BJP cites Bush to save Modi
Takeover tycoon Chhabria dead
Sangh adds to Sinha’s agony
Limelight shines on bat and bald
Dictator first, democracy later
Calcutta Weather

 
 
BJP CITES BUSH TO SAVE MODI 
 
 
OUR BUREAU AND AGENCIES
 
New Delhi, April 6: 
As violence continued in Gujarat, home minister L.K. Advani asked the media to take lessons from the American coverage of September 11 and suggested that “sometimes, speaking the truth may not be an act of responsibility”.

Without mentioning Gujarat, Advani told a meeting of journalists in Tirupati: “Power breeds irresponsibility. Politicians, pressmen and policemen should act with a sense of responsibility. Sometimes, speaking the truth may not be an act of responsibility.”

Listing a string of dos and don’ts, Advani said no mainstream American newspaper had demanded the dismissal or resignation of the Bush government in their editorials. Neither had channels like the CNN and the BBC shown mangled corpses of the victims, he said.

Advani’s reference to Bush came amid a clamour among the Opposition and opinion leaders for the resignation of Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi.

The body count in Gujarat continued to crawl up despite the visit and strong words of Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee on Thursday. One person was stabbed to death in Mehsana today, taking the toll since Vajpayee’s tour to six.

Advani wondered why tragic incidents were depicted “vividly” in India. “Why do we do it? It may make sadistic appeal to some but is it necessary?” he asked.

Advani accused a section of the media of acting “irresponsibly” and stressed the need to face crises “jointly” rather than seek the government’s resignation or dismissal.

He reminded the gathering that the “practice” according to a code of ethics formulated by various media bodies was not to name the community of the victims killed in the violence or those who were raped.

“But now all that has been flouted,” Advani said. He expressed concern over the media’s “growing tendency to sensationalise” events.

While saying that truth must not be suppressed, Advani emphasised that the media had a “sense of responsibility” towards society and the objective of reporting should not be to merely attract more readers or viewers.

Advani’s comments add another voice to a chorus within the BJP, which seemed miffed with the media from the start of the Gujarat carnage. On several occasions, the party had singled out television channels for “overstating” the plight of one community and ignoring that of the other. Vajpayee, too, had said the media was principally responsible for exacerbating the situation.

The BJP’s spin machine, too, went into overdrive in Delhi to cleanse the blot with an organisation patronised by the Sangh parivar releasing a report. The report castigated the media -— particularly the English language press and national television channels — for its Gujarat coverage.

Press Council chairman Justice K. Jayachandra Reddy added his mite, calling upon the media to be “trouble-shooters and not troublemakers”.

In a report compiled by the India First Foundation, the critics referred to select stories appearing in mainline English newspapers and news clips from channels to argue that journalists, editorial commentators and television anchors had distorted facts to deliberately paint the Modi administration black.

Presenting the report, Balbir K. Punj, a former journalist and now Rajya Sabha member, said Muslims were not the only targets of attacks in Gujarat. “It is a myth created by the media that only Muslims were killed in the events following the Godhra train burning. Of the nearly 800 dead, my investigations show that 430 were Muslims and 350 Hindus. People were killed in police firing and in rioting.”

But commentator Saeed Naqvi cited from personal experience to portray the insecurity of the Muslims. He did not find much that was wrong in the news coverage.

All Hindus

The RSS, which had asked minorities to win the goodwill of the majority community for their safety, today said all Indians should be called Hindus.

“As the people living in France are called French, those in Russia Russians, those living in Hindustan should be called Hindus,” RSS chief K.S. Sudarshan said in Lucknow.

   

 
 
TAKEOVER TYCOON CHHABRIA DEAD 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Mumbai, April 6: 
Takeover tycoon Manohar Rajaram Chhabria died today — closing the final chapter on a chequered story of a flamboyant corporate predator who became a prey to the hounds of destiny.

Chhabria (56), who left his $1.5-billion corporate empire with an unfinished agenda and an uncertain future in the hands of wife Vidya and three daughters, died of cardiac arrest. He had recently undergone bypass surgery and was recuperating at Jaslok Hospital here.

Chhabria was one of the first takeover artists when predatory behaviour came into fashion in the early eighties — setting the dovecotes in the cocooned business environment of that time aflutter.

