�Hijack� comes between comrades & Castro
Private S&T institutes clear first hurdle
Ban gift for Dhindsa
Modi scores BJP third
Waris Varun in dynasty debate
Blow to Bhan & backwards
Gangsters killed in Rajan reprisal strike
Berth balm on Uma
Security meet
Shunned Soren cools heels

New Delhi, Nov. 3: 
The last few days CPM general secretary Harkishen Singh Surjeet has been preoccupied with a mundane but no less important matter for his party: ensuring a �junket� to Cuba for his comrades.

The CPM had prepared a list of 125 delegates and the CPI 36, all of whom were to fly to Cuba next week to attend an international conference on solidarity for the communist nation.

But the schedule has gone awry at the last moment. The Aeroflot flight which would have flown the delegates to Cuba has been cancelled and Surjeet now has to tap all his contacts in the embassies and airlines offices to find bookings on another flight.

With time running out, the unforeseen hitch has sent the delegates into a panic. At the CPI office in Delhi, sit anxious comrades who have come from far-off states. Every now and then, some leaders assure the waiting lot that something is being worked out so that nothing can stop them from meeting their political icon, Fidel Castro.

In between there are a dozen phone calls between A.K. Gopalan Bhavan and Ajay Bhavan from where Surjeet and the CPI leaders in charge of the trip are trying to work out alternative arrangements.

Surjeet himself is flying off to Cuba tomorrow by British Airways. His junior colleague M.A. Baby, a Rajya Sabha MP and one of the well-known names associated with the �Help Cuba� campaign, didn�t take any chances. He booked 33 of his comrades � all from Kerala � on an Air France flight. Of the whole lot, they are the only ones with confirmed bookings.

Forty-two CPM leaders from West Bengal, however, have been left high and dry. The list includes politburo member Biman Bose, transport minister Subhas Chakraborty, Samir Putatunda, Shyamali Gupta, Nirupam Sen and virtually every district secretary of the party.

The CPI had made bookings well in advance � a little over two months ago. �All our 36 comrades were booked on this Aeroflot flight which got cancelled because the airlines decided to reduce flights to Cuba,� said a leader. It was left to Aeroflot to accommodate the 36 on one of its flights.

But last month, the CPM pitched in with its own list of passengers and discovered that there was no room and that the CPI comrades were on the waiting list. The CPM then insisted that passengers from the two parties be put together on a special flight.

This, however, was impossible and the CPI, which might have been able to get its delegates on board had the CPM not put forward its own list, was left in the same quandary.    

New Delhi, Nov. 3: 
Independent proposals by Reliance Industries and NRIs to infuse massive funding to create new centres for higher education in science and technology have moved closer to reality.

The Scientific Advisory Committee to the Union Cabinet has sent a report to the government acknowledging the need to enlist private sector role in higher science and technology education on a mammoth scale.

At least two proposals are pending with the government. Reliance Industries wants to invest Rs 996 crore to establish a centre of excellence in emerging areas of science and technology.

The proposed Ambani Institute of Technology, likely to be set up in Jamnagar, Gujarat, will focus on infotech, biotechnology, health-care, power, space technology, advanced materials and ocean engineering among other areas.

The other proposal comes from a group of NRIs who have jointly offered $1 billion to set up a world-class research university called the Global Institute of Science and Technology (GIST) with three to six campuses across India.

�We�ve told the government there is scope as well as need for private sector participation,� A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, principal scientific adviser to the government and chairman of the Advisory Committee said today.

�It is unlikely that the government itself will substantially increase higher education funding, despite its goodwill,� says V.S. Ramamurthy, Advisory Committee member and secretary, department of science and technology. �There are resource constraints.�

The proposed Ambani Institute of Technology will have BE, ME and PhD programmes in energy, petroleum engineering, chemical engineering, biotechnology, and IT and communication, the Advisory Committee report said.

Its student strength is expected to increase from 620 in 2001-2002 to 1990 by the year 2005-2006. The institute plans to have a differential fee structure for domestic and NRI students.

The GIST will focus on research that involves industry-academic ties. A third of its students are expected to be from outside India. It will offer postgraduate and doctoral programmes initially and launch undergraduate courses later.

Following the proposals by Reliance Industries and the NRI group, the government had earlier this year asked the Advisory Committee to examine the issue of private funding into higher science and technology education.

