Left cadre in net for death of Congman
Attack slur on Trinamul body chief
Demand to trace worker
Kharagpur clash
Pak muddies waters with court knock
Mayavati, Jaya hold President poll seesaw
Old boys fire on PM Goa burst
Amma swings to BJP and back
Food & famine-aid price for support
VC under fire Left and Right

 
 
LEFT CADRE IN NET FOR DEATH OF CONGMAN 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Behrampore, April 21: 
Police arrested four members of the CPM local committee today on charges of murdering Congress worker Bhajahari Das at Rasberulia village.

Police sources said Bhajahari, 38, had switched over from the CPM to the Congress on the eve of last year’s Assembly polls.

“Bhajahari left the CPM and joined the Congress with his supporters and started campaigning against the alleged corruption by CPM branch committee secretary Ajoy Das,” an official said.

Last week, the son of a Congress supporter quarrelled with the child of a CPM activist. At a meeting called to resolve the issue, an altercation ensued and Bhajahari was stabbed to death, while two of his elder brothers were seriously injured. They were admitted to Jangipur sub-divisional hospital in a critical condition.

The police have arrested four CPM local committee members on the basis of complaints lodged by Congress workers. The district superintendent of police said the murder was a sequel to a local feud.

   

 
 
ATTACK SLUR ON TRINAMUL BODY CHIEF 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Chinsurah, April 21: 
The chairman of the Trinamul Congress-controlled Chinsurah municipality, Ashish Sen, allegedly entered the house of a relative of party councillor Sanjiv Mondal and beat him up this morning.

Police said Mondal’s father-in-law Sailen Nandi lodged a complaint at the Chinsurah police station accusing the municipality chairman of entering his house and beating him up.

The complaint added that Sen and his associates left only when residents of the area confronted them.

“Sanjiv Mondal and Sibu Das, both Trinamul Congress councillors, had resigned after a bitter fight among two factions of the party on April 17. As a result, the Trinamul-controlled Hooghly-Chinsurah civic board fell into serious crisis,” it said.

“Sen had gone to force my son-in-law to withdraw his resignation from the body,” Nandi added in his complaint.

Sen, however, denied the allegations. “I had gone to attend a medical camp in Karbala. CPM supporters attacked me and kept me confined in a room. They released me later,” the municipality chairman said.

   

 
 
DEMAND TO TRACE WORKER 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Chinsurah, April 21: 
Police must trace Mohammed Nasirudin, a worker at Gondalpara Jute Mill, who has disappeared after he was lynched inside the mill complex on April 5, demanded Tapan Dasgupta of the Trinamul Congress today.

Dasgupta claimed that Nasiruddin’s body was in the mill for more than an hour. The Citu also demanded that the police find Nasiruddin’s body.

Hooghly additional police superintendent H.K. Kusumakar, however, denied the allegation.

   

 
 
KHARAGPUR CLASH 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Kharagpur, April 21: 
Five persons were injured in a clash between two groups in Kharagpur late tonight.

All five were admitted to a local hospital, where their condition was stated to be critical. Many shops were also ransacked, according to police.

A large contingent of police personnel, led by the superintendent of police, rushed to the spot to prevent the situation from going out of control. However, no one has been arrested in this connection so far.

   

 
 
PAK MUDDIES WATERS WITH COURT KNOCK 
 
 
FROM PRANAY SHARMA
 
New Delhi, April 21: 
The Indus Water Treaty, which had been left untouched during four decades of acrimonious Indo-Pak relations, may soon get mired in the bickering between the two neighbours.

Pakistan is considering legal options to stop India from going ahead with a construction on the Chenab that it claims will change the course of the river. This, Islamabad insists, also violates the treaty.

Hawks in Delhi reason that the treaty should be abrogated to put pressure on Pakistan to stop cross-border terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir and elsewhere in the country.

There is a provision in the treaty that if two countries are unable to resolve their disputes, either of them can take the matter to the court of arbitration. This would mean the involvement of a third party to settle the dispute, a strict “no-no” for Delhi.

The current controversy centres on the reported construction of a “gate structure” by India on the Chenab for its 450-mw Baglihar power project. Pakistan claims that it has written three letters to India on the reported construction, but Delhi has not responded so far.

A meeting chaired by Pakistan’s power and water secretary Mirza Hamid Hasan in Islamabad on Thursday reviewed the situation and decided that India should stop the construction immediately.

But Indian officials claim the construction neither violates the treaty nor attempts to change the course of the Chenab. They claimed Pakistan was trying to attract world attention with an issue that is bilateral.

An annual review meeting between the permanent Indus Water commissioners of the two countries is due in May where the issue is likely to be discussed threadbare. But there are indications that if Pakistan is not satisfied with the Indian response, it may try to pursue the legal option.