The carpetbagger from Dubai stalked liquor maker Shaw Wallace and threw post-colonial gentility out of the window in one of the most celebrated boardroom coups in Indian corporate history.

It had all seemed so inconceivable in the Autumn of 1983 — no one would have given this self-taught, former Lamington Road electronics dealer a mug’s chance in hell of taking over the country’s second largest liquor maker.

But to his credit, he did more than just shake up the boardroom at Shaw Wallace. He forced industry — and that meant the well-entrenched family-run empires — to acknowledge men like him who had jumbo-sized ambitions.

By the mid-eighties, he was acquiring companies in a frenzy like a man in a hurry to gain acceptance as a man of substance who was not to be trifled with. During that takeover blitz, he acquired tyremaker Dunlop, leather maker Gordon Woodroffe, engineering company Hindustan Dorr-Oliver, pump maker Mather & Platt and Falcon Tyres.

Initially, he had local partners who helped him go after those corporate cachets that would give him the recognition he so desperately wanted — Vijay Mallya (it was suspected) in Shaw Wallace and R.P. Goenka at Dunlop. And that is also probably why he went through the Owner/President Executive Management (OPM) programme at Harvard Business School in 1988-90.

But somewhere something started to go wrong — first he dumped his partners creating bad blood between them (Mallya was his most bitterest foe till the very end) and then fell out with brother Kishore who spirited away the most prized assets of Shaw Wallace when he oversaw its operations in India while his elder brother managed the booming business in the Gulf.

By the early nineties he was scurrying for cover — hounded by the authorities for violating the country’s rigid currency regulations, and by shareholders and employees for running most of his companies into the ground.

His whiplash temper didn’t help matters as his head honchos deserted him and his companies struggled to find proper replacements.

“I lost my way, lost track of my goals for eight or nine years,” Chhabria said in an interview with his in-house corporate magazine last year. “Now, I’m trying to recoup that lost phase with my experience in the business.”

Chhabria, a chronic diabetic, had started grooming his daughters to take over some of the executive responsibilities at his companies.

It had started because of a compulsion — after the authorities started gunning for him on charges of Fera violations, he had stopped coming to India afraid that they would arrest him if he did so. So, in April 1998, he inducted younger daughter Komal Wazir Chhabria as executive director on the Shaw Wallace board.

Later, Bhavika Godhwani, his eldest daughter, was inducted into the board of engineering group company Hindustan Dorr-Oliver as an executive director. Kiran Chhabria, his youngest daughter, has also been recently drafted into Jumbo Electronics and is based in Dubai.

   

 
 
SANGH ADDS TO SINHA’S AGONY 
 
 
FROM ANAND SOONDAS
 
Lucknow, April 6: 
Blamed by his own party for an “unpopular” budget, Yashwant Sinha came under fire from another flank today with RSS veteran Dattopant Thengadi calling the finance minister “an agent working for the World Trade Organisation”.

The founder president of the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), the trade union arm of the RSS, asked Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to “take remedial steps before it is too late”.

Pressure is mounting on Sinha, whose fate is expected to be decided at the three-day Goa national executive from April 12. Thengadi’s outburst indicates that if the BJP does make Sinha the scapegoat for a budget “that has taken the middle class away from the party”, it would have the tacit blessings of the Sangh.

But Thengadi, here to attend a three-day conference of the Bharatiya Kisan Sangh (BKS), did not confine his criticism to Sinha alone, though the attack ended a nearly six-month truce with Vajpayee.

The labour leader blamed the BJP for the “economic and ideological mess the country is in right now” and alleged that some senior leaders and ministers were on the US’ payroll and working under the WTO’s “spell”.

“Those in power are suffering from amnesia and it is time farmers and the labour class launched a mass struggle against the anti-worker policies of the Central government or else the country would be sold into the hands of multinational companies,” Thengadi warned. “Big industrial houses like those owned by the Ambanis” are exerting pressure on the government, he added.

The latest increase in support prices has also not satisfied the Sangh. The BKS said it was “insidious” and pointed out that farmers must have the right to fix the prices of their yield.

