Hindutva back in BJP good books
PWG emissaries back out of talks
Centre toughens stand on terror
Buddha sounds Advani on Haldia ally
Call from Edinburgh after 30 years

 
 
HINDUTVA BACK IN BJP GOOD BOOKS 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, July 6: 
A week after taking over as BJP president, M. Venkaiah Naidu made it clear that the party would revert to its Hindutva hard line.

Addressing its cadre at the party headquarters this morning on the occasion of Jan Sangh founder Shyama Prasad Mookherjee’s birth anniversary, Naidu said the BJP has not given up its demand for a Ram temple, abrogation of Article 370 and a uniform civil code.

Sticking to a common agenda for the sake of running a coalition government did not mean that the BJP would give up these demands, Naidu said. “Our aim should be to form a government on our own after the next elections and we should achieve it,” he added.

The BJP chief’s statement reiterated what deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani had said at the party’s national executive in Goa in April. Advani had asked the party not to be apologetic about its Hindutva agenda.

At the same time, Naidu stressed, there was no hard line or soft line or any difference of opinion within the BJP on the appointment of Vinay Katiyar as the president of the party’s Uttar Pradesh unit. “There is only one line and that’s the BJP line. We are trying to give good governance,” he said.

BJP sources said the party, trying to balance its Hindutva agenda with good governance, would possibly opt for the former. “Right now, the BJP is focusing only on winning the Assembly elections, starting with Gujarat. For that, its strategists believe, the Hindutva card alone will work. Governance may not sell as a credible plank,” said sources.

The party would have to sell the Hindutva line vigorously even if it meant displeasing a few coalition allies, the sources said.

“Self-interest is paramount at this point. If the BJP does not win at least half of the 10-odd states going to polls next year, it will be left with no bargaining capacity vis-a-vis the NDA by the time the Lok Sabha elections are here,” they sources added.

The BJP, being the single largest party, is the fulcrum of the NDA, they said. But going by its successive losses in the states, the sources admitted, the “fulcrum” seems to be getting weaker.

“The aura of power and authority will fade away if we don’t rule in at least half-a-dozen states,” they said. They pointed out that the BJP began to be taken seriously as a mainstream party only after it wrested Uttar Pradesh and other northern and western states. The sources added that the allies are unlikely to kick up a fuss.

   

 
 
PWG EMISSARIES BACK OUT OF TALKS 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Hyderabad, July 6: 
The proposed talks between the People’s War Group and the Andhra Pradesh government seem to have hit a hurdle with PWG representatives expressing their inability to continue because of the state government’s one-sided campaign.

PWG mediators P. Varavara Rao and Gaddar today withdrew from their assignment to work out the modalities for the talks with the government.

Accusing the government of “belligerence and insincerity”, the mediators said they were pulling out of the negotiations because they were unable to contact their clients, the PWG. “Our links with our clients has snapped. We cannot contact them. Hence, we cannot continue to represent them," the mediators said.

Addressing a news conference today, Varavara Rao and Gaddar blamed the state government for violating the “ceasefire” by carrying out indiscriminate combing operations and encounter killings in Naxalite-dominated zones. “The government should take responsibility for the killings of top brass of the PWG even as they had been lying low,” they said.

In a three-page note, the PWG emissaries accused the government of deliberately sabotaging the negotiations process. “Even before the talks began they had delayed the modalities, but were compelling the PWG to disarm themselves first and then talks,” they said.

Varavara Rao said the penalty for illegal possession of arms is a maximum of 10 years. “How come the government of Andhra Pradesh give capital sentence by killing the extremists in cold blood just because they possessed arms?” he asked.

Rao also charged the government of a conspiracy to kill the mediators, including S. Appa Rao and the two who were already talking with the government.

“A team of brigands — surrendered extremists — has been unleashed in the state capital to silence the opponents of the government viewpoint. We are on top of the list. We do not know how many might be killed. The team of brigands are supervised by two senior police officials,” he said.

The mediators said the state government could not ignore the objective behind holding the talks. “Chandrababu Naidu’s gimmicks of providing succour and relief to effect surrenders of the extremists is just a ploy to defeat the purpose of the talks,” they said.

Varavara Rao said the government should not have any objection to the PWG collecting donations as a political party. “The government has invited them for talks as a political party and not as an armed gang,” he said.

The state government is yet to react to the withdrawal of the two PWG mediators from the talks and their abstaining from working out the modalities with the government.

However, both the chief minister and the state director-general of police have turned down the PWG’s demands for judicial probe into the encounter deaths as well as the suggestion for observing and respecting the “ceasefire”.

   

 
 
CENTRE TOUGHENS STAND ON TERROR 
 
 
FROM PRANAY SHARMA
 
New Delhi, July 6: 
India appears to have hardened its stand against Pakistan following a perceptible shift in the US and Britain’s position and their attempt to ease the pressure on Pervez Musharraf.

The leadership has made it clear there is no question of further de-escalation, either on the diplomatic or at the military level, till Islamabad “completely and permanently” ends infiltration across the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir.

American and British leaders who have been visiting South Asia over the past few months to bring down the temperature in the region had been supportive of India’s position on cross-border terrorism. They were very clear on what they wanted the Pakistan President to do: stop infiltration and dismantle the terrorist camps in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).

But of late, there appears to be an attempt by both Washington and London to argue with the Vajpayee government that Musharraf is not fully in control in his country and the situation could be brought back to normal faster if Delhi agrees to resume talks with Islamabad.