The permanent Indus Water commissioner of Pakistan had asked the permission of his Indian counterpart to visit Jammu and Kashmir to verify if the construction on the Chenab was in violation of the treaty.

Though, initially he was asked to come, the invitation was hastily withdrawn after the December 13 terrorist attack on Parliament. Delhi reasoned that with the troops build-up on the border and the tense situation in Jammu and Kashmir, it was necessary to put off the commissioner’s visit.

If Pakistan does exercise its legal option, a seven-member court of arbitration will be set up, according to the provisions of the treaty. Both India and Pakistan can appoint two members each of their choice. The remaining three, including the chairman, will be drawn up from a list already provided in the treaty.

The chairman could be the secretary-general of the United Nations or the World Bank president. For the engineer-member, the list suggests the president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology or the rector of the Imperial College of Science and Technology, London. The legal-member will either be the Chief Justice of the US or the Lord Chief of England.

   

 
 
MAYAVATI, JAYA HOLD PRESIDENT POLL SEESAW 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, April 21: 
Mayavati, Jayalalithaa and Sharad Pawar hold crucial chunks of votes in the electoral college that will elect the next President of the Republic.

The Election Commission plans to notify polls on May 24, two months before President K.R. Narayanan retires. Narayanan is not averse to the idea of serving a second term, but there have been reports that several prominent persons from the NDA and outside the ruling coalition are vying for the coveted post.

There are 10,94,067 valid votes, of which the BJP has 2,60,696. Add those of the allies and the Telugu Desam Party and the tally reads 4,90,599 votes — still short of a clear majority. Therefore, it is clear that the ADMK, the Nationalist Congress Party and the BSP will hold the key in the election of the next incumbent of Rashtrapati Bhavan. The ADMK has 45,880 votes. The NCP’s share is 17,246 while the BSP has 33,117 votes. Combined, these 96,243 votes can make or mar the prospects of any candidate.

For presidential polls, the figures in the complex number game is arrived at based on the strength of individual MLAs and MPs drawn on the basis of population of the state divided by number of seats divided by 1,000.

According to the Election Commission’s figures, the Congress has 2,64,676 votes. Clubbed with that of the Left parties, the Samajwadi Party and the Rashtriya Janata Dal, the tally is 4,43,515 votes. In addition, it can count on the votes of Independents and others not aligned with the NDA — a chunk of 60,710 votes. If there is no cross-voting and all Independents and others vote against the NDA, the Opposition can hope to get 5,04,225 votes, a tally tantalisingly close to the half-way magic figure of 5,47,033.

From the BJP’s side, the names of L.M. Singhvi and P.C. Alexander are doing the rounds for the presidency. Singhvi is a noted jurist while Alexander is currently the Governor of Maharashtra. The Shiv Sena is also keen on Alexander and a section of the NDA feels he may be acceptable to the Congress in view of his proximity to Indira Gandhi.

However, not all Congressmen are keen on Alexander and are wondering why the NDA cannot accept Narayanan. Both Narayanan and Alexander are former bureaucrats, hail from Kerala and have a long association with the Nehru-Gandhi family.

Sources said Narayanan wants to stay on only on one condition — the political class should accept him as a consensus nominee. He is not keen to resign and contest presidential polls as the Opposition’s nominee. Given the fractured nature of the 13th Lok Sabha and the ideological gulf between the BJP and the Opposition, the two sides agreeing on a presidential candidate seems an uphill task.

Some political leaders want the government and the Opposition to work out a quid pro quo. If one side gets the presidential nominee, it should leave out the Vice-President’s post. The election for the Vice-President’s office is scheduled a month after the presidential polls in July.

But there is a catch. The NDA is staking claim to the presidential post but the Opposition is demanding it on the ground that it has more presence in states. For the Vice-President’s post, the names of Farooq Abdullah, Najma Heptullah and Murasoli Maran are doing the rounds.

Narayanan’s tenure has been laced with several controversies in which the President often nudged the Vajpayee regime on contentious issues like Ayodhya, killing of Christian missionary Graham Staines, the hunt for Veerappan and Gujarat. Constitutional experts like Rajiv Dhawan are of the view that Narayanan has worked as a “model President”, upholding constitutional propriety and dignity of office.

   

 
 
OLD BOYS FIRE ON PM GOA BURST 
 
 
FROM SEEMA GUHA
 
New Delhi, April 21: 
Three former Prime Ministers have taken on Atal Bihari Vajpayee for his speech at the BJP rally in Goa last week.

V.P. Singh, H.D. Deve Gowda and I.K. Gujral blasted Vajpayee, saying the Prime Minister of India cannot afford to forget the office he holds even if he is speaking at a party function or a private gathering. And certainly not in a public rally.

