West Asia warriors at Delhi door
Advani sorry for Singh swipe
Giants go down, Kiwis to go
Thirsty Mumbai erupts around Atal
Yesterday�s enemy calms Wadia nerves
Calcutta Weather

New Delhi, Oct. 13: 
Both Israel and Palestine have requested India to help broker truce in West Asia and save the peace process from collapse.

The twin requests have placed Delhi in a piquant situation but they are also an index of the growing respect it commands in the region. While Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak telephoned Atal Behari Vajpayee twice in the past few days, Palestine leader Yasser Arafat has sought Delhi�s intervention through its representative in the Gaza Strip.

India has so far taken care not to tilt either way, only issuing a plea to the warring groups to give peace a chance in the embattled region. It also sent a Rs 25-lakh relief package for Palestinians wounded in the violence.

Delhi will now have to do some tightrope-walking. It has traditionally been a friend of the Palestinians, but of late its ties with Israel have deepened, specially after the unconditional support it received during the Kargil war.

Jaswant Singh will take up the issue of the crumbling peace talks with Riyadh in the first-ever foreign ministerial visit to Saudi Arabia next week. The talks will aim at finding ways to salvage the collapsing peace process.

The foreign ministry today issued a statement condemning the escalating violence in the region. �...deliberate acts of provocation, excessive use of force, wanton killings of innocents, including most sadly, children, desecration of places of worship, taking hostages and retaliatory killing of soldiers... directly cause a descent into uncontrollable disorder.�

But Delhi took care not to take sides. �This must cease. We urge all sides to desist from provocative acts, use of indiscriminate force and encouragement to violence. Peace must immediately be restored, the West Asia Peace Process not permitted to collapse irretrievably. This is not simply an Israel-Palestine or even a regional issue, it is a matter that concerns all of humanity.�

A foreign ministry official also said that Delhi was in touch with both sides and �we will do whatever we can to help improve the situation and send the two sides back to the negotiating table.�

An earlier Indian statement urging both sides to restore normality did not go down well with the Palestinians, who felt India should have slammed the Israeli hand in the violence in stronger terms. Delhi, however, refused to issue a statement that may not have been satisfactory for Tel Aviv.

Though India began normalising ties with Israel during Narasimha Rao�s term, there has been a distinct upswing in relations under the BJP regime.

Home minister L.K. Advani and Jaswant Singh visited Israel in June-July this year, inviting much flak from Arab nations.

However, the critics fell silent a month later, with Arafat choosing to visit India in August. Israeli leader Shimon Peres soon followed in Arafat�s footsteps.    

New Delhi, Oct. 13: 
A day after his unprovoked attack on foreign minister Jaswant Singh for flying to Kandahar with three hardcore militants as part of the hostage-swap deal, L.K. Advani today �wished he had not made the statement� to a private television channel, reports our special correspondent.

The home minister said today Jaswant�s visit was �unintended� and there was no alternative but to release the militants. �There was a real threat to the lives of the passengers and the crew,� he said.

He refused to comment when asked if the crisis was mishandled, but said the government was thinking of preparing a �comprehensive policy� to tackle such hostage situations.    

Nairobi, Oct. 13: 
The champagne has been put on hold till Sunday, but the Indians will be having a team dinner. �It�s mandatory,� reminded Sourav Ganguly, smiling. It�s one of the changes introduced by the captain.

Of course, the team went out last Saturday, too (after stunning world champions Australia), but tonight�s dinner will be special: India have stormed into the ICC KnockOut Kenya 2000 final, where they meet New Zealand on Sunday.

Till a fortnight back, few gave India much of a chance. Now, by inflicting a massive 95-run humiliation on South Africa, Sourav�s team is just one win from taking home the most coveted trophy after the 1983 World Cup. Yes, even bigger than the 1985 World Championship of Cricket title. �Yes, yes... One to go,� the somewhat-in-a-daze Sourav repeated twice, minutes after South Africa�s annihilation. His first thoughts?

�That it�s all been so incredible,� the captain answered as dozens of well-wishers wanted to have a piece of him.

It was imperative that India be positive from the start and that message was conveyed straightaway as Sourav decided to bat. Inviting South Africa would have meant conceding a few psychological points.

