BJP beats drums for hot pursuit
Girl and boys save Sourav’s day
Mahanta’s wife alleges assault
Vajpayee joins global rush to go local
Calcutta Weather

Amritsar, Nov. 3: 
The BJP national executive today asked the Centre to cross the Line of Control if necessary and smash “terrorist bases” in Pakistan occupied Kashmir.

The party said that “if the situation demanded, circumstances compelled and national interest required, nothing should come in the way of the country going all out to eliminate terrorism from both inside and outside the country”.

But the party prefixed the suggestion with the observation that the government has “rightly chosen for the present not to go in for hot pursuit as it has full confidence in itself to succeed by its present proactive policy”.

The tone signalled the party’s intent to make the anti-terrorism offensive the main plank of the approaching Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Uttaranchal.

“Terrorism will be an election issue because it is not only a national issue but an international one,” BJP’s chief whip in the Lok Sabha V.K. Malhotra said.

At the end of its two-day executive here today, the BJP decided to observe November 18 as National Unity Day Against Terrorism.

Appreciating the Centre’s determined stand to combat terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir, the BJP said: “We must remember that others are now supporting us in a battle which we have been fighting alone so far.”

By raising its anti-terror pitch, the BJP plans to achieve two objectives. First, it hopes to garner support for the controversial Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance which the NDA wants to convert into law in the winter session starting on November 19. The government is up against opposition from not only the Congress and the Left, but also some members of the ruling coalition.

Second, it wants to divide political parties along pro- and anti-Ordinance lines. Malhotra said if the Congress, the Left and the Samajwadi Party opposed the Ordinance, they would be “unmasked”. “We will tell people they support terrorism for narrow political gains,” he said.

BJP sources said the party decided to have a national “solidarity” day against terrorism after the executive expressed doubts about the passage of a law, although law minister Arun Jaitley insisted that the Congress and the Left would be “forced” to eventually support the Ordinance.

But differences on how to tackle the issue surfaced at the meeting with Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee reportedly advocating a “consensual” approach by first talking to the various parties and home minister L.K. Advani suggesting that the Opposition should be taken head on.

The sources said parliamentary affairs minister Pramod Mahajan got in touch informally with the Congress and Jaitley contacted the NDA constituents who had expressed reservations about the Ordinance. “The Congress is a reasonable party and we are sure it will come around,” said a government source.

In his concluding address today, Vajpayee reportedly stressed the need to evolve a “consensus” on all terrorism-related matters. But Advani was quoted as having said yesterday that “those who oppose a law on terrorism are appeasing the terrorists themselves”.

Briefing reporters after the executive concluded, BJP president K. Jana Krishnamurthi quoted Advani as saying that supporting terrorism was a “crime”. The home minister said his “pro-active” policies in Jammu and Kashmir have begun to yield results.

“During the Ekta Yatra (undertaken by M.M. Joshi in 1992 from Kanyakumari to Srinagar), the policy of the government of the day was that security forces should not shoot unless they were shot at. Our government has reversed the policy. We have ordered our forces to simply go and shoot. It had an effect on Musharraf who was forced to call the attack on the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly an act of terrorism.”


Bloemfontein, Nov. 3: 
The First Family of Indian cricket had an addition. Sachin Tendulkar added to his handsome list of Test hundreds (now 26). Debutant Virender Sehwag opened his account with an excellent 105. Clearly, a memorable day.

In fact, while India’s last Test (Colombo) had ended in an innings defeat, the one here got off to a fantastic start. At stumps, on Day-I, India were at 372 for seven, an impressive high from a dismal low of 68 for four. That, too, after being put in by South Africa.

Captain Sourav Ganguly himself didn’t have a great day, but wife Dona delivered the couple’s first child, a girl, back in Calcutta. Sourav got the news at the Goodyear Park itself but, till late in the day, had only spoken to his parents.

“Actually, as it was a Caesarean, Dona was under sedation when I called. Of course, I’m thrilled… Honestly, I was personally wanting a daughter,” Sourav told The Telegraph.

But will parenthood make a difference? “I suppose there will be some change though, at the moment, I can’t exactly say what,” the captain replied laughing.

Smiling and laughing, too, was Sachin. Only, he insisted Sir Don Bradman (whose tally of Test runs he overtook) and Sir Gary Sobers (whose number of hundreds he equalled) were “in a different class” and that “no comparison” should ever be made. Typical of Sachin.

Sehwag, who made the XI as Harbhajan Singh was not fit, revealed he had been mentally preparing himself from last night. “I kept telling myself I must watch the ball at all times…” Eventually, he reached a stage where the red cherry looked liked a football.

Incidentally, Sachin and Sehwag collaborated a record 220 for the fifth-wicket, a partnership which has made it advantage-India.

Our Calcutta bureau adds: Dona was scheduled to deliver on November 15 but she was rushed to Woodlands nursing home this morning. Dr Sudip Chakraborty carried out a successful Caesarean section at 6.25 pm.

All members of the Ganguly household and close friends were present at the nursing home.

Sourav’s father Chandi Ganguly told Reuters: “Sourav was informed in South Africa and he is very happy. Both mother and child are in good health.”


New Delhi, Nov. 3: 
Jayashri Goswami-Mahanta, wife of former Assam chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta, last night filed a complaint of assault against her husband at the Tughlaq Road police station in New Delhi.

The former Rajya Sabha MP from Assam arrived at the police station around midnight bruised and bleeding from the mouth. She was immediately taken to the nearby Ram Manohar Lohia hospital for treatment.

