Centre issues security warning to Sonia
Intelligence alert on LTTE strike
Sachin?s ton in father?s memory
Pawar toes Mandal line
Bid for Haldia package
Calcutta weather

 
 
CENTRE ISSUES SECURITY WARNING TO SONIA 
 
 
FROM RASHEED KIDWAI
 
New Delhi, May 23 
The Vajpayee government tonight disclosed that it had advised Sonia Gandhi to be ?extra careful whenever she appeared in public? following an intelligence alert, but refused to confirm a Congress claim of a plot by ?a fascist clique?.

A statement issued by the official spokesperson of the government tonight said intelligence agencies had received ?information concerning the threat to Sonia Gandhi? a few weeks ago.

Terming it a ?serious matter of concern to the entire nation?, the statement quoted Prime Minister A. B. Vajpayee as saying ?nobody should politicise it in any way?.

Congress leaders Arjun Singh and Pranab Mukherjee had called on Vajpayee last night to discuss the issue. The government statement followed Arjun Singh?s claim during the day that the Prime Minister had confirmed that he was aware of certain plots to eliminate Sonia Gandhi.

Though the government statement denied that the Congress leaders had mentioned any knowledge of a ?fascist clique? plotting to eliminate Sonia Gandhi, it conceded that an intelligence warning had been received earlier.

Sources in the PMO said Vajpayee spoke to Sonia Gandhi and informed her of the threat after getting a report from the Intelligence Bureau (IB). The Prime Minister also directed the home ministry to tighten security around her and put the intelligence agencies on full alert, they said.

Union home minister L.K. Advani said in Ahmedabad the security cover for all those guarded by the Special Protection Group (SPG), including Vajpayee and Sonia Gandhi, had been enhanced in view of the elections.

The home minister acknowledged directing security agencies to be extra vigilant against any plot by militants or anti-socials to disturb the polls by ?precipitating some tragedy?.

Sonia Gandhi, who is yet to give any signal that she might withdraw her resignation as party president, is now likely to come under increased pressure from son Rahul, daughter Priyanka and family friends to stay away from active politics.

The security alert could also restrict her movement during campaigning. However, Congress leaders scoffed at such suggestions and said being an extremely determined person, she would take up the challenge.

Vajpayee told the Congress leaders to depute a person of their choice to liaise with the government security agencies.

The government statement said security arrangements for Sonia Gandhi have already been stepped up and she has agreed to cooperate fully with the government agencies. Any steps needed to further strengthen the security would be taken in consultation with her, it added.

At a press conference, Arjun Singh released a copy of his letter to President K.R. Narayanan which alleged that ?the same fascist clique that assassinated Mahatma Gandhi is now trying to target Sonia Gandhi through another diabolical plan?.

Singh alleged there was no administrative authority worth its name now. ?It would not be surprising if those wielding power look the other way instead of trying to prevent such an insane thing from happening,? the letter added.    


 
 
INTELLIGENCE ALERT ON LTTE STRIKE 
 
 
FROM SUJAY GUPTA
 
Lucknow, May 23 
Two days before the Supreme Court upheld the death sentence on four accused in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, a meeting was called by the Union home ministry on the threat perception to Sonia Gandhi during campaigning.

Home ministry sources said two independent sets of reports were submitted by the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW). While the IB report outlined the activities of the Harkat-ul-Ansar in Kashmir and other north Indian states like Delhi and Uttar Pradesh, the RAW report indicated the possibility of a LTTE strike against Sonia Gandhi.

The RAW report said the LTTE was likely to choose venues in either Uttar Pradesh or Madhya Pradesh, instead of high-risk states like Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. The RAW report also outlined LTTE activities in its north Indian bases.

At the meeting, attended by home secretaries and DGPs of all states and Union Territories, the Union home secretary asked the state intelligence chiefs to work ?very closely with the Special Protection Group and the Central intelligence agencies whenever Sonia Gandhi toured their states?.    


