Barnala on Governor shortlist
Somnath follows the leader
President rues silence on hate campaign
Sangh hospital slip miffs Atal camp
Party banks on Basu firepower in poll battle
Bengal health worries Mamata
BJP sees blow to third front
Sanjay steals the show at London premiere
Shadow of death on Laloo�s Diwali
More security for planters

New Delhi, Oct. 27: 
Akali leader Surjeet Singh Barnala is expected to be appointed Governor of Uttaranchal after the state formally comes into being on November 9. This is an indication that the Centre may appoint new Governors in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand which will come into being on November 1 and 15 respectively.

The names of Dinanath Tewari, a Planning Commission member, and outgoing Cabinet secretary Prabhat Kumar, who retires on October 31, are doing the rounds for the Governors of Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand.

Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal is alleged to have met Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee and Union home minister L.K. Advani on Wednesday and recommended Barnala�s name. Akali sources said Badal backed Barnala because he has been in the political wilderness since he lost the general elections.

The BJP has always acknowledged Barnala�s seniority, saying other than Vajpayee, Advani and Fernandes, he is the only leader who was part of the Morarji Desai government in 1977. Apart from this, relations between the Vajpayee government and the Akali Dal have not been smooth of late because of differences over removal of subsidies and other financial packages demanded by the state.

Another reason why Barnala has been picked is because the Centre wants to appease alienated sections of the Sikhs �- whose demand that Udhamsinghnagar not be made part of Uttaranchal had been turned down �- by giving the top job to a reputed leader from the community.

Kumar is being rewarded for services rendered. His tenure has not been smooth, but he managed to get large sections of the bureaucracy used to the BJP style of functioning. Though he was criticised for his passive role during the Kandahar hijack, he managed to stay in the good books of the Vajpayee government.

In legal circles, however, there is some confusion. Some sections believe a constitutional crisis is in the offing in the new states as the chief justices �- who swear in the Governors �- have not been appointed. The government has announced that the high courts will be located at Bilaspur for Chhattisgarh, Raipur for Jharkhand and Nainital for Uttaranchal.

The government today constituted Chhattisgarh High Court, and notified that it would function from November 1. �The notification has been issued under sub-section 2 of section 21 of the Madhya Pradesh Reorganisation Act, 2000,� an official release said. Under the Act, Madhya Pradesh has been divided into two states.

The state re-organisation Acts promulgated by the Centre and passed by Parliament also constituted Uttaranchal and Jharkhand. The Chhattisgarh High Court is the 19th high court in the country.    

Calcutta, Oct. 27: 
The man who might have stepped into Jyoti Basu�s shoes announced today his decision to follow in the chief minister�s footsteps.

Somnath Chatterjee offered to resign the post of chairman of the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation, citing, like Basu, ill health.

�I wanted to resign a long time back, but could not as Basu asked me not to quit as long as he continues as the chief minister. Now that he has decided to step down as chief minister, I do not want to continue in office,� Chatterjee told The Telegraph tonight.

With Basu out, there won�t be too many people in the CPM to persuade him to stay. It was Basu who had backed Chatterjee�s rise in the party. When the debate over who would succeed Basu first started, the chief minister�s first choice was believed to have been Chatterjee. His name began to crop up in discussions as a possible successor from the time Buddhadev Bhattacharya went into temporary hibernation in 1993, resigning from the ministry after a controversy triggered by an insulting comment he made about the Basu government.

Bhattacharya returned after a patch-up, but he was still not the undisputed successor.

Basu made Chatterjee chairman of the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation. For the first time, the corporation got such a high-profile head and began to be seen as the spearhead of Bengal�s industrialisation.

It was seen as a grooming ground for Chatterjee to assume bigger responsibility. Basu backed him in the face of hostility from an influential section within the CPM who never considered Chatterjee � the successful lawyer that he was � an insider.

