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BJP gives in to allies after flurry of talks
Delhi walks Iraq-UN tightrope
Men in khaki terrorise riot-torn Ahmedabad
Congress candidate lands in BJP lap
?Unprepared? Sachin in full cry
Calcutta weather

 
 
BJP GIVES IN TO ALLIES AFTER FLURRY OF TALKS 
 
 
FROM RADHIKA RAMASESHAN
 
New Delhi, July 30 
Efforts are on to solve the problem arising from the reunification of the Janata Dal parivar and its prospective induction into the National Democratic Alliance in a forum other than the NDA.

BJP leader Sushma Swaraj was ambiguous when asked if the NDA would thrash out the matter at its meeting tomorrow. ?I am not ruling out a discussion on Karnataka in the meeting and neither am I confirming it,? she said. It was an indication that her party, which till the other day had insisted that the only ?appropriate? forum to resolve the crisis was the NDA, was now willing to change its stand.

The confirmation came from party spokesman M. Venkaiah Naidu. After a BJP top brass meeting at the Prime Minister?s house, he said the decision on admitting the Sharad Yadav-J.H. Patel faction of the Janata Dal into the NDA would be taken after the Election Commission settles the dispute over the symbol between two Dal groups.

Earlier, the Samata Party and the Lok Shakti ? the two NDA constituents which have merged with this faction of the Dal ? were insistent that the NDA meeting was not the place to debate such an issue. ?The Karnataka problem is a sectional problem of the BJP and not an issue concerning the NDA,? said a senior Samata leader. He added: ?If there is a problem about seat-sharing, the Karnataka parties concerned can sit down and sort it out.?

The BJP?s apparent climb-down seems to be prompted by the decision of the Big Three ? Samata Party chief George Fernandes, Lok Shakti president Ramakrishna Hegde and Karnataka chief minister J.H. Patel ? to hold a joint public rally in Bangalore on August 7 minus the saffron brigade. Other NDA constituents like the DMK and the Telugu Desam have been invited to the rally.

There were unconfirmed reports that even staunch BJP ally Akali Dal was ready to back the Janata Dal bloc. In such a scenario, the BJP feared it may find itself isolated and its clout vis-a-vis its allies diminished.

The ?Janata parivar?s? move sparked a series of high-level meetings between BJP and Samata-Lok Shakti leaders. The most crucial was the one between Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee, Fernandes and Hegde this morning.

Observers believe the meeting signalled that in this crisis, Vajpayee has been identified as BJP?s key player, though Hegde also met party chief Kushabhau Thakre.

Fernandes called on home minister L.K. Advani. This evening, the BJP leadership ? including Thakre, Advani, general secretary in charge of Karnataka M. Venkaiah Naidu and K.N. Govindacharya ? met Vajpayee at his residence. Before this, the Prime Minister met Karnataka leaders, including state chief B.S. Yeddurappa, civil aviation minister Ananth Kumar and national secretary Basvaraj Patil.

Hegde?s meeting with Thakre and Fernandes? one-to-one with Advani are seen as ?damage-control? exercises meant to give the impression that the BJP was as much a party as Vajpayee to whatever decision was taken.There was considerable disquiet within the BJP on not being ?consulted? on the Karnataka developments.    


 
 
DELHI WALKS IRAQ-UN TIGHTROPE 
 
 
FROM PRANAY SHARMA
 
New Delhi, July 30 
India?s pledge of a $25-million credit to Iraq to help it buy 1,000 buses is an attempt on Delhi?s part to position itself for a bigger portion of the $10-billion Iraqi trade that Baghdad is permitted to conduct under the UN-approved oil-for-food programme.

The UN had imposed trade sanctions on Iraq for invading Kuwait in 1990. Trade with Iraq is forbidden unless approved by the UN. Under the sanctions, Baghdad is allowed annual oil exports of $10.4-billion on the condition that the proceeds are used to buy food, medicine and other essential commodities. India?s share in this is only $50 million.

Petroleum minister V.K. Ramamurthy, while signing the credit agreement with his Iraqi counterpart Lt. Gen Amer Rasheed, was reported to have said in Baghdad yesterday that though India was aware of the UN sanctions, it was going ahead with the decision to help a traditional friend in times of difficulty.

Embarrassed by the remarks, the foreign ministry today hurriedly came out with a clarification denying India wanted to defy the UN. ?While we remain concerned at the suffering of the Iraqi people, we strictly adhere to relevant UN resolutions regarding Iraq,? ministry spokesman R.S. Jassal said.

The statement came after the US sought a ?confirmation or clarification? from India about ?exactly what it has agreed to?, expressing surprise that any country would openly violate the sanctions.

Ramamurthy?s remarks in Baghdad and the foreign ministry?s clarification today indicate the tightrope India is trying to walk to satisfy both Iraq and the UN.

At a time when the international community is praising its mature handling of the Kargil conflict, India will not risk taking on the world powers, particularly the US, the chief initiator of the UN sanctions against Iraq. Simultaneously, India wants to assure Baghdad of its friendship.