The captain�s move was a statement and he proceeded to lead from the front. But for the two �lives� to Nicky Boje, on successive Anil Kumble deliveries, Sourav could do no wrong. �Well, when your time is good, everything falls into place,� he said.

Sourav, the Man of the Match, remained unbeaten on a sizzling 141 (his 14th one-day hundred) and, in the afternoon, marshalled resources in a manner which would have done a Rommell or a Patton proud.

By effecting a morale-enhancing run-out (Gary Kirsten�s) and by taking catches with the aplomb one usually associates Australians and South Africans with, India authored a performance out of the ordinary. In a pressure match, the South Africans choked.

Seeking to get past India�s 295 for six, South Africa stumbled at the start and weren�t ever in the hunt, save briefly when the Mark Boucher-Jonty Rhodes and Boucher-Lance Klusener partnerships caused some irritation. Having plunged to 50 for four, as early as the eighth over, it couldn�t have been anything more.

Shaun Pollock, the captain, offered no excuses. �All credit to India... We didn�t play as well as we should have... That one of the openers alone scored a big hundred made it even more difficult for us.�

Sourav didn�t single out any one individual, but again had nice words for Yuvraj Singh, who has done his bit to transform this Indian team. The captain, however, felt today�s wicket was the one least conducive to good cricket. �Batting wasn�t easy, as the ball would stop and come,� he said.

Of his own innings, Sourav said: �I would bracket it with the 124 against Pakistan (Dhaka, Independence Cup, January 1998) and the 141, also versus Pakistan (Adelaide, Carlton and United Series, January 2000)... But, yes, taking the occasion into account, this would probably rank higher.�

The thumping victory notwithstanding, Sourav isn�t taking anything for granted. �I never predict and this game never surprises me... We�ll give it our best shot and leave the rest to almighty,� is all that he would say about Sunday.    

Mumbai, Oct. 13: 
The temporary centre of power erupted in anger today as thousands of thirsty residents choked the city�s arteries and rail lifeline to protest against a municipal strike that had left their taps dry.

As BJP workers abandoned plans to celebrate the anniversary of their government in New Delhi and joined the popular �uprising� against the Congress-led regime, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, who took a few steps with the help of a walker, spent the day in his Breach Candy room watching the protests on television.

�The Prime Minister is very much aware of the agitation by the people but made no comment because it would not have been proper for him,� said Vajpayee�s media adviser Ashok Tandon.

Carrying empty buckets, pots and pans, thousands of residents blocked almost all important roads of the financial capital since early morning after they found their taps dry. Both the eastern and western express highways, connecting the city to its suburbs, were clogged by people demanding government intervention.

Most of the 1,40,000 civic employees went on a strike yesterday after the authorities refused to accept their demand for a higher Diwali bonus.

Officials of the water operations department shut the valves yesterday before walking off in protest.

As a result, most parts of Borivli, Malad, Kandivli, Kurla, Wadala, Parel, Matunga, Dadar, Santa Cruz and Jogeshwari went without even a drop. Even upmarket areas like Peddar Road and Marine Drive, home to business barons and stars of the tinselworld, were not spared.

Enraged residents stoned government buses and tried to set on fire a few trucks in different areas as police stood by without intervening. The police said they were helpless as any use of force would have triggered widespread violence.

�How can you beat away the protesters when their demands are genuine? Can you live in a city like Mumbai without a drop of water?� said a senior police officer.

Thousands of commuters were stranded as people squatted on railway tracks at Charni Road and Dockyard Road stations, stalling local trains. Nariman Point, the business hub, remained cut off for several hours.

The strike was withdrawn tonight after the civic authorities caved in under union pressure and agreed to the demand for a higher bonus.

Breach Candy breathed a sigh of relief. �We were really worried because the water in our reservoir would not have lasted for another day,� said Dr Ashok Bhatkhande, director (administration). �But then, we had lined up a few tankers because the Prime Minister is staying here.�

Vajpayee, who completed a year in office in his third term, did little during the day except for issuing a two-page statement to mark the anniversary.    

Mumbai, Oct. 13: 
Corporate lore is replete with tales of skulduggery between the Ambanis and Nusli Wadia � two of the bitterest rivals whose acrimonious battles date back to the days of political patronage fostered by the much-reviled licence raj system.