As the debate over finding a successor became intense in 1997, when Basu made known his desire to step down, Chatterjee was very much in contention. Almost solely at Basu�s initiative, he was made a member of the CPM�s powerful central committee in 1998.

But he chose to stay on as CPM parliamentary leader in Delhi, winning election after election from the Bolpur parliamentary seat. His responsibilities in Delhi clashed with the job of the corporation�s chairman and, more important, pushed him farther and farther away from state-level politics, eroding whatever chances he had of emerging as a possible successor to Basu.

Expressing his desire to step down, Chatterjee said he would now concentrate on improving his performance as leader of the parliamentary party. Nothing else is left for him do either.

�I have to work hard in Parliament and my health is not permitting me to carry on the dual responsibility,� he said.

Chatterjee said he would press the party leadership to find a successor. �I think it will not be very difficult to find a new chairman for the WBIDC,� he added.

He has not yet informed the CPM state leadership. �Chatterjee has not yet told the party about his decision to quit. I think he will not relinquish his post without informing us,� CPM state secretary Anil Biswas said.    

New Delhi, Oct. 27: 
Discreet yet critical, President K.R. Narayanan expressed his concern at �national leaders� not raising their voice against the campaign of intolerance.

His interview to a Malayali newspaper is expected to raise eyebrows not just among Sangh hardliners but also cause consternation among moderates like Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee.

Narayanan reportedly said the level of intolerance in the country was �scattered� and �worrying�. He felt that silence does not help under these circumstances.

�It is not as if everyone has become intolerant. The majority of the people are tolerant. But what is happening is that important people are not condemning intolerance enough,� the President said.

He felt that though condemnation may sound rhetorical, leaders will have to condemn repeatedly.

�It is very important that leaders and opinion-makers strongly argue against the spirit of intolerance where people are made to attack each other in the name of faith, language or for any other reason,� he said.

Narayanan added that in decades gone by, national leaders would enunciate over and over again their disrespect for intolerance and lack of mutual respect.

�Because keeping silent when someone preaches intolerance will not help to fight intolerance,� the President noted.    

New Delhi, Oct. 27: 
Political leaders of various parties from Mamata Banerjee to Ram Vilas Paswan to Yerran Naidu visited Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee while he was recuperating at Breach Candy hospital from October 9 to 22, but neither Congress president Sonia Gandhi nor any senior RSS leader extended the courtesy.

On October 16, RSS chief K.S. Sudarshan was busy attending the inaugural session of a three-day national science conference organised by Vigyan Bharati, a wing of the Sangh parivar, but did not have time to visit a convalescing Vajpayee, who had undergone a knee surgery.

Vajpayee�s camp managers are naturally miffed at the discourtesy. They say a visit by Sudarshan would have been befitting, especially at a time when rumours of a succession war were flying thick and fast and also because the RSS top brass is grooming home minister L.K. Advani for the top slot.

However, both RSS and Congress sources tried to downplay the feelings of Vajpayee sympathisers. A RSS source, while admitting that no senior leader had called on Vajpayee at the Breach Candy hospital, said that former RSS chief Rajju Bhaiya and general secretary Madan Das Devi, besides Sudarshan, �had conveyed their best wishes to the Prime Minister� once he returned to Delhi.

Asked why no senior Sangh leader visited the 76-year-old Prime Minister at the hospital, an RSS source close to Sudarshan said there was no need for any demonstration, adding: �Rajju Bhaiya and Sudarshan have excellent relations with Vajpayee. They are personal friends. They keep meeting.�

A source close to Sonia Gandhi said she spoke to Vajpayee over telephone and conveyed �her concern about his health� and best wishes for a �speedy recovery�.

On October 10, the day of the surgery, only Advani and information technology minister Pramod Mahajan were present at the hospital.

Those who visited him afterwards included external affairs minister Jaswant Singh, who met Vajpayee on October 14, a day after Advani, in an interview to a television channel, criticised Singh for accompanying three terrorists to Kandahar.    