India has taken note of the West’s shift in stand, a perception heightened by intelligence agencies having found out that instead of dismantling training camps for militants in PoK, four new ones have been set up recently. New ingress routes have also been detected.

In the last few weeks, security forces have thwarted at least three infiltration attempts and Delhi fears that some terrorists may have managed to sneak in.

All this, India believes, does not add up to Musharraf keeping his end of the bargain — of stopping infiltration and dismantling the terror infrastructure in Pakistan and in areas under its control.

These developments have made India worried about Musharraf’s intentions and led to the considerable hardening of its stand. So much so that Delhi has made it clear it might even break its restraint if any further terrorist strikes take place in Kashmir or elsewhere in the country.

India’s position was reflected in external affairs minister Yashwant Sinha’s recent press interviews suggesting that the situation on infiltration was regressing, as well as deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani’s statements.

“I have no faith in President Musharraf but I have confidence in our foreign policy and our capability to make the world realise that if a country is propagating terrorism, the international opinion should be very clear about it,” Advani said in an interview to the RSS mouthpiece, Panchajanya.

   

 
 
BUDDHA SOUNDS ADVANI ON HALDIA ALLY 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, July 6: 
West Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today formally suggested to deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani the name of Gas Authority of India Limited — a public sector company — as a possible partner in Haldia Petrochemicals.

Advani assured Bhattacharjee he would discuss the issue with Ram Naik so that the petroleum minister could find out if Gail is willing to enter into a deal and break the logjam at Haldia. The Bengal government’s search for a new partner has been necessitated by the deadlock in talks with Indian Oil Corporation.

The names of two big industrial houses — the Ambani’s Reliance and the Hindujas — have also come up as possible partners, but a section within the CPM appears keen on a public sector company, not a private organisation. “We are against the Hindujas and the Ambanis. Both are bad employers,” said Citu general secretary M.K. Pandhe, who is also a member of the party’s politburo.

Gail has an additional advantage because it can supply naphtha — a key raw material for making petrochemicals — to Haldia. Earlier, Indian Oil used to supply it to Haldia. But at a recent meeting, the Haldia Petro board decided to stop buying the substance from Indian Oil.

Haldia Petro sources said Gail has appointed no outside professional agency for carrying out due diligence but has gathered relevant data from Purnendu Chatterjee’s TCG, a partner in the venture, and is working on it.

Gail, they said, would restrict its investment to Rs 200 crore initially and is looking at marketing HDPE (high-density polyethylene), which is used for making plastic helmets and toys.

Bhattacharjee’s discussions with Advani took place on a day the CPM politburo began its meeting. Though it officially did not discuss Haldia — the chief minister conveyed to the party’s central leadership details of his talks with the deputy Prime Minister — it is clear that the chief minister is trying to chalk out a different path for his state and has, by and large, managed to win over a large chunk of the hardliners within the state CPM.

Left to it, the Bengal government may want to clinch a deal with Reliance. The Hindujas, because of their Bofors connection, will have a greater acceptability problem within the party.

Though the CPM leadership is opposing privatisation and disinvestment, much of its protests are confined to Parliament and Delhi. Yesterday, senior politburo member Prakash Karat had refused to dismiss any potential partner for Haldia Petro, including the Hindujas and Reliance.

Expressing concern over the continuing deadlock at Haldia, the politburo member said several parties were involved in the project.

The Bengal government, along with the others, will have to decide, he said, as the central leadership would not meddle in the issue.

The situation at Haldia has become critical with the Industrial Development Bank of India threatening to declare the company a non-performing asset if it misses the June 30 deadline for paying the interest.

   

 
 
CALL FROM EDINBURGH AFTER 30 YEARS 
 
 
FROM ELLA DATTA
 
New Delhi, July 6: 
After more than 30 years, India has been invited to participate in one of the world’s largest cultural bonanzas — the Edinburgh Festival.

The British Council, the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) and Delhi-based impresario group Teamwork Films will collaborate to showcase a package of dance, music, theatre and films at Edinburgh and other major cities in the UK.

The British Council held a preview in the capital, which was attended by tourism and culture minister Jagmohan. Welcoming such opportunities of cultural dialogue, the minister spoke about the contribution of British Indologists to the rediscovery of our past. Senior officials of the department of tourism and culture were also present at the function.

Sixteen artistes and groups will leave for Edinburgh shortly. Classical performers like Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, Hariprasad Chaurasia, Pandit Birju Maharaj, Madhavi Mudgal, Malavika Sarukkai, Bharati Shivaji and Shruti Sadolikar will be accompanied by experimental troupes like those of Aditi Mangaldas and Daksha Seth.

The experimental note continues with Chennai-based theatre person Pritham Chakravarthy who will perform monologues. Urban folk will also find a place in the package with music bands Indian Ocean and Mrigya.

A Shah Rukh Khan retrospective to be screened at the Edinburgh Film Festival — which will take place simultaneously — is expected to be a big draw.

India will also be represented at the Edinburgh Military Tattoo. The President’s Bodyguard is expected to show the British how well we have learnt their lessons. There will also be an Indian touch at the tattoo with the martial dance of Manipur on display.

However, folk and tribal culture is conspicuously missing in the rich and varied fare. Jyotindra Jain, Dean, School of Arts and Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University and a champion of folk and tribal arts rued: “It is the same old obsession with classicism.”

ICCR director general, Suryakanthi Tripathi countered that our folk artistes have to be polished before they can find acceptance with international audiences.

   
 

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