Pakistan springs nuclear cap trap
BJP banks on full-term law for stability
Vaghela vendetta ties down Advani
Seat share irks Laloo allies
Profiles in courage etched against odds

New Delhi, Aug. 21: 
Taking advantage of the global community?s growing criticism of the Indian draft nuclear doctrine, Pakistan today tried to revive its old plank of a nuclear weapons-free South Asia. Islamabad dropped hints about its willingness to cap its nuclear programme and ultimately dismantle it, provided Delhi followed the example.

Agency reports from Islamabad quoted Pakistani foreign ministry spokesman Tariq Altaf as saying that his country was willing to hold talks with India on the nuclear issue but said it should be ?serious, fruitful and result-oriented?. He was also quoted as saying that the talks should revolve around both neighbours? resolve not to use nuclear weapons.

Pakistan has been pushing this line since 1982 and trying to build world opinion by moving resolutions at the UN General Assembly. But it stopped pushing this line since last year after it conducted nuclear tests.

However, with the US taking the lead in criticising India, Pakistan has decided to try and wrest the diplomatic initiative it had lost during the Kargil conflict.

Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee said in Kerala that the doctrine had neither affected India?s recently-improved ties with the US, nor should it deter Pakistan from signing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).

?There is no setback in our relations with the US. After Pokhran II, India has become a nuclear weapons state. We had to define our nuclear doctrine,? Vajpayee said. He said a final decision on the doctrine and signing the CTBT will be taken by the government which comes to power after the polls.

Reports from Islamabad said Sharif met Pakistani army chief and chairman of joint chiefs of staff committee General Pervez Musharraf yesterday to discuss the draft Indian doctrine and give final touches to a National Command Authority for discussing the use of nuclear weapons.

Delhi sees these developments as an attempt by Islamabad to bring back the focus of the international community to South Asia.

Pakistan is trying to raise the bogey of a nuclear flashpoint in South Asia as well as emerge as the more reasonable of the two sides by offering to discuss ways of making the region free of nuclear weapons.

The dialogue being offered by Pakistan has already been suggested by India and has become part of the peace and security issue ? among the eight factors the two sides are discussing ? and also part of the memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed between the two foreign secretaries in Lahore in February this year.

In doing this, Pakistan has avoided a response on India?s offer to enter into a no-first-use treaty with Islamabad.    

New Delhi, Aug. 21: 
Putting more faith in a legal shield than in fickle allies, the BJP today slipped into overdrive for a ?stability law? that would ensure an uninterrupted five-year term for each Lok Sabha.

The party asserted that the ?best remedy? for political instability was a constitutional safeguard to enable each Lok Sabha to last its full term.

By stepping up the campaign on the issue, the BJP displayed unwavering determination and unusual eagerness to make good the promise in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) manifesto.

But the party did not explain why it was suddenly keen on such a legislation when it appeared confident of a comfortable majority in the elections and its ability to provide a stable government.

BJP general secretary and spokesman Narendra Modi said the system of a ?mere? vote of no-confidence should be modified.

Along with a no-confidence motion, a vote of confidence in an alternative combination or a party should be made mandatory to ?ensure political stability and prevent frequent expensive elections?, he added.

Once bitten by Jayalalitha and often held to ransom by allies, the BJP said a full five-year term for the Lok Sabha ?will discourage political groups from frequently changing alignments and prevent the hijacking of the political mandate unless an alternative combination is in place?.

Prime Minister A. B. Vajpayee, too, referred today to the incessant ?blackmail? by Jayalalitha and described the alliance tenure as ?the most painful period in my entire political career?.

The NDA document had referred to the appointment of a commission to review the Constitution in a broad-based manner. One of the mandates of this commission, the manifesto indicated, would be to examine replacing the present no-confidence motion with the German system of ?constructive vote of non-confidence?.

However, Modi could not clarify whether the proposed full-term legislation would prevent largescale defections and legitimise horse-trading.

A specific question asked if MPs, who were unencumbered by considerations of ideology and party affiliations, were assured a five-year tenure, what prevented them from making unreasonable demands on the ruling party ? and if these were not conceded ? switching sides to a more amenable party or formation.