New Delhi, Oct. 27: 
The CPM central leadership believes Jyoti Basu will be able to spearhead a more strident battle against Mamata Banerjee after he gives up his administrative responsibilities as chief minister.

Party leaders say Basu will lead an �active� political life geared towards waiding off the Trinamul Congress challenge. �He is needed in West Bengal and he will actively campaign in the state and national level,� said CPM general secretary Harkishen Singh Surjeet.

The fight against Trinamul, the CPM says, is also a fight against the BJP. �The BJP plans to make inroads into the state through Trinamul and here our fight at the national and state levels converges,� say party leaders.

Will Basu spend more time in Delhi to put together a third front? The answer is �No�. Surjeet is clear about the party�s strategy. The CPM is going through a critical phase with Mamata Banerjee eyeing the chief minister�s post.

The CPM leadership would ideally have liked Basu to stay on as chief minister till the elections. A couple of months ago, when Basu insisted on quitting, it was the general secretary who persuaded him to change his mind. And the plea was Basu�s retirement would have strengthened Trinamul.

But with Basu determined to step down, the CPM leaders are trying to make the best of the situation. There is a feeling that the party would do better to go into a poll campaign with deputy chief minister Buddhadev Bhattacharya as Basu�s successor.    

Calcutta, Oct. 27: 
Mamata Banerjee may be concerned over chief minister Jyoti Basu�s ill health, but the Trinamul chief is no less concerned for the health of Bengal.

Mamata reacted to the news of Basu�s decision to step down by describing his 24-year tenure as a �complete failure�.

�He has been at the helm of affairs in Bengal for a long time, but the state�s problems have remained largely unresolved. Today Bengal is lagging behind other states in several spheres like industry, health and education. Basu should have given attention to these matters instead of looking after his party�s interests,� she said.

The Trinamul leader feels that the change of guard in the state government is �an internal matter of the CPM,� but wonders why the party took the decision a few months before the Assembly polls.

�The state government should have paid more attention to relief and rehabilitation of the flood victims. The devastating floods were largely man-made. But the state administration did not take any precautionary steps and failed to provide insurance coverage to peasants. We think this is a more important issue to the people than Basu�s resignation,� she said.

Asked if she thought Basu�s decision to step down amounted to an escape from the coming poll battle, Mamata said: �What can we do if Basu does not want to contest in the elections? We have been hearing about his ill-health for a long time. We wish him an early recovery and long life. However, the people of Bengal want a change in the political scene and their mood will be reflected in the poll results. We are ready to fight the CPM politically.�

Opinion in Trinamul is divided on Basu�s successor Buddhadev Bhattacharya. One section is rejoicing at the prospect of fighting the CPM without Basu in the chief minister�s chair. This group believes that Mamata will be more acceptable to the people as chief minister than Bhattacharya.

Some Trinamul leaders, however, find Bhattacharya more amenable to reason than Basu, who always held Mamata responsible for political violence in the state.

�Basu, unlike Bhattacharya, has been using abusive language against our leader for a long time. His remarks have alienated more people. We will keep a close watch on Bhattacharya as chief minister and will see to what extent he keeps his commitment to restore order in rural Bengal,� a Trinamul leader said.

Mamata does not acknowledge that the change in leadership will make a difference. �We do not require anyone�s help. Our party is mature enough to carry on its fight. In fact, Basu�s continuation as chief minister would have helped us in our political battle against the Marxists. Let him contest the polls.�    

New Delhi, Oct. 27: 
The BJP sounded relieved at Jyoti Basu�s decision to demit office next month and said it would end the CPM�s dreams of reviving the third front under his leadership.

BJP vice-president J.P. Mathur said: �Jyoti Basu�s retirement was almost a foregone conclusion,� but the efforts of the CPM to form a third front under him will suffer a great setback.