The Advisory Committee has now sent its recommendations to the ministry of human resources development.

Advisory Committee members say their mandate was to examine the broad issue of the likely impact that massive private funding from within or outside India may have on the existing educational system in the country.

�Primary concerns have related to fees, salary levels, and course structures,� Ramamurthy said.    

New Delhi, Nov. 3: 
Stampeding mediapersons today virtually broke into sports minister Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa�s room where he met A.C. Muthiah, president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India, for almost half an hour this afternoon.

Closeted in the minister�s room at Shastri Bhavan, the two took time to recover from the mad rush they had witnessed. After he emerged, the BCCI chief talked to the reporters who were waiting on the fourth floor lobby.

Muthiah told them that he had not only temporarily axed the five cricketers named by the CBI from the list of players playing at the domestic and international circuit, but had also promised the minister that a final decision on their future would be taken within a fortnight when the board�s internal inquiry would be over.

The BCCI chief, however, did not explain why the board had announced the decision to suspend the players this morning when only yesterday it had told reporters that it was incredulous of all aspects of the CBI report. Muthiah said the BCCI probe, led by former CBI joint-director K. Madhavan, would technically examine the report and suggest what action could be taken against the cricketers.

The board this morning sent instructions to all state units informing them of the ban. It means Mohammed Azharuddin cannot play for Hyderabad for the next 14 days. Ajay Jadeja will also not be able to turn out for Jammu and Kashmir, which recorded an upset win over Haryana in a North Zone Ranji Trophy tie yesterday.

Dhindsa said he was happy that the BCCI had responded so favourably and fast. He said Muthiah had assured him that he would get back to him on what the sports body had to say about the allegations levelled against it and its style of functioning by the CBI.

A wary Muthiah, who said he needed 15 days to get back to the ministry, refused to comment on what had transpired since yesterday that the board had decided to suspend the five players named by the investigating agency.

He refused to comment on how seriously the cricket board viewed the CBI�s conclusions. But he promised to cooperate wholeheartedly with the investigating team being sent over by the International Cricket Council.

Muthiah also refuted the CBI charge that the cricket board was aware that such financial transactions were taking place with support and backing from the underworld.    

New Delhi, Nov. 3: 
Narendra Modi has become the man to watch in the BJP. Modi, who has been elevated from the post of secretary in a record one year to general secretary (organisation) � a post that lay vacant in Kushabhau Thakre�s regime.

While Modi has officially been given charge of only Himachal Pradesh, as overall organisation general secretary, he is expected to be the BJP�s main strategist and trouble-shooter in all states, including key ones like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.

Two senior vice-presidents, Jana Krishnamurthy and Pyarelal Khandelwal, have also been made in charge of organisation and the prabari (in charge) of crucial states � Krishnamurthy of Maharashtra and Gujarat and Khandelwal of Uttar Pradesh.

Explaining why three office-bearers were made in charge of the overall organisation, BJP spokesman Krishnamurthy said: �It enables the party to devote more time to the organisation, which has been our strong point. It will tune up our organisation and bring it to the level of meeting electoral challenges seriously and successfully.�

Only two other BJP leaders have held the general secretary (organisation) post since the Jan Sangh era: Sunder Singh Bhandari and Thakre.

The former general secretary, K.N. Govindacharya, despite being tipped to get the coveted post every time there was a change of guard, did not get it because of the combined opposition of Atal Behari Vajpayee and Thakre.

BJP sources, however, gave a social spin to Modi�s elevation, claiming that with a Dalit party chief from Andhra Pradesh and a more backward caste (MBC) general secretary from Gujarat, the party was readying itself for a �generational change�.

�Both belong to the oppressed classes and are not from the Hindi belt. This is expected to set new social equations in the party,� said sources.

There was bad news for Mahajan who used to call the shots in Maharashtra, his home turf. BJP sources said Krishnamurthy was no �pushover� and was expected to keep a close watch on Mahajan�s political moves unlike former Maharashtra prabari Sangh Priya Gautam whose appointment was just notional.

Mahajan�s brother-in-law and former Maharashtra deputy chief minister Gopinath Munde, who was virtually his proxy, has been moved out as Karnataka prabari.

