Bosses spare Buddha madarsa fire
Sadhus sting ‘ungrateful’ BJP on temple
Vajpayee fights in Islamabad
Actor Amitabh plays to Atal gallery
Ex-minister returns to Jaya flock
Queen’s rebel sister is dead

 
 
BOSSES SPARE BUDDHA MADARSA FIRE 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Feb. 9: 
The CPM politburo has decided to spare West Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee the rod for making statements that sparked the madarsa controversy.

The party high command, which met here today, came up with a uniform response to Bhattacharjee’s comments. The chief minister has already given a clarification to the Left Front Committee of West Bengal and the matter need not be discussed again, the leaders said.

“The politburo has no reason to discuss it,” said CPM general secretary Harkishen Singh Surjeet.

Sitaram Yechury and M.K. Pandhe backed him, saying the politburo’s main agenda was to discuss the CPM’s new organisational report that will be adopted at the party congress in Hyderabad next month.

Bhattacharjee visited the CPM headquarters this morning before meeting home minister L.K. Advani at North Block.

He was tightlipped about the meeting, only saying: “I discussed with the home minister some aspects of terrorism on the West Bengal border.”

It was clear that the politburo was closing ranks to “defend” the chief minister who is in a spot following his criticism of madarsas.

Bhattacharjee had said some “unaffiliated madarsas” were fomenting anti-national activities and vowed to crack down on them.

The CPM’s partners in West Bengal were up in arms against his statement, which also ruffled feathers in the minority community.

Bhattacharjee, however, insisted that he had been “misquoted” by the media, including CPM mouthpiece Ganashakti, which had not understood his statement.

But the last thing the CPM leadership wants is to be seen as creating a rift between the politburo and the Bengal chief minister, especially on sensitive issues like the Prevention of Crime Act or madarsas, which would give the BJP a chance find “weak” links in the CPM’s line of argument on secularism.

It was this logic that led the CPM politburo to persuade Bhattacharjee against the anti-crime law that he had planned to introduce.

The party felt it would seem “odd” if it opposed the Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance at the Centre and supported the Prevention of Crime Act in West Bengal. Even the attack on the American Center did not provoke a change of stance.

The attack, however, triggered a fresh debate on madarsas. Bhattacharjee again echoed his earlier sentiment, which he had shared with Advani — some madarsas stirring trouble had to be streamlined.

Left Front partners found the statement “sweeping”. The politburo might have held a similar opinion but has chosen to keep it under wraps this time.

   

 
 
SADHUS STING ‘UNGRATEFUL’ BJP ON TEMPLE 
 
 
FROM ANAND SOONDAS
 
Lucknow, Feb. 9: 
The chairman of the Ramjanmabhoomi Trust today lashed out at the BJP, saying it had no right to “show the sadhu samaj the doors leading to the courts” after riding to power on the Ram temple wave.

In a blistering attack, Ram Chandra Paramhans said both Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Union home minister L.K. Advani owed their positions to the temple movement.

“The Ram mandir made Vajpayee Prime Minister, not once but thrice, and made Advani the home minister. Now they tell us it is the court which decides the fate of the Ramjanmabhoomi andolan,” Paramhans said. He added that if it had not been for the emotive issue of temple construction at the disputed site, the BJP would not have come to power either at the Centre or in some of the states.

Paramhans said that irrespective of what the National Democratic Alliance government said, the sadhus would in the next four to five days announce the exact date by which they would begin constructing the temple at the disputed site in Ayodhya.

“We will wait till March 12, not a day more. We have given the government enough time. We can’t wait any longer. They (the government) would be well advised not to test our patience any longer,” said Paramhans, one of the most prominent leaders of the temple movement.

Maintaining that the sadhu samaj was upset with the Prime Minister’s statement on the mandir issue, Paramhans said: “Vajpayee seems to have become the head of an institution for the mute. He refuses to say anything. I asked him if he was serious about solving the Ayodhya imbroglio by March 12. Whether it was an emotional outburst or a vote-fetching strategy, but he offered me his resignation instead. What on earth will I do with his resignation?”

