Basu, Vajpayee bury barb hatchet
Vajpayee ducks double trouble
Laloo fax attack on Advani?s facts
Love blooms & bleeds amid strife
Calcutta weather

 
 
BASU, VAJPAYEE BURY BARB HATCHET 
 
 
BY BARUN GHOSH AND SUVRO ROY
 
Calcutta, March 21 
Saluting an unparalleled meeting between A.B. Vajpayee and Jyoti Basu where decorum scored over divisive politics, the CPM said today the chief minister?s references such as ?barbaric and uncivilised? were not aimed at the Prime Minister, but at the Sangh parivar to which he belongs.

The CPM?s unusual announcement came 24 hours after the one-to-one meeting between Vajpayee and Basu at Raj Bhavan last evening which capped a day of verbal duel between the two seniormost leaders in Indian politics.

Unlike the barb-wrapped exchanges during the day, the evening meeting was marked by the renowned warmth and propriety that have helped the two veterans breach political barriers and enjoy a stature few politicians could boast.

?I have nothing personal against Vajpayee, so there is no question of hurting him personally,? Basu said today and added he knew the Prime Minister too well to make personal uncharitable references. ?But in my perception, the activities of the BJP, and of the Sangh parivar, to which it belongs, are reprehensible,? the chief minister pointed out.

The label ?barbaric and uncivilised? dominated the nearly 30-minute discussion between Basu and Vajpayee. ?I know you personally for quite a long time and you know very well that I have no personal grudge against you,? Basu said he told the Prime Minister.

?You rest assured that the epithet is not directed against you. But I am sure you will agree that I am free to use it in the context of what your party has done and is still doing to the country,? Basu told Vajpayee. Basu catalogued the demolition of Babri Masjid and the spate of attacks on Christians in support of his claim that the BJP is ?barbaric and uncivilised?.

The poet-Prime Minister touched an emotional chord in the Bengal patriarch by candidly asking what he had done to earn the unkind label. ?Basuji, at least you know that I have always been fair to all, including my political opponents. What have I done to be persistently called ?barbaric??? Vajpayee asked.

In fact, as soon as Vajpayee had landed in Calcutta, he invited Basu to Raj Bhavan. ?I went to the meeting because he said in the morning at the airport that he wanted to discuss a few things with me,? Basu said.

Though the compulsions of realpolitik made both the leaders play to the galleries during the day, the atmosphere had mellowed by the time they met at Raj Bhavan.

?Vajpayee said if I ever had any difficulty or needed Delhi?s help, I should contact him directly without any hesitation. He said he would personally look into Bengal?s problems,? Basu said.

In a way, the smooth meeting between the two also underscored in sharp contrast the frosty relationship between Basu and Union home minister L.K. Advani, once a strong contender for the Prime Minister?s office.

This could be gauged last June when Basu, taking umbrage at Advani?s attempts to score points off the CPM by interfering in Bengal?s law and order, had a Central fact-finding team rebuffed in the state.

Besides the outcome of the meeting, Vajpayee?s public expression of anguish at the rally at the Brigade Parade Ground yesterday spurred the CPM to clear the air. ?Basu?s comments are political and against the communal BJP. They have nothing to do with Vajpayee,? two senior CPM leaders told a press conference today.

While playing down the attack on the Prime Minister, Basu?s second-in-command Buddhadev Bhattacharya and CPM state secretary Anil Biswas asserted that the RSS was ?the country?s No. 1 enemy because of its fascist politics?.    


 
 
VAJPAYEE DUCKS DOUBLE TROUBLE 
 
 
OUR BUREAU
 
March 21 
For the second consecutive day, Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee successfully walked the political tightrope ? strengthening the BJP?s Tamil Nadu unit and keeping the volatile Jayalalitha happy by giving the Karunanidhi government a rap on the knuckle.

Yesterday, Vajpayee had to perform a similar role: projecting the BJP?s image at a rally organised by the party?s West Bengal unit and, at the same time, ensuring that the unpredictable Mamata Banerjee, leader of BJP ally Trinamul Congress, was satisfied with his outburst against the Left Front.

