Jaya lands with finger on trigger
Trust tug-of-war before President
Chain of Agni trials on track
Net cast for Ganguly abductors
Calcutta weather

New Delhi, April 12 
Jayalalitha touched down in Delhi tonight with the ?express purpose? of withdrawing support to the Vajpayee government and consulting ?political leaders, including Sonia Gandhi?.

?A final decision will be taken after the consultations,? the ADMK chief said at Delhi airport. Jayalalitha added that she had sought an appointment with President K.R. Narayanan.

The countdown for the pullout began in Chennai in the evening. Just before Jayalalitha boarded her flight, she asserted that withdrawal of support was ?inevitable? and ?you will know it during the next few days?.

Besides Sonia Gandhi, Jayalalitha said, she will meet Jyoti Basu. She added that her party would ensure there was no mid-term poll.

She said the dismissal of the DMK government was not on her agenda and ruled out setting any condition for supporting an alternative government.

Asked whether she thought she was a prime ministerial candidate, Jayalalitha said while she was not ruling out this possibility, a decision has to be taken by the parties with which she would hold consultations.

As the 13-month BJP-led coalition was being pushed to the brink, Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee called on Narayanan. Vajpayee informed the President that his majority in Parliament was intact and there was no danger to his government?s stability, BJP sources said.

The BJP said there was no question of reopening a dialogue with the ADMK. ?There is absolutely no question of going back on the issues raised by the ADMK. We are not taking any initiative to discuss these issues,? BJP spokesman M. Venkaiah Naidu said.

Naidu claimed that Jayalalitha?s threats at the airports would not affect the stability of the government. ?Her statement was only to be expected, because she was moving in a particular direction,? he added.

The ADMK chief emphasised that by approaching her arch rival M. Karunanidhi for his support to make up for the loss of her 18 MPs, both Vajpayee and Advani had ?shut the doors? for any rapprochement. ?They have themselves closed the doors by talking to Karunanidhi,? Jayalalitha said.

Though the Opposition seemed united in its intent to topple the government, the contours of an alternative remained shrouded in confusion and cross-talk.

The Congress sustained its cautious posture. Spokesman Ajit Jogi only said: ?Jayalalitha?s visit to Delhi is a significant development especially in the light of her last visit (when she met Sonia Gandhi at Subramanian Swamy?s tea party). We are keeping a close watch.?

The Congress is expected to move fast tomorrow, with chances of a Jayalalitha-Sonia Gandhi meeting bright. Some senior Congress leaders are expected to call on Jayalalitha to set the stage for a meeting with Sonia Gandhi tomorrow itself.

With the Left insisting on offering conditional support and stressing that a Congress dispensation could not overlook its economic agenda, Congress sources said the leadership still seemed reluctant to take the plunge.

Sources said the Congress would prefer to induct only time-tested allies like the IUML, Kerala Congress and the Republican Party of India, instead of experimenting with parties like the Rashtriya Loktantrik Morcha (RLM). Sources said the leadership was prepared, at most, to accommodate Swamy in the government, in case Jayalalitha so demanded.

RLM leaders clarified that though bringing down the Vajpayee government was their first priority, their support for a Congress government could not be ?taken for granted?. They are worried that if Sonia Gandhi becomes Prime Minister, the Congress could make inroads in Uttar Pradesh at the cost of the RLM.

?We would much rather have Sharad Pawar or Manmohan Singh as Prime Minister as they do not pose a threat to our political future,? said a leader of the Samajwadi Party, one of the constituents of the RLM.

With hopes of winning new allies receding, the BJP is clinging to the apparent confusion in the Opposition camp. ?What political alternative is being offered? Please explain,? Venkaiah Naidu said.

But party manager M.L. Khurana?s attempts to win back the Indian National Lok Dal?s support fell through, when its leader O.P. Chautala failed to turn up for his much-publicised tea-party this afternoon. Chautala?s excuse was that he had to rush to Chandigarh to attend the Khalsa celebrations.    

New Delhi, April 12 
With just two days left for resumption of the budget session and the mercury shooting up in the political landscape, President K.R. Narayanan is once again the cynosure of all eyes.

The question doing the rounds is whether the President should ask the government to prove its majority if Jayalalitha formally withdraws support. Constitutional experts are divided over the issue.

Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee, former Prime Minister I.K. Gujral and Janata Party leader Subramanian Swamy today called on the President to place their respective views before him. The Prime Minister was accompanied by home minister L.K. Advani and parliamentary affairs minister P. R. Kumaramangalam.

While Vajpayee maintained that his government continued to enjoy majority support, Swamy contested this claim and cited precedents to show that the President can direct the government to bring in a confidence motion.

Swamy said the government?s frantic attempts to enlist the support of political opponents such as the DMK and the Tamil Maanila Congress proved that the government had lost its majority.

Swamy took exception to Kumaramangalam?s statement that the government could prove its majority if Opposition MPs abstained. ?It was only during Hitler?s regime that there was abstention as he got arrested opposition members. The BJP should make it clear what it means by abstention,? Swamy told reporters later.

During the 40-minute meeting, Vajpayee informed the President that his government enjoyed the confidence of the Lok Sabha even though the ADMK chief had indicated she would withdraw support.

What the government wanted to convey to Narayanan was its view that the President should distance himself from parliamentary politics when the House was in session.

Sources in the Prime Minister?s Office (PMO) said Vajpayee suggested to the President that the onus of seeking a trust vote rested not on the government, but on the Opposition, because Parliament was in session.

?The ball is in the Opposition?s court. If they are so keen to bring down the government, let them move a vote of no-confidence,? a BJP source said.

But Opposition leaders said there had been several precedents when the government had to seek a vote of confidence after it lost its majority even though Parliament was in session. The most recent one was when H.D. Deve Gowda had to go through the ritual when the Congress dumped him during the 1997 budget session.