?The anti-defection law enacted in 1986 attempted to ensure that defection is a political sin and thus, defection by an individual should lead to disqualification of membership,? Modi said.

But BJP sources agreed there was a loophole in the proposed legislation in checking defections and said a law to replace the anti-defection law should be introduced simultaneously. Such a law, sources said, should terminate the parliamentary membership of a defector, even if he happened to be the only one from his party.

Modi hit out at the Congress for rejecting the NDA?s proposal and said: ?This opposition exposes the Congress claim for political stability and establishes that the party is the biggest destabilising influence in Indian politics.?

Modi was also asked about the controversy of the stage backdrop ? showing the three service chiefs ? at a public meeting addressed by Vajpayee yesterday in Haryana. Modi claimed the painting was done by an artist who got ?carried away? by the ?sacrifice of the jawans and the leadership of Vajpayeeji?. However, Modi said, Vajpayee conveyed his ?anger? about the backdrop to him.    

New Delhi, Aug. 21: 
Union home minister L.K. Advani is likely to be pinned down in Gandhinagar, thanks not to his opponent but to old friend-turned-foe Shankarsinh Vaghela.

Advani, BJP hardliner and one of its star draws, is expected to spend most of his campaigning time in his constituency, sources said. Gandhinagar goes to the polls in the first phase on September 5.

After a brief spell of campaigning in Karnataka, where he is likely to concentrate mostly on Bellary ? protegee Sushma Swaraj is pitted there against Congress president Sonia Gandhi ? Advani will move to Gandhinagar on Tuesday and stay on until the polling day.

Advani was returned twice from Gandhinagar in 1991 and 1998. A predominantly ?white-collared? constituency, it is considered a sure seat for the former BJP chief.

Party sources said Advani was so confident about retaining Gandhinagar in the past that he would visit the constituency virtually on the eve of the polls, after completing campaigning elsewhere, and address a few public meetings.

This time, he is going to make it a point to canvas extensively, making door-to-door visits if possible, and address as many street corner meetings as possible.

Various reasons are attributed for this change. ?He has to recapture his grip over the constituency,? said sources, indicating that the home minister was perhaps not sure that his persona and Hindutva would work the same magic this time.

His opponent, former Chief Election Commissioner T.N. Seshan, fighting on a Congress ticket, is regarded as a ?political lightweight and a maverick?.

But sources said Advani?s main source of worry is former Gujarat BJP heavyweight, Shankarsinh Vaghela.

Vaghela was Advani?s right-hand during his Ram rathyatra and gave up the Gandhinagar seat for him in 1991.

Gujarat BJP sources conceded that whatever political base the party has in Gandhinagar is Vaghela?s legacy. They feel that though Seshan may not be able to put up much of a fight, the ?real damage? may be inflicted by Vaghela.

He has not forgiven Advani for passing him over for the chief minister?s job and then ensuring his exit from the BJP.    

Patna, Aug. 21: 
Allotted only three seats in the ?final? poll list brought out today by Laloo Prasad Yadv?s Rashtriya Janata Dal, the CPI in Bihar raised a banner of revolt against its partner. The Congress too is unhappy, though Laloo Yadav said he has conceded 14 seats to the party, one more than the seats promised.

CPI state secretary Jalaluddin Ansari told The Telegraph: ?We do not agree with what Laloo Yadav declared today. We cannot confine ourselves to only three seats.? He said the party?s state executive would meet on Monday and decide on future action.

The CPI is angry that Laloo has favoured the CPM with two seats while the CPI has been given only three. It had won eight seats in the 1991 polls and four in 1996, though in 1998, the party had lost all the 14 seats it had contested.

But CPI leaders felt the party is in a position to regain some seats if allowed to contest at least from six constituencies.

The RJD has offered it Nalanda, Hazaribagh and Godda. The CPI had wanted Betia, Buxar and Madhubani along with the three.

Busy placating the angry state Congress, the RJD failed to anticipate the CPI?s reaction. ?I decided to give 13 seats to the Congress. But Sonia Gandhi asked for one more. I agreed, keeping in mind that our main enemy is the BJP?s rashlila,? Laloo explained.