Sources said Munde�s continuing presence in Maharashtra had become an �irritant� for Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray who resented his alleged chief ministerial ambitions.

Munde was not the only one to be shunted from his fiefdom. Two former Delhi chief ministers � Madan Lal Khurana and Sahib Singh Verma � have been asked to look after West Bengal and Sikkim and Rajasthan respectively.

Former Rajasthan strongman Ram Das Aggarwal has been made prabari of Haryana and Chandigarh, reportedly to give Bhairon Singh Shekhawat a free hand in the state.    

New Delhi, Nov. 3: 
As the date for the organisational polls draws near, Congress functionaries are weaving a soap opera around the Nehru-Gandhi family and debating on whom the true legacy has been bequeathed.

The infighting in the Congress parivar acquired a degree of crassness with party general secretary Ambika Soni stepping down from her post to campaign for Sonia, and party spokesman Anil Shastri completely disowning Sanjay Gandhi�s son Feroze Varun�s claim of being a �true waris� (inheritor) of the party.

Shastri said Varun was not a member of the Congress and had, therefore, no �business� to comment on intra-party developments. Making it clear that only Rajiv-Sonia-Priyanka-Rahul Gandhi were �true representatives� of the Nehru-Gandhi legacy, Shastri asked: �How can those who campaigned and sided with communal forces stake claim on Congress�, referring to Varun�s involvement in Maneka Gandhi�s election campaign in Pilibhit.

Party leaders justified Shastri�s outburst, saying there should be no �confusing signal� to the party rank and file in the wake of reports that the Samajwadi Party was planning to rope in junior Gandhi.

�The Nehru-Gandhi family means Rajiv�s family. There should be no debate on it,� an AICC office-bearer said.

Varun shot to fame recently when he visited Shakti Sthal, samadhi of his grandmother Indira Gandhi, on her death anniversary. Many youth Congress workers touched his feet that sent shock waves in the party circles.

Soni, a close associate of Sonia, resigned, inviting other AICC office-bearers to take a similar loyalty test. In the next few days, some other important functionaries are likely to step down and campaign for Sonia as �ordinary workers�.

Soni termed her decision as �emotional�, and the Congress chief wrote to her expressing her deep sense of appreciation.

Sources said Soni stepped down after Jitendra Prasada objected to the �misuse� of the AICC premises in the party polls when she gave a point-by-point rebuttal three days ago.

Demanding a level-playing field, Prasada urged AICC�s election panel chief Ram Niwas Mirdha to provide similar forum to him.    

New Delhi, Nov. 3: 
With Suraj Bhan�s exit from Uttar Pradesh and Vishnu Kant Shastri�s appointment as the new Governor, the BJP seems to have thrown its �social engineering� strategy � to win over backward castes and Dalits � to the winds.

Bhan told a press conference in Lucknow tonight that �some� people were unhappy because Governors were supposed to keep quiet but he did not, adds our correspondent. �I had no prior knowledge of this...whenever you do some good honest work, there are people who are affected,� he said, taking a dig at the BJP�s displeasure at his open siding with the Dalits.

Sources close to Bhan, a former president of the BJP�s Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Morcha, alleged he was victimised by the party top brass for �taking up the cause of the oppressed and depressed people�.

�His only fault, if you can call it that, was he spoke fearlessly for the Dalits whenever they were victimised, but evidently that was not to the leadership�s liking,� the sources said, referring to how Bhan came forward with the demand that reservation for Dalits and tribals be properly filled, during a Governors� conference in Delhi. He followed up his demand by writing to then chief minister Ram Prakash Gupta, who had reportedly brought it to the notice of Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and home minister L.K. Advani.

A senior BJP leader admitted that Bhan was asked to swap places with Shastri and move over to Himachal Pradesh for �exceeding his brief�. �He sometimes forgot what office he was holding and behaved like a politician out to carve a Dalit constituency for himself,� he said.

While the Central leaders were concerned with Bhan allegedly flouting norms, state party sources said his exit was bound to send �wrong signals to the backward caste and Dalit voters.

�Our high command has ensured that the Manuwadi label on our party sticks hard and for life. The oppressed classes are saying we have a Pandit Prime Minister and a Pandit state party president (Kalraj Mishra).

�On top of that, a Thakur (Rajnath Singh) is foisted as the chief minister and now the Dalit Governor is