College coup rift in Front
Dacoits shoot trader in house raid
Meet to clear station access
CPM set to wrest odd board
Modi government flunks trust test
Third front bides time
Allies return to Atal stable
Mamata painless punch
Coded message in spying denial
Stage set for hostile marriage

 
 
COLLEGE COUP RIFT IN FRONT 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, April 18: 
The CPM’s move to project a stronger and better Left Front suffered a jolt with the RSP deciding not to attend college governing body meetings after its nominees were replaced by CPM candidates in decision-making bodies 10 institutions.

Partha Bhadra in Maheshtala College, Satindranath Das in Gurudas College and Upen Ganguly in Bhairab Ganguly College are among the RSP leaders dropped from the governing bodies at the CPM’s behest. Other institutions where RSP nominees have been removed include Jogomaya Devi College, Kaseswari College, Calcutta Womens’ College and Calcutta Girls’ College.

Local CPM leaders have also decided to replace RSP nominees with CPM members in the governing bodies of Brahmananda Keshav Chandra at Belghoria, Dum Dum Motijheel College and Sarojini Naidu College for Women. The decision has irked the state RSP leadership, which intends to take up the issue with Left Front chairman Biman Bose on his return from Delhi, where he has gone to attend a CPM politburo meeting. Bose is expected to be back in Calcutta tomorrow.

“We are very hurt over the CPM’s decision to remove our nominees from college governing bodies. We will take up the issue with the Left Front chairman,” said RSP leader Gita Sengupta, who looks after education affairs on behalf of the party.

Four major partners in the ruling Front — the CPM, CPI, RSP and Forward Bloc — had decided to maintain status quo with regard to college governing bodies, after meeting for four consecutive days in February. “We are shocked to learn that local CPM leaders have ignored the joint decision on the issue. We feel that the CPM’s decision will go against the chief minister and Front chairman’s move to strengthen unity among Front partners and offer a better Left Front to the people of Bengal,” said a senior RSP leader.

Bose had also asked the party leaders who look after education affairs not to include any MLA or minister in any college governing body. Despite this, CPM Kamarhati legislator Manas Mukherjee has been made a member of the Bhairab Ganguly College. Forward Bloc MLA Subrata Bose has also been made a member of the Bangabashi College governing body. CPM leader in South 24-Parganas, Sujan Chakraborty, has been inducted to the governing body of Sushil Kar College at Champahati.

“We believe that local CPM leaders have knowingly or unknowingly violated Bose’s instruction,” the RSP leader said.

   

 
 
DACOITS SHOOT TRADER IN HOUSE RAID 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Kulpi (South 24-Parganas), April 18: 
Dacoits shot dead a cloth merchant of Telepadmapukur early this morning at his residence and fled with cash and jewellery.

The Kulpi market, where the deceased’s shop was located, was closed today to protest against the murder. Shopkeepers joined a public rally organised to condemn the killing.

Around 2.30 am, revolver-wielding dacoits broke open the door of Ekadoshi Pramanik’s residence. Family members, including Pramanik, rushed to the roof, according to officials. The Pramaniks hurled stones at the dacoits, injuring five of them.

“After some time, there was absolute silence and we could see five dacoits running away,” said Gopal, one of Pramanik’s nephews, who is yet to recover from the shock.

Pramanik and other members of the family started peering around to ascertain whether the bandits had actually left.

“Suddenly I found my uncle, Ekadoshi, lying in a pool of blood. We were struck dumb because we could not see clearly in the darkness. Moreover, we were not sure that all the dacoits had fled. Some of our neighbours came to our rescue and took my uncle to the Diamond Harbour subdivisional hospital where he died,” recounted Gopal.

A police team led by Mandirbazaar circle inspector Arun Mazumdar arrived at the spot about an hour after the incident, evoking protests about the delay.

   

 
 
MEET TO CLEAR STATION ACCESS 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, April 18: 
Urban development minister Ashoke Bhattacharya held a meeting in Writers’ Buildings today with home secretary Amit Kiran Deb and the divisional managers of both Eastern and South Eastern Railways regarding clearing station platforms of structures used by stall owners and hawkers’ unions.