 
 
SACHIN?S TON IN FATHER?S MEMORY 
 
 
FROM LOKENDRA PRATAP SAHI
 
Bristol, May 23 
Up in the heavens, Ramesh Tendulkar would surely have smiled in appreciation. And, if he could, W.G. Grace would have come alive to give one more seal of approval bearing the signature of a legend.

Perhaps only Sachin, the MoM, could have got a quality hundred (unbeaten 140 off 101 deliveries, 16x4, 3x6) in the circumstances he finds himself in. Perhaps destiny actually has something for India. Perhaps it was destined Sachin would post this World Cup?s first hundred.

Finally then, after two defeats, India opened their account at the tricolour-draped County Ground this evening. The Kenyans got what they were looking for ? experience; India full points.

Sachin is used to accumulating hundreds ? he now has 22 in one-day cricket. But today?s was like no other. For largely personal reasons, yes, but are we to deny Sachin a personal moment or two? Or, even a personal thought?

Of course, this is Sachin?s first (one-day) hundred coming down the order. ?I do dedicate it to my father... He would have been happy,? Sachin remarked, adding: ?Like I?d said yesterday, I had a job to do and I did my best... No, I haven?t yet spoken to my mother. I?ll do so on returning to the hotel.?

Mother Rajani, too, should be pleased. For a while, at least, Sachin has ensured grief will take a backseat. It?s his mother, incidentally, who?d insisted he quickly rejoin the team.

The difference that Sachin makes was underlined yet again: Powered by his 140, and Rahul Dravid?s unbeaten 104 (111 deliveries, 10x4), India registered their highest one-day total, bettering the 316 in Dhaka 17 months ago.

The pair, in fact, added all of 237 without being separated (for the third-wicket) and while it?s nobody?s opinion that the Kenyans have a threatening attack, getting the runs is one thing and merely talking about them quite another.

To keep alive slim hopes of making the Super Six, India needed a comprehensive victory. Ninety-four runs is a handsome margin. Kenya finished on 235 for seven.

Dravid?s contribution wasn?t insignificant. Only, so awesome was Sachin?s performance ? zooming from 50 to 100 in a mere 30 deliveries ? that poor Dravid got eclipsed. No discredit, though, in being upstaged by somebody who makes a statement each time he takes guard.

Just last evening, Kenyan captain Asif Karim had asked somewhat bitingly: ?Everyone talks of Sachin, but he?s only one in the 15- strong squad... Don?t you have anybody else??

Karim, one supposes, got his answer this morning as Sachin drove, pulled, flicked and swept (conventional and reverse) with authority that?s rare in any grade. Whether on his knees or on his toes, Sachin?s timing was delicate and placements incredibly perfect.

With Sachin and Dravid collecting runs at will, all but two bowlers went for well over 50. Joseph Angara, for one, went for 62 in only seven overs.

India were forced to omit Kumble (strained calf muscle) and Prasad (shoulder strain). It worked to Nikhil Chopra and Ajit Agarkar?s benefit, but grabbing this opportunity with both hands was Debashish Mohanty whose last India appearance was months ago.

Mohanty, on a hattrick once, returned the best figures (four for 56) and, hopefully, won?t now be in the cold for an eternity and more. Significantly, he gives the thinktank options ahead of the crucial matches vs Sri Lanka (Wednesday) and England (Saturday).    


 
 
PAWAR TOES MANDAL LINE 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT AND AGENCIES
 
Mumbai, May 23 
Expelled Congress leader Sharad Pawar today said his new party will have social justice as its cornerstone, signalling a drift towards the third force.

?Our party will follow the ideology of the old Congress under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi and Pandit Nehru,? he said.

Pawar said in the post-Mandal scenario, backward classes must be empowered. Hinting that he would want to replicate the Congress? alliance with the RPI and the Samajwadi Party which swept the last Lok Sabha polls, he said the RPI and the SP could not be ignored.

Pawar said Samajwadi president Mulayam Singh Yadav had phoned him yesterday, ?but we did not discuss politics. He just wanted to congratulate me on my decision (to form a new party)?.

