Armitage shuttle with LoC monitor
Charter of 5 demands
Mamata bandh snub to Buddha
Hello! singer with a cause
Football rolls for politics
Advani ban move in UK
The next stop is New York
Loyalties split wide open on the Line of Control
Pawar flock in quarantine
Calcutta Weather

New Delhi/Islamabad, June 6: 
US deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage dropped broad hints in Islamabad today after talks with President Pervez Musharraf that he would carry to India proposals for verifying Pakistan’s claim that infiltration has stopped.

Armitage said his talks with Musharraf touched on how to monitor incursions across the Line of Control. “We’re discussing all sorts of monitoring mechanisms, without any prejudices one way or another,” he said.

Although Pakistan had described Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s proposal for joint patrolling of the Line of Control as unworkable, indications coming out of Islamabad suggest the idea is far from dead.

Pakistan repeated its statement yesterday that if India were serious about the proposal, it should put it forward formally. Information minister Nisar Memon called upon India to present it through the diplomatic channel, adding that a mechanism had to be worked out for joint patrolling.

“That will be the beginning of the dialogue between the two countries… we will discuss the counter-proposals as well,” he said.

Apparent in the statement was the suggestion that if Delhi agreed to talk, Islamabad was prepared to discuss a mechanism for joint patrolling as well.

That was exactly how it was read in Delhi, too. India said it would not establish formal contact until it was satisfied infiltration had stopped.

The expectation in the Indian camp is that when Armitage arrives tomorrow, he may bring a proposal for developing an information-sharing mechanism among India, the US and the UK on infiltration. This could include the use of American sensors and satellite imagery.

A foreign ministry official said such coordination might be necessary since in the past information collected by India and the West has not matched.

Signalling that the blinding whir of diplomatic activity is making headway, Armitage said: “President Musharraf has made it very clear that he is searching for peace and he won’t be the one to initiate a war.”

“I will be hopefully getting the same type of assurances tomorrow in Delhi,” he said.

Vajpayee chaired a security meeting tonight with his Cabinet colleagues to assess the situation on the border, where the shelling was a little less today than it has been in recent days. Home minister L.K. Advani, foreign minister Jaswant Singh and defence minister George Fernandes were present at the meeting along with senior officials.

India maintains that its proposal for joint patrolling was the best way of verifying whether or not infiltration was taking place. “It is a very serious, major and significant offer,” foreign ministry spokesperson Nirupama Rao said.

“It is the most practical and do-able step,” she added.

Although it is not being said in public, the joint patrolling proposal may also be an attempt by India to legitimise the LoC as the ultimate settlement point to end the decades-old dispute on Kashmir.


Washington, June 6: 
While public attention in India remains focussed on US emissary Richard Armitage’s talks with General Pervez Musharraf today and his impending arrival in New Delhi, the stage is being prepared in Brussels for what international peacemakers want to be the final push to start the process of defusing South Asia’s military crisis.

At the end of a day of hectic talks by national security adviser Brajesh Mishra with Russian ministers in Moscow yesterday, Sergei Ivanov, the Kremlin’s defence minister, arrived in the Belgian capital today.

Ivanov will brief US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld on the progress made by Russian President Vladimir Putin in Almaty in dealing with the India-Pakistan crisis and the follow-up to Putin’s efforts yesterday during talks between Mishra and Russian ministers.

Rumsfeld will be further briefed by Armitage either in person or through a secure telephone line about his discussions in Islamabad and New Delhi before the defence secretary travels to South Asia, according to officials in his delegation.

Sensing that Delhi’s pressure on Islamabad was working and that the international community was backing India, Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee made up his mind in Almaty to up the ante in any globally-brokered compromise with Pakistan.

Armitage, and later Rumsfeld, will, therefore, be given a charter of five demands. Topping this charter will be India’s post-December 13 demand for the handing over of at least 14 of the 20 criminals and terrorists on the list of those whose extradition is being sought from Pakistan. This demand was discussed in Almaty in far greater detail by Putin with Vajpayee on the one hand and Musharraf on the other than what either New Delhi or Islamabad is willing to acknowledge.

It is understood that the contours of a proposal emerging on this vexing issue envisages the creation of a bilateral extradition commission, possibly headed by the home ministers of India and Pakistan.

The proposal now being tossed around by various peacemakers suggests that the extradition commission should meet and discuss the list as part of a revived dialogue process between Islamabad and New Delhi.