Warning that construction would begin “as soon as the March 12 deadline expires”, Paramhans, who was addressing a joint news conference with VHP president Ashok Singhal, said the prefabricated structure was ready at Kar Sevakpuram in Ayodhya. “All it needs is a final push.”

Paramhans asserted that the recent chetavani yatra was a just a reminder of what the sadhus had resolved to do. “The land under dispute has been ours, it is ours and no government can take it away from us,” he said, adding that the sadhus were ready to face bullets for the sake of the Ram temple.

Singhal revealed that the sadhus had walked out midway from the recent meeting of NDA leaders and the sadhu-VHP delegation in New Delhi. He said the VHP also would not wait longer than March 12.

Maintaining that Hindus had been fooled for the past 54 years, the VHP chief said the fight for the temple was not an “ordinary” fight anymore. “It is now a fight against all the atheists of the country,” he said.

Singhal, who had earlier stated that the VHP was holding discussions with major Opposition parties on the Ayodhya issue, however said Congress president Sonia Gandhi had not yet given him time.

“But many other Opposition leaders have been quite accommodative of our views,” he said, but refused to give their names.

   

 
 
VAJPAYEE FIGHTS IN ISLAMABAD 
 
 
FROM KAY BENEDICT
 
Meerut, Feb. 9: 
There is no Musharraf in this Islamabad, but there is a Vajpayee. Not the Prime Minister, but BJP candidate Laxmikant Vajpayee, whose chances of retaining the Meerut City seat depend to a large extent on this ramshackle cluster of chawls housing over 50,000 Muslims.

Roughly three km from the bustling, walled city of Meerut, the place — called Islamabad — is sandwiched between two Hindu localities — Kailaspuram and Prahladnagar.

Unlike its counterpart in Pakistan, this Islamabad is a virtual hell. Filth and open drains welcome visitors to the narrow congested alleys, home to hundreds of weavers and lined with tiny shops selling all kinds of goods.

Development is an alien word here. “They (political leaders) come before every election asking for votes, but the condition of the people is getting worse,” says a resident.

Yet development is not an issue in these teeming alleys. The minority community wants to teach the BJP a lesson “for ruining their peace of mind”.

Fear shows on the faces of the inhabitants. Suspicious eyes watch every movement as one enters the narrow lanes. How tense the residents are becomes immediately apparent when you get off the car and walk straight into a querulous mob — they want to know the purpose of the visit.

Most of the residents are weavers and are either underemployed or unemployed. Their machines lie idle most of the time because of long power-cuts, while imports have undercut the value of their products.

Not a single BJP flag flutters in Islamabad, but Congress, Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party flags are aplenty. In contrast, adjoining Meerut Cantonment is awash with BJP flags. The BJP has fielded an Agarwal in this seat which has over one lakh Bania/Vaishya voters, 25,000 Brahmins, 60,000 Punjabis, 26,000 Dalits and 25,000 Muslims.

The BJP has focused its campaign on national security and the threat of terrorism. An army regiment from Meerut Cantonment was deployed at the border after the December 13 attack on Parliament. BJP workers here garlanded the jawans on their way to the front.

In Meerut City, the BJP is hoping for a three-way split in Muslim votes that could see its candidate through. The Congress has fielded Yusuf Qureshi, the BSP Ayub Ansari and the Samajwadi Dilshad Munna.

But Islamabad residents seem to be in no mood to waste their votes.

Asked which of the three Muslim candidates they would vote for, Anees Ansari, a weaver, said: “We will decide a day or two before the polling.”

He is angry that the Congress has fielded a non-Ansari though 80 per cent of the population here is from the backward community.

Though the BSP candidate is an Ansari, Anees said he would vote for the Congress. “We don’t want our votes to split to the advantage of the BJP,” he said.

   

 
 
ACTOR AMITABH PLAYS TO ATAL GALLERY 
 
 
FROM ANAND SOONDAS
 
Lucknow, Feb. 9: 
Amitabh Bachchan struck at the heart of the BJP today.

The superstar, campaigning for the Samajwadi Party — albeit through the guise of a “blood donation camp” — performed before a mammoth gathering whose size is bound to send shivers up the spine of the BJP in Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s own constituency.

