there were some who were accompanying her on the US trip. Sonia’s US team consisted of Singh, K. Natwar Singh and two lightweights — Jairam Ramesh and Murli Deora.

Since Natwar is not even an MP, Congress circles are convinced that Sonia was hinting at Singh.

In the last three months, there have been numerous instances when Sonia has accorded importance to Singh. He was given another Rajya Sabha term from faraway Assam.

The AICC chief was so particular about Singh’s return to the Upper House that she did not field a second candidate for the Rajya Sabha polls, though the party had ample surplus votes. He was renominated as Rajya Sabha leader and taken to the US. Singh accompanied Sonia when a Congress team held deliberations with the government on the eve of the Agra summit. The absence of Natwar — a foreign policy expert — and presence of Singh was not missed in political circles.

A powerful lobby in the Congress wants Sonia to take a left-of-centre stand on economic issues because of “political realities” but the AICC chief is not listening. She has given the green signal to all Congress-ruled states to continue Manmohanomics. At a meeting of Congress chief ministers, Karnataka’s S.M. Krishna made it clear that governments should no longer be viewed as employers. Some CWC members wanted Sonia to intervene but she kept nodding her head in approval as Singh smiled.

Singh’s challengers are finding it difficult to strike back as he does not have skeletons in the cupboard. His lone drawback is the lack of mass base. Sonia plans to put that on test. He has been given charge of the coming Punjab Assembly polls. If he delivers — and Punjab is ripe for Congress picking — the criticism would lose edge.


Islamabad, July 29: 
US assistant secretary of state for South Asia Christina Rocca, who is on a “get-acquainted tour” of the sub-continent, will arrive in the Pakistani capital tomorrow.

During her stay, she will hold talks on various issues, the foreign office said. Sources said the issue of sanctions against Pakistan would be the focus of discussions.

The sanctions, imposed after the May 1998 nuclear tests, have hit Pakistan’s economy hard. Pakistan would try to impress upon Rocca the adverse impact of sanctions on its economy.

Sources said the US official might also bring up the issue of the overthrow of the Nawaz Sharif government on October 12, 1999 by Pervez Musharraf. Pakistan, on its part, would try to tell the US official that it was on its way to democracy by citing the ongoing local body elections. The Pakistan government maintains that it is committed to holding elections to the national and provincial assemblies.

Rocca will call on Musharraf and also meet foreign minister Abdul Sattar. Though no details of the meeting have been announced, it is expected that the Agra summit and easing of tension between India and Pakistan would come up for discussions.

Sources do not rule out the possibility of Rocca bringing up the extradition of Osama bin Laden, who lives in Afghanistan. Rocca would ask Pakistan to use its good office to extradite Osama, wanted by the US in several cases.


New Delhi, July 29: 
Away from the tough postures in public, foreign policy managers on both sides of the border are trying to keep the communications line alive to ensure a meeting between Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and President Pervez Musharraf in neutral territory in the last week of September.

Indications are that India is willing to go ahead with a proposal for a meeting on the sidelines of the UN conference in New York despite the perceived failure of the Agra summit.

The meeting assumes significance as its outcome will determine whether the Prime Minister is likely to pay an early return visit to Pakistan as requested by Musharraf.

Vajpayee, who had yesterday talked tough on Pakistan before the BJP’s national executive, today denied that he was under pressure to cancel the proposed tour to Pakistan. “Koi pressure nahi hain. I don’t work under pressure,” Vajpayee told reporters in Bhubaneswar, asked whether party hardliners were compelling him to call off the trip.

However, the Prime Minister said the time and place of the next meeting with Musharraf was yet to the decided.

Vajpayee is scheduled to address the UN General Assembly on September 25 and Musharraf’s speech is slotted for the previous day. This gives the two leaders an opportunity for a meeting, which is likely to fall between September 23 and 26. Chances are that the meeting might be held a day before the Pakistan President delivers his speech.

The renewal of contact between the two could be preceded by an interaction on the sidelines by foreign minister Jaswant Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Abdul Sattar. Both the foreign ministers are scheduled to arrive in New York a few days before their respective heads of government.

Both Vajpayee and Singh have been formally invited by their Pakistani counterparts to pay a visit to Islamabad. The invitations were handed over by the Pakistani high commissioner in New Delhi a few days ago through the Indian foreign secretary.