This two-day tour had been a headache for the Prime Minister?s advisers ? no one was sure if the two women would take kindly to Vajpayee visiting their states for programmes not organised by them.

At one time, it appeared that Mamata was bent on scuttling his trip to Calcutta. ADMK chief Jayalalitha, on the other hand, played out a prolonged drama over ?not having received any invitation from the BJP? before finally refusing to attend the Prime Minister?s rally.

But Vajpayee came through the past 48 hours with flying colours, cautioning the Tamil Nadu government for not taking a tougher stance against fundamentalist groups backed by Pakistan.

He again lambasted the Congress and the Left for having stood by Rabri Devi in Bihar while caste massacres continued in Jehanabad.

Even as he warned the DMK government, the Prime Minister was firm that there was no case for Central rule in Tamil Nadu yet, though Jayalalitha has not given up her demand.

On removal of cases against her from the special courts, Vajpayee said he was for the rule of law and there was no effort on the part of the Centre to rescue anyone. ?Those facing corruption charges shall not be allowed to go free,? he asserted.

In the same breath, he argued there should not be a ?witch-hunt?, and insisted that there was nothing wrong with transferring the cases to other sessions courts.

He evaded further questions on the subject by pointing out that the Supreme Court was dealing with the issue and the matter was sub judice. According to the Prime Minister, taking away these cases from the trial court would not in any way prolong the procedure.

Vajpayee did not forget to make it clear exactly how important the BJP believed Jayalalitha to be in state politics. ?We miss her here,? he said.

At the Calcutta rally, too, he had certified that Mamata was ?not a power-hungry politician?.

The Prime Minister also observed that the Tamil Nadu unit of the BJP should maintain cordial relations with the ADMK. On questions about Jayalalitha?s friction with the state BJP, the Prime Minister simply promised to look into the problem. His task will not be made any easier by the fact that Mamata, too, is often at daggers drawn with the West Bengal BJP.

Vajpayee said the DMK government would have to do much more to weed out ?fundamentalist forces and ISI elements? from the state and pledged the Centre?s support on this issue.

He warned that the Centre was watching the situation in Tamil Nadu, but gave a breather to the DMK government saying law and order was, after all, a state subject.

At the Tiruchirapalli rally, the Prime Minister was at his aggressive best, lashing out at the Congress and describing it as a party groping for power, feeling frustrated at not being able to unseat his government.    


 
 
LALOO FAX ATTACK ON ADVANI?S FACTS 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Patna, March 21 
Waving a fax message, Laloo Prasad Yadav today tried to demolish Union home minister L.K. Advani?s claim that the Centre had not withdrawn any forces from Bihar.

The fax which Laloo Yadav showed mentioned ?Home, New Delhi? as its sender and was addressed to the home secretary and director-general of police, Bihar. It carried the signature of ?desk officer V.K. Chopra? and called for the withdrawal of 17 companies of Central forces.

The fax was sent on March 8, the day President?s rule in Bihar was revoked. After the message, 11 companies had been pulled out in phases. Advani had insisted in Thiruvananthapuram yesterday that ?there had been no withdrawal of forces.?

Coming down heavily on the Centre and the home minister, Laloo Yadav said they should be blamed for the unabated violence as they refused to heed the state?s request for more forces.

Bristling at Advani?s statement yesterday that ?the state government itself protects, promotes and patronises crime?, Laloo Yadav snapped back: ?Advani is prejudiced and biased.?

The Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief, along with wife, chief minister Rabri Devi, demanded a joint parliamentary committee probe into Advani?s charges.

Laloo Yadav also ruled out any change of guard in Bihar, ignoring the veiled demand for his wife?s resignation by some Congress leaders. ?Rabri Devi is chief minister and she will remain chief minister. The RJD government is here to stay,? he said.

Congress leaders Sharad Pawar, P.A. Sangma and Shivraj Patil yesterday said the state government cannot shirk responsibility and made it clear the RJD should not take the Congress? support for granted.