India, however, wants the 14 men as a pre-condition to down-scaling the military build-up along the border. It has told Putin and will tell Armitage and Rumsfeld that the handing over of the 14 would be proof of Musharraf’s sincerity in implementing his January 12 speech ideas.

Only such a complete break with his past — which includes Kargil and sponsorship of terror — will convince Indian public opinion that Musharraf is sincere in his promise to end infiltration, Vajpayee and others will tell the Americans.

The other demands in the Indian charter are stopping all direct and indirect financing by Pakistan of terrorist outfits operating across the border, an end to training and provision of arms to these outfits, verifiable closure of militant training camps, including those in occupied Kashmir and, of course, a permanent cessation of infiltration into Indian territory.


Calcutta, June 6: 
An obdurate Mamata Banerjee today spurned the state government’s offer of talks and decided to go ahead with tomorrow’s 12-hour bandh, snubbing into silence partymen who tried to dissuade her.

Her obstinacy provided chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee with a ready weapon to lash out at the Trinamul Congress. “It is now for the people to judge,” he said at Writers’ Buildings. “On my part I did all I could to change their mind. (But) They did not comply with my request and stood rigid.”

Bhattacharjee wrote to leader of the Opposition in the Assembly Pankaj Banerjee with the request to call off the bandh and an invitation for talks on issues over which the strike has been called. “If the bandh is withdrawn then all sections of people will be benefited,” he wrote, inviting Trinamul leaders for a meeting at 4 pm today or any time at the Assembly tomorrow.

But Mamata refused to budge, saying the offer had come “too late in the day”. “We are going ahead with our bandh tomorrow… The issues over which the bandh has been called are all people’s demands and we called it nine days ago. (The) chief minister … could have called us at least 24 hours earlier….”

Some of the issues over which the bandh has been called are the increase in electricity tariff, distress sale of paddy, delay in teachers’ salaries and the state government’s failure to publish an accurate list of those living below the poverty line.

On Mamata’s instructions, Banerjee wrote back to Bhattacharjee informing him that Trinamul would sit with him at a meeting any time between June 8 and 10.

Former state Congress chief Somen Mitra said Mamata had already committed “political harakiri” by calling the bandh. “Her announcement came only hours after the Congress called a bandh on June 14 on the same issues. Trinamul is on a path of self-destruction,” he added.

Trinamul insiders said some top leaders tried to persuade Mamata to call off the strike in view of the high court’s condemnation yesterday of Bengal’s bandh culture. “After the court’s comments we realised public mood will be against bandhs. Bhattacharjee’s letter offered us a golden opportunity to call it off. We requested Mamata but she remained resolute. It is nothing but suicide,” a top functionary said.

Sources in the party revealed that Mamata turned down repeated pleas. “If I call off the bandh now, the Congress will say it is I who is the CPM’s ‘B’ team,” Mamata told her aides.

Mamata reacted angrily when reporters asked if her decision to go ahead with the bandh, especially after the court’s observations, could affect her party’s image. “Why are you asking this question?” she bristled. “You all know that Trinamul does not like to call bandhs. The high court has not rejected our bandh. On the contrary, it has dismissed a petition against it.”


June 6: 
Surrounded by homeless young girls hanging on to his every move, the Latin dreamboat, in a chocolate brown T-shirt and cream cargo pants, flashes a smile and plays the charmer…

Crowded in by young boys of a local club desperate to snatch the football from his feet, the man who sang the 1998 soccer World Cup anthem, La Copa Da La Vida (The Cup of Life), now in a blue T-shirt, is perfectly at home on a lumpy pitch in South 24-Parganas…

Cheered on by kids and adults alike, the pop star moves to a makeshift stage to do what he does best — “shake his bon-bon”, though this time to a Bollywood beat…

Ricky Martin is not a One Night Man for the street-children supported by Sabera, an NGO working mainly with girls who need a home and an education. After a secret tête-à-tête yesterday, he’s back for more.

The star heads off at 8 am from The Park in a white Tata Sumo with tinted windows, trying to look inconspicuous in dark glasses, reading a newspaper, flanked by “minders” and members of his group.

But, followed by another white Tata Sumo with more minders and a photographer, a maroon Esteem carrying two officials from Sabera, Nacho and Carlos Roman, and more group members, he is hardly inconspicuous. While the Sumos zoom away to throw the media off, Nacho and Roman blast the unwanted followers for their “unprofessional, insensitive and unethical” attitude.