But the apparent toughening of stand — on Kashmir by Pakistan and on cross-border terrorism by India — has given an opportunity to hardliners in India to ensure that a return visit from Delhi to Islamabad does not take place in a hurry.

However, the international community has so far expressed satisfaction over the decision of the two South Asian hostile nations to resume their dialogue. The response of the key world players to the Agra summit has been encouraging, and they have made it clear that they wanted the two sides to continue the talks.

Keeping this in mind, both India and Pakistan will have to make an effort to go ahead with the talks despite their disappointment over the Agra summit.

Soon after the summit, Delhi and Islamabad have outlined the minimum agreed agenda they are looking for that could lead to a joint declaration in future.

The Prime Minister has made it clear that unless Pakistan accepts and seriously addresses the issue of cross-border terrorism, it will be difficult for the two sides to find a meeting point.

India has also declared that it could not accept Musharraf’s view that unless the “core issue” of Kashmir is resolved, there can be no improvement in bilateral ties.

“We have made our position clear. Now it is up to Pakistan to realise this and make the necessary amendments in its stand if they are keen for the dialogue to continue,’’ a South Block mandarin said.

The recent statement from Islamabad has been encouraging in this regard. Its foreign ministry spokesman said on Thursday that Pakistan had not insisted on resolving the Kashmir issue before making progress on other areas.


Bagdogra, July 29: 
Sikkim chief minister Pawan Chamling has urged the Centre to repeal Section 26 of the Finance Act, 1989, and postpone enforcement of direct tax laws in the state.

Chamling has also suggested that in the event of its implementation, the three ethnic communities — the Bhutias, Lepchas and Nepalis — be exempt from direct income tax laws.

Chamling, after his return from New Delhi, told reporters today that he had apprised Central leaders, including finance minister Yashwant Sinha, of the need to scrap the Act and submitted a memorandum to Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

“We have requested the NDA government to introduce a Bill in the ensuing session of Parliament, repealing Section 26 of the Finance Act, 1989. We have also urged the Centre to postpone enforcement of direct tax laws. Moreover, the Bhutias, the Lepchas and the Nepalis should be exempted from the purview of the Income Tax Act 1961, while fixing a further date for making Central direct tax laws,’’ the chief minister said.

Maintaining that the Centre’s move to extend direct tax laws in Sikkim amounted to violation of the Constitution, Chamling said: “Sikkim had its own income tax laws prior to the merger and it was expected that these laws would remain in force. In 1989, however, income tax laws were enforced in the state, which amounts to violation of Article 371F.”

Enforcement and extension of direct tax laws in Sikkim has been one of the most sensitive issues. The Centre had enforced direct tax laws in Sikkim during the tenure of Nar Bahadur Bhandari in 1989.

The Centre’s decision to exempt only the Bhutia community from the purview of the income tax was opposed by Bhandari. The issue snowballed into a major political backlash for Bhandari, after he demanded that the ethnic Nepalis, too, be exempt from the purview of the Central income tax.

People in the state do not pay income tax to the Centre. Income tax is deducted according to the Sikkim Income Tax Manual, set up during the erstwhile Chogyal rule in the kingdom.

Moreover, there is no Central tax collecting machinery in the state for enforcing the Income Tax Act, 1961.

After the merger with India, Sikkim emerged as a tax haven for those wanting to “launder” black money. The Centre decided to enforce direct tax laws after the infamous “gift racket” which was unearthed in the early eighties.

Taking advantage of lenient laws, tax evaders, including several prominent Bollywood stars, hit upon a novel plan by making huge “gifts” to the people of the state, but only on paper. This way they evaded paying income tax.

The practice stopped after the Anti-Money Laundering Bill came into effect. Thereafter, the Centre decided to enforce direct tax laws in the state.

However, legal wrangles and political protests have so far kept direct tax laws from being implemented.


New Delhi, July 29: 
A “blame game” has started in the Union home ministry over Phoolan Devi’s murder, with the Intelligence Bureau and Delhi police, both under the ministry, pointing fingers at each other for the lapse in security and keeping home minister L.K. Advani in the dark for over an hour.

IB chief K.P. Singh was in Amsterdam to negotiate a peace deal with the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah) along with the Centre’s peace emissary for the Northeast, K. Padmanabhaiah, when Phoolan was shot dead. IB additional director N.C. Padhi was relieved of his charge that day around 11.30 am to facilitate his taking charge as Orissa’s director-general of police.

