Salt Lake stuck in snag suspense
Madhyamik hands city token presence on merit list
CPM divided over mayoral pitch
Triple shadow on sun and moon in 30 days
Young strut while city elders fret
North plea to Mamata for personal touch
Five-day rockfest
Twin murders spark panic

Calcutta, June 30 
Who will rule Salt Lake? Four days after the Bidhannagar municipality went to the polls, the all-important question remains unanswered � the fate of the township precariously poised on the electronic voting machine (EVM) of ward 16.

The score at the end of Thursday was tied at 11-all for the CPM and the Trinamul as the machine, which had developed a �technical snag� on Wednesday, could not be repaired. The state election commission awaits the verdict of a team of experts that arrived from New Delhi and Hyderabad on Thursday night.

�I had written to B.H. Ron, chairman and managing director of Electronics Corporation of India Ltd (ECIL), manufacturers of the voting machine, urging him to send engineers immediately,�� said state election commissioner Anish Majumdar. The experts will examine the faulty machine on Friday morning, in the presence of the candidates, party representatives, election commission officials and the media.

The Election Commission of India has also been formally informed, as the machines were purchased by the commission. A team from Delhi is expected in the city on Friday.

The much-touted EVM, introduced for the first time in the last Lok Sabha elections, had gone on the blink at a critical juncture, with CPM nominee Gita Biswas leading Banani Sanyal of BJP by 86 votes, as per results from four booths of the ward, and 565 votes waiting to be counted in the fifth booth.

Throughout Thursday, the sealed EVM remained under constant vigil. Hundreds of people, including several �outsiders�, gathered at the offices of the district magistrate and the SDO, eager to know when the machine would be repaired and the counting resumed. While Left Front cadre appeared apprehensive of losing their grip over Salt Lake once counting resumed, BJP supporters were left anticipating their �first seat in Salt Lake�.

�What happens if the experts from Delhi and Hyderabad fail to repair the machine? How will ward 16 be decided then?� was the most common query.

�The EVM is a very sophisticated gadget and has been introduced here recently. So, only the manufacturer can sort out the problems,� said Majumdar. �And why are you thinking of the worst-case-scenario? We are trying our best...�

But what will happen if the machine continues to malfunction? While some polling experts feel a repoll in the booth must be ordered, others claim that would be �unfair�, as voters would be influenced by the Calcutta Municipal Corporation results that have been declared. The other option is to conduct a repoll in all Bidhannagar wards, which also may not be feasible. �I can not promise anything, nor can I predict the outcome. But something will happen on Friday, let�s hope for the best,�� concluded Majumdar.    

Calcutta, June 29 
The day after the city shunned the Left Front, the Madhyamik merit list all but blanked out the city. The merit list for Madhyamik 2000, declared on Thursday, was dominated by the district schools.

The first three positions went to two boys and a girl from schools in Midnapore, Cooch Behar and South Dinajpur. Calcutta had to be content with jointly holding fourth, fifth and ninth positions, secured by students of Scottish Church and Baranagar Ramakrishna Mission Schools.

�The results show that the better schools are no longer confined to Calcutta,� said Arun Kiran Chakraborty, president of the West Bengal Board of Secondary Education. �The merit list and overall results show that quality schools are available even in the remote areas,� he added.

Barring Scottish Church Collegiate School and Baranagar Ramakrishna Mission, noted schools did not figure in the merit list.

Kaji Rajibul Islam, of Chakdwipa High School of Tamluk, Midnapore, stood first, obtaining 765 out of a total of 800 marks. Celebrations began as the news spread at Rajibul�s village, Kushtia, in South 24 Parganas, and Tamluk, where the school is located. �I want to do my Higher Secondary from Ramakrishna Mission, Narendrapur, and become a space scientist,� Islam said over telephone.

The pass percentage this year has risen to 70.45 per cent, against 68.94 per cent last year. The examinations were held in March.

However, sources in the board said the performance of most well-known schools in Calcutta was better than that of many district schools. There were no failures in South Point, Modern High School, Loreto and St Lawrence.

The number of Calcutta students scoring first division was far more than that in the districts. Twenty per cent of the successful candidates obtained first division. This year, 82,127 students have been placed in first division, against 75,023 in 1999.

Chakraborty said students will get their marksheets from their respective schools from Friday. The marksheets will be distributed to the schools from the board�s camp offices and regional centres from 8 am on Friday.

Dibakar Dutta of Manindra High School, Cooch Behar, came second. He scored 763.

Pramita Mitra, from a school in Balurghat, in north Bengal, stood third. First among female candidates, Pramita has obtained 759. Two more students have come third, obtaining the same marks. They, too, are from district schools.    