“We have made it clear that no such structure should be there on platforms and on station approaches as these impede the movement of passengers,” a senior railway official told The Telegraph today.

At a meeting with Bhattacharya yesterday, Citu-affiliated Paschim Banga Railway Hawkers’ Union secretary Masudul Hosain had said the organisation would not stand up for hawkers who had put up structures on station premises and platforms.

The minister told the railway officials that the Citu-affiliated Paschim Banga Railway Hawkers’ Union wanted identity cards for more than 70,000 hawkers who sold their wares on trains and railway platforms at Howrah and Sealdah. However, the railways are yet to come to a decision on the identity cards.

“This is a decision that has to be endorsed by the ministry,” railway sources said.

The railways are also standing by their decision not to allow newspaper and magazine vendors from squatting on station premises.

Structures used by stall owners and hawkers abound in medium-sized stations such as Belgharia, Sodepur, Agarpara and Serampore. Sealdah station alone has more than 200 stalls that will have to be dismantled. Most stations also have makeshift temples that will have to be removed. Recently, a makeshift temple has been from Kalyani station.

The railways are identifying plots of land that will be handed over for a fee to stall owners who will have to vacate the stations. “We will issue them licences for commercial exploitation of the land provided by us,” the sources said. The stalls will be located at a distance from the station approach so that passenger movement is not hindered.

Some railway officials say there are loopholes in the procedure for issuing licences. “Where do we stop issuing licences and who decides on how long the licences should be valid?” asked a railway official.

Medical hostel row

Students of the Calcutta Medical College and Hospital vacated their hostel rooms, meeting the deadline of Thursday midnight set at an emergency council meeting held today and bringing to a peaceful end the row between 300-odd resident students and the administration.

Some of the students moved into the common room as they could not make alternative arrangements immediately.

   

 
 
CPM SET TO WREST ODD BOARD 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Rampurhat, April 18: 
The CPM is set to wrest the Rampurhat municipal board in Birbhum — the only civic body where the Trinamul Congress, the BJP and the Congress joined hands — following squabbles among members of the Congress-led alliance.

In the 2000 municipal elections, the CPM bagged eight seats. The Congress, BJP and Trinamul got three, two and one, respectively. Three seats went to Independents.

The CPM formed the board with the help of one Independent councillor. However, a year later, the councillor withdrew its support to the Left party.

The BJP, Congress and Trinamul — in the first alliance of the three parties — formed a coalition to snatch the municipal board from the CPM, with Congress nominee Syed Jimi becoming the chairman. However, the grand alliance is coming unstuck with the BJP’s demand for the top post being shot down.

“We supported the Congress on the condition that it will vacate the chairman’s post for the BJP after a year,” said a BJP councillor of Rampurhat.

“If the party now goes back on its word, we have to review our position. We have already given the Congress an ultimatum,” the councillor added.

“I am ready to quit in accordance with the agreement, but cannot assure you about the others’ actions,” Jimi said. The Independent councillors have threatened to withdraw support to the coalition if the BJP councillor becomes chairman.

This has brightened the CPM’s chances of regaining control of the board. The party has already won over two councillors and is planning to move a no-confidence motion against Jimi next week.

“All development work has come to a standstill. All the councillors are busy quarrelling with each other,” said CPM zonal committee secretary Motiur Rehman.

“People have now understood that ours is the only party that can provide a clean and people-friendly administration,” the CPM leader added.

   

 
 
MODI GOVERNMENT FLUNKS TRUST TEST 
 
 
FROM BASANT RAWAT
 
Ahmedabad, April 18: 
A large section of students stayed away from the board examinations in Gujarat today despite tight security, sparking claims and counter-claims from the government and leaders of the minority community over the attendance.

A newly-formed steering committee had given a call to boycott the examinations after the government rejected its demand to relocate the examination centres to “safer areas”. M.H. Johar, the coordinator, claimed that about 70 to 80 per cent students belonging to the minority community did not appear for the examinations. In fact, in several localities not even a single student ventured out.

Education minister Anandiben Patel, however, claimed that attendance was high and “there was no effect of the boycott call given by some disgruntled elements who are being instigated by the Congress party”.

