Advani troops take over party
Delhi drive for Mamata face-saver
No match for moms-in-law
EC asks for cards, gets pictures of the dead
Thrills & deals mix
Gujarat echo in Valley
IIT trio solves prime number puzzle baffling computer world
Russia moots Pak role in Iran pipeline
United cry for fair poll isolates BJP
Calcutta Weather

 
 
ADVANI TROOPS TAKE OVER PARTY 
 
 
RADHIKA RAMASESHAN
 
New Delhi, Aug. 9: 
L.K. Advani’s stranglehold over the BJP organisation looks almost complete with three important bodies being reconstituted and the new members named today.

All the three bodies — the parliamentary board and the central election and disciplinary committees — are packed with his nominees, an indication that A.B. Vajpayee’s deputy will have his way on party policies and decisions. So far, the Prime Minister has been involved equally, if not more, in organisational nitty-gritty.

Four of the nine members on the parliamentary board — the BJP’s second-highest decision-making body after the national executive — are Advani loyalists. Apart from BJP boss M. Venkaiah Naidu, the others are Rajnath Singh, Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj. Advani is also on the board.

Pramod Mahajan, though believed to be close to Vajpayee, is looked upon as “indeterminate” as he can switch over with “imperceptible ease” if power equations so demand.

BJP observers see Mahajan’s special mention of Advani’s rath yatra — at last week’s national council — as the most important factor that catapulted the party into its position of pre-eminence as a sign of “changing affiliations”.

The only committed Vajpayee backer on the board is Jaswant Singh. Murli Manohar Joshi, sources said, can also be relied on if push comes to shove. The most significant omission is of Kushabhau Thakre, who has invariably figured on this board even after he ceased to be BJP president.

Thakre came to be identified with Vajpayee because he marginalised Advani loyalists like K.N. Govindacharya during his term and set up a direct communication channel with the PMO. He personally kept Vajpayee posted on the goings-on at 11 Ashoka Road.

The central election committee — which has the last word on regional alliances and ticket distribution — also has Sushma Swaraj and Sushil Modi, the Bihar leader close to Advani, on it. In the five-member central disciplinary committee, three leaders are identified with Advani: Ram Kapse, Harish Chandra Srivastava (via Rajnath Singh) and Central minister Bandaru Dattatreya.

BJP sources said from now on, Advani would visit the party headquarters at least twice every week, and additionally on Saturdays, to interact with professionals from every field. Tomorrow, the BJP’s intellectual and media cells have organised an interactive session with lawyers, doctors, journalists and teachers so that Advani can get feedback on public perceptions about the BJP. “It is a feedback mechanism to provide for greater flow of information from both sides,” a media cell member said.

Other indications of Advani’s growing clout are:

His presence at every meeting called by Naidu, whether it is to finalise his office-bearers and the national executive members or deliberate on policy issues. These meetings are now held at Naidu’s, not Vajpayee’s, house

He brokered the Gujarat truce with a sulking Keshubhai Patel yesterday. Vajpayee was out of the picture

He addressed all BJP parliamentary party meets during the monsoon session. Vajpayee chaired them but kept mum, seen as a sign of a “gradual retreat” from BJP affairs

He prevailed on Vajpayee to go on the front foot in the petrol pump scam and release the lists of Opposition beneficiaries

His alleged insistence on replacing K. Jana Krishnamurthi with Naidu.

   

 
 
DELHI DRIVE FOR MAMATA FACE-SAVER 
 
 
INDRANIL GHOSH AND SUVRO ROY
 
Calcutta, Aug. 9: 
Railway minister Nitish Kumar, who had knocked out Mamata Banerjee in the first round of the bifurcation battle, appears to have come under intense pressure to structure a face-saver for the Trinamul Congress leader.

The rethink spark was lit by the petro-pump scam and dissidence in Orissa, which are threatening to split Kumar’s Samata Party and Naveen Patnaik’s Biju Janata Dal — both key components of the NDA.

The uncertainty has prompted Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani, one of the backers of the railway minister’s zone carve-up plans, to put pressure on Kumar.

