Booby-trap in Bihar BJP deal
Israeli catwire fence for frontline
Arson, raid on police after CPM leader�s murder

New Delhi, Jan. 23 
The National Democratic Alliance today hammered out a seat-sharing formula for Bihar that ended a protracted round of bargaining but threatened to open up new flashpoints.

The tenuous seat-sharing equation � described by a BJP leader as �equitable distribution of satisfaction and dissatisfaction� � tilts in favour of the BJP and the Janata Dal (United), making the Samata Party the biggest loser.

Brokered by home minister L. K. Advani during a five-hour marathon meeting that capped six days of talks, the pact gives 150 of the 324 seats to the BJP, 64 to the Dal (United) and 20 to the Bihar People�s Party, headed by Anand Mohan Singh.

The Samata Party managed only 90 seats, far below its original target of 140. Sources said the Samata�s sharp turnaround must have happened during the 48-hour trip by Advani and George Fernandes, along with the Prime Minister, to the Northeast.

The shrunken share narrows the chances of Samata leader and Union agriculture minister Nitish Kumar making it to the Bihar chief minister�s chair. In Patna, Nitish Kumar did not mince words. Describing the agreement as an act of �blatant injustice� to his party, he said there was no rationale behind the seat distribution.

Disenchantment with the deal � both in Samata and within other partners � has raised the possibility of rebel nominees springing up against official alliance candidates in several constituencies.

With 64 nominees in the fray, the Dal(United) seems to have had its way. But the numbers are not enough to carry through Ram Vilas Paswan, its frontrunner to the chief minister�s post.

Besides, even if the alliance manages to win a majority, the fuming Samata is unlikely to back Paswan for the top job. Relations between the two parties have already plummeted to such a level that the Samata had asked the Lok Sabha Speaker to consider them as a separate group in the House.

The BJP, which had initially set sights on 174 seats, agreed to 150, but it has laid the groundwork for its own chief ministerial candidate, Sushil Kumar Modi. The party can argue that since the Samata and the Dal(United) are at loggerheads, a BJP chief minister will be an amicable option.

But the immediate worry for the alliance is the rebel threat. A Samata leader said his party might not be able to forestall rebel nominations as there were too many aspirants who would feel let down.

Even the BJP, though it is not admitting so in public, may find it difficult to keep the jilted ticket-seekers in check. Officially, most BJP leaders cut a brave face. Said general secretary K.N. Govindacharya: �It will ensure the rout of Laloo Prasad Yadav and liberate the people from the jungle raj.�

The alliance leaders are assembling again at the house of Union finance minister Yashwant Sinha to decide which party will get which seat.

The BJP will send Kailashpati Mishra and Govindacharya, while the Dal (United) will be represented by Sharad Yadav and Paswan. Fernandes and Digvijay Singh will negotiate on behalf of the Samata.    

New Delhi, Jan. 23 
Indians are buying an electronic �catwire� fencing system from Israel to strengthen its vigil along the international border it shares with Pakistan.

This hi-tech system, which has proved effective in Israel, will come up in border areas along Gujarat, Rajasthan, uncovered areas in Punjab and in Jammu and Kashmir. The disputed Line of Control will, however, not be covered by this system.

This proposal came up at the recent meeting on Jammu and Kashmir security chaired by Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee at his residence, and found immediate acceptance. With both Vajpayee and L.K. Advani agreeing to the plan it is likely that the Cabinet Committee on Security, which will discuss the issue soon, will also give consent.

The �catwire� system ensures extra alertness without having to deploy additional manpower. Any movement within a range of 25 km triggers a signal which allows time for the guards to respond.

Since infiltrators from Pakistan are again using clandestine border routes to enter Punjab and to some extent Rajasthan, the new hi-tech fencing system may come in handy for the entire border security mechanism.

Ministry sources said although the system cannot be put up along the LoC, it will help in better management of manpower. Border forces in Gujarat, Rajasthan and Punjab who have to manually vigil the outposts can be reduced in strength and shifted to the LoC where there is a shortage of manpower.

At the meeting, one of the decisions taken was to raise fresh Central paramilitary forces for deployment in Kashmir.

In Punjab, there is already a fencing system that had been put in place during the eighties. But the fence does not cover the entire border though at the more vulnerable zones it has the �touch alarm� system. As soon as anybody touches the fence at these zones, an alarm goes off and the forces rush in to prevent infiltration. But this system has not been made functional at all points and there are several clandestine routes in the state through which the infiltrators sneak in.

What is now being looked into is the difficulty of erecting the �catwire� system. Pakistani forces have resisted any attempt to build fences on this side even if the construction work goes on within Indian territory.

There has been shelling from across the border even when attempts were made to put up searchlights. To ensure that the Pakistanis are unable to stall this move, the BSF will be asked to lay the �catwire� mechanism while the army will give them adequate artillery and fire cover.    

Calcutta, Jan. 23 
A local CPM leader�s murder this morning triggered large scale violence in parts of South Calcutta with CPM cadre setting fire to the Kasba market, ransacking a police station and damaging vehicles on Bijon Setu.

Gurupada Bagchi, 51, secretary of the CPM�s Kasba (south) local committee, was shot through the head by an unidentified killer while shopping in the Kasba fish market around 7.20 am.

The CPM leadership charged the local police with bias and alleged that the killing was masterminded by thugs backed by the Trinamul Congress. The inspector-general of police (South Bengal), K.J. Singh, is now camping in the Kasba police station. No arrest has been made so far.

Within minutes of the murder, a mob of CPM activists ransacked the police station and set fire to the Kasba market. Nearly 350 shops were gutted.

Eight constables were injured and six cars were damaged. At least five scooters and important files from the police station were thrown into a nearby pond.

The CPM has called a 24-hour bandh in the area on Monday in protest against the killing.

Rioting cadre blocked traffic on the Rashbehari Avenue-Bypass connector till around 5 pm. Suburban railway services were also disrupted in the Sealdah South section in the morning.

CPM MLA from Ballygunge Rabin Deb alleged that a Trinamul Congress-backed criminal, Tarak Halder, was the kingpin of the murder conspiracy. But Halder�s name did not figure in the FIR which local CPM councillor Keya Dasgupta lodged with the police eight hours after the murder.

Gurupada Bagchi, an upper division clerk in the West Bengal Higher Secondary Council, was secretary of the CPM�s Kasba (South) local committee. He was assigned to oversee the party�s education cell in south Calcutta. Even last night he attended a meeting to decide on funds for a new building of Charu Chandra Evening College in the locality. He was supposed to finalise the papers in another meeting this morning.

The Kasba police station is just about half a kilometre from where Bagchi was killed but the police reached the spot after nearly an hour. The CPM�s Kasba Bazar Committee secretary, Ujjal Joardar, and two others took the bleeding Bagchi to SSKM Hospital where he was declared dead.

As soon as news of Bagchi�s death reached Kasba, a 1,000-strong mob stormed the police station. It attacked the adjacent barracks, damaging furniture, utensils and valuables. Some arsonists tried to set fire to the barracks by pouring petrol on the debris.

�The situation came to such a pass that we had to take refuge in an upstairs room. No senior officer was in the police station,� said a constable, Nityananda Sarkar who was heckled by the mob.    


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