Former Congress Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao refused to comment, while Chandra Shekhar was out of town.

Singh took a personal dig at Vajpayee, saying had he taken part in India’s freedom struggle, he could not have said what he did. Vajpayee, he said, would have instinctively realised how countless Indian Muslims fought side by side with Hindus for Independence.

Both Singh and Gowda said the Gujarat violence coupled with the Prime Minister’s remarks have given Pakistan the perfect opportunity to damage India’s secular image.

“What Pakistan could not do with its efforts to tarnish our secular image in the last 50 years, the NDA government under Atal Bihari Vajpayee has done in a month by refusing to control the violence against Muslims in Gujarat,” Gowda said.

“Our name is tarnished and we have given the perfect opportunity to President (Pervez) Musharraf to talk of India’s sham democracy.”

Singh went a step further to say that the long-term aims of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence have coincided with the short-term goals of the BJP. “Both want to create a divide between Hindus and Muslims for their own advantage.”

The former Prime Minister said Vajpayee’s speech was a deliberate attempt to polarise Indian society to further his party’s cause. Though Vajpayee blamed the press later for misquoting him, Singh believes the Prime Minister said what he did knowing fully well what impact his comments against Muslims would have.

The three former Prime Ministers believe that the BJP, after its dismal performance in the recent Assembly elections, is determined to go back to its Hindutva agenda that had propelled it to power.

Gujral wants Vajpayee and his party to reflect on whether India can survive without secularism. “I think whether in office or outside, speaking, finger-pointing at certain communities go against the secular value of our Constitution,” he said. “Secularism is not a favour granted by the majority community to the minorities. It is a paradigm on which the nation was built.”

The “we in the Constitution” means all the people of India, the nation at large, the former Prime Minister said. It is not merely Hindu, Muslim or Sikh, but includes every community, caste, and creed irrespective of their religious beliefs.

Gujral said the bloodletting in Gujarat was of “deep concern” to every patriot. “I do hope the Prime Minister would appreciate that the touchstone of Indian nationhood is secularism. Without it we cannot survive as a nation.”

   

 
 
AMMA SWINGS TO BJP AND BACK 
 
 
FROM M.R. VENKATESH
 
Chennai, April 21: 
The tremors of the Gujarat turbulence have sent Jayalalithaa oscillating between the two polar opposites: the BJP and the Congress.

“The amplitude of Jayalalithaa’s political pendulum swinging between the BJP and the Congress keeps widening, three days of the week that side and four days this side,” remarked a senior Congress leader wryly. The message from Poes Garden to New Delhi is clear: Amma is keeping her options open.

With the DMK-NDA links growing tenuous, Jayalalithaa tried to seize the opportunity and take its arch-rival’s place “at the appropriate time”. It started by offering “issue-based support” to the BJP-led coalition. But the “utter regressiveness” of the Gujarat situation is holding her back, said political observers.

Jayalalithaa began her swing away by joining the oust-Narendra Modi chorus. But NDA convener George Fernandes claimed in Ahmedabad that the ADMK parliamentary party leader, P.H. Pandian, had “clarified” that she had not called for Modi’s scalp. Pandian refuted Fernandes’ stand last night.

Stating that the parliamentary party had endorsed the stand taken by “my leader, Dr Puratchi Thalaivi, that the Gujarat chief minister should be replaced”, Pandian took a dig at Fernandes.

He said the defence minister had also allegedly put words in the mouth of Telugu Desam parliamentary party leader Yerran Naidu to confuse Chandrababu Naidu over Gujarat. But that did not work, Pandian said and charged Fernandes with a “political motive” in making the baseless statement.

The confusion brewing in Chennai got more cloudy as political circles here believe that on Amma’s diktat, Pandian is also interacting with NDA leaders informally in New Delhi to keep the BJP in good humour despite her public posturing on Gujarat.

At the same time, Jayalalithaa has been shrewd enough not to burn her bridges with the Congress, said sources. This was indicated by her vociferous denial in the Assembly on Friday that her government’s intelligence apparatus was keeping tabs on Sonia Gandhi.

But factionalism in the state Congress could be hampering a rapprochement of the natural allies and having a bearing on Jayalalithaa’s ambivalence towards the BJP.

Former Union minister Vazhapadi Ramamurthy, who recently re-joined the Congress, is trying to goad Amma — to whom he always enjoyed a certain proximity — back to the traditional Congress-ADMK alliance though she has hinted that her party would contest all three Assembly bypolls in May. Many see his efforts as an attempt to position himself as a possible state Congress chief.

Present incumbent E.V.K.S. Elangovan is sceptical. He met state CPI secretary R. Nallakannu this evening to discuss the possibility of a “third front” again for the byelections.