Tasked by the two leaders, defence minister George Fernandes, a party colleague of Kumar, is trying to make the railway minister agree to retain Dhanbad with Eastern Railway. According to the plan approved by the Cabinet last month, the blue-chip zone is scheduled to be transferred to the new East-Central Railway, which will be headquartered in Bihar’s Hajipur.

Fernandes and the Prime Minister’s Office have pointed out to Kumar in the past 24 hours that Eastern Railway’s claim to Dhanbad — as amplified by Mamata — was in order. They based their case on the original proposal, ratified by the Deve Gowda Cabinet in 1996, which envisaged Dhanbad as a part of Eastern Railway, sources associated with the exercise said.

Vajpayee and Advani appeared to have become appreciative of the fact that Kumar, by restoring Guntakal to Andhra Pradesh in the face of a strong demand raised by chief minister Chandrababu Naidu, has created a precedent which can be cited as a justification for retaining Dhanbad with Eastern Railway.

The sources said Jharkhand’s opposition to the transfer of Dhanbad to the jurisdiction of Hajipur is also being cited to persuade Kumar.

In Bengal, Trinamul showed the inclination to slow down the campaign against the Centre in view of the signals from Delhi and reports that a few party MPs are increasingly challenging Mamata’s anti-Centre campaign.

The Trinamul MPs who are said to have disapproved of Mamata’s vitriolic attack against the Centre, particularly Advani, include Sudip Bandopadhyay and Bikram Sarkar. Bandopadhyay, however, sent a fax to Mamata during the day, saying that he was not party to any “rumours” claiming that he has resigned. Sarkar, too, said he was always with Mamata.

   

 
 
NO MATCH FOR MOMS-IN-LAW 
 
 
CHANDRIMA S. BHATTACHARYA
 
Mumbai, Aug. 9: 
Boy met girl on a jhula, spoke for three minutes, got married, but the TRP rates did not live happily ever after.

Indians may be mad about Madhuri and also about match-making, but they like them separate, and certainly not on the telly. Kahin Naa Kahin Koi Hai, La Dixit’s reality show on Sony — in which she plays the chulbuli match-maker in a Hum Aapke Hain Kaun type of set — has brought kindred souls together, but no audience.

The show has debuted at No. 66 at the ratings, according to the latest figures released by television rating agency TAM. The first episode of KNKKH, telecast on Monday last week, managed a mere 2.69 Television Rating Points (TRPs). The second episode plummeted further, scoring only 1.39 TRPs. The figures cover cable and satellite homes from nine cities.

A study conducted by Lodestar Media suggests the show generated high audience interest but could not sustain it. The study says 79 per cent of 150 respondents in Delhi viewed the opening show but only 15 per cent sat through.

KNKKH was based on a “novel” concept: a woman meets three men, pre-selected by the channel, and takes her pick, while Madhuri, the little naughty girl-next-door, keeps the conversation flowing. But the audiences still prefer the saas-bahus to Madhuri the Cupid, as the ratings remain dominated by soaps on STAR Plus. Kahani Ghar Ghar Ki and Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi managed TRPs over 10.

Sony, however, remains hopeful. “You can’t compare the show with soaps. And one week’s ratings are not indication enough,” says Sunil Lulla, executive vice-president, Sony Entertainment Television.

The TAM figures make it official, but the Madhuri show, launched with the expectation of doing for Sony what Kaun Banega Crorepati did for STAR, drew sneers from some commentators from the word go. A televised match-making show was too much for an Indian audience.

It was the contrived backdrop that put off audiences most. “Match-making itself is such a contrived thing. Doing it in a set on television makes it doubly contrived. I would rather believe in a serial,” says Nandita Gandhi.

“The idea of two strangers meeting for the first time in such a situation is ridiculous. And what does it mean when Madhuri says, ‘I will leave you alone for some time?’ How can two people, or anyone, be alone in front of the TV camera?” asks Nirmala Sawant Prabhavalkar of the Maharashtra State Women’s Commission.

However, Sony stresses that it has conducted a private research according to which the response to the serial has been good. “About 74 per cent of people were aware of the show in Delhi and Mumbai, according to a survey of a selection of cable homes,” Lulla adds.

