Crown brings Advani closer to Atal
A-team powers back
Metro jumps to suicide theory
Focus & fantasy vs guts & grind
Calcutta Weather

 
 
CROWN BRINGS ADVANI CLOSER TO ATAL 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, June 29: 
India has a deputy Prime Minister — Lal Krishna Advani.

More than half-a-century after Jawaharlal Nehru chose Sardar Vallabhai Patel as India’s first deputy Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee tonight handed the No. 2 crown to his most powerful colleague who many consider the political heir to the Iron Man of India.

The first words of Advani as deputy Prime Minister reflected his eagerness to set at rest speculation that his elevation signalled a powershift. “I am extremely grateful to the Prime Minister and all those parties in the NDA which had wholly supported my being made deputy Prime Minister,” he told PTI shortly after a Rashtrapati Bhavan communique announced his new designation.

Advani, who will continue to look after the home portfolio, is the seventh deputy Prime Minister of the country, joining the ranks of Patel, Morarji Desai, Jagjivan Ram, Charan Singh , Y.B. Chavan and Devi Lal. Of them, Desai and Singh went on to become Prime Ministers.

Advani’s promotion capped a series of decisions that will set in motion the biggest shake-up in the Union government and the BJP since Vajpayee took over as Prime Minister.

After discussions through the day, M. Venkaiah Naidu emerged as the favourite to succeed BJP president Jana Krishnamurthi, who is expected to resign on Monday when the changes will be formally announced.

One of the grey areas clouding the exercise is who will replace finance minister Yashwant Sinha as his exit seems certain now. The only concrete proposal to emerge was that Sinha would swap places with a reluctant Jaswant Singh, whose foreign policy management was trumpeted as the NDA government’s biggest achievement.

But human resources development minister Murli Manohar Joshi has opposed Sinha’s transfer to the foreign ministry. If the swap formula falls through, Joshi could be considered for finance.

The decision to elevate Advani was taken after defence minister and NDA convener George Fernandes told Vajpayee this morning that none of the allies objected to the proposal. Fernandes had mooted the proposal last week.

Disclosing that Vajpayee had discussed with him the issue of deputy prime ministership on Thursday, Advani said: “But when my colleague George Fernandes talked and took suggestions from other members of the NDA and when it was brought to my notice, I got the impression that some steps are being taken.”

BJP sources stressed that the move should not be construed as a “dilution” of Vajpayee’s authority. But it was insinuated that the promotion legitimised the line of succession within the party and, in a sense, signalled who would lead the BJP in the 2004 elections.

Advani said there would be no change in his job profile but added that his responsibilities would increase.

Besides Venkaiah Naidu, the other ministers who will return to the BJP headquarters are Arun Jaitley and Ananth Kumar. Both are likely to be inducted as general secretaries with Jaitley being given the additional charge of chief spokesman. Rajnath Singh is also tipped to become a general secretary.

After talks involving Advani, Pramod Mahajan and Jaswant, Vajpayee has decided to induct former Gujarat chief minister Keshubhai Patel, Krishnamurthi and Shatrughan Sinha from the BJP and representatives of allies like the Trinamul Congress, the PMK, the MDMK and the Shiv Sena.

Patel and Krishnamurthi are slated to get Cabinet ranks while Shatrughan Sinha — who was sulking at being ignored — may be named minister of state.

   

 
 
A-TEAM POWERS BACK 
 
 
FROM RADHIKA RAMASESHAN
 
New Delhi, June 29: 
The return of Venkaiah Naidu, Arun Jaitley, Ananth Kumar and Rajnath Singh to the BJP ranks means that deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani has regained control of the party organisation, although by proxy.

The quartet has been named the party’s new core team, which will have the last word on policies and strategies. Naidu, Jaitley, Kumar and Rajnath owe their rise mainly to Advani.

The first three were members of his team of office-bearers. Rajnath became Uttar Pradesh chief minister, thanks to Advani backing him against Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s wishes.