Swamy said he had handed over to Narayanan a letter and documents on previous trust votes starting with the one when Neelam Sanjeeva Reddy was President.    

New Delhi, April 12 
Ignoring the global clamour for restraint, India has decided to go ahead with more test-flights of the Agni-II intermediate-range ballistic missile.

?India will do whatever is required to develop its minimum credible nuclear deterrent,? asserted a foreign ministry official.

The response of world leaders to yesterday?s test has been muted so far. But they have all urged India to show restraint. However, indications here suggest Delhi will have to conduct a few more tests before the missile can be deployed in the defence system.

Depending on the available resources and the extent of international pressure, India will have to conduct at least five or six more tests before Agni-II can be deployed to lend credence to Delhi?s stated policy of developing a minimum nuclear deterrent.

But Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee is leaving nothing to chance in ensuring that his bus diplomacy does not come under a cloud. He met Pakistani high commissioner Ashraf Jehangir Kazi today, while his foreign minister Jaswant Singh was told by a Pakistani business delegation that they wanted to boost trade and commercial activities between the neighbours.

South Block mandarins described the developments as signs that the missile test would not stand in the way of normal relations between India and Pakistan.

However, the Indian public relations exercise did not stop Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif from holding a high-level meeting with scientists and defence officials in Islamabad to devise a ?matching response? to Agni-II.

Pakistani foreign minister Sartaz Aziz went a step ahead and accused India of vitiating the spirit of understanding achieved in the Lahore Declaration.

China, on the other hand, responded cautiously, though the 2,500-km Agni-II is viewed as a reply to the Dong Feng 21, or the East Wind Chinese missile.

The foreign ministry in Beijing expressed concern over the test and felt it could lead to an arms race in South Asia. It called on India and Pakistan to avoid such a situation.

Indian officials feel both China and Pakistan are caught in a bind following the test.

Domestic pressure in Pakistan will perhaps force Sharif to go ahead and test-fire either the 1,500-km Ghauri missile ? whose accuracy has been questioned ? or the much-touted Shaheen.

But here lies a catch. Despite talking about this advanced solid fuel-based missile, which has a range of about 750 km, Pakistan has so far not been able to display it. Experts feel this is because Shaheen is nothing but the M-9 missile allegedly passed on to Pakistan by China.

The Chinese leadership would not like Pakistan to test-fire Shaheen as it could bring back the pressure on them from leaders who questioned the missile and nuclear cooperation between Beijing and Islamabad. The test will then turn out to be advantageous for India, which has been trying to convince the West about proliferation of nuclear and missile technology by China.

Pakistan?s desire to match India?s missile muscle-flexing will not only bring tremendous pressure on its economy, but it could also expose China?s role in aiding Islamabad in its attempt.    

Calcutta, April 12 
The detective department of Calcutta Police today sent a message to its counterparts in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, asking them to be on the look-out for Babloo Srivastava?s gang members Akhilesh Singh, Fazlu and Archana Sharma, who they suspect had a hand in the abduction of Exide chief Satyabrata Ganguly.

The message read: ?We have evidence to believe that Akhilesh Singh, Fazlu, Archana Sharma and others, who are active members of the Babloo Srivastava gang, were behind the conspiracy to kidnap Exide chairman Satyabrata Ganguly. Please be on the look-out and inform us immediately if you have any information on them.??

Additional commissioner of police S.I.S. Ahmed said: ?Ganguly was kidnapped by an inter-state gang. We have sought the help of the Uttar Pradesh and Bihar police. There is a marked similarity in the modus operandi of Ganguly?s abduction and other cases in which wealthy industrialists disappeared and returned. It must be the handiwork of the same gang.??

Some detectives indicated that they are not convinced by Ganguly?s version of the incident. Ahmed said: ?We are talking to Ganguly. He had filed the complaint and we will speak to him repeatedly till investigations are complete.??

The detectives, after speaking to officers in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Mumbai, are convinced that Babloo Srivastava?s gang was behind the kidnapping.

Immediately after Ganguly?s abduction, detectives had interrogated Srivastava henchman Manjit Singh, alias Mange. Though Mange provided vital leads to the police, Ganguly returned home before they could act.

Deputy commissioner of police (detention) of Mumbai Police, Parambir Singh, told The Telegraph over phone that intelligence reports indicated Srivastava?s gang had kidnapped the Exide chief.

Singh said Srivastava and Dawood Ibrahim had fallen out after the former?s close associate and hitman Irfan Goga was gunned down by the Dubai-based don?s gangmen. Srivastava had retaliated by killing Ershad Beg, a key member of Dawood?s gang.

Singh said Srivastava operates mostly in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Calcutta and is believed to have struck an alliance with Fazlu, the underworld don holding sway over Darbhanga, Begusarai and Dhanbad in Bihar.

Police said Srivastava?s aide Surinder Khanna now monitors the gang?s operations from Dubai as the don is remanded in jail. Darbhanga SP Shova Ohatkar said Fazlu is a frequent traveller to Dubai.

Senior police officers, however, admitted that detectives had ignored a Union home ministry warning that gangsters from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar were setting up base in the city. The ministry of home affairs had sent the note a few days before Ganguly was kidnapped. DC (DD) Narayan Ghosh said not much progress had been made in the case. Ganguly attended office today.    

Today?s forecast: Partly cloudy sky. Possibility of development of thunderclouds towards afternoon or evening. Not much change in day temperature.

Temperature: Maximum 35.4?C (1?C below normal)
Minimum 26.6?C (2?C above normal)

Relative humidity: Maximum 92%
Minimum 52%


Sunset: 5.52 pm
Sunrise: 5.22 am

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