Jassal claimed Ramamurthy was ?misquoted? in the reports. He clarified that the minister had reiterated that India?s cooperation with Iraq would be in tune with UN resolutions.

The spokesman pointed out that ?each supply under the credit is subject to prior approval of the sanctions committee in accordance with the prescribed procedures of the UN. It is understood that this line of credit is no different from similar agreements signed by several other countries with Iraq?.

India?s official position on UN sanctions on Iraq is that they should be lifted ?in tandem with? Baghdad adhering to the guidelines of the Security Council.

Aware that sanctions will be lifted in the near future, India, like many other countries, is trying to position itself to take advantage of the lucrative oil exploration contracts Baghdad will award.    


 
 
MEN IN KHAKI TERRORISE RIOT-TORN AHMEDABAD 
 
 
FROM ANAND SUNDAS
 
Ahmedabad, July 30 
Ayeshabi Maniar was sleeping when she was woken up by several policemen. Sensing trouble, she ran to the nearest masjid. But the policemen chased her and entered the masjid. ?Then they abused us and beat us with lathis,? she says.

Ayeshabi Maniar was not the only victim. For the 200-odd families from Juhapara, faith and trust were the biggest casualties after the police attack. They will no longer be able to trust anyone wearing a uniform. ?Aren?t they supposed to protect us? But look at what they did to me,? 21-year-old Najma Bano wails, pointing to a blue welt on her right shoulder.

Even as residents of other riot-hit areas like Doriapur and Mirzapur began to hope for peace, for the 200-odd families in Juhapura, the nightmare began on Wednesday night. Residents of Guptanagar colony in Juhapura do not know what hit them. ?I still don?t know what happened,? recollects Ayeshabi Maniar. Farida Munni, who managed to flee from the ?frenzied police?, found her hut badly charred next morning.

All the families have similar tales to narrate. Shabnam Mohammad was having dinner when a police team barged into her home. The police dragged her husband outside and started thrashing him. ?When I came out, they started beating me,? she says, pointing to the scars on her face and limbs.

The macabre scenes continued for over an hour. Parveen Sultana, one of the 300 women who had taken shelter from the riot at the Shankalit Nagar primary school, says the assailants were led by a police inspector.

?They abused us in the filthiest language and started beating us up,? she says. ?They were accompanied by others wielding swords and lathis.? In no time, several youth from the area were dragged out of their beds and taken into custody.

Guptanagar colony wears a deserted look now. The vendors of chaat and those who sell tacky clothes have disappeared. You don?t see the women lining up for their weekly quota of kerosene from ration shops. The few residents who have stayed back are shocked and angry.

Says Salim Siddiqui, a 24-year-old tailor whose shop was gutted: ?I thought with the riots of 1992, the communal hatred would abate. But I was wrong. Look what happened here. The incidents will only fuel fear and hatred. You can do only two things: run or hit back.?

But people fled this time not because of terror unleashed by the majority community. The fear was sparked by the men in khaki.

?I still don?t know why they (police) had to do this,? says Hamid Mia, one of the few who have dared to stay back. ?Who will we go to? Things will take a turn for the worse,? he adds.

The police, however, maintain they were ?only helping the residents move to a safer place?. Assistant police commissioner K.C. Bawa says they were forced to take action after incidents of stone-pelting threatened to go out of hand. He says he would ?look into the matter and bring the guilty to book?.

But that might not be enough to assuage the feelings of the Juhapura residents, who have been permanently scarred by the police brutality.    


 
 
CONGRESS CANDIDATE LANDS IN BJP LAP 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, July 30 
It took a little-known Congressman just 90 minutes to add his name to Bengal?s political lexicon: Aya Buluram, gaya Buluram.

Buluram Pradhan joined the BJP with 30 of his associates just an hour-and-a-half before Congress working president Priya Ranjan Das Munshi named him in a shortlist of two for the Alipurduar Lok Sabha seat.

In the process, Pradhan stole the limelight from the BJP?s more high-profile catch of the day, Dinesh Joardar, the expelled CPM veteran from Malda.

The Congress candidate for the Alipurduar (ST) seat will by default be Rana Soren.

Till 3 pm at the state BJP office, Pradhan was seeking attention desperately as workers of the saffron party milled around Joardar. In the Joardar-centric atmosphere, the nondescript Pradhan was scarcely recognised as the ex-Marxist waxed eloquent on his career. Not only party workers, but also the media ignored him. But his determination to get into the headlines finally paid off.

?The Congress has failed to meet the people?s expectations in West Bengal and we feel that the BJP is emerging as a viable alternative,? he justified to anyone who cared to listen. Pradhan had contested from Alipurduar last year on the Congress ticket.

A tribal himself, Pradhan said the Congress had failed to improve the quality of life of the indigenous people of North Bengal. ?I feel that the BJP will be able to achieve what the Congress has failed to do,? Pradhan said.