Calcutta, June 29 
The CPM�s decision to contest the Calcutta Municipal Corporation�s election for the mayor�s chair has surprised many in the party.

Though the party and the Left Front have failed to manage the required number to form the Calcutta civic board, state secretary Anil Biswas and Politburo member Biman Bose announced on Wednesday that they will put up a candidate for the post of mayor.

Both Biswas and Bose justified the CPM�s contesting the mayor�s chair by saying that neither the Front nor the Trinamul-BJP combine would be able to form the board independently.

Party insiders said leaders like Subhas Chakraborty, Rabin Deb and Kanti Ganguly have been pressed into service to gauge the mood of the Congress and Independent councillors and whether they would like to vote in favour of the CPM to form the board.

But many senior leaders in the CPM�s state and Calcutta district committees, like Surya Kanta Misra and Naren Sen, feel the decision to contest the mayoral election will go against the party. They believe the party should accept the situation and take a lesson from it, rather than indulge in horse-trading.

Senior leaders felt it will also be difficult for the party to manage support in the election for the mayor from either the Congress or the Independent councillors.

If the party fails to mobilise support from the Congress, it will suffer further embarrassment.

�This defeat will be more humiliating than our failure to retain control in the CMC,� a senior Calcutta district committee leader said

CPM leaders who do not support the party�s decision to contest the mayoral election also feel that the Trinamul-BJP combine will use this as a major plank against the party in the 2001 Assembly polls. They feel that the Trinamul-BJP combine should be allowed to form the board and the CPM�s duty would be to oppose them politically.

CPM state secretary Anil Biswas said on Thursday that the party was firm on its decision to contest the mayoral election.

He said the CPM nominee would be decided at a meeting of the Left Front.

Biswas parried a question whether the CPM was expecting support from the Congress to prevent the Trinamul-BJP combine from forming the board. �Let the Congress finalise its decision. We will then decide our course of action,� he added.

When informed about the Congress� decision of not supporting the Front in forming the board, Biswas said: �If Congress wants to stop us from forming the board, they can do that.�

Observers feel the CPM is not very serious about forming the board because it knows it is far short of the required majority and it will play into the Congress councillors� hands.

Observers also feel that the CPM is trying to pressure the Trinamul-BJP combine into forming the board by threatening to fight the mayoral poll.    

Calcutta, June 29 
Both the sun and the moon, the celestial bodies which dictate our days and nights, will be playing hide and seek in July. In a rare celestial phenomenon, three eclipses will occur in the space of 31 days, only one of which, however, will be visible in India.

�But even this event will be unique,� says K.K. Chakrabarty, director of the Positional Astronomy Centre in Calcutta, as it will be the longest eclipse of its kind since August 13, 1859. �Not only that, such an eclipse will take place again only after 3000 AD,� he adds.

The director said the lunar eclipse of July 16, 2000, is sandwiched between two partial solar eclipses, one on July 1 and the other on July 31. �This is a rare situation. Three eclipses on three successive new-moon, full-moon and new-moon days in one Gregorian calendar month.

�The last time that such a configuration of the sun, the moon and the earth took place was in December 1880,� Chakrabarty said. �And it will not occur again in the next 100 years.� But what would be a rarer heavenly happening would be the lunar eclipse of July 16. The moon will be passing through the centre of the earth�s shadow and this will result in the longest period of total eclipse in 141 years.

�And this won�t happen again for more than the next 1,000 years! Of course, none of us will be around to verify that,� he added. His observations are based on the findings of Belgian astronomer Jean Meeus.

So do not be surprised if one Sunday evening next month, there is no trace of the full moon. It starts going into hiding at 5.27 pm IST and emerges in full strength again at 9.24 pm. In between, there will be no trace of it for as long as one hour and 47 minutes!

�The path of invisibility goes through India, southeast Asia, Australasia, eastern Russia, Japan, China, the Hawaiian Islands and Antarctica.� But the process will not be seen throughout India. The beginning of totality will be visible mainly from Calcutta and eastern India.

�The appearance of the rising moon in the eastern horizon that evening will vary and will depend on the atmospheric condition over the earth,� said Chakrabarty. The first partial solar eclipse will be mainly over South America, while the second one will be seen from western Russia, Scandinavia and northwest America.    

Calcutta, June 29 
While their city�s civic fate hung in the balance, GeneratioNext was busy dancing to the tunes of Ricky Martin and Mambo No 5 and walking the ramp dressed in their best.

All this, at Rotary Sadan, to pick the dancing queens and the faces of the future. �We were keen to involve the younger generation in our show through something which attracts them naturally, and so we decided to organise the dance competition and model hunt,� explained Kaushik Sinha of, organisers of Hivoltage.