Touchdown at the Sabera Foundation home in Kalitala, Bakrahat, sees him being whisked away to a room upstairs to meet underprivileged girls in their “special guest”-best, beaming excitement.

Even the toddlers realise “someone important” is visiting them, as they noiselessly pose for photographs with the singer to appear exclusively in UK-based Hello! magazine, famous for its policy of “sole access to stars at any price”.

The Kalitala kids are at ease in Ricky’s presence, having spent time with him the day before, when he sang, danced and played with them before eating a meal — specially cooked in his honour, of course — with them by his side.

Suddenly, there’s a crack in the security cordon. Puerto Rico’s most famous citizen agrees to answer a few questions. Barefoot, he executes a perfect namaste. As four little ones tug at his fingers, urging him to play with them, he smiles, looking at home. “These are my girls,” he affectionately declares in his Latin lilt, hugging them. “I’m here to give them as much love and affection as I can. The more we can give them, the better. And why not? That’s the least I can do for them.”

Calcutta, he says, has “changed in many beautiful ways, and I’m sure it will be even more improved when I come back next time…”

The steer-clear-of-Ricky brigade comes crashing in. Nacho brusquely explains that the 31-year-old singer has signed a deal with Hello!, which enjoys exclusive photography rights for the charity tour. In return, Hello! makes a handsome donation to Sabera.

Carlos clarifies the security issue: “Ricky has come here at great personal risk. We got letters from the Spanish embassy telling us to leave immediately because Pakistan has said they are going to declare war on India in 15 days (where did he get that one from?). So we are all a little scared of… terrorist attacks.”

Twinkle-toes doesn’t appear to be. Ricky runs off to have a go at the goal with a group of young boys from a football club in the locality, apparently set up with donations from Spanish soccer giants Real Madrid. The match is, however, cut short, as panic-stricken minders begin racing around, looking for hidden cameramen. Ricky is spirited away.

He surfaces a while later, on a makeshift stage, dancing bhangra-style to Hindi film tunes, jumping off to mingle with the crowd, letting himself go, livin’ la vida… That’s the last glimpse of the Maria man allowed to “outsiders”.


Busan, June 6: 
The each-way magic of sport is its ability to enchant and inspire individuals and nations in both good times and bad.

Take Argentina, confronting England tomorrow in one of the World Cup’s perennial grudge matches; take South Korea, riding high on the euphoria of Tuesday’s victory over Poland.

The Argentine economy is in free fall so the duel with England assumes extra significance. Here is both an opportunity for the Argentine people to forget their troubles for a few hours and a patriotic flag around which politicians hope the country may bind together to pull through.

South Korea is also hoisting the patriotic flag, though the economic situation is reversed: the Hyundai Research Institute suggests that the feel-good factor after the triumph over Poland here could be worth up to $11.5 billion in direct and indirect spending gains.

Former Argentine President Carlos Menem kept his poll-count high by taking every opportunity of a photo opportunity with Diego Maradona; similarly, Korean politicians approaching next week’s local elections are competing to compare themselves with Guus Hiddink.

One politician has suggested, tongue in cheek, that parliament create a law barring Korea’s Dutch manager Hiddink from ever leaving the country.

Of course, if South Korea loses to the US in its next outing, all this will change. But that’s also the beauty of football: you can hold one view this week and something diametrically opposite the next.

A measure of the depth of the Argentine economic crisis has been the collapse of the sports weekly El Grafico, a sort of Time magazine of Argentine publishing.

Grafico had been running for around 70 years, surviving all manner of coups d’etat and economic crises… until this latest round.

It cultivated a tone of family intimacy, a style enhanced by the way it drew many of its own writing and photographic staff down the years from succeeding generations of journalistic dynasties such as the Alfieri family.

Ricardo Alfieri junior will be taking pictures in Sapporo but not for now-defunct Grafico, a painfully sad break with tradition for the family and the magazine which captured the moment Antonio Rattin was sent off at Wembley in 1966, Maradona’s ‘Hand of God’ goal in Mexico in 1986 and David Beckham’s controversial expulsion in France four years ago.

This writer was also present at all three previous World Cup clashes. In the 1966 quarter-final, England won 1-0 after Argentine skipper and anchor-man Rattin was sent off for what little German referee Rudolf Kreitlein considered persistent harassment; it took almost 10 minutes before Rattin could be persuaded to go and his team-mates could be persuaded not to walk off in sympathy.