   

 
 
FOOD & FAMINE-AID PRICE FOR SUPPORT 
 
 
FROM G.S. RADHAKRISHNA
 
Hyderabad, April 21: 
The Telugu Desam has decided against backing the Opposition call for a discussion in the Lok Sabha on Gujarat under Rule 184 after an impromptu politburo meeting held at party chief Chandrababu Naidu’s residence.

Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had called Naidu last night and suggested that the NDA would concede the demand for a debate under Rule 184 if he gave an assurance that the Desam would wholeheartedly support the government.

But after speaking to his senior MPs last night and also this morning, Naidu — he left for Bhadrachalam to participate in Ram Navami festivities today — was not sure how his flock might be provoked to conduct itself in the House as most of them were persistent on Modi’s removal to safeguard the Desam’s secular votebank in Andhra Pradesh.

When Naidu posed the same query to his MPs at the meeting, he again found that a majority of them were keen on the ouster of the Gujarat chief minister at the earliest. Coupled with his strategy of maintaining status quo, this uncertainty forced Naidu to decide against participation in any discussion under Rule 184.

Despite provocation, the Desam has remained firm in its stand against any destabilising tactics of the Congress-led Opposition in Parliament. Earlier in the meeting, Desam parliamentary party leader Yerran Naidu had briefed Naidu on his deliberations with the BJP and other NDA allies.

But Naidu again put a price on his support by demanding 10 lakh tonnes of rice under the food-for-work programme and a Central assistance of Rs 1,200 crore for famine relief. The Desam will raise the issue in Parliament at the earliest available opportunity, sources said.

Reports said Naidu could not give an assurance of support to Vajpayee also because he lacks confidence in his men in Delhi. Apparently a batch of Desam MPs, whose terms with Naidu are sour, planned to jump the fence at least three weeks ago, but for the reluctance of the Prime Minister.

Vajpayee had rejected their overtures and advised his partymen not to entertain such requests in the best interests of the NDA, it is said.

The rift between the party chief and his legislators has widened as Naidu had given up the practice of tele-conferencing with his MPs during a Parliament session, reports in the vernacular press said. He was also not keeping in touch with some of the senior members. “The chief minister is consulting only the TDP leader nowadays,” said a senior member, referring to Yerran Naidu.

Yesterday, Naidu’s 52th birthday passed off without any celebrations as he went on a tour of Medak and spent most of the day addressing about four public meetings in 10 villages. Since he had decided against receiving any guests, even Governor C. Rangarajan greeted him on phone.

   

 
 
VC UNDER FIRE LEFT AND RIGHT 
 
 
FROM MONOBINA GUPTA
 
New Delhi, April 21: 
The Right never quite liked him. Now, even the Left has started to murmur.

Delhi University vice- chancellor — known for his pro-Left views — appears to have rubbed the Left the wrong way by not doing enough to check the University Grants Commission (UGC) from eroding the autonomy of his university.

Nayyar is also under attack from the Right for an appointment he made in the department of political science.

“They are trying to say that the vice-chancellor is making concessions for Left candidates,” said Sanjay, treasurer of the Delhi University Teachers’ Association (DUTA).

A whisper campaign started after P.K. Datta, a lecturer in Venkateswara College, was appointed reader in the political science department of Delhi University.

Datta, an English literature graduate, branched into history later and did his PhD on communalism. He has also authored a book with historian Tanika Sarkar on the Babri masjid demolition.

“There is now a conscious effort to have multi-disciplinary faculties. And Datta’s appointment is in keeping with this trend. It is definitely not against the rules. At best there can be a serious debate on the issue of multi-disciplinary faculties,” a university lecturer said.

He rose in Nayyar’s defence, saying: “He did not try to curry favour by appointing BJP candidates and now they are angry.”

But even his supporters are grumbling because Nayyar has not been able to keep the UGC from calling the shots.

DUTA, which is controlled by the Left, is beginning an agitation to protest against the increasing hold of the UGC on the functioning of Delhi University.

The latest instance is the UGC’s revamp of workload norms. At present, this is based on the student-teacher ratio, but the UGC wants to do away with this.

“The UGC basically wants to ban new appointments in colleges,” said a Delhi University lecturer. “It is part of its cost-cutting drive.”

What has also changed is the UGC’s “tone” of communication with colleges. Earlier, it was “civil”, said Sanjay.

“Now, they are directly threatening the colleges to follow the norms or find themselves without grants,” he added.

Even on the issue of upgrading the syllabus, the UGC is adopting a threatening stance. “Colleges have received communication from the UGC saying it will resort to ‘unpleasant’ action unless the syllabus is revised within the stipulated time,” Sanjay said.

   
 

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