An official release said overall, 94.35 per cent students appeared for the SSC examination. But it was silent on the attendance for the HSC examination. Of the 52,000 higher secondary students in Ahmedabad, 14,000 are Muslims.

In the city and its adjoining areas, 93.13 per cent students appeared for the examination, while the turnout in Baroda was 98.24 per cent, the release said. Godhra recorded a 98 per cent attendance and Sabarkantha 100 per cent.

The government, which refused to relocate test centres from Hindu-dominated areas, had taken precautions to ensure student safety. Security was increased at the 205 centres in the city and the 115 venues across the state. Video cameras were installed at the centres and special buses run with security personnel on board to ferry students to and from examination venues.

Yet, the majority of Muslim students preferred to stay home, minority community leaders said. Liyakat Gori, a member of the steering committee and municipal councillor, said his daughter and niece, both Class XII students, did not take the test. Eight buses sent by the government to pick up students from his locality returned empty, he said.

The situation was no different in Shahpur, Khanpur, Jamalpur, Rakhial, Kalupur, Dariapur, Gomtipur and Bapunagar, localities in the walled city that have witnessed the most violence. Gori said 90 per cent students from those areas boycotted the examinations.

In certain places like Juhapura-Danilimda, students boarded the buses but immediately got down as they found them empty, said Shrimali Sabnam, a resident of Juhapura.

The organisers of the Shah-e-Alam relief camp, the biggest in the city, opposed the boycott as their demand to relocate an examination centre near the camp was sympathetically considered by the government. About 70 homeless students appeared for the examinations from the camp.

The steering committee is expecting feelers from the government to negotiate relocation of some examination centres. “Our children will appear for the examination if the centres are relocated. But if the government remains adamant, we will be forced to approach the National Human Rights Commission and the Supreme Court. A panel of advocates is ready to argue our case,” Johar said.

   

 
 
THIRD FRONT BIDES TIME 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, April 18: 
With no immediate alternative to the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government visible, the People’s Front is biding time till the wickets start falling in the NDA government.

As part of their strategy in Parliament, the front has decided to continue to stall proceedings till the 24th — the day a front delegation will leave for Ahmedabad.

The five-member team for the riot-hit Gujarat capital includes CPM general secretary Harkishen Singh Surjeet, his CPI counterpart A.B. Bardhan, former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda, Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and his deputy Amar Singh.

For the time being, the third front leaders are content to be in the wings, directing their strategy to bring together all anti-BJP forces to keep up the heat on the government in the House.

Senior CPM MP Somnath Chatterjee briefed his party’s politburo when it met in the evening about the floor strategy. Deve Gowda met two Telugu Desam MPs — Yerran Naidu from the Lok Sabha and Alladi Raj Kumar from the Upper House — at his residence this morning.

“Both the Desam leaders said Chandrababu Naidu has instructed them on telephone this morning to keep up the pressure for a debate under (rule) 184 in Parliament,” said a front leader.

Though the immediate crisis of the Vajpayee government seems to have blown over with Naidu dilly dallying on a crucial decision, the Front leaders believe there is still “hope”.

Front president Jyoti Basu today said: “Naidu seems to be firm. Narendra Modi has to go.”

Despite the optimism, the leaders realise they are far behind in numbers which seem to be in the NDA kitty. With the BJP-BSP deal in place in Uttar Pradesh, the number game has become even more difficult for the anti-BJP forces. “There is no alternative,” said CPM politburo member Prakash Karat.

Given this situation, they would not like to jump into confabulations with estranged friends like the Desam, though they have not ruled out the option.

   

 
 
ALLIES RETURN TO ATAL STABLE 
 
 
FROM KAY BENEDICT
 
New Delhi, April 18: 
Deputy Speaker P.M. Sayeed has convened an all-party meeting tomorrow to break the stand-off between the Opposition and the government on Gujarat even as Parliament was paralysed for the fourth consecutive day today.

The meeting was scheduled for today, but was deferred since no peace formula was in sight.

While the Opposition is insisting on a discussion on Gujarat under Rule 184 which entails voting, the government has made it clear that it was prepared for a general discussion under Rule 193.

