CPM calls war on dissent
Mamata beeps on rail radar
Pat for mayor, blow to CMC
Ram rath runs into sadhu rebellion
Chautala upsets Ajit applecart
Another Cong first with ticket to eunuch
SC scuttles Rajnath quota within quota
Rap for DMK
Syllabus pot stews
Cry to snip China chains

Calcutta, Jan. 21: 
Bowing to pressure from party veterans, the CPM has expanded its powerful but fractious Calcutta District Committee (CDC) by inducting 20 new faces in a bid to stem dissidence. The 20 freshers in the 65-member committee include four women.

All four key party functionaries and politburo members —Jyoti Basu, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, Anil Biswas and Biman Bose — were present through the four-day marathon session that preceded the reconstitution of the committee on Sunday.

CPM insiders said Basu and Bhattacharjee drove home the point that the rising squabbles have to be stemmed at any cost to consolidate the party’s base in the city where Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamul Congress is considered a force to reckon with.

“Though we gained a lot during the May Assembly elections by making inroads into the Congress strongholds in the city, we should not be complacent and instead keep the party functionaries united to fight the Opposition,” Basu was learnt to have told those present at the session.

Explaining the reason for expanding the committee, Raghunath Kusari, elected CDC secretary for the second consecutive time, said: “The induction of young blood will help us further strengthen the organisation as well as sort out internal problems affecting the organisation.”

Kusari’s re-election is believed to have disheartened former health minister and party veteran Prasanta Sur who aspired to the key post. Sur had a long stint in the Left Front government since it came to power in 1977 but was denied a party ticket in 1996. Sur, however, said: “In our party, individual opinion does not matter much. We will have to go by the majority opinion and this is what is called democratic centralism.”

However, party managers, particularly those in the CDC, were taken aback by Sur’s closed-door meeting with Basu late this evening. Insiders said Sur, sidelined in the party, has sought Basu’s intervention to address the issue.

Kusari regretted that factionalism had taken its toll of the organisation in some parts of the city. He referred to the recent election in the Cossipore-Belgachhia zone where its secretary had to be chosen through secret ballot despite leaders’ intervention to avert election. “This is the only case where leaders could not reach a consensus and had to go in for an election,” he added.

Insiders said there was also trouble among party functionaries from Behala and senior leaders had to broker peace.


Digha, Jan. 21: 
Trinamul Congress chief Mamata Banerjee today sparked fresh speculation about her possible return to the railway ministry by announcing that the Digha-Tamluk rail link would be completed within four to five months.

“Ninety per cent of the project was completed during my tenure as railway minister. The most difficult part of the pending project was the construction of a bridge and it was completed within nine months. The rest of the project work will be over within the coming four to five months,” she told a public rally at the conclusion of her party’s two-day meet here.

The Trinamul leader, however, declined to comment on the possibility of her re-induction to the Vajpayee Cabinet when reporters asked her to elaborate. But she took the opportunity to slam the state government for taking Rs 28 crore from the railway ministry as the price of land required for construction of the rail link.

“They (CPM) are talking about development. But unlike West Bengal, other states don’t take money from the railways for such projects,” Mamata said.

She announced that former Tripura chief minister Sudhir Ranjan Majumder would contest as the Trinamul candidate in the Tripura (West) Lok Sabha by-election.

The Trinamul leader urged all party functionaries to be aware of their responsibilities to the party as well as the people.

“You will be given six months to prove your worth and show your performance. If it is found that you have failed to carry out your duties and responsibility, you will be removed from party posts,” she warned.

Mamata’s announcement appeared similar to the recent declaration by the CPM leadership imposing identical conditions on its party functionaries. She also declared that block- and district-level conferences of her party would be completed within the next two months.

However, tourists visiting Digha today felt disturbed as the only road leading to the sea beach was virtually taken over by Trinamul supporters.


Calcutta, Jan. 21: 
The minister absolved the mayor, but blasted the Calcutta Municipal Corporation.

“Development of Calcutta has been hampered after the Trinamul-BJP combine took control of the corporation. Nothing significant has been achieved in these past two years,” municipal affairs minister Ashok Bhattacharya said here today.