For want of information, Advani cut a sorry figure in Parliament where the news of Phoolan’s assassination was disclosed by Congress chief whip Priya Ranjan Das Munshi. Advani was forced to seek time and had to keep telling the House that the government was “verifying” the news.

Both Houses had to adjourn for a while for Advani to come back nearly an hour after the incident to tell the Lok Sabha that Phoolan, a sitting member, was shot dead.

The home minister was “embarrassed” that he did not get information for more than an hour and ordered an inquiry into this lapse, ministry sources said.

Advani is also understood to have “upbraided” the IB chief for not making arrangements for a “standby” during his absence from the capital.

“The home minister was extremely angry over the fact that he could not even get the information first and was to finally depend on the inputs from Delhi police,” the sources added.

All intelligence agencies have standing instructions to inform the Prime Minister and home minister first, whenever a political killing takes place in any part of the country.

When Parliament is in session the Lok Sabha Speaker should also be informed. Phoolan’s killing did not take place in some remote part of the country, but within one km of Parliament, the PMO and the home ministry office.

Police say that within minutes of the killing, the IB control room was contacted. The local IB chief is said to have tried calling the director. Not being able to reach the director, he tried to contact additional director Padhi.

But by then, around 1.45 pm, Padhi had been relieved of his charge. “Now it is being inquired whether the other additional director Rajiv Mathur was alerted and that he had, in turn, alerted the country’s home minister,” sources said.

Delhi police are said to have told the home ministry that IB men in plainclothes are guarding VIP zones around Parliament and they were on duty in the area of the murder.

Advani, who could not reach the IB officials over the cellphone, finally spoke to the Delhi police commissioner over his mobile to confirm the news before making a statement in Parliament.


New Delhi, July 29: 
Self-confessed murderer of Phoolan Devi, Sher Singh Rana alias Pankaj Kalra, who surrendered to the police in Dehra Dun and was produced in court here yesterday, was admitted to hospital this afternoon. He was taken to Safdarjung hospital at 2 pm because of high blood pressure, sources said.

The crime branch of Delhi police has been interrogating Pankaj to unearth the conspiracy behind Phoolan’s murder. The police are trying to establish the role of Rajbir, the third accomplice Pankaj named yesterday.

Raids are being conducted in Dehra Dun, Rishikesh and Hardwar to track Ravinder, Pankaj’s relative, and Shekhar, a friend of the accused who was involved in the murder of a Samajwadi MP from Mirzapur.

The crime branch today also questioned Phoolan’s family members — husband Umedh Singh, youngest sister Munni and brother Shivnarayan in 44 Ashoka Road, the slain Samajwadi MP’s official residence, even as a condolence meeting was on in the lawns.

The interrogators concentrated on Umedh and bombarded him with questions about his whereabouts on the day of the murder, the people who visited Phoolan’s residence, his proximity with Uma Kashyap — another suspect in police custody — and a troubled marriage with Phoolan. Umedh, clad in a white kurta with a tonsured head and cellphone in hand, met the barrage with élan, revealing glimpses of perhaps a neta-in-the-making.

Earlier Umedh had denied acquaintance with Uma and her husband Vijay Kumar, but today he had a different story. “I was very angry because of the alleged links between Uma and me. In a fit of anger, I told the media that I did not know her. I have seen them in the past since they would meet Phoolan frequently in the house and exchanged pleasantries with them,” he said.

Throwing light on Uma’s relation with Phoolan, a party worker said: “Uma could walk straight to the kitchen and to the bedroom, and at times would press Phoolan’s leg while her husband waited outside in the office.”

Umedh painted the picture of a harmonious relationship with Phoolan, saying that the fights they had were like any other fight between a married couple. “We were planning to go abroad and have a test-tube baby,” he said.

Umedh revealed that Phoolan was not keeping well; she had hepatitis C. He added that he respected Phoolan. “I never interfered with her political work.” Phoolan formed the Eklavya Sena to improve the lot of the poor and backward classes, he said, adding that he would work towards fulfilling her wishes.

Umedh also snubbed the Samajwadi Party, saying that he would not allow his wife’s murder to be exploited for netting votes.