The Centre scored a point by managing to bring around two more allies to oppose a discussion under Rule 184 and sources were confident the Congress would agree to a discussion under Rule 193 by tomorrow.

But the hope seemed thin as Congress spokesperson Jaipal Reddy asserted that his party would press for a discussion under Rule 184. Congress chief whip in the Rajya Sabha Pranab Mukherjee denied reports that the party had sought a discussion on Gujarat in the House under a rule that does not permit voting. “I am told that an impression has been created that the Congress party in the Rajya Sabha is prepared for discussion under a rule which does not permit voting. I emphatically deny this,” he said.

The government scored a point when sulking allies Trinamul Congress and the Janata Dal (United) attended today’s meeting of floor leaders of NDA partners convened by George Fernandes. Lok Janshakti Party leader Ram Vilas Paswan could not attend but offered to support the decision taken at the meeting. These parties had boycotted the meeting yesterday.

Much to the relief of the government, the allies, including the Telugu Desam, will not insist on a discussion under Rule 184, said BJP spokesman V.K. Malhotra.

Even as the allies continued to press for Modi’s removal, National Conference chairman and Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Farooq Abdullah said he was planning to convene a conclave of allies shortly to discuss the Gujarat situation.

In a bid to please the allies, especially the Desam, which have been demanding Modi’s removal, Fernandes set off on a four-day “healing mission” in Gujarat. He will assess the situation and monitor relief and rehabilitation. On his return, the NDA convener will submit a report to the Prime Minister. The allies will be briefed about his visit. He will also review the army’s presence in the state.

Fernandes will meet eminent persons from all communities and make efforts to form a “core group” which would work towards ushering in peace. “I have been in touch with people from various communities in Gujarat and my first effort will be to establish a core group which will work towards bringing harmony in the violence-affected areas.”

   

 
 
MAMATA PAINLESS PUNCH 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, April 18: 
Mamata Banerjee today demanded dissolution of the Gujarat Assembly and imposition of President’s rule but iterated support for the NDA government.

Mamata felt Central rule was the only option left to put an end to the cycle of violence in the state. “I will go to Delhi after my party’s rally here on Saturday and place my views before the NDA leaders,” she said.

The Trinamul leader added that restoration of peace should be given top priority in the riot-ravaged state. “We want peace and order to be restored at the earliest and immediate rehabilitation of the affected people. It is the state administration’s task to take firm steps to restore the people’s confidence,” she said.

Conceding slow improvement in the Gujarat situation, Mamata felt all parties should make a united effort to ensure a quick return to normality. “Pakistan will try to exploit the volatile situation arising out of the communal violence. The administration must make every bid to identify and take to task the miscreants still indulging in violence and arson in Gujarat,” she said.

Reiterating her party’s support to the Vajpayee government in the event of a no-confidence vote in the Lok Sabha, Mamata was confident that other NDA allies would take the same decision. “I think that all NDA allies should stay together at this hour.”

In keeping with her sentiment, Trinamul, which had skipped an NDA meeting yesterday, today attended one called by George Fernandes and decided not to back the Opposition demand for a discussion in Lok Sabha on Gujarat under Rule 184, which entails voting.

The Trinamul chief took note of the Gujarat Cabinet’s decision not to go for immediate Assembly elections. Mamata and Telugu Desam chief Chandrababu Naidu had opposed the BJP’s earlier move to hold snap polls to capitalise on the communal polarisation in Gujarat.

   

 
 
CODED MESSAGE IN SPYING DENIAL 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Chennai, April 18: 
Former chief minister O. Panneerselvam today issued a statement denying the charge that the state intelligence unit was “spying” on Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

The denial by a senior ADMK leader, a week after Tamil Nadu Congress chief E.V.K.S. Elangovan made the allegation, hints at Jayalalithaa’s attempts to get closer to Sonia following the Prime Minister’s refusal to press for Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi’s resignation.

The Tamil Nadu chief minister had recently disclosed in the Assembly that she had “intelligence information” that senior DMK leader and Union commerce minister Murasoli Maran held a “secret” meeting with Sonia, hinting at a possible political realignment.