“Mayor Subrata Mukherjee has always been positive in the meetings we have had, but his hands are tied as his party leaders have always stalled issues like evicting Tolly’s Nullah encroachers and street hawkers,” the minister said. Mukherjee returned the compliment — “Bhattacharya is a nice man,” he said — but rubbished his claims.

“The corporation (under us) has done for the city in 15 months what the CPM could not do in 15 years,” he said.

The minister’s comments come a day after the CPM’s Calcutta District Committee held its organisational meeting. Several MLAs, including Robin Deb of Ballygunge, had criticised the way the corporation was being run.

Bhattacharya said Trinamul should take full responsibility for the state of affairs as there was no political will among its leaders to get development projects off the drawing board.


Ayodhya, Jan. 21: 
The Vishwa Hindu Parishad today flagged off the Ram rath from this temple town, but a powerful section of sadhus threatened to make its journey to Delhi through seven cities and thousands of villages anything but smooth.

Serious differences in the movement came to the surface after Ramchandra Paramhans, chairman of the all important Ramjanmabhoomi Trust, refused to join the 100-vehicle cavalcade. Yesterday, he had excused himself from the dharam sabha in Ayodhya, which was attended by senior VHP and BJP leaders.

Paramhans, one of the frontline leaders of the mandir nirman abhiyan, lashed out at the VHP for leaving important sants out of their programme. He also threatened to work for the downfall of the BJP. “I will soon start an Ayodhya bachao, BJP hatao andolan,” he warned.

This morning, VHP general secretary Ashok Singhal tried to pacify Paramhans, but there was no mistaking the ominous signals emanating from the influential Digambar akhara, of which Paramhans is the head.

Worried about incurring the wrath of the mercurial sadhu, chief minister Rajnath Singh asked both principal secretary (home) Naresh Dayal and director-general of police R.K. Pandit to meet the chairman of the temple trust. But Paramhans could not be calmed down.

The sadhu leader was so furious that a senior bureaucrat came out of the meeting, saying his “eardrums had burst after Paramhans’ outburst”.

The sadhus are angry that the VHP has “hijacked” the temple movement, sidelining important members of their community from events related to the construction of the Ram mandir at the disputed site.

“We are given three minutes to speak in meetings, while VHP leaders go lecturing for hours,” said Mahant Narayan Acharya of the Digambar akhara.

Paramhans says the grievances of the sadhus are not only serious but also urgent. “Puja path samapt ho gaya hai, Ayodhya ko karagar bana diya hai, sadhu sant bhooke mar rahe hain (Pujas have stopped at the temples of Ayodhya and the town has been turned into a jail, pujaris are dying of hunger),” he said and added that the tight ring of security has to be relaxed soon.

The sadhus are also angry that the BJP has distributed tickets for the Assembly elections to candidates they do not favour. “I know people have paid huge sums of money to buy Assembly tickets,” Paramhans said. “Or tickets have gone to those who are sycophants of Kalraj Mishra (state BJP chief) and Rajnath.”

Paramhans said he would ask his followers to vote for the Bahujan Samaj Party, the Samajwadi Party “and even Muslim candidates” if the BJP does not respect the feelings of the sadhus.

Unwilling to rub the sadhus the wrong way on the eve of elections, the state government has assured Paramhans and his followers that the stringent security in and around Ayodhya will be relaxed. Though frisking will continue, the numerous barricades around the temple town may be reduced.

Singhal also tried to calm down members of the Ramjanmabhoomi Trust, saying he had spoken to the administration about the tight security, which is driving pilgrims away.

But Paramhans was not convinced. “They have sold off the temple movement and their promises reek of insincerity,” he said.

“I will lead a campaign to save Ayodhya against them even if I am shot dead. There are others who will start off from where I leave.”


New Delhi, Jan. 21: 
In a move that is bound to harm the prospects of the BJP and its ally the Rashtriya Lok Dal in western Uttar Pradesh, the Indian National Lok Dal has decided to contest in 115 Jat-belt seats.

The INLD today released its first list of 85 candidates for the Assembly elections scheduled for February.

The Jats are a deciding factor in the 138 seats of western Uttar Pradesh. The BJP has offered 37 seats to the RLD, headed by Union agriculture minister Ajit Singh, a bete noire of INLD chief and Haryana chief minister Om Prakash Chautala.

With the INLD entering the fray, the Jats are likely to be split to the disadvantage of the BJP-RLD combine.