In the 1986 quarter-final, the so-called ‘Falklands Revenge’, Tunisian referee Ali Ben Nasser and his linesman were the only individuals in the Aztec stadium not to see how Maradona had punched the ball past England keeper Peter Shilton for Argentina’s first goal. Maradona’s malign genius was perfectly illustrated by the fact that his second goal, a wonderful solo, has just been voted the greatest in World Cup history.

Four years ago, Argentina won on penalties in Saint-Etienne after Michael Owen had scored almost as wonderful a solo goal as England played out most of the second half and all of extra-time with 10 men after Beckham’s expulsion for a retaliatory kick at Diego Simeone.

Like magnets, two of football’s most mutually provocative forces are repeatedly attracted by succeeding draws. Argentina, considered by English critics as the most cynical masters of football’s black arts; and England, derided by Argentine snipers as exponents of an overly physical style which time forgot.

To underline the antagonistic paradox, captains Juan Sebastian Veron and David Beckham hail from the same club, Manchester United.

Argentina are on a mission of national pride; England on a mission of revenge. In boxing parlance, perhaps this is a case not of which fighter is the hungrier but which nation … or whose pride?


London, June 6: 
British Indian Muslims have called on the Labour government to ban home minister L.K. Advani from entering Britain on the grounds that he is directly linked with the communal violence in Gujarat and will provoke communal hatred and racial tension if he enters Britain.

The Council of Indian Muslims, an umbrella organisation that is planning to sue Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi for genocide, has sent a petition to British foreign secretary Jack Straw calling for Advani being barred from entering Britain. Advani is expected to visit UK this month.

The petition requests the bar on Advani, saying: “There is compelling evidence to suggest that Advani has links to the RSS movement in India, who, it is submitted, have directed the recent communal riots in Gujarat.”

It also states that the government should consider the security issues on the grounds that “Advani holds racially divisive and anti-secular views, more potently towards Muslim and Christian minorities in India. It was Advani’s rath yatra, his nationalist pilgrimage of 1992, criss-crossing India and sparking anti-Muslim riots in many places, which culminated in a Hindu tearing down Babri Masjid mosque in Ayodhya. Thousands died in the subsequent communal uproar”.

The petition also stated that if the home minister were allowed in the country he could “pose a significant threat to community relations and public order and would therefore be contrary to the public good”. It quoted the government as saying “wherever Muslims are living. …They don’t want to live in harmony, they don’t mix with the society and they are not interested in living in peace”.

“Advani would incite extreme racial tension if indeed he would advocate such views in the UK,” the petition said. “We would like the government to take note of the fact that Advani is charge-sheeted in the Babri Masjid demolition case and his government is directly linked to the RSS,” said Zafar Sareshwala, spokesman for the group.

“The British government banned Louis Farrakhan from entering the UK because of his anti-Semitic views. Farrakhan had never done anything, it was only his utterances which made the Jewish lobby have him banned,” said Sareshwala.

“We want to send a definite message to the government about Advani. India is a secular democracy and his actions are not acceptable.”

British Indian Muslims are calling on the British government to proscribe groups like the VHP and RSS in Britain and freeze their assets.

Families of the victims who died in the Gujarat riots are also organising a major public meeting on June 22, where British MPs from Batley, Dewsbury and MEPs will address those concerned about the communal violence in Gujarat.

Another meeting organised by several secular organisations in the UK will take place in Southall on June 23.


Mumbai, June 6: 
Bollywood kitsch keeps marching on. Anything that is glittering, gaudy and Indian, is Bollywood.

The Selfridges show in London — in anticipation of a Bollywood season in the UK kick-started by Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Bombay Dreams — may have been disastrous, business-wise. But the demand abroad for Bollywood goodies keeps growing. New York seems to be the next stop for the kitsch shows.

So even as Dimple Kapadia issued disclaimers about the Selfridges show — she is angry about reports that the garish bedroom on display was hers and was shipped part-by-part to the show; she says it was only “a fantasised version inspired by my house” — New York is gearing up for a season of gaana, masti and Bollywood on the supermarket shelves.

Two big events are scheduled in New York this month. The Bollywood Fashion Awards will be held in end-June. This is the second time the awards will be held, and fashion sequences will be choreographed to “evergreen” Hindi film tunes. Big time models — Fleur Xavier, Jesse Randhawa, John Abraham — will walk down the runway exhibiting the creations of big time designers such as Tarun Tahiliani and Manish Malhotra.