Sony hopes Kahin Naa Kahin Koi Hai — an audience for Madhuri.

   

 
 
EC ASKS FOR CARDS, GETS PICTURES OF THE DEAD 
 
 
OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Ahmedabad, Aug. 9: 
Eyes burning with anger, he flashes photographs of his dead son, daughter-in-law and grandson at the election commissioners.

“I lost all six members of my family in the riots. How do you expect me to vote?” cries 70-year-old Khaliq Noor Mohammed Shaikh, a resident of Naroda Patia whose home was razed by rioters.

His co-inmates at the Shah-e-Alam relief camp rub it in: asked for their voter ID cards, they pull out the yellow cards issued by the camp organisers as the only proof of their identity.

Having lost their families and homes in the riots, elections are the last thing on the minds of people in this camp. Their priorities are very clear: they want their houses rebuilt and compensation disbursed first. Elections can come later.

“Elections have no meaning for me,” Shaikh sobs as he relives what he has gone through in the last seven months.

The banners put up by the camp organisers ahead of the recce by J.M. Lyngdoh and Co say it all: Elections nahin, makaan chahiye (We want houses, not elections). As the poll panel begins its survey, some victims raise similar slogans.

Others say they are against elections because they will not be able to vote. To vote they will have to return to their homes. And their homes are not safe.

Fourteen-year-old Javed Hussain refuses to return to his home in Naroda Patia, one of the areas worst hit by the communal violence. So do his friends Razia Begam Shaikh and Nazir Khan. “It is not safe there. Second, we have not got compensation,” Hussain says.

Some people who returned home thinking things were “normal”, as the ruling BJP has been claiming, have rushed back to the camp in fear. They complain that miscreants are threatening them. But police are taking little action on the FIRs they have lodged.

Sarif Khan Pathan, one of the two in charge of the camp, says around 10,000 victims are still putting up in relief camps. Those who have left have not returned home — they are staying with relatives or have migrated.

His colleague, Safibhai Memon, points out that things cannot be “normal” considering that there have been large-scale migrations from nearly 75 Assembly segments. If elections are held in such circumstances, one particular party stands to gain, he says.

Early polls, therefore, will neither be free nor fair. So, the best option is to put them off, Memon concludes.

The election panel this morning began its poll-worthiness survey from the Gulbarg society in Naroda Patia before its 30-minute recce of the Shah-e-Alam camp. They then visited a residential apartment building in front of the RSS headquarters, where 11 Muslim families have allegedly been barred from returning.

Kalam visit

President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam will visit Mahatma Gandhi’s Sabarmati Ashram on August 12. He also plans to meet members of NGOs and riot victims, including children.    

 
 
THRILLS & DEALS MIX 
 
 
SEEMA GOSWAMI
 
Aug. 9: 
It was standing room only at the finale show of Lakme India Fashion Week, as Delhi’s Beautiful People turned out in full force. The theme was brilliance — a catchword in Lakme make-up this season — and interpreting it were Rajesh Pratap Singh, Monisha Jaising and Suneet Varma. The pick of the lot was Pratap, with a pristine white collection with razor-sharp silhouettes and quirky styling. Monisha Jaising’s sequinned jumpsuits and sporty separates brought a fresh look to sportswear while Varma stuck to his tried-and-tested floral theme, relying heavily on the use of Swarovski.

As the fashion show wound down to a close, the mood turned celebratory, and the Taj Palace lobby turned into the venue for the mother of all parties. It helped that by then at least some of the designers had something to celebrate. Buyers from such fashion centres as Brazil and Paris had shortlisted the collections they liked and were going to be back in a month or so to conduct business.

Dubai had gone one step further, with Soniya Kripalani of Aesthetics, who is opening a second store in Jakarta this October, identifying the labels she wanted on her shopfloor: Manish Arora’s Fish Fry, Raghuvendra Rathore, Monisha Bajaj, Priyadarshini Rao, Kimono and Sabyasachi.