If the spectators who had gathered — and have been gathering — in thousands at the Laxman Mela ground here turn into voters for the Samajwadi, it could spell big trouble for the BJP.

The only consolation for the party is that the spectators, whether in Azamgarh, Kanpur, Allahabad or Lucknow, were mostly drawn by the Big B’s magic.

Impatient crowds interrupted Samajwadi chief Mulayam Singh Yadav twice during his two-minute speech. They made it clear they were here to hear Amitabh and the politicians could wait.

The Samajwadi, overwhelmed by the way people have come out to see Amitabh, has been bang on in cashing in on the mega star’s charisma.

As Mulayam said today: “I brought Amitabh to inaugurate the blood donation camp. Aur yeh bhi hai ki Amitabh ko dekh kar kuch enjoy ho jaye.”

From an atoning, apologising man in Allahabad last October — Amitabh had then said he was “sorry” to abandon those who had voted for him midway through his tenure as an MP — he has in the last few appearances metamorphosed into a performer.

These days, he heads straight for the stage, equipped with an orchestra from Mumbai, after making preliminary statements on Mulayam’s many virtues.

He recites a few verses from his father Harivansh Rai Bachchan’s epic Madhushala. But the crowd is not happy.

Amitabh then delivers one of his famous dialogues from the film Deewar. The crowd wants more. “Yes, yes, I will sing, too,” he says to quieten the jostling hordes before belting out Mere Angane Mein and Rang Barse. The crowd goes wild.

Amitabh, who says Mulayam is like his father, rues that very few “understand” the nature of their relationship.

He says Samajwadi leader “Amar Singhji is my spinal cord”, the man who taught him to stand upright in life. He stops short of asking people to vote for the party, but “hopes” that people are with Mulayam in his fight against evil and corruption.

Often wife Jaya joins in to quip: “Look, Mulayamji, how many people have come to see you. It just shows what a great leader you are.”

The crowd laughs at this, their eyes riveted on her tall, bearded husband. They know who they have come for.

Word has gone around that the actor has started singing and dancing at these blood donation functions, drawing even those who are not supporters of Mulayam.

Some in the crowd say they will vote for the BJP, others say their party is the Bahujan Samaj Party. But at the end of the day everyone goes home happy.

After all, it is not every day that their idol becomes so human, shedding his mystique, right before their eyes. That, too, for free.

   

 
 
EX-MINISTER RETURNS TO JAYA FLOCK 
 
 
FROM M.R.VENKATESH
 
Chennai, Feb. 9: 
Jayalalithaa today received a shot in the arm with minister-turned-critic S. Kannappan and his Makkal Tamil Desam deciding to return to the ADMK.

Kannappan, former public works and electricity minister and a one-time close colleague of the ADMK chief, was among those acquitted along with Jayalalithaa in the coal import scam case.

The former minister’s decision to return to the parent party is a boost to Jayalalithaa in the run-up to the Andipatti byelection. It also reinforces the view that splinter parties hardly make an impact in the personality-oriented Dravidian politics.

Kannappan today convened a meeting of his party, which passed a unanimous resolution seeking merger with the ADMK. The resolution said the interests of the OBCs and other backward communities were best served under the leadership of Jayalalithaa. It thanked the ADMK chief for her political sagacity and “motherly qualities that bind all sections of the people”.

Kannappan lost the Assembly elections in 1996 from Tirupathur in Sivaganga district. In a decision that shocked political circles, he quit the party even when his name figured as a principal accused in the coal import deal case.

However, the former aide of Jayalalithaa lost the Assembly polls again last year, which he contested under the DMK-led front.

Hinting at the “imminent return” of Jayalalithaa to the state’s top post, chief minister O. Panneerselvam today assured captains of industry that Tamil Nadu would make up for the lost time due to the drift in political leadership at the top.

“Tamil Nadu is poised for greater progress on the economic front under the leadership of Amma Puratchi Thalaivi Selvi J. Jayalalithaa,” he said.