It will also be the American debut of Maura Moynihan, daughter of Senator Patrick Moynihan, who will launch her music track, Yoga Hotel. How yoga qualifies as Bollywood is another question.

Last year, the event showcased a collection called ‘To India With Love’ that had “Tibetan-inspired” clothes and robes made of Chinese silk and brocade. This month, first-time director Anupam Kher will present his movie, Om Jai Jagdish, with its huge star cast of Anil Kapoor, Mahima Choudhury, Urmila Matondkar, Abhishek Bachchan and Fardeen Khan. There, however, everything will be purely filmi, except the presence of some big American stars.

As Monsoon Wedding still continues to reign among the top 10 films in the US, Indian fashion accessories that may or may not have anything to do with films, but are branded Bollywood anyway, are also set to boom. Vikram Nair, Mira Nair’s brother, has reacted quickly to the success of the film. A garment manufacturer, he has introduced a collection of clothes and accessories — iridescent shawls, swim trunks, sandals, gold bangles and a heart-shaped bag covered in marigolds — “inspired” directly by his sister’s film.

Warren-Tricomi, a Manhattan hair salon, has recently introduced mehndi to meet the growing demand. Here, Melody Weir, a mehndi artist, embellishes her filigree henna designs with Swarovski crystals. The mehndi craze is claimed to be Bollywood-inspired. The travel industry, too, is trying to jump onto the Bollywood bandwagon. Arrow Travel, a New York agency, will offer tours this year that include visits to a Mumbai movie set.


Detote (along the LoC), June 6: 
A 5-km trek from the point where motorable road ends leads up to a sudden opening dotted with small houses on the mountainside. This range is under India’s control.

In the next, partly hidden by clouds, Pakistan’s writ runs. Down the middle runs the Line of Control, as it is known in the wide world yonder.

Here, it’s mostly a line under nobody’s control. Even now, with all the eagle-eyed watch on the LoC, it can be crossed under cover of fire from either side.

Here, the border does not really exist. People exist on the border: between life and death. Between the mountains’ brooding silence and the cries of shells flying in and out. Between religious loyalty and the ties of land.

Residents of this village are endlessly shifting — at least those that can afford it — some to safer places inside India, some even to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. Two years ago, all families of Tarakundi, a village close to Mendhar, had simply walked into Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, sending shockwaves across the region.

“We are living in hell. The shells hit the mountain and burst, sending a deadly hail of metal all over. They damage our houses. They damage our ears. But where can we go? We have nothing, we are poor,” Sharief said after over half-an-hour of convincing that I was not another member of a patrol party out on a search-and-kill mission.

Villagers here view strangers with suspicion. Crushed on one side by militants sneaking in from Pakistan and on the other by Indian security agencies hunting for infiltrators, no one is willing to talk.

This is relatively new. For decades before that, they have been living on the edge of tension between two hostile neighbours.

Talking, but still wary, Sharief, a Gujjar, narrated how the suffering of villagers in the entire Rajouri-Poonch border region had worsened since India and Pakistan began shelling after the May 14 Kaluchak attack on an army camp.

“People have been caught in the madness of both countries. We have relatives living across the border in Pakistan. Some crossed over as early as two years ago, unable to cope with the pressure of the security forces. Pakistan says the battle over Kashmir is aimed at saving us. Lekin phir bhi gola-bari hamare upar hi karta hai (Still, the Pakistani forces shell us),” he said.

Detote is one among a string of villages close to the LoC which militants use to slip into the Jammu sector. Any word against Pakistan here is fraught with danger and so is a word against India. In most villages, the sentiment usually tilts towards Pakistan.

An army officer said: “We know for sure that villages near the LoC are big trouble spots for us. The villagers are not exactly anti-India. They are being used by Pakistan to push in terrorists. We have to be strict with them. If we are not, it would be difficult for us to hold on to our posts.”

Allah Baksh, who seems to be the only villager ready to talk, argues that if India wished to retain the region, it must resist pressure from the United States not to declare war.

“Musharraf bahut samajhdaar hai. Who jaanta hai ke Hindustan jang nahi karega jab tak US faujen Pakistan mein hai. Aur US wahan se jaldi nahi niklega. Aah kal jo ho raha hai, woh to chalta rahega. (Musharraf is very clever. He knows India will not declare war till US forces leave Pakistan. But US forces will not leave soon. So the daily shelling in the region will continue),” he said.