To cash in on the emotive issue of a separate Kisan Pradesh (Harit Pradesh), once a major RLD plank, the INLD, also an NDA ally at the Centre, has decided to focus its campaign on the demand. The BJP, however, is opposed to further division of the state. The party suffered another blow when two of its MLAs switched loyalties to the INLD after being denied tickets.

Moradabad MLA J.P. Singh today joined the INLD. Announcing his decision, Singh, who got elected from Moradabad twice, said he would contest against the BJP candidate from there.

Charkhari Chotey MLA Lal Verma also quit the BJP today. Verma announced his decision at Hamirpur and said he would work to ensure the defeat of the BJP candidate there.

The INLD chief is peeved with the BJP for dumping the party in the state and forging a pact with Ajit. Chautala has been trying hard to poach into RLD’s Jat vote bank. He has held about a dozen public meetings in the region over the past year to get a foothold in the state.

Worried over its depleting numbers, a desperate BJP rejected the INLD’s seat-share proposal and hurriedly sewed up a pact with Ajit.

The INLD has fielded 11 women, 14 Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe candidates and 10 from the minority community, party election in-charge Ajay Chautala said. Releasing the names, Chautala said the party’s main poll plank will be the creation of Kisan Pradesh. The party will go ahead alone in Uttar Pradesh, he said. “But if any party extends us support on the issue of separate Kisan Pradesh, it will be welcomed,” he added.

Asked if his party’s decision to contest the elections would not affect its ties with the BJP and the RLD, Chautala said: “(The) BJP has stated that it will not contest the polls jointly with our party and (the) RLD chief is now silent on the creation of a separate state.

“The manifesto of (the) RLD has not even made a reference to the Kisan Pradesh.” He added: “(The) BJP and the Congress are also not in favour of further division of Uttar Pradesh.”

The BJP refused to spell out its stand on the “sant chetavni yatra” by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad from Ayodhya to Delhi.

When asked if the BJP supported or opposed the yatra, spokesman Maya Singh was non-committal. “As far as the BJP and (the) VHP are concerned, our programmes and views are separate. We have never considered the Ram temple as an election issue.

It is linked to the question of our cultural nationalism,” she said.

Asked to explain the presence of two BJP MPs — Vinay Katiyar and Swami Chinmayanand — as well as Ayodhya legislator Lalloo Singh, a minister in the Rajnath Singh government, in the yatra yesterday, Maya said: “The temple is important for us and Katiyar reflects this thinking.”

But she was silent to a question on whether the BJP would issue a directive to its cadre not to participate in the yatra. “It is up to individual members,” she said.


New Delhi, Jan. 21: 
The Congress has notched up another first. After becoming the first “all-white” party to accept donations only through cheques and reserve one-third party posts for women, the country’s oldest political organisation has opened its doors to the third sex.

Tara Kinnar, a eunuch from Etemadpur in Agra, is a Congress nominee in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls. And no one is complaining.

Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and AICC general secretary Ghulam Nabi Azad, who faced rebellion in Uttar Pradesh and Uttaranchal from the likes of Satpal Maharaj, are aware that the cadre have accepted Tara as a serious political entity.

Local leader O.P. Jindal was full of praise for Tara, saying the 45-year-old was an excellent political worker. “She deserves to win as she is always touring villages, arranging for ration cards and taking up sewage repairs. She is honest and liked by all,” he said.

Tara’s gender is not an issue. “She is a bonafide citizen. She has a good political standing and so everyone in the local Congress will cooperate with her during campaigning,” Jindal added.

Tara joins the upcoming breed of eunuchs who want to make a career out of politics. In 1998, Shabnam Mausi won as an Independent from the Suhagpur Assembly seat in Madhya Pradesh. So popular is Shabnam that Bollywood is making a film on her with Ashutosh Rana playing her character.

Like Tara, Shabnam is known for her integrity, popularity and no-nonsense behaviour. Her work is often accorded top priority by municipal authorities. Shabnam had made an unsuccessful bid to join the Congress when she met Sonia.

The party chief was keen to draft her in but Madhya Pradesh Congress chief Radha Krishan Malviya blocked the move.

Besides granting a ticket to a eunuch, Sonia has tried other experiments in Uttar Pradesh and Uttaranchal. Senior leaders have been sidelined and their plea for a quota system has been ignored.