Elangovan took this as “proof” of the state keeping a watch on Sonia, a charge reminiscent of the allegation that Haryana police kept a tab on Rajiv Gandhi’s residence when Chandra Shekhar led a minority government at the Centre in 1990-91 with Congress support from outside.

Panneerselvam said the charges were “totally baseless and a figment of his (Elangovan) imagination”. He added that “reports and information” gathered by the state intelligence reached the government from different parts of the country, including Delhi.

“It is such information that is routinely passed on to the chief minister and it is highly condemnable that Elangovan should take it to mean that the Tamil Nadu government was spying on Sonia Gandhi,” Panneerselvam said. He reiterated that the state intelligence never kept a tab on the Congress chief.

In another development, the leader of the pro-LTTE Tamils’ Nationalist Movement, P. Nedumaran, denounced the DMK’s “neutral stand” on the resolution passed in the Assembly that demanded LTTE chief V. Prabhakaran’s extradition.

Calling the resolution anti-Tamil, Nedumaran dubbed the DMK’s stance as a “stain that shall remain in history”.

However, DMK chief Karunanidhi countered the charge, saying the resolution passed by the ADMK government “will be the real stain on history” as it called for the Indian army’s intervention to capture Prabhakaran which threatened to hinder the peace process in Sri Lanka.

The DMK also considered the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi in 1991 as “another stain that shall remain in history”.

   

 
 
STAGE SET FOR HOSTILE MARRIAGE 
 
 
FROM ANAND SOONDAS
 
Lucknow, April 18: 
The stage is being set for Mayavati’s coronation with the BJP’s help, but the Bahujan Samaj Party knows well that its leader is inheriting a legacy of mutual distrust, deep cynicism and outright ill will.

“It won’t be easy for Mayavati this time,” said a senior BJP leader. “When she takes over as chief minister, the thought in the minds of every BJP worker will be how she broke our trust earlier and the manner in which she tried to undo all our hard work.… We will not only have to be very careful this time, we must also ensure that nothing goes wrong.”

Sources in the party say top leaders from the state have gone for the BJP’s parliamentary board meeting armed with a detailed list of “checks and balances”, meant to be handed over to the BSP leadership before the finer details of an alliance are finalised.

The leaders from Uttar Pradesh, former chief minister Rajnath Singh and senior leaders Lalji Tandon, Kalraj Mishra and Om Prakash Singh, will impress upon the Central leadership that this time the parties will have to adhere to the common minimum programme at all cost.

“We know the pulse of the state here and what is needed,” said a senior leader headed for Delhi. “We will take no chances this time and all the conditions will be in black and white.”

Sources in the party say that there will be no transfers — the last time, Mayavati pushed through a record number of transfers in six months — no promotions of senior officials, no inauguration of schemes and big projects without the BJP being consulted.

The anti-Mayavati faction within the BJP will also ensure that it is not smooth-sailing for the BSP. A group of rebellious Thakur MLAs led by Rajnath has taken the alliance in Uttar Pradesh as its personal defeat.

The faction had left no stone unturned to drive home its strong anti-Mayavati feelings. A BJP MLA from Basti, Bharat Singh, had started a signature campaign to build support for his (though some say Rajnath’s) dump-Mayavati movement.

Before leaving for New Delhi for the BJP meet, Rajnath, too, didn’t try hard to hide his displeasure at the way the tides eventually turned in favour of Mayavati, leaving him by the wayside.

Clearly indicating that he will fight till the end to drive home how disastrous the alliance will be for the BJP, Rajnath said: “The party high command knows that the mandate we had got was for us to sit in the Opposition. Sarkar to banegi magar aage kya hoga Ram hi jane (The government will be formed, but god only knows what will happen after that).”

Rajnath added that he had put across his views on the merger with Mayavati at every forum “and will continue to do so in future”. Angry at the way things had gone for him, Rajnath refused to even answer who were the other leaders from the state converging on New Delhi for the crucial meeting. “I don’t know and I don’t care,” the former chief minister said. “I haven’t tried to find out either.”

But Rajnath is not ready yet for a revolt against the leadership. “I will abide by their decision as I know it will be in the larger interest of the party. Moreover, my future is safe and bright.”

   
 

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