Most villagers stare blankly when asked who starts the shelling or even which side is firing. “We don’t know where the shells come from. They simply explode all around, damaging the countryside and cattle,” said Tauseef.

In Khanetar, Dari Dasi and Kerni, all villages strung along the LoC, villagers curse themselves for having been born in this man-made hostile terrain even as they fight a battle within, between religion and land.

Just before the sound of a shell being fired rang out, sending us scurrying towards a shelter, Baksh said: “We were already poor when the gola-bari began. Terrorism will be wiped off when the government begins to think about our welfare. The Pakistanis don’t bother, nor do the Hindustanis. Bus Khuda ke sahare hain hum (we are surviving on God’s mercy).”

The shell landed about 500 metres from the pit into which we had found safety. Pointing in the direction of Pakistan, Baksh added: “Unhone humme spot kar liya hai (They have spotted us)”.

Later, scouring the area under cover of rainfall, I found a shell splinter. It was still hot.


Indore, June 6: 
Call them the prisoners of a ‘political’ war. Sharad Pawar’s boys are free to “eat, drink and be merry” — but within the walls of their respective hotel rooms.

Going for a walk is forbidden. No telephone calls are allowed either — incoming or outgoing. For good measure, all mobile phones belonging to the Nationalist Congress Party MLAs have been confiscated.

Playing the role of a strict warden is the party’s Maharashtra chief, Govindrao Vajput. He is also there to ward off any BJP-Shiv Sena mole trying to venture anywhere near the men.

Throughout yesterday there was an air of expectancy in Hotel President on Tagore Road in Indore. It was awaiting the arrival of the MLAs and by midnight, every guest had been shifted elsewhere to accommodate the august gathering. Hardly surprising considering that the hotel’s owner, a certain Mehta, is known to be close to Pawar.

It was a little after midnight that the chartered plane carrying the political bigwigs reached Indore airport. Sources told The Telegraph that it was not just the NCP’s 34 MLAs, but a total of 65 MLAs — including 31 from the Congress — who disembarked from the aircraft. Following a minor scuffle with the press, the legislators boarded a bus for the short 8-km ride to the hotel.

The entire hotel had been made inaccessible to the press and public and police battalion cordoned off its premises, making it appear, as one onlooker joked, like a “quarantine” area after an epidemic had struck.

Inside, Pawar’s boys, impervious to the fierce political machinations, settled down before the television for a World Cup match. They cheered and jeered till four in the morning before catching up on their sleep.

The MLAs woke up late next morning to a traffic snarl choking Tagore Chowk as local politicians jostled with media persons to enter the hotel. News had leaked that the Congress MLAs were to be shifted to Bangalore.

It also came to be known that Pawar’s men were being moved to the five-star hotel Siyaji. While the alibi was that the President’s location in front of the main thoroughfare was posing a problem, insiders said it could be because the hotel had little to offer by way of entertainment, apart from televisions.

That would have meant only World Cup Football. Siyaji, on the other hand, offers a gymnasium, health club, spa, video games, electronic darts, bowling alley, basketball, pool games, tennis, squash and badminton. It is also tucked away on the outskirts of the city and has more space to accommodate the security entourage and vehicles.

But the men couldn’t succumb to luxury as yet. For they were whisked off for puja to Bhaiyyuji Maharaj’s ashram in the city. The Maharaj is Vilasrao Deshmukh’s religious guru. All afternoon, the MLAs were engaged as devotees in the ashram.

Meanwhile, Siyaji was being decked — or rather vacated — to receive the NCP legislators. Apart from allowing one marriage reception booked more than a month ago, the Siyaji is now chock-a-block with the visiting politicians and their convoy.

Ask for a room, and the receptionist comes up with an apology: “Sorry, but we are 100 per cent booked tonight. There are simply no rooms left. Not a single one. Not even a deluxe executive. We are packed to capacity. Don’t know when we might have one for you.”




Maximum: 35.1°C (0)
Minimum: 25.9°C (-1)



Relative Humidity

Maximum: 89%,
Minimum: 56%

Sunrise: 4.55 am

Sunset: 6.16 pm


Generally cloudy sky, with possibility of rain, accompanied by thunder, in some parts

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