“Unlike (George W.) Bush and (Tony) Blair, who care a lot for their countries, we don’t give much of a thought to our own country. It is time politicians looked at the real voters — kisan aur mazdoor — instead of the American and British heads. It is farmers who can make or break politicians and political parties,” the outfit said. “Bush and Blair will not come to the government’s rescue at the time of elections.”

After Thengadi’s public attack on the Centre and Vajpayee, the Prime Minister had been advised by well-wishers in the Sangh to make up with him. Thengadi was invited to 7 Race Course Road for an RSS function in which Vajpayee’s ideological guru, Narayan Tharte, was the chief guest.

The BMS seemed to have buried its differences with the government and Thengadi was not seen or heard of since then.

   

 
 
LIMELIGHT SHINES ON BAT AND BALD 
 
 
FROM AMIT ROY
 
Kuala Lumpur, April 6: 
The biggest surprise on a night when Lagaan swept the board and Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham picked up several honours at the third International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) awards was probably Salman Khan’s new look.

“I am Salman Khan,” he said, in case the audience of over 6,000 in a huge auditorium in the hill resort of Genting, near Kuala Lumpur, had difficulty recognising his completely bald look. Feroze Khan’s shining pate was also on display.

Salman was presenting the award for best actress to Tabu for her role in Chandni Bar. Like several of the winners, she was not present.

After the disappointment with the Oscar in Los Angeles, Lagaan made up to some extent by picking up best picture, best director — Ashutosh Gowarikar had to make several trips to the podium — and best actor (Aamir Khan). Lagaan also won for best story (Gowarikar), best lyrics (Javed Akhtar) and best female playback singer (Asha Bhosle).

Gowarikar was gracious enough not to make it appear that he was collecting consolation prizes. “This is happiness,” he said, after being named best director.

Aamir was not present, but a large contingent from the Lagaan team went on stage to receive a special prize — an outsize cricket bat — for breaking new boundaries in Indian cinema. The organisers of IIFA claimed credit for the fact that Lagaan was premiered at its second awards ceremony held last year in Sun City in South Africa.

Jaya Bachchan was named best supporting actress for K3G, a film which won best male playback singer for Sonu Nigam.

Among other winners, best performance in a comic role went to Govinda for Jodi No. 1; and best performance in a negative role to Akshay Kumar in Ajnabee.

It has to be said that the Malaysian audience inside the auditorium and the crowds outside appeared overawed by the glamour and glitter of Bollywood. Wizcraft, which managed the show, can take pride in putting together something that was pretty near flawless.

Lara Dutta, the former Miss Universe who compered the awards, perhaps read the autocue a little too quickly. “Thank you, the gorgeous Lara Dutta,” Sushmita Sen, the 1994 Miss Universe, said to her successor.

Sushmita was pulled up in the dark by pulley high into the ceiling and then came down on cue, dressed in shimmering white, to do a rendering of Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend. This was a touch ironic, since hers was Bollywood’s tribute to Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge, which was itself a tribute to Bollywood.

There was no shortage of pretty faces. Bipasha Basu and Gracy Singh were recognised as important new faces.

For slickness, the IIFA awards tonight could stand comparison with the Hollywood Oscars. But this being an Indian function, the big boys of the industry could not be allowed to go away empty handed.

Amitabh Bachchan, who was named personality of the year, was due to fly back to Mumbai tomorrow morning because his father, poet Harivansh Rai Bachchan, was said to be in a critical condition.

Yash Chopra was honoured for making an invaluable contribution to Indian Cinema. Sadhana Bose emerged for the first time in public in 25 years to accept a lifetime achievement award.

The youthful Karan Johar, who is emerging as the most eloquent spokesman for Indian cinema, received the award for best dialogue.

The New York-based Mira Nair, whose film Monsoon Wedding has been a big success in the US, Britain and other overseas territories, left it to her mother to collect an award for outstanding achievement in Indian cinema.

At Cannes, someone had asked her if she had anything to do with Mira Nair, she recalled as she collected the prize on behalf of her daughter. The mother said she had replied: “I am the producer of the director.”

It has to be said that IIFA’s decision to hold the awards in Genting has done much to strengthen Indo-Malaysian relations. Several Bollywood stars thanked their Malaysian hosts for their warmth and hospitality while Amitabh Bachchan even suggested that next year’s awards, due to return to London, should be held again in Malaysia.