Asked if Basu could now play a greater role in the Centre by opting out of Bengal, Mathur said: �He has decided to leave because of his age and ill-health. One can hardly believe he would be able to lead a group of parties.�

He said the Congress� unwillingness to be part of such a combination and the CPM�s own reluctance to accommodate the Congress meant that the third front exercise had �ended before it began�.

The BJP was quick to react to the policy changes initiated by the CPM at the Thiruvananthapuram plenum. BJP sources admitted that the party�s interest was largely triggered by indications in the Marxist camp of resurrecting the third front to fight the Centre�s liberalisation policies.

While part of the BJP�s worry was set at rest by the belief that the Congress cannot join a formation that would oppose economic reforms, the presence of regional satraps like RJD leader Laloo Prasad Yadav and Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav was a cause for anxiety.

Mulayam had stayed away from the CPM conclave because of developments in Uttar Pradesh. But the BJP feels that Mulayam would not opt for a third front based on an economic plank alone.    

London, Oct. 27: 
Sanjay Dutt won universal praise from a specially invited audience when the world premiere of Vidhu Vinod Chopra�s eagerly-awaited Mission Kashmir was held last night at the UCI Plaza, a prestigious venue in London�s West End.

�I didn�t know he could act ...,� commented Dr Rachel Dwyer, a lecturer with the School of Oriental and African Studies who writes on Indian cinema. �So well,� she added hastily.

She reflected a consensus that Dutt should be in line for Best Actor awards for his portrayal of Inayat Khan, Kashmir inspector general of police who adopts the son of a family he kills in a shootout.

Hrithik Roshan, who plays the son (Altaaf), was not present at the premiere, but the director brought with him a big contingent of cast and crew from Bombay. Among them was his elder brother, Vir Chopra, the film�s producer.

In the early hours of this morning, the bandwagon moved on to New York after a post-premiere /Diwali bash at the Langham Hilton, which is not a cheap hotel and where the stars have been staying.

Dutt and co. did not bother to walk down Regent Street to the cinema, which would have taken all of 10 minutes. In keeping with tradition for such occasions, they arrived ceremonially in limousines and were met by minders while British bobbies (police) held back onlookers.

In contrast to Indian passersby who shrieked in delight as recognition set in, the stars went unrecognised by non-Indians.

However, a serious effort is now starting to change all that and make Indian commercial movies accessible to a much wider global audience.

�Out of 140 prints, 50 will be sub-titled in English and others in Spanish, French and Mandarin,� said Rajesh Pant, the Bombay-based operations director for Sony Entertainment which is distributing the film.

He revealed the English sub-titling had been in good hands � author Vikram Chandra, who is one of the team credited with the storyline and screenplay.

Pant added: �In New York, our premiere will be in a cinema in Times Square, the first time this has happened with a Bollywood movie.�

To hold the world premiere of Mission Kashmir in London ahead of its general release in India is part of a strategic marketing move to give the Indian film industry a much higher profile.

The general reaction, to Mission Kashmir, of last night�s audience, which included well-known Indian personalities in London, was favourable, although perhaps not ecstatic.

Among the cast who came to the premiere were Dutt himself, Jackie Shroff and Sonali Kulkarni.

A typical comment of a woman journalist who works for an Asian TV channel in Britain was: �Sanjay Dutt stole the show in some ways. As for Hrithik, he is in a class of his own. He outshone all the others.�

At the interval, Vidhu Vinod Chopra introduced a 30-strong contingent from Bombay and said that 220 crew had �risked their lives� during a 30-day shoot in Kashmir.

In a separate interview, he complained of the unhelpful attitude of the Indian government. �They did not give me one helicopter,� he raged.

Among the few people in India who have already seen the film are the President and several members of the Cabinet. They are said to have approved the film, according to the director.    

Patna, Oct. 27: 
Laloo Prasad Yadav normally spends Diwali night with friends and family, bursting crackers and lighting lamps. This time, however, was different..