Immediately after Pawar?s revolt last Sunday, a section of the RPI had stated that the party would stay with the Congress. But, the RPI kept its options open when its president Ramdas Athawale announced today that the party would take a formal decision on the issue on June 12.

With today?s announcement, Pawar seems to be sending out feelers to other third force parties at the national level, like the Janata Dal. A few days ago, the father of Mandal politics, former Prime Minister V.P. Singh, had backed Pawar?s cause in questioning Sonia Gandhi?s foreign origin.

However, the Left is yet to make its stand clear. Though Pawar has been in touch with the Left leaders, he has so far been cold-shouldered. Some leaders have been suspicious of Pawar?s intentions. Yesterday, Jyoti Basu had said he was not against Sonia Gandhi holding high office and did not see any merit in the foreign origin debate. Most Left leaders prefer a wait-and-watch policy, keeping a safe distance from Pawar.

The BJP, after keeping the opposition on its toes about the Pawar policy, said today it does not ?want any tie-up with the splinter group?. However, some of its allies, especially the Trinamul and Lok Shakti, had been making overtures to Pawar.

In Mumbai this evening, Pawar announced that his party will be floated in the next seven days and its national convention held here before June 10. Another Congress MP joined Pawar?s ranks today.

AICC general secretary Madhavrao Scindia met Sonia loyalists in Mumbai today. Asked if the expulsion would affect the party, Scindia replied that Pawar is history now.    


 
 
BID FOR HALDIA PACKAGE 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, May 23 
Frantic efforts are under way both at the political and administrative levels to end the recruitment row that rocked Haldia Petrochemicals yesterday.

The West Bengal government, along with the Haldia Petro management, has begun crafting a ?workable package? for local workers and those displaced by the project.

Describing the Citu-backed agitation as ?unfortunate?, acting chief minister Buddhadev Bhattacharya said in Durgapur tonight: ?We will not allow any kind of militant trade unionism nor will allow ourselves to be blackmailed by the management simply because we are serious about the project.?

He said while the unions are justified if they demand recruitment of unskilled workers from local residents, the management should be free to employ outsiders for specialised jobs.

Some casual workers and locals, backed by the Citu, have been demanding that the project recruit skilled workers from their ranks.

Bhattacharya said Haldia Petro chairman Tapan Mitra and local MP as well as Citu leader Lakshman Seth would sort out the issue ?immediately to restore normality?.

The Haldia Petrochemicals management, headed by Pravakar Sethi, executive vice-president (projects), today held talks with Seth. The additional district magistrate of Midnapore and additional superintendent of police were also present at the meeting.

State finance minister Asim Dasgupta told The Telegraph: ?As a first step towards solving this recruitment problem, we organised this meeting today. The meeting took place in a cordial environment.?

The management has been asked to look into the recruitment policy and identify areas where it can recruit local people. ?If skilled workers are available locally, there is no harm in recruiting them,? Dasgupta said.

The additional district magistrate of Midnapore has also asked Seth and local Citu leader Pranab Das to submit the names of those who had lost their land for the project.

Dasgupta said: ?We have to work out a package for these people. We cannot allow work stoppage at this juncture when the date of commissioning the project is coming close.?

Mitra has been requested by the state government to work out a package for the locals. ?He is now on the job,? a senior government official said.

Vijay Chaudhry, vice-president (finance) of Haldia Petro, said: ?We know that the project has an important role in the economy of Haldia. We are always looking for ways to better the interests of the local people. The problem that has cropped up is nothing major. We will be able to handle it smoothly.?    


 
 
CALCUTTA WEATHER 
 
 
 
 
Today?s forecast: Partly cloudy sky. Possibility of thunderclouds towards evening. Fall in day temperature.

Temperature:Maximum 37.3?C (1?C above normal normal)
Minimum 27.8?C (1?C above normal normal)

Relative humidity: Maximum 98%
Minimum 52%

Rainfall: 50 mm

Sunset: 6.11 pm

Sunrise: 4.56 am
   
 

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