While Umedh was trying to cover up his strained relations with his wife, Phoolan’s family members spited him. Shivnarayan called him a fraud involved in shady deals. Without mincing his words, he said Umedh could have had a possible hand in the killing of his sister.

“Umedh and Pankaj could have had a vested interest in killing Phoolan. By eliminating her, the two could have benefited,” he said. “I don’t want to say more because it may spoil the case, and the police will not be able to reach the actual culprit.”

“Phoolan told me a couple of times that if she is killed, it will be by her own people. They would either poison her or betray her,” said Shivnarayan, a constable in Gwalior. “Her fears came true.”

Phoolan’s family was angry with Umedh for earlier denying that he knew Uma. Shivnarayan added that Phoolan had plans of putting up his wife, Shobha, as a candidate for the coming polls.


Washington, July 29: 
The Kashmir dispute has flared up in Washington all over again.

No, it is neither the Instrument of Accession nor the primacy of the Simla Agreement over UN resolutions which is in dispute this time.

Officials at the US state department and the White House — indeed, anyone who has anything to do with South Asia — is aghast that Indians are putting words into the mouth of President George W. Bush on the Kashmir issue.

It is not official India, which is at the heart of Washington’s new controversy, but the Indian media, gently nudged and prodded by the top leadership of the Indian embassy here.

The dust raised by the Bush remarks over Kashmir, reported in The Telegraph on Friday, would have settled down with the quick response by the spokesperson of the ministry of external Affairs. But yesterday morning an Indian news agency added fuel to the controversy by filing a story from here quoting Bush as saying “Kosovo and Kashmir must not be a safe haven (sic!) for insurgencies”. The shocking truth was that Bush had never made such a statement.

The report said that “in quick damage-control exercise” state department officials had released portions of the President’s Kosovo speech “which made it clear that militancy and insurgency must stop in Kashmir”.

As a rule, the state department does not release any speeches by the President: it is the job of the White House. So, as officials at the White House and the state department were preparing for a balmy summer weekend, they were bombarded with calls from the media seeking the so-called newly-released portions of the President’s speech. The officials simply threw up their hands in despair.

The report was also gratuitous in its interpretation of the President’s words in Kosovo and suggested that actually Bush had come out against militancy in Kashmir. At the heart of the contortions in the report was a not-too-subtle media management effort by the new leadership of the Indian embassy here. The embassy leadership’s objective was to lull their bosses back home into a false sense of complacency that all was well with Indo-US relations rather than to apprise South Block of the truth.

Kashmir is now very much in the spotlight here, thanks to Agra and as things hotted up over the falsification in the news report of the Bush remarks, the agency quickly changed its story. Indeed, it changed the story three times yesterday in quick succession. The second story dropped the Bush quote — the President, in any case, had not said anything of the sort — , and was faithful to what he had said: “Kosovo must not be a safe haven for insurgencies elsewhere’’.

Late in the night came a third story which claimed that “the White House has put on its website” the President’s speech “in a context that makes clear that he wants neither place to be a safe haven for insurgencies”.

False. The White House did nothing of that sort and the Bush speech has been on the presidential website in its entirety almost immediately after it was delivered in Kosovo last week.

The controversy figured at the White House daily press briefing yesterday, but presidential spokesman Ari Fleischer avoided answering questions on the subject and did not clear the air.

Unless South Block steps in and raps the leadership of the embassy here for its inept attempts at managing Indo-US relations through the media, more controversies can be expected in the next few days as state department’s assistant secretary for South Asia Christina Rocca gets down to business in Islamabad.

During the weekend, the embassy’s leadership shed its Stalinistic-style of keeping the media at arm’s length. Instead, it has been working overtime in an attempt to generate stories claiming credit for Republican Congressman Dan Burton’s inability this year to table a motion in the House of Representatives cutting aid to India for its human rights violations.

Last year, too, Burton was smothered by the Congressional Caucus on India in his attempt to press for a vote after he had tabled a motion against India. Congressional aides said the India Caucus was ready to take on Burton this year, but he opted out of a fight.

Burton’s inability to cut India to size this year was an achievement for all concerned — the Indian-American community, the embassy and the Congressional Caucus — but any attempt to portray it as recompense for the Bush remarks in Kosovo only projects Indo-US relations in a perspective of convenience back home in India.