What became obvious tonight is that Bollywood and Bollywood stars have a global reach and fanatic following that in some ways even Hollywood cannot match.

That Bollywood is becoming a strategic aspect of India’s foreign policy was reflected in the opening remarks made by Malaysia’s minister of culture, arts and tourism, Datuk Paduka Kadir S. Fadzir, who said: “We have had dark days, some very dark days but one country that has stood steadfast with us, often against its own interests, is India. Indian films have a tremendous following among all Malaysians, not just Malaysians of Indian origin. The family stories strike a chord in all of us. We are all Asians and our ties go back thousands of years.”

The country’s deputy prime minister was also present.

   

 
 
DICTATOR FIRST, DEMOCRACY LATER 
 
 
FROM K.P. NAYAR
 
Washington, April 6: 
It was midnight in Islamabad on Wednesday, April 3, 2002. Pakistan’s Cabinet and National Security Council had earlier in the day unanimously approved the proposal for holding a referendum to extend President Pervez Musharraf’s rule for five years.

In Washington, it was past lunchtime, but Donald Camp, the deputy assistant secretary for South Asia in the US state department, was telling an audience at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies that the proposed referendum was still a rumour. Pakistani journalists present in the audience intervened to contradict the official and lament that democracy was finished in Pakistan, at least for the time being.

Yesterday, state department deputy spokesman Philip Reeker was asked for America’s views on the referendum, the schedule of which has now been fixed by Musharraf himself. Reeker began his answer with a preface that echoed Camp. “I think he (Musharraf) only formally announced that today. And similar to what we had said before based on the reports of that — there were a number of reports and rumors of that — we think that restoration of democratic, civilian rule is critical to Pakistan’s political and economic development.”

Underlying all the hemming and hawing here is a quiet return to America’s Cold War era policy of supporting dictators as long their continuation in power suited US interests. Musharraf’s is not an isolated case. There is strong criticism here from human rights advocates and liberals that dictators from all continents are lining up in Washington to use the excuse of fighting terrorism to legitimise their dictatorships.

In the case of Pakistan, the continuation of Musharraf in office is absolutely vital to the campaign against terrorism that Washington is pursuing in South Asia. In private, Bush administration officials think it is providential for them that on September 11 Musharraf was in power in Islamabad and not an elected government.

The action against the Taliban and al Qaida would have been a nightmare for the Americans without the full and unambiguous support of the Pakistan army, which would have been at odds with any civilian administration in Islamabad on dealing with the fallout of the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

However, when they are asked in public about this scenario, administration officials always aver that it is a hypothetical question. Beneath Camp’s statement and Reeker’s answer yesterday is the wishful thinking that the US would not be forced into a situation of having to take a stand on issues of democracy as it is practised in Pakistan. Because, even as Washington wants Musharraf to continue, it wants to be seen as supporting democracy in Pakistan.

There are clues in Reeker’s answer that suggest a way out of this dilemma. “We think it is important that Pakistan follows constitutional procedures as it pursues this process, with legality of any particular action such as a referendum to be decided by the courts, if that is required. “And so we support steps towards the return of civilian rule in Pakistan, in particular, the holding of free and fair provincial and national parliamentary elections in October, which they had also announced previously.”

What exactly is the constitutional procedure? The elevation of Musharraf to the presidency was itself through a special constitutional order. So, if a coup d’etat and illegal seizure of power can be legitimised through constitutional procedure, so can the Zia-ul-Haq type of referendum, which is to be held throughout Pakistan in a month.

As for courts deciding the legality of the Musharraf initiative, Pakistan’s courts have been made into rubber stamps of the military junta by Musharraf and they can only be a fig leaf for the dictator in Islamabad who now wants to don the garb of a democrat.

The lesson that the Bush administration is learning from all this is the old proverb that if there is a will, there is a way.

   

 
 
CALCUTTA WEATHER 
 
 
 
 

Temperature

Maximum: 35.1°C (-1)
Minimum: 24.8°C (+1)

Rainfall

Nil

Relative humidity

Maximum: 95%,
Minimum: 55%

Sunrise: 5.27 am

Sunset: 5.50 pm

Today

Partly cloudy sky with possibility of development of thunder towards afternoon or evening
   
 

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