Defending the Rabri Devi government, Laloo Yadav said massacre and mayhem was nothing new to Bihar. ?It is like a chronic disease and cannot be eliminated overnight. Three massacres took place during President?s rule and had the Central rule been prolonged, entire Bihar would have been massacred,? he said.

Rabri Devi held the district magistrate, superintendent of police and all civil and police officials in Jehanabad responsible for the massacre. She said: ?They will not be transferred, but punished.?

Attacking the BJP and the Samata Party, Laloo Yadav said the parties were using the carnage to further their own political ends. He alleged that a day after the massacre, Jehanabad district BJP chief Ram Kishor Singh was seen inciting villagers in Senari to attack non-BJP or Samata leaders.

He announced his plan to go on another padyatra to the affected village with Rabri Devi. An all-party meet on steps to curb violence will also be called soon, he added.    


 
 
LOVE BLOOMS & BLEEDS AMID STRIFE 
 
 
FROM SEKHAR DATTA
 
Agartala, March 21 
He came to his lover?s house to finalise their wedding. But there was to be no happily ever after. Saralpada Jamatya died for love.

A National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT) militant, Jamatya was killed as the police ? who had laid a trap ? grappled with him and a grenade went off accidentally in the policeman?s hand.

The explosion also killed the Natun Bazar police officer in-charge, who led the mission, and three securitymen, who had stormed the house in which the militant was sleeping.

Since 1995, Saralpada was having an affair with a 20-year-old tribal, Kalpana, of Naisafapara village under Natun Bazar police station in South Tripura district.

Kalpana?s father Harish Jamatya, former commander of a disbanded militant outfit and a suspected police informer, resented the liaison. But he was allegedly threatened by Saralpada and his friends.

The couple had met through common friends in the village. In spite of the obstacles in their path, Saralpada and Kalpana?s love bloomed. Often, it was as dangerous as walking in a minefield.

Saralpada trekked to the training camps in the neighbouring Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh to buy Kalpana expensive presents. ?Despite knowing that it was dangerous to be spotted at Naisafapara, Saralpada visited Kalpana once every month,?? said a local youth.

On last Sunday night, when Jamatya visited Kalpana, officer in-charge of Natun Bazar police station Sadhan Nandi and four of his constables raided the house in which Saralpada had put up for the night. Sources said Nandi had been tipped off.

The policeman, who had tried to apprehend the NLFT group commander earlier, was determined to capture him alive this time. As he tried to overpower Jamatya in the dark, the grenade in his hand exploded, killing them on the spot.

Villagers said Kalpana was still in a state of shock. For her father, however, Saralpada?s death has come as a relief. ?The NLFT used to intimidate the poor tribals. They forcibly sought shelter late at night and demanded meat and country liquor,?? a local resident said.

The blood-soaked history of the Northeast is littered with tales like Saralpada?s. Former NLFT commander Barijay Reang fell to police bullets in 1996 while on his way to 18-year-old Rajmati?s house in Gandacherra. Security forces, who were aware of Reang?s affair, monitored his movements when he met his beloved at least twice a month.

On one such visit, he was apprehended by security forces and gunned down after an hour-long chase.

Another tribal militant leader, Binanda Jamatya, met a similar fate in 1989, when his rivals dragged him out of his paramour?s house and tortured him to death. Binada, a surrendered rebel, was involved with a tribal girl, Rosamanjari, from Amarpur subdivision.

Nabin Tripura of the Tripura National Volunteers was accosted by rivals as he was going to his fiancee Laxmirani?s house in tribal-dominated Jamircherra village and killed in 1986.

As far back as 1953, Thiel Sakhrie, the Naga National Council (NNC) ideologue and a close aide of the founder of Naga insurgency A.Z. Phizo, was dragged out of his paramour?s house and hacked to death.    


 
 
CALCUTTA WEATHER 
 
 
 
 
Today?s forecast: Mainly clear sky. Not much change in day and night temperature.

Temperature: Maximum 35.4? (1?C above normal)
Minimum 22.4?C (normal)

Relative humidity: Maximum 91%
Minimum 27%

Rainfall: Nil

Sunset:5.44 pm
Sunrise: 5.44 am
   
 

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