Among the seats given to Congress are Dumka, Jamshedpur, West Singhbhum, Ranchi, Lohardaga and Maharajgunge. There may be a straight fight between the Congress and the BJP in all the nine seats.

The RJD parliamentary party will finalise the list of its own candidates today. Chief minister Rabri Devi?s brothers, Sadhu Yadav and Subhas Yadav, are strong contenders for tickets.    

Calcutta, Aug. 21 
When Titir Banerjee of Sister Nivedita School went up to receive the Surrendra Paul Memorial Award for Courage this morning, many in the audience dabbed their eyes and fought back tears.

Titir was not even in her teens when doctors decided she must go through life with an amputated stomach. She was in class V and that day in school she retched and complained of pain.

In the medical examination that followed, doctors discovered that three-quarters of her stomach had corroded and would have to be scraped off.

Since the operation, Titir has attended school just once a week for seven years. She must eat every half-hour.

Despite the torment, Titir has put a smile on her parents and teachers? faces: in the higher secondary examinations this year, she totted up a score of 75 per cent.

Titir?s story was just one of the profiles in courage narrated at the presentation of The Telegraph School Awards for Excellence. The awards have been instituted in association with Heritage Foundation.

Honours for courage went to Soumyadeb Mukherjee, Biswarup Dutta and Vaibhav Lhila. Their stories, as of all the nominees, for the Surrendra Paul Memorial Award for Courage, will stay etched in memory.

Soumyadeb Mukherjee, a student of Spastics Society, cannot move any part of his body. That has not kept him from being a wizard at the computer which he operates by using a tongue switch.

Biswarup Dutta of St Xavier?s is confined to a wheelchair. The boy had weak legs which were improving with medication. Then a doctor said he would recover fully with surgery.

It only worsened his condition. Unlike his classmates, Biswarup cannot run against the wind chasing a football. He used to be so weak that he could not even turn the pages of a book. His grit saw him through the ICSE examination this year. He dictated answers to a junior student, scoring 68 per cent.

Vaibhav Lhila of La Martiniere was waiting with his father in Golpark, South Calcutta, a few years ago when a truck hit him.One of Vaibhav?s legs had to be amputated. He walks with crutches today but wants to be a fast bowler. ?I can?t run,? he says, ?but I can jump.??

Titir, Soumyadeb, Biswarup and Vaibhav received their awards from Lance Naik N. Mohanty, a jawan injured in the war in Kargil while Purba and Jaba, sisters of Captain Kanad Bhattacharya, who died fighting on a Tiger Hill ridge, applauded.

Then there were Piru Das, Srikanta Sing and Nilratan Choudhury who overcame circumstances with their commitment to merit. Piru and Srikanta of Midnapore never had the luxury of a bulb glowing in their huts. Piru?s father is a cobbler; Srikanta?s father a rickshawpuller.

In Madhyamik this year, Piru scored 88 per cent. Srikanta who had never touched a calculator is now studying computers at Jadavpur University.

Nilratan, blind in both eyes, failed in maths in Class V. He scored full marks in the subject in Madhyamik and secured an overall 73 per cent. His mother, a tuberculosis patient, is a domestic help and his father pulls a rickshaw in Kasba. The three boys have won scholarships for a year.

Thirteen awards were given away. St James and Don Bosco (Park Circus) were declared joint winners of The Telegraph School of the Year Award.

The Patton Award for the School that Cares went to the Oral School for the Deaf on Short Street; the Ambuja Cement Award for the best maintained school was given to Sainik School, Purulia, and the Polar Fan Award for academic excellence went to Tirthojyoti Sarkar of the R.K. Mission Boys? Home High School, Rahara.

The Dr Mrs N.B. O? Brien Memorial Lifetime Achievement Award for a teacher went to Priyadarshan Tiwari of Acra Shaktigar Rabindra Vidhyapith.

Convener Barry O?Brien announced that Phyllis Pearson Manuel and Sister Cyril had been inducted into The Telegraph Hall of Fame.

National Gems school has donated Rs 1 Lakh to the The Telegraph Education Fund. The school wants the amoun to be used to educated children who have lost their fathers in Kargil.    


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