Joint commissioner of police Suresh Roy confirmed that Jayashri had lodged a complaint against Mahanta. But he added that before registering a case, the police would have to check the facts and get the medical report.

According to sources close to the couple, Mahanta and Jayashri quarrelled over their son, who was being scolded by his mother. The sources said she was beating the child when Mahanta intervened. The focus then shifted from the son to the adults.

The couple has been going through a difficult patch in their marriage. Mahanta is said to have married Sanghamitra Bharali, an employee of the Assam Assembly secretariat, in a hush-hush ceremony in Mumbai in March.

Police are, however, unwilling to say more on a case where two VIPs are involved. Jayashri was not available for comment.

Mahanta, who returned to Guwahati today, denied assaulting his wife. Talking to The Telegraph after a meeting with aides and a senior Assam police official, he said the allegation was “baseless”.

“Everything is being blown out of proportion,” he said. “The problem is all my personal matters become public.”

One of Mahanta’s close aides and former minister Moidul Islam Bora, who was present at the meeting, said: “Jayashri was suffering from some ENT ailments and the nasal bleeding she suffered last night could have been a result of that.”

Another Mahanta loyalist said the former chief minister, who is also the Assam Cricket Association president, in a letter of leave had cited “medical treatment” of his wife as the cause of his absence from the association.

State home department sources said they had “information” about Jayashri’s allegation and were “following it up”.

The sources said “in course of the follow-up”, they had also tried to contact Bharali, but found that she had left for Calcutta.

Bharali, who had levelled bigamy charges against the ousted AGP chief, had claimed that “the relationship between Mahanta and his wife Jayashri was not hunky dory”.


St. Petersburg, Nov. 3: 
By arriving in St. Petersburg instead of Moscow on Sunday to start his four-day visit to Russia, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee is demonstrating that all politics is local, be it in India, Russia or the US.

Vajpayee’s one day stay in this city as a gateway to the rest of his trip to Russia is a special gesture and an emotional tribute to Russia’s President Vladimir Putin.

Putin, one of the youngest leaders in today’s world, was cradled in politics and catapulted to power from St. Petersburg. In pandering to the demands of local politics, Vajpayee is merely falling in line with a global trend.

Only last month, Chinese President Jiang Zemin hosted a glittering Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in his hometown of Shanghai and not in the Chinese capital of Beijing.

In less than a fortnight, when Putin visits the US, President George W. Bush will take his Russian guest to his ranch in Crawford in the Bush family’s native Texas. It is the latest trend in international diplomacy — globalisation through localisation. And Vajpayee is not falling behind his contemporaries in other countries in following this trend.

But in going to Putin’s St. Petersburg before anywhere else in Russia, Vajpayee is also acknowledging a little-known link between the Russian President and India. It was while serving as first deputy mayor of this city that Putin began his contacts with India and got to know India well.

The story begins in 1995 when the Indian embassy in Moscow decided to organise a competition on getting to know India. The Soviet Union had ceased to exist but the competition was typical of those which were organised in the heydays of communism to promote “friendship between peoples”, a popular Marxist-Leninist phrase.

The embassy chose Sant Petersburg Skie Vedemosti, a publication here, and later a television channel, SPB5, as vehicles for its competition. There would be five or six questions on India with multiple choice answers for readers to choose from.

The first prize was also typically Soviet, the kind which the USSR traditionally offered to foreigners to cultivate goodwill abroad — in this case a one-week, all-paid trip to India for the winner.

For several years from 1995, guess who was the jury from the Russian side for picking the winner? Vladimir Putin himself! He was then the first deputy mayor of St. Petersburg and no one had imagined that in mere five years, the same Putin would meteorically rise to be President of Russia.

Looking up back issues of Sant Petersburg Skie Vedemosti for that quiz is like looking into Putin’s mind to analyse strong feelings in support of India, evidence of which is the radical transformation in Indo-Russian ties in the last one year. One of the questions in the competition was to identify the correct Indian border with Pakistan. Readers were given several cartographic choices. Only one map showed Kashmir as part of India. The winner would have to know this. Another question was: Name the first Asian country to build a nuclear reactor. The answer was India, of course.

Putin’s Indian counterpart on the jury was Ajay Malhotra, then press counsellor at the Indian embassy in Moscow. Long time Indophiles here recall that Putin would go over to the Indian consulate in St. Petersburg and spend hours with Malhotra going through the entries, selecting a winner and finally giving away the prize. Malhotra, who went on from Moscow to head South Block’s East Europe division, would have long and detailed discussions with Putin on India’s problems with Pakistan on Kashmir, New Delhi’s nuclear policy and a host of Indian issues which really had nothing to do with Indo-Russian ties. So, when Putin became President, he already knew more about India through his discussions than any of his predecessors. Putin’s familiarisation with India was more a labour of love of sorts while his predecessors in the Kremlin were just doing their jobs. This background explains the boldness with which Putin defied the international nuclear blockade against India and pushed through a memorandum of understanding on nuclear cooperation with India during his visit to the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre in Trombay last year. It also explains Putin’s continuing support for India on the Kashmir issue, UN Security Council membership and so on.

A publication brought out by the Indian embassy in Moscow after Putin became President tells its own story of how important the quiz was in building an Indian link with Putin. So unexpected was Putin’s elevation that the only picture in that publication of Putin and an Indian official was the one with Malhotra giving away the quiz prizes.

So at least South Block never had to ask the question — “Who is Vladimir Putin?” — which much of the world asked when Boris Yeltsin announced the change on New Year eve of 2000.




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