But today, the Ambani-owned Reliance group signalled it was ready to bury the hatchet when it spurned an indirect offer from Arun Bajoria and his associates to buy into Bombay Dyeing.

Last week, Bajoria shook the corporate world with a startling revelation that he and his associates had picked up 14 per cent in the Wadia-owned company by buying shares from the market over eight to nine months.

When Wadia cried foul and got his voting rights against the shares stayed, Bajoria did some sabre-rattling and said he was ready to come out with an open offer to pick up another 20 per cent in Bombay Dyeing.

There has been speculation that Bajoria, a jute baron-turned-corporate raider, who has spent an estimated Rs 60 crore to build his stake in Bombay Dyeing, was fronting for somebody. Many wondered, predictably, if it was the Reliance group.

�Reliance has no interest whatsoever in buying shares of Bombay Dyeing. Reliance has evinced no interest, nor entertained and will not entertain any such proposal to consider purchase of shares of Bombay Dyeing,� the Ambani company said in a statement, scotching the rumours.

While the Wadias heaved a sigh of relief, corporate observers felt the unexpected announcement would bolster the Wadia strategies to ward off the Calcutta-based corporate raider.

The statement was an indication how things have dramatically changed since the early eighties when Reliance and Bombay Dyeing were going hammer and tongs at each other when they marketed two competing intermediate products that are essential to make textiles. Bombay Dyeing�s product DMT (di-methyl terephthalate) has since lost out to Reliance�s PTA (purified terephthalic acid).

Reliance�s statement also revealed how pragmatism scores over past passions in business. �Bombay Dyeing is a valued customer of Reliance for paraxylene � a critical raw material for manufacture of DMT,� the last line in the statement read.

Observers say the Reliance announcement checkmates Bajoria�s gambit, especially after he made a loaded comment that he was ready to sell his stake even to the Ambanis. �The Reliance statement will take away the charm from the (Bombay Dyeing) share,� brokers say. Bajoria will now have to think up something new to keep interest in his case alive.

On the other hand, Bombay Dyeing, which is now bracing for a showdown with Bajoria, will feel emboldened.

The Wadia company claims to have gathered evidence to nail the corporate raider at a hearing the market watchdog, Sebi, is scheduled to hold shortly.

It hopes to corroborate the charge that Bajoria had violated the takeover code by failing to inform the authorities exactly when he had crossed the 5 per cent level.

Sources at Neville House, the Bombay Dyeing headquarters, say the list handed over by Bajoria reveals that the single largest shareholder from his side is D. K. Singhania, a broker on the Calcutta Stock Exchange and its former president. Singhania holds 2.21 per cent. The list of shareholders as on August 8, 2000, was obtained by this paper from the Bombay Stock Exchange.

Sources said the Bajoria buying was routed through Singhania. Singhania�s close association with Bajoria and their notice sent to CSE on purchases need to be investigated thoroughly, the sources said.

The other large individual shareholders from the Bajoria group also happen to be members of the Bajoria clan. Mohini Devi Bajoria holds 2.83 lakh shares and Pooja Bajoria 2.42 lakh shares. Lata Devi Bajoria, Arun Kumar Bajoria and Meenakshi Jetia hold 2.40 lakh, 2.10 lakh and 1.05 lakh shares. In addition, bodies corporate close to the Bajoria group hold 7.9 per cent.

The other shareholders in the top 10 are Harshad Mehta of securities scam fame, and former BSE president Kamal Kabra. Both are neutral shareholders.

The list also reveals that UTI has been a major seller in the recent past and, in all probability, Bajoria was the buyer. UTI has sold 14.78 lakh shares. Its holding, as on August 8, had dropped to 31,000 shares.

One section of shareholders that has increased its stake are bodies corporate, whose holding has gone up from 34.96 per cent last year to 38.07 per cent.

Sources close to Sebi said their investigation will focus on the allegation that Bajoria did not inform the company when his holdng crossed 5 per cent and on whether his stake has topped 15 per cent, at which point he has to make an open offer to buy at least 20 per cent to all Bombay Dyeing shareholders.

Sebi chairman D.R. Mehta, who returned today from an overseas trip, refused to comment on the controversy. According to him, no dates have been set for the hearing.    



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