The list of nominees includes “grassroots” workers who do not have the backing of bigwigs.

The induction of grassroots leaders has outraged many partymen. Former Union minister Satpal Maharaj had threatened to quit the party. But today, he was in conciliatory mood.

He called on Sonia and held talks with Azad, discounting reports that he was joining the Nationalist Congress Party.


New Delhi, Jan. 21: 
The Supreme Court today blocked Rajnath Singh’s bid to emerge as the new Mandal messiah by decreeing that no backward-caste candidate can be appointed by the Uttar Pradesh government on the recommendations of the Social Justice committee he had set up last year.

The committee had recommended a separate sub-quota for the most backward castes (MBCs) and most backward Dalits (MBDs) in job reservation from the existing 28 and 21 per cent quotas for backward castes and the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. Its suggestions were promptly accepted. Rajnath, who sought to implement them, announced that under the new scheme, as many as 60,000 new jobs will be allocated for MBCs and MBDs.

But a clutch of public interest litigations (PILs) challenged the setting up of the committee and its recommendations in the apex court. Admitting the petitions, a bench comprising Chief Justice S.P. Bharucha, Justice S.V. Patil and Justice B.P. Singh ordered that pending further disposal of the petitions, no further appointments could be made.

The BJP had hoped to use what it described as the “MBC-MBD” card in the Assembly elections. It had planned to highlight its commitment to ensure “justice for all and appeasement to none” in contrast to Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mayavati -- its principal adversaries – who were interested only in pandering to the top drawer backward castes and Dalits. To reinforce its “commitment” to the MBC-MBD constituencies, the BJP even gave a chunk of Assembly tickets to their members.

The party, however, made light of the court’s judgment. “The chief minister’s intentions were sincere and this is all that matters,” vice-president Sangh Priya Gautam, a Dalit from Uttar Pradesh, said. “The Supreme Court had in a way already ordered that MBCs and MBDs should be the maximum beneficiaries of reservation by eliminating the creamy layer sections, according to economic criteria. So, in that sense, the Social Justice committee’s proposals have become irrelevant.”

Mulayam’s Samajwadi Party dismissed the “motives” as insincere. “It was a political stunt that was bound to fail because by dividing the backward castes, the chief minister’s real intention was to end the reservation quota for all of them,” Samajwadi sources said.

“The BJP has ruled Uttar Pradesh for more than five years but why didn’t it think of introducing this reservation policy earlier and only on the eve of elections?”

Last year, the state government had issued a notification for constituting a committee to look into the overall conditions of the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and backward castes. But the petitioners contended that the government had acted with an eye on the elections and had no powers to constitute such a committee and deemed it “illegal”.

The committee had submitted its report to the government on August 31, 2001, following which the Uttar Pradesh Public Services (Reservation to SCs, STs and other backward castes (amendment)) order, 2001, was passed.

Attorney-general Soli Sorabjee, who appeared for the state, sought a clarification on whether the stay would apply to appointments under the new Act or the parent Act. But the bench said: “Our order is very clear. All appointments will be stopped and there should be no transgression of it.”

“The entire exercise seems to be done in haste,” the court observed.


New Delhi, Jan. 21: 
The Election Commission today came down heavily on the DMK for its attack on state election commissioner T.S. Krishnamurthy and for seeking his removal. The panel said it was in “bad taste which takes on personal overtones”.

Earlier today, the DMK stepped up its demand for Krishnamurthy’s removal with three party MPs writing to the President and urging his intervention.

In their letter to Narayanan, the MPs said Krishnamurthy committed a “very serious lapse” by acting in an “arbitrary and unilateral manner” and allowing the byelection in Andipatti in contrast to the postponement of byelections in Saidapet and Vaniyambadi.

The action, they said, revealed the “double standards” adopted by the election commissioner even though irregularities had been established in the preparation of electoral rolls in all the three constituencies. The letter charged that Krishnamurthy’s action was tantamount to “strangulating the democratic process.”

The MPs requested the President to instruct chief election commissioner J.M. Lyngdoh to hold an inquiry and remove Krishnamurthy.

Some other DMK MPs and MLAs had written to Lyngdoh yesterday requesting him to remove Krishnamurthy.