Advani’s grip over the BJP slackened after Kushabhau Thakre took over as president in 1998 and became progressively weaker while Bangaru Laxman and later K. Jana Krishnamurthi headed it.

Thakre and Krishnamurthi had their moments of tension with Vajpayee and sporadically spoke out against the government, but the Prime Minister and his strategists were quick to neutralise the criticism.

Laxman tried to chart a course different from the Hindutva image the BJP had projected during Advani’s long tenure by stressing that the minorities and the marginalised ought to be coopted in its mainstream.

In a sense, Naidu’s return will ensure the end of the BJP’s dalliance with any brand of liberalism. Sources said it was a matter of time before the leaders speak out only in favour of Hindutva, NDA or no NDA. In the Goa executive last April, Advani had said the BJP should not be apologetic about Hindutva and his statement was seen as a sign of a larger agenda that would unfold in the coming months.

The continuance of Narendra Modi as Gujarat chief minister — against Vajpayee’s express wishes — and the appointment of Vinay Katiyar as the Uttar Pradesh BJP chief seemed in sync with the revival of aggressive Hindutva in the party.

The return of Naidu and company to 11 Ashoka Road was also seen as an effort to give the BJP a “younger and more dynamic” look. The four are in their late forties or early fifties — a fact highlighted by the age of earlier presidents, who were in their seventies and eighties.

As news of Naidu’s likely takeover of the BJP did the rounds, the atmosphere in the BJP headquarters turned electric. The staff swore that the morale of the cadre would be revived and the forlorn office reactivated.

But the older office-bearers did not share their enthusiasm. One pointed out that Kumar was the only Lok Sabha MP in the core team, Naidu and Jaitley were from the Rajya Sabha while Rajnath had led the BJP to its worst-ever debacle in the Uttar Pradesh elections. The underlying statement was that none of them could claim to be “people’s representatives”.

   

 
 
METRO JUMPS TO SUICIDE THEORY 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, June 29: 
A miraculous escape under the wheels of a running train thrust Metro Railway into a fresh controversy after officials claimed that a 65-year-old man who fell on the tracks was trying to commit suicide.

Less than two weeks ago, Metro officials had tried to pass off as suicide the accidental death of 24-year-old engineering student Aveek Tarafdar. Metro was later forced to retract.

Today’s incident occurred at Kalighat station around 11 am when Bikash Mukherjee, a resident of Ranaghat, tipped over while leaning from the edge of the platform to see if a train was approaching. The driver of the Tollygunge-bound train had slammed the brakes the moment he saw a man lying on the tracks, but could not stop three compartments from passing over.

But Mukherjee, who had fallen in the ditch between the tracks, survived. On earlier occasions too, several others have survived after they landed in the ditch while attempting suicide. Station staff pulled Mukherjee out from under the train. Services were disrupted for 40 minutes.

Mukherjee later told police he was feeling dizzy. Doctors at SSKM Hospital, where he was taken, also said he could have lost consciousness. “We went through his ECG report, which says he was suffering from a heart blockage,” said Dr Monotosh Panja. “This can result in mild heart attack and momentary blackout.” Later in the evening, Mukherjee’s pulse began falling at an alarming rate, forcing doctors to put him on a temporary pacemaker.

According to the statement given by Mukherjee, he was on his way to a hospital in Howrah to see a friend and was waiting for a train that would take him to the Mahatma Gandhi Road station. “Finding a number of commuters clogging the edge of the platform adjacent to the Dum Dum-bound track, Mukherjee decided to wait on the opposite edge, close to the Tollygunge-bound track,” said an officer of Kalighat police station.

Officers of the police station also felt that Mukherjee may have lost consciousness. But Metro authorities stuck to their stand. “It is a case of a simple suicide attempt. Though we have no idea about his physical condition, we have no reason to believe anything else,” a spokesman said.