Around the time Pradhan was justifying himself, Das Munshi was reading out a shortlist of candidates for the Lok Sabha polls in the Congress office at Haji Mohammad Mohsin Square. He was interrupted by reporters and informed of Pradhan?s switchover.

Caught unawares, an embarrassed Das Munshi said: ?We have not heard about it... If Pradhan has really crossed over to the BJP, we will strike off his name from the list and send only Soren?s name to the high command.?

In the BJP camp, even state chief Tapan Sikdar failed to cash in on the opportunity to score a brownie point over the Congress. He was too taken in with Joardar.

On the sidelines, Buluram Pradhan still craved for attention. By evening, however, his day was made.    


 
 
?UNPREPARED? SACHIN IN FULL CRY 
 
 
BY LOKENDRA PRATAP SAHI
 
Calcutta, July 30 
Sachin Tendulkar has been known to leave bowlers red-faced. Today, he slapped the same look on the Board mandarins? faces.

It?s debatable, of course, whether any Indian captain would have taken the route Sachin took this afternoon: Setting the captaincy-record straight and, in the process, exposing the Board.

But, then, Sachin is different.

By revealing what was known to some and speculated by many ?- namely that he?d informed the Board (president, secretary and selection committee chairman) about ?not being mentally prepared? to accept the captaincy ?- Sachin has landed many in the dock.

Yet, the Board is taking Sachin?s sensational media conference at the CCI, in Mumbai, ?sportingly.? Actually, it has no choice.

?I was not mentally prepared for the captaincy as it?s the practice for the vice-captain to be named the next captain... I was concentrating on how to win matches for India, and how to better myself as I did not get many runs in the World Cup. Two days before the (selection committee) meeting, I told Raj Singh (Dungarpur), Jaywant Lele and the chairman (Ajit Wadekar) that I was not mentally prepared.?

No disclosure could be more devastating.

But Sachin added: ?I am definitely proud to lead the country. It is a great honour... Now, I have to mentally start preparing myself. I will give it my best shot and I hope things will fall into the right place.?

It?s a hope shared across the country.

Board secretary Lele, contacted by The Telegraph in Vadodara, said: ?Look, we?re happy he has accepted the captaincy. That?s what all of us wanted. Now, the Board is just looking ahead.?

Clearly, there is no chance of somebody in the Board perhaps even suggesting Sachin be showcaused. The captain, after all, had Raj Singh?s permission to interact with the media.

The president could have refused permission, but opted to quickly end a controversy threatening to trip Indian cricket.

The Board could even have attempted to act tutor. It didn?t, realising the move would fail.

Still, it would call for enormous courage to do a Sachin. That, too, a mere 48 hours after being handed back the captaincy.

In fact, Raj Singh probably knew what was coming: He was not within earshot at the CCI, of which too he is the president, when Sachin had dozens of newspersons scrambling for every sound-byte.

Of course, some may question whether Sachin should at all have accepted the captaincy, given his current state of mind.

Equally, or rather many more, will continue to question whether the Board ought to have forced the captaincy down Sachin?s throat.

Indeed, pushed him into a no-win situation.

Also, whether incumbent vice-captain Ajay Jadeja ?- Wednesday?s biggest loser ?- should have been served an unanimous vote of no-confidence.

There can and will be points to debate, yes, but ?looking ahead? must now be the flavour of the season.

Though a senior Board mandarin and Wadekar did have a tete-a-tete before all five selectors met, in Nagpur, the quintet wasn?t collectively informed about Sachin?s ?reservations.? It suited everybody, save the central figure.

Defending this silence, a source argued: ?But that?s because Sachin didn?t convey anything in writing...?

Frankly, it?s not much of an argument as the Board hadn?t sought his views, on the captaincy, in writing either.

Perhaps, a few more Sachins are required to get the Board to act with the right mix.

Besides forcing Board mandarins to scurry for cover, Sachin also made a statement for the benefit of Wadekar and his colleagues.

For one, that he would open in one-day Internationals, no matter what others may think. Secondly, that Mohammed Azharuddin?s ?fate? was to be decided by them (the selectors) only.

The impression, quickly gaining ground, was that the selectors would conveniently ?lob? Azhar in Sachin?s court.

Today, Sachin pre-empted that beautifully: ?I have no qualms about playing with Azhar... I?ll have to speak to the selectors. He has played under me before and I, too, have played under him.?

Bottomline is Sachin won?t allow himself to be pushed around. Not this time.

If anything, Sachin is a quick learner. Going both by the tone and content of what he said this afternoon, he has learnt much during the 17 months of innings No.1 as captain.

Sachin probably learnt even more in the 18 months he wasn?t captain, from January ?98 till now.    


 
 
CALCUTTA WEATHER 
 
 
 
 
Today?s forecast: One or two spells of shower accompanied with thunder

Temperature: Maximum 31.8?C (Normal)
Minimum 27.2?C (1?C above normal)

Relative humidity: Maximum 95%
Minimum 72%

Rainfall: 9.1 mm

Sunset: 6.17 pm
Sunrise:5.09 am
 

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