Over the last few days, the DMK has been demanding the postponement of the Andipatti byelection, from where ADMK chief Jayalalithaa is supposed to contest, alleging irregularities.


New Delhi, Jan. 21: 
At first glance, the NCERT’s new syllabus packaged with a set of guidelines looks innocuous.

There is an emphasis on firming up strains of national identity and projecting the swadeshi side of every discipline — a credo that human resources development minister Murli Manohar Joshi has upheld since he assumed charge.

But for the time being — at least till the new textbooks hit the market — council director J.S. Rajput is holding out an olive branch. Caste system will find place in the textbooks and so will the multiple theories on prickly issues like beef-eating and the Aryan invasion.

But historians on the other side of the ideological divide remain sceptical, if not belligerent, and are ready to join issue with Rajput.

“The real catch is that the director has left it to the authors to decide what theory a child should be exposed to and at what age,” said Professor Arjun Dev, the council’s former head of the history department. Dev is one of the authors whose book on modern India has been put on the mat by Rajput.

One of the issues of contention, which revolves around Satish Chandra’s description of Guru Teg Bahadur, is the reference to “loot and rapine”.

“Ninth standard students should not be exposed to such theories,” NCERT historians say.

But the war seems to be on hold till the new textbooks come out. “The NCERT’s real intentions will be evident only after the books come (out),” said sources in the council.

Rajput, who was categorical about not giving out the names of the new authors writing books for students of Class XI and XII, said: “The earlier authors had no links with school students and classrooms. This is the first time that teachers are involved in the exercise of writing textbooks.”

The “eminent historians”, explained the NCERT director, had no links with grassroots.

But his claims that the new syllabus would lessen the load on students cut no ice with the NCERT’s former authors.

According to them, the council, in the name of reducing the burden on students, is going in for sub-standard education that would leave a student of Class V with practically no knowledge of world history.

“This is a soft syllabus. Till class V, the student will know nothing about world history as opposed to the existing syllabus which prescribed the study of states at the third standard, of the country at the fourth and the world at the fifth,” said Dev.


Bodhgaya, Jan. 21: 
The houses are a sad patchwork of scraps in the backdrop of snow-capped mountains. A child runs, his face a silent scream as the deadly frost bites into his skin.

A dragon deity lies in ruins as Chinese soldiers march by Shede Monastery in Yamintaka. A little distance away is the bombed-out Garden Monastery.

The grim images are scenes from Tibet in the seventies, eighties and nineties that were put up in an exhibition at Bodhgaya, where Buddhist pilgrims jostled in the narrow passage through the rows of photographs.

An 84-year-old French Buddhist, who refused to be cowed down by the post-September 11 fear of flying to reach here, touched the photograph of the screaming child. “Oh God!” he exclaimed. “Let these people get back their home.”

But if the brutal images of youths with hands cut off and abused nuns in labour camps dredged up memories of another holocaust, the anguish of the onlookers was cleansing.

The preliminary prayers of the Kalchakra puja began here this afternoon before two lakh Buddhists, including 50,000 foreign pilgrims. Jaws set, many stood before the candle-lit Mahabodhi temple and prayed for Tibetans suffering under the “ruthless Chinese rule”.

Today’s congregation missed the moving force of the Tibetan movement, the Dalai Lama, but the gathering listened as his teachings were read out. The preliminary teachings will be over by January 24. The Dalai Lama will then hold the kalchakra programme with the Karmapa from January 25. The programme will end on the 31st.

The programme, which has drawn hundreds from the “Roof of the World” and Dharamshala, the Dalai Lama’s headquarters-in-exile, received a boost today after Bihar chief minister Rabri Devi and 20 of her Cabinet colleagues inaugurated the International Buddha Mahotsab. The chief minister also released two stamps on the Buddha.

Outside the sprawling ground where the pilgrims prayed, fear showed on the faces of another section of devotees who had trekked from Tibet through the Nepal-India border. They have been given shelter in a high-security camp, but many would not talk. “They may not risk their life to talk to you,” said Kalsang Phuntsok Godrukpa, president of the Tibetan Youth Congress, which is spearheading a campaign in Bodhgaya “to promote the Tibetan cause”.

“Beijing has succeeded in physically enslaving the country but it has not won over the hearts, minds and loyalty of the Tibetan populace,” said a senior Lama of Gelug school.


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