   

 
 
FOCUS & FANTASY VS GUTS & GRIND 
 
 
FROM KEIR RADNEDGE
 
Yokohama, June 29: 
A World Cup final worthy of the name needs Germany to score first against Brazil here in the Yokohama International Stadium tomorrow night.

That would guarantee a contest. Otherwise, on the face of it, the disparity between the teams is almost too great for the occasion. Brazil is winding up a team which can mix focus and fantasy; a midfield of managers behind an attack of artists. Germany will seek only to contain through discipline, commitment, guts and sheer hard work.

At the end of a gruelling World Cup in which both teams will be playing their seventh game, physical logic suggests that Germany’s game plan will be exhausted, literally, before that of Brazil. The mental pressures, similarly, are varied. Brazil is the favourite to win, especially among their loud-mouthed media pack back home. Defeat would be even more upsetting and depressing than that of 1998 in the final in France.

Germany, on the other hand, has nothing to lose. The Germans were never expected to go anywhere near the final. This World Cup, whatever happens in Yokohama, is already a triumph for coach Rudi Voeller and his utilitarian team. The mass crowd reception in Frankfurt is already guaranteed.

As one German journalist put it: “It is the media who will get the rotten tomato reception back home because of the tough time we gave this team.”

The Germans have been underdogs before. Back in 1954, they were opposed in the final by the legendary Hungary of Ferenc Puskas. The Hungarians had been unbeaten for almost four years and had even thrashed the Germans 8-3 in the first round. Hungary led 2-0 after 10 minutes, yet Germany hit back to win 3-2. It remains one of the greatest upsets in the 72 years of the World Cup.

Memories of 1954 were brought flooding to the surface earlier in these finals when it was reported from Germany that Fritz Walter, captain in 1954, had died at his home in Kaiserslautern, where he played out his career.

The superstitious will believe that the spirit of ‘54 will now be translated in the squad of ‘02. Coincidentally, the one German player most likely to penetrate Brazil’s defence tomorrow is the one Kaiserslautern player in the squad, their five-goal top scorer Miroslav Klose.

The Yokohama crowd will be backing Brazil. Brazilians make up the third-largest ethnic group in Japan after Koreans and Chinese. They are largely working class and Brazil’s success has given them a rare source of pride in their mixed-culture identity. Pele remains one of the great sporting icons of the Japanese and Brazilian footballers are the most popular of imports into the J. League. The local professional league restarts on July 13. Whether the administrators can harness the enthusiasm and interest in soccer generated by the World Cup is open to question.

Eight years ago, the US faced a similar challenge. A mixture of circumstances meant that the Americans could not set a professional league in motion for almost a further two years by which time much of the steam generated by World Cup ‘94 had evaporated. Japan is more fortunate. The J. League has been up and running for nine years and many of its administrators have had their horizons broadened by work within the World Cup organisation.

Interest in the Japanese national team will remain at a much higher level and, hopefully, J League clubs will sign some of the World Cup footballers who have performed here over the past few weeks.

They have no chance of attracting a Ronaldo or a Klose but some of the Senegalese players could earn far more here than what they are doing in their present circumstances somewhere in the unfashionable reaches of the French championship.

In that case, whether Brazil or Germany emerge triumphant tomorrow, at least Japan will also be World Cup winners — albeit of a different variety.

Fastest goal

Turkey captain Hakan Sukur scored the fastest goal in World Cup history when South Korea’s last day of co-hosting the finals was hit by a 3-2 defeat and a sea battle with North Korea.

   

 
 
CALCUTTA WEATHER 
 
 
 
 

Temperature

Maximum: 35.4°C (+2)
Minimum: 26.1°C (-1)

Rainfall:

5.7 mm

Relative humidity

Maximum: 97%,
Minimum: 70%

Today

Sunrise: 4.58 am
Sunset: 6.22 pm
A few spell of rain or thunder showers
   
 

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