The Selfridges team of Harvey Sutton and Tony Morgan was paying special attention to the designers it had stocked during its Bollywood promotion, especially Rohit Bal and Rajesh Pratap Singh who had had a sell-through of 85 per cent. Selfridges has already given a permanent site to Abu Jani and Sandeep Khosla for their home store, to open in September, and will continue to stock Abraham and Thakore’s sleepwear range.

Said Sutton: “What moved best at the promotion were separates like tunic tops, and that’s what we will be looking for. Price points don’t really matter to us; we want show-stoppers, clothes with drama.”

Going by experience, Selfridges believes that Indian designerwear will have cross-over appeal, with both the British and British-Asian shopper taking to it.

Amit Rastogi of RCKC, a store selling Indian designerwear in Wembley, however, caters unabashedly to the Asian community in Britain, giving them the best of Tarun Tahiliani, J.J. Valaya, Anamika Khanna and others. After Fashion Week, he has his eye on Ranna Gill, Geisha Designs, Ashima-Leena, Kimono and Sabyasachi.

Domestic buyers have been equally busy. Shoppers’ Stop, Biba, Westside, Piramyd and Be: are among the stores making the rounds of the stalls, order books in hand.

There is a particular urgency to their task as they want the new collections in the store by September to catch the Diwali rush. Says K.N. Iyer of Piramyd, which has three outlets in Mumbai and one each in Pune and Nagpur: “There is a growing demand for designerwear, especially in markets like Pune, which don’t have designer outlets.” Hence, Iyer is in negotiations to bring Rajesh Pratap Singh and Ritu Kumar to his Pune store.

Raghavendra Rathore, who already sells with the Be: stores countrywide, is now planning to expand his domestic presence to One in Shoppers’ Stop and Roopam. Both his main line, Rathore, Jodhpur, and his bridge line, Inde-pret, will soon be available in Calcutta.

Rathore, who is also looking to expand in such centres as Bangalore and Ludhiana, believes that Fashion Week has paid off in terms of business conducted. So, the numbers are adding up nicely — whether they’re the ones on the ramp or those on the bottom line.

   

 
 
GUJARAT ECHO IN VALLEY 
 
 
MUKHTAR AHMAD
 
Bandipore, Aug. 9: 
Madhya Pradesh chief minister Digvijay Singh launched the Congress poll campaign formally in Jammu and Kashmir today, saying the “BJP and the RSS are butchers of Muslims who they burnt alive in Gujarat”.

The Congress leader quoted the example of his state where “there have been no communal riots” during his eight-year tenure.

Singh lashed out at the BJP and RSS at a predominantly tribal Gujjar gathering at Malangam during an annual fair near here. “These people butchered Muslims in Gujarat during the recent communal clashes. These people brought down the Babri mosque in Uttar Pradesh and they dub every Muslim as an ISI agent.”

“The tragedy is that today Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Farooq Abdullah is with them. We thought his conscience would cry when Muslims in Gujarat were burnt alive. But he continued his association with the BJP,” he added.

“I have been the chief minister of Madhya Pradesh for the past eight-and-a-half years now and there has never been any communal tension in my state. They try desperately to stoke communal fires in my state, but I will never allow it,” Digvijay said.

“As long as chief minister Farooq Abdullah remains in the chair, there can be no free and fair elections in the state,” said Congress general secretary and spokesperson Ambika Soni. The Congress leader told the tribals that her party had deputed senior leader Manmohan Singh to press for “imposition of Governor’s rule in the state”.

Soni said the BJP and the National Conference want to share power in the state. “L.K. Advani and Farooq Abdullah have reached a secret agreement. The BJP plans to rig the polls in the Jammu region and the National Conference would rig polls in the rest of the state. It is a mutually convenient arrangement that the Congress would never allow,” she said.

The other speakers at the rally, which was also attended by senior Congress leader Ahmad Patel, demanded security for the party’s candidates for the forthcoming Assembly elections.

   

 
 
IIT TRIO SOLVES PRIME NUMBER PUZZLE BAFFLING COMPUTER WORLD 
 
 
YOGESH VAJPEYI
 
Kanpur, Aug. 9: 
Three computer scientists of the Indian Institute of Technology here have succeeded in solving a riddle that has baffled mathematicians all over the world. How to enable a computer to tell fast and correct if a number is prime — that is, divisible only by itself and 1.