   

 
 
QUEEN’S REBEL SISTER IS DEAD 
 
 
FROM AMIT ROY
 
London, Feb. 9: 
Princess Margaret, 71, Queen Elizabeth’s younger sister by four years, died today in London. She will be remembered mostly as the beautiful princess who could not marry Group Captain Peter Townsend, the divorced man twice her age whom she loved.

She was "the Diana of her day", capricious, glamorous, spoilt and wilful. But in the end, she died an unfulfilled woman who was not prepared to sacrifice money and her royal privileges for love. A statement from Buckingham Palace said: "The Queen, with great sadness, has asked for the following announcement to be made immediately. Her beloved sister, Princess Margaret, died peacefully in her sleep this morning at 6.30 am in the King Edward VII Hospital.

"Her children, Lord Linley and Lady Sarah Chatto, were at her side," the statement continued. "Princess Margaret suffered a further stroke yesterday afternoon. She developed cardiac problems during the night and was taken from Kensington Palace to the King Edward VII Hospital at 2.30 am."

The funloving sister of the monarch died at dawn after the latest in a series of strokes. Her body was being moved to her private apartments at Kensington Palace this afternoon to allow family and close friends to pay their last respects. Hers is likely to be a relatively low key funeral at St George’s Chapel, Windsor, where her father, King George VI, is buried.

Lord Snowdon, Princess Margaret’s former husband, whom she married in 1960 when he was the photographer, Antony AmstrongJones, said: "We are all extremely saddened." They were married for 16 years. She also had an eight year relationship with Roddy Llewellyn, a landscape gardener 17 years her junior with whom she shared holidays at her favourite holiday resort - the Caribbean island of Mustique.

Prince Charles said today he was "deeply saddened" by the news, as were his sons Princes William and Harry.

Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, who is 101 and in "extremely frail health" at Sandringham House, the royal family’s country residence in Norfolk, and has been told of her daughter’s death. It is thought unlikely she will be able to attend the funeral.

The Queen (she is celebrating the 50th anniversary of her reign) has returned from Sandringham to Windsor Castle, where the union flag is flying at halfmast as it is at Buckingham Palace, only for the second time, the first being when Diana was killed.The Princess loved ballet, mingling with actors - Peter Sellers was in love with her - and also read voraciously.

Lord St John of Fawsley said: "One’s heart goes out immediately to Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother - it is a terrible burden for her to see a loved daughter die - and then to the Queen, because they were very close."

I never in all my life heard Princess Margaret say a harsh or critical word about the Queen. She was totally devoted to her and the Queen will miss her very much."

He acknowledged that the Princess "had a turbulent life, of course, but at the close of her life had somehow ‘come into port’ "

Margaret Rose, the daughter of one monarch and the sister of another, never found a meaningful role in life. She was born on August 21, 1930, at Glamis Castle, her mother’s family home.

The death of King George VI on February 6, 1952, affected the 22 year old Princess deeply. It was at this time that she fell in love with Group Captain Peter Townsend, who had been her father’s equerry, and subsequently Comptroller of the Queen Mother’s Household. He was twice her age, divorced with two children.

Her love for him was obvious on Coronation Day, June 2, 1953. The Princess, waiting in the porch of Westminster Abbey for her carriage back to Buckingham Palace, was seen to flick a piece of fluff off Townsend’s uniform.

When the Princess turned 25 in August,1955, she could either renounce all these rights and privileges and become Mrs Peter Townsend, or she could give up all ideas of this marriage.

She issued this statement: "I have been aware that, subject to my renouncing my rights of succession, it might have been possible for me to contract a civil marriage. But, mindful of the Church’s teaching that Christian marriage is indissoluble, and conscious of my duty to the Commonwealth, I have decided to put these considerations before any others.

"I have reached this decision entirely alone, and in doing so have been strengthened by the unfailing support and devotion of Group Captain Townsend. I am deeply grateful for the concern of all those who have constantly prayed for my happiness."

Happiness was something she never found again.

   
 

FRONT PAGE / NATIONAL / EDITORIAL / BUSINESS / THE EAST / SPORTS
ABOUT US /FEEDBACK / ARCHIVE 
 
Maintained by Web Development Company