The response was �overwhelming�, with around 300 aspiring Prabhu Devas, Milind Somans and Madhu Sapres from some of the leading schools and colleges of the city signing up for the two-day prelims, before the finals on Saturday.

�Except for some college fests and fashion shows, we never get a chance to take part in dance and model shows in Calcutta,� complained 19-year-old Xaverian Omar, choreographer of the 12-member Zodiac dance troupe.

If some were there to try and further their career goals, others had come to just have fun. But 19-year-old Shrimoyee, dressed in black chiffon, said: �I want to join the Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute and become a film director... Participating in a show like this is a great confidence-building exercise.�

If the kids were having the time of their lives, their parents were not far behind either. Champa Chatterjee, mother of �model� Amrita gushed: �It�s evident that my daughter has the talent...�    

Calcutta, June 29 
Alarmed at the Trinamul Congress� poor showing in central and north Calcutta in the civic polls, local party workers plan to plead with Mamata Banerjee not to leave the task of choosing candidates for next year�s Assembly polls to the two MPs of the area.

Trinamul leaders and workers in north and central Calcutta said the party should be strengthened in these areas and selection of candidates be made strictly on the basis of individual merit.

Ajit Panja and Sudip Bandopadhyay, MPs in the two Lok Sabha constituencies of Calcutta north-east and Calcutta north-west, respectively, allegedly accorded preference to candidates close to themselves, ignoring the deserving ones. Out of 66 wards in north and central Calcutta, Trinamul won only 20, though they were expected to bag 36 wards.

There was deep discontent in the party over selection of �inept� candidates in some wards and this led local Trinamul workers to field dummy candidates against the official ones in at least a dozen wards. Trinamul sources said in the Shyampukur and Cossipore areas, Bandopadhyay selected candidates and the party lost in wards 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 17, 18 and 26.

�Though Shyampukur has a Trinamul MLA, the results were poor because wrong nominees were chosen,� a party leader said.

The party lost all three wards (13, 14 and 15) in Maniktala. There, supporters of local Trinamul leader Kamalendu Hazra were angry because Ajit Panja never consulted him while selecting candidates. Trinamul vice-president Atin Ghosh had rebelled against the official party nominee in the Hatibagan area (ward 11).

Panja nominated Rita Mondal, overruling the popular demand for selecting Aparna Roy, daughter-in-law of Anath Bandhu Roy, health minister in the B.C.Roy Cabinet. Roy contested as an Independent and won. She joined Trinamul on Wednesday.    

Calcutta, June 29 
Samayer Gaan, a five-day Bengali rock festival, will be held at MusicWorld from July 3 to 7. The groups that will perform at the mega music store on Park Street are Sahar, Parash Pathar, Chandrabindu, Cactus and Abhilasha.

Each group will have a one-hour slot and will render original numbers, as well as cover versions of popular songs. �In keeping with our policy of promoting regional and local artists, we have planned this Bengali rockfest to give the Calcuttans a taste of the distinctive sounds of these different groups,� said an official of the RPG Group, which owns the MusicWorld chain.

The store plans to bring out an exclusive compilation of numbers from these concerts later.    

Calcutta, June 29 
A double murder, within hours of the announcement of the civic poll results, sparked panic and tension in Behala and Thakurpukur on Thursday. Both murders are believed to be triggered by intra-gang rivalry.

Police said criminals of a rival group picked up Swapan Halder from Maheshtala, killed him and dumped his body near Buroshibtala on Wednesday night. Around the same time, another gang leader, Arup Mondal, was killed by his own associates at Jadav Ghosh Street, in Sarsuna.

Immediately after news of the twin murders spread, police swung into action, raiding several areas on the outskirts of the city in search of the killers.

Although no major political party has claimed links with the murdered, police officers said both had worked for their respective political godfathers in the civic polls.

Residents of Dhankal, near Buroshibtala, found the body of Swapan Halder, 25, a gang leader of Maheshtala, lying in a pool of blood. Officers of Maheshtala police station said the CPM had commandeered Swapan�s services for the civic poll. Deputy superintendent of police Subhankar Chatterjee said Halder was killed by his rivals.

In the other incident, Arup Mondal, wanted by Thakurpukur police station for his involvement in several criminal cases, was shot dead near his house Wednesday night. Police said Arup and his associates had worked for the Trinamul Congress in the civic polls.

Residents heard three gunshots from a half-constructed building where Arup and his aides were camping for the night and called the police. Officers rushed to the spot, to find blood oozing from Arup�s neck and chest. His family later lodged a complaint with the police.    


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