“Lots of people have been looking for a test that can ascertain whether a big number is a prime or not in the quickest possible time. This result is a major breakthrough, likened by some to the P-time solution to Linear Programming announced in the 70s,” said Kanpur IIT’s Manindra Agarwal, who led the pioneering research along with two of his students, Neeraj Kayal and Nitin Saxena.

Their work has created a stir and won acclaim from experts like Shafi Goldwasser, a computer science professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Carl Pomerance of Bell Laboratories in the US. Goldwasser described it as “the best solution I have heard in the last 10 years”.

Prime numbers play a crucial role in cryptography, so devising fast ways to identify them is important. Current computer recipes, or algorithms, are fast but they can “go wrong”, said Kayal.

“The new algorithm developed by us guarantees a correct and timely answer.”

Agarwal said one main feature of their method is that the proof is “neither too complex nor too long” and relies on “innovative and insightful use of results from number theory”. Their paper, which has not been published yet but was circulated among leading experts, runs to only nine pages.

Agarwal is an ex-student of the IIT. Kayal and Saxena both completed their B.Tech from here in May last year and are currently doing their Ph.D. under Agarwal.

Agarwal conceded that the new algorithm may not have immediate applications as existing ones were faster and their error probability could be made so small that it is practically zero.

“Still, for mathematicians and computer scientists, the new algorithm represents a great achievement because it simply and elegantly solves a problem that has challenged many of the best minds in the field for decades,” he said.

Asked why he had the courage to work on a problem that had stymied so many, Agarwal replied in an e-mail message: “Ours was a completely new and unexplored approach. Consequently, it gave us hope that we might succeed.”

Methods of determining whether a number is prime have captivated mathematicians since ancient times because understanding prime numbers is the key to solving important mathematical problems.

More recently, attention has focused on tests that run efficiently on a computer, because such tests are part of the underlying mathematics of several widely used systems for encrypting data on computers.

The test to ascertain whether a number is prime plays a crucial role in the widely used RSA algorithm, whose security relies on the difficulty of finding a number’s prime factors. RSA is used to secure transactions over the Internet.

Scientists at Bell Laboratories were so impressed by the paper when they received it on Monday morning that they arranged an impromptu seminar on the result the same afternoon.

“That he could prepare and give a seminar on the paper so quickly was a measure of how wonderfully elegant this algorithm is,” Pomerance told Agarwal.

Written with reports from New York Times News Service

   

 
 
RUSSIA MOOTS PAK ROLE IN IRAN PIPELINE 
 
 
PRANAY SHARMA
 
New Delhi, Aug. 9: 
A fresh proposal for involving Pakistan in the Indo-Iranian gas pipeline has been mooted, this time by Delhi’s “time-tested” ally Russia.

The Russian gas and petroleum giant, Gazprom, which put forward the proposal to the Gas Authority of India Limited (Gail) recently, claims that the Indian company feels this could be viable.

However, so far the proposal has not been taken up at the political level with the Indian leadership by the Russians, who may do so at the Joint Economic Commission meeting between the two countries scheduled to be held in New Delhi at the end of the month.

Gazprom representatives were part of a delegation from the Russian parliament that visited Islamabad early this year. Indications suggest that Russia had discussed the proposed pipeline with the Pakistani leadership then. The Gazprom proposal to Gail, therefore, is being seen as a move by Moscow to assess Delhi’s reaction before a formal proposal is made.

Iran has one of the largest deposits of natural gas in the world. According to estimates, it has reserves of more than 500 years of natural gas. India, with a growing economy, is one of the main buyers of natural gas. It is thus natural for Delhi to be interested in formalising a long-term arrangement with Teheran.

The two sides have also got into a bilateral agreement for the supply of natural gas from Iran to India on a long-term basis, with special emphasis on it being “cost-effective and secured”.

A joint committee was set up last year by the two sides to carry out a feasibility study of the various options for the supply of Iranian natural gas to India.