Sitting in his outhouse hours after returning from Sitaram Kesri�s cremation, Laloo Yadav says: �Did you know that Kesri�s dog died the same day? Kutta bahut jyada wafadar hot hai manas se (Dogs are more loyal than humans).�

Changing into a Bhagalpuri silk kurta and dhoti after a bath, Laloo accompanies wife Rabri Devi to the puja ghar.

�Does the death of your political mentor worry you?� asks a reporter. �Aana jana laga hai re monwa, pashu, pakshi, per, paudha, samay nischit hai kaun kab jayega� samay nischit hai (Coming and going is a continuous process. Animals, birds, trees plants, the time for all things is predestined),� he says.

�He seems to believe at least now in what he is saying,� says a party colleague.

The puja ghar is a small room on the first floor of Laloo Yadav�s 1 Anne Marg residence.

Entering the room, Laloo picks up a silver gada (mace) and waves it in the air in the true spirit of a disciple of Bajrangbali. He, however, asks not to be photographed.

The RJD leader sits in front of the idol for half an hour, reciting mantras.

He then picks up a conchshell and blows it, as if trying to ward off depressing thoughts.

The room is not the abode of only one god. Idols of Krishna, Radha, Durga, Lakshmi and Ganesh are placed on small wooden planks. The walls are adorned with portraits of gods.

Laloo recites mantras in front of each one of them, incense sticks glowing.

Back in the portico, Laloo Yadav speaks about the fodder scam and the bitumen scam. �Upar me baitha hai Bajrangbali. Wo hi faisla karega, kaun khaya chara, kaun piya alkatra (Lord Hanuman, who is above us, will decide who ate the money of the animal husbandry department and who consumed all the resources earmarked for purchasing bitumen).�

Unlike other times, he is not irritated by the questions.

For a man who fought �Brahminism and feudalistic trappings� for the better part of his life, Laloo has slowly been reconciling himself with the rituals.

�With age, this happens. Whether you are a politician or a die-hard atheist,� said an aide.    

Siliguri, Oct. 27: 
With the rise in militant activities in north Bengal, the government has decided to beef up security arrangements in Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri and Coochbehar. It will also provide security to small and medium tea garden owners targeted by militants.

State municipal and urban development minister Ashoke Bhattacharya said today that a meeting was held to review the security arrangements in north Bengal following Sunday�s abduction of planter Om Prakash Agarwal and the killing of his son, Gopal, by suspected Kamtapuri militants.

Agarwal was abducted and Gopal was gunned down by four motorcycle-borne suspected militants near Rangdhamali in Jalpaiguri.

Bhattacharya said: �The Jalpaiguri district police have taken all measures to trace Agarwal�s abductors who, we believe, are Kamtapuri militants.

The incident was very unfortunate. I visited the bereaved family in Siliguri yesterday and assured them of all possible help from the government�s side.�

�At a high-level meeting presided over by the deputy chief minister and home minister(police), Budhdhadeb Bhattacharya, in Calcutta on Thursday, it was decided to provide more security to the tea industry in north Bengal,� he added.

This apart, the government has decided to tighten security arrangements in Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri and Coochbehar,� Bhattacharya said.

�The number of police personnel in police stations and check posts in areas prone to militant activities will be increased and better equipped.

Besides, Central para military forces like the CRPF will complement the security arrangement in the region,� he added.

�Already two companies of CRPF have moved to north Bengal, stationed at Siliguri and Jalpaiguri. If needed, we will requisition more Central forces to curb the menace of militancy. The district police have been instructed to coordinate with their counterparts in other districts and operate jointly to fight the growing militancy in the region,� Bhattacharya said.

The minister said: �We have good reasons to believe that Kamtapuri militants are behind Sunday�s incident.�

The recovery of one of the motorcycles used by the abductor yesterday by the Jalpaiguri police have given some more leads that point at the Kamtapur Liberation Organisation.

The militants may still be holed-up in the jungles surrounding the tea belt in Jalpaiguri, it is feared.    


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