Moti Chirai (Kutch), July 29: 
Did you say natural calamities, like the earthquake, are a great leveller? If so, think again.

Till the killer quake struck Kutch on January 26, there were 994 villages in the district. Six months later, the number of villages in the region have been on the rise, thanks to the caste faultlines which have widened after the quake.

Consequently, villages, where people belonging to different communities lived for generations, have been split on caste basis. While brick walls have been flatten by the devastating quake, it has failed to make a dent in the caste system.

Moti Chirai in Bhachau taluka is an example of such a trend. The village, mainly inhabited by Ahirs and Rajputs, has been split. There are at least five villages in the nearby area which have met the same fate.

The Rajputs of Moit Chirai, which has been adopted by Ficci-CARE, have decided to relocate to a new place. The Ahirs, who refused to join them, have settled for a new place which is a few kilometres away.

“There is nothing unusual about this. The Rajputs and the Ahirs are traditional rivals and would not dine together even in the army,” said Dinesh Mathur, Ficci-CARE project director. The earthquake, he said, had only provided them an opportunity to live separately.

An elderly person of the village admitted that the rift between the two communities was wide even before the earthquake. “There was no harmony between them,” he said. According to him, some of them were planning to migrate even before the village was devastated by the quake.

Former sarpanch of the village Mahendra Sinh Jadeja , however, denied that the village had split because of the caste hostility. “There was no caste conflict in our village. For 13 generations, we lived together, in peace and harmony,’’ he said.

Why then Ahirs, who claim to be the descendants of Lord Krishna and had migrated from UP centuries ago, have decided to relocate themselves to another place which they have named Krishna Nagar?

“Because it suits them. A majority of the people in Krishna Nagar is Ahirs,” Jadeja said.

Dudhai is another village which seems to have been split on caste lines. The village, which was inaugurated by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in the first week of June, has no takers.

Here the Patels have refused to move in because they do not want Harijans as their neighbours. The story is similar in Nani Chirai and Jopadwa of Bhachau and Lunwa and Tapar in Anjar. Nani Chirai has split into three villages.

Jopadwa, which is being rebuild by villagers themselves, too, has been split on caste lines.


New Delhi, July 29: 
The Constitution review committee has come up with a novel idea to elect the Prime Minister. If the suggestion finds takers, MPs from all parties, and not just the ruling party in the Lok Sabha, will have the right to elect the head of government.

The committee members have proposed that the Prime Minister should first win the confidence of the House and then be appointed by the President. At present, the President appoints the Prime Minister, who is then required to win a vote of confidence on the floor of the House.

The review committee has gone on to suggest that once appointed, the Prime Minister will not be removed till a successor is chosen. The whole effort, a member explained, is to ensure political stability at a time when the country has witnessed five general elections and eight Prime Ministers since 1989.

Earlier, the BJP leadership had suggested a fixed tenure for the Lok Sabha with the same objective in mind. In fact, the party leadership had suggested bringing a Bill to this effect. But the Opposition opposed it tooth and nail on the ground that such a Bill would undercut democratic principles.

The Constitution review committee is going to finalise its report by next month and submit it in Parliament by September.

Another suggestion thrown up by the committee is to fix the number of days Parliament and the Assemblies will have to be in session. “At present, Assemblies often meet for just a day to stick to the norm that there should not be a gap of more than six months between sessions,” said a committee member.

Taking into account the predominance of caste and religion-based politics, the committee has suggested holding two-round polls — if no candidate secures 50 per cent votes in the first round, the second round will be contested by two candidates with the highest percentage of votes.

The mechanism, the commission feels, could be effective in stalling parties from playing the caste and religion cards. To win 50 per cent votes, a candidate will have to break out of his religion and caste constraints and work for a wider sweep of acceptability among the electorate. The committee members said they have sounded out the Election Commission on the feasibility of the proposal and received a go-ahead.

There is also a move to bring panchayat elections, like Lok Sabha and Assembly polls, under the purview of Nirvachan Sadan. This would prevent states from delaying or scuttling the grassroots polls, the committee feels.

The local bodies are also expected to expand their area of activity —the committee wants to transfer a number of subjects from states to panchayats. To compensate the states, the committee is suggesting a transfer of subjects like agriculture, rural development and youth affairs from the Union list to the state list.


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