There are four options: converting natural gas into liquefied natural gas and transporting it from Iran to India in specially-made ships; constructing an overland pipeline that will pass from Iran through Afghanistan and Pakistan into India; constructing a sub-sea pipeline through the continental shell of Pakistan; or building a deep-sea pipeline bypassing the Pakistani maritime boundary.

Among the four options, the land route is the cheapest. However, with an unstable Afghanistan and hostile Indo-Pak relations, it does not seem feasible.

The deep-sea option is the costliest and expertise for constructing such a pipeline is not readily available. Gazprom’s proposal stresses on laying the pipeline through the continental shelf or shallow waters of Pakistan, which is cheaper.

The hardliners and doves in the Indian establishment are divided on the issue. The hawks push for an option that does not involve Pakistan at all.

The doves, however, favour the sub-sea option, which involves Pakistan, as they argue that the economic interest might help reduce hostilities between Delhi and Islamabad.

However, what has come as a surprise to South Block mandarins is that the proposal has been made at a time when Indian and Pakistani troops are deployed in the borders in an almost eyeball-to-eyeball position.

   

 
 
UNITED CRY FOR FAIR POLL ISOLATES BJP 
 
 
OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Ahmedabad, Aug. 9: 
The BJP today stood isolated in its cry for early elections as representatives of all parties, NGOs and the minority community were unanimous that polls in Gujarat should not be held till conditions were free and fair.

Opposing early elections in separate representations to the visiting Election Commission, they questioned Narendra Modi’s intentions in dissolving the Assembly. Many felt it was “a ploy used by the chief minister to force the commission to agree to his scheme of holding elections at his chosen time, suitable to his design’’.

BJP leaders, led by state chief Rajendrasinh Rana, said having a popular, elected government was the democratic right of the people, which they could not be deprived of. So the commission should ensure that people got such a government as early as possible.

But advocate and human rights activist Girish Patel, who represented a group of Concerned Citizens, begged to differ. Pointing out that manipulating Article 174 to compel the commission to rush elections was not fair, he blamed the government for first creating “the abnormal situation and now… trying to impose normality’’.

Ashim Roy of Citizens’ Initiative sought as much time as legally permissible to enable displaced people to exercise their voting right. Asked what the right time was, he said: “In my opinion, elections should be held when conditions are not only conducive to hold free election but the exercise should also look free and fair.”

Kirti Shah of We, the People felt elections brought out the worst divisions among the people. He regretted that instead of initiating a healing process for both the riot victims and those affected by the earthquake, Modi was in a hurry only to hold elections. This was a great opportunity to bring about social harmony, but that appeared to be Modi’s last priority, Shah said.

But the BJP debunked all these arguments. Stressing the constitutional requirement for a popular government, its leaders said the commission should not be influenced by the propaganda launched by some parties that did not want to face electorate.

State industry minister Suresh Mehta said elections could not be put off just because a few thousand people were living in relief camps and many did not have their names on the electoral rolls, a task that could be completed in a few days. As for people living in relief camps, voting arrangements could be made at the camps themselves, Mehta added.

Dismissing the argument of Muslim leaders that the minority community was too scared to vote, Mehta said that once the election process started, it was the job of the poll panel to ensure that everyone was able to vote fearlessly. As law and order would be under the panel, it would have to ensure that there was no insecurity and the “shadow of fear is lifted”.

The All India Christian Council, which has been providing relief and rehabilitation to the riot-hit, suggested that polls be put off till conditions were conducive.

The council said it would take at least another four months to hold free and fair elections.

The council pointed out that the minority community would not be able to participate as it was afflicted by a deep sense of fear and insecurity. Moreover, thousands were yet to be rehabilitated. But the BJP refuted this.

Some Muslim leaders asked the commission to advise the government to impose President’s rule in Gujarat as the caretaker chief minister was as good as elected and had the government machinery at his command. In this situation, nothing could be free or fair.

   

 
 
CALCUTTA WEATHER 
 
 
 
 

Temperature

Maximum: 32.9°C (+1)
Minimum:26.7°C (+1)

Rainfall

13.6 mm

Relative Humidity

Maximum: 94%,
Minimum: 68%

Today

Sunrise: 5.14 am
Sunset: 6.11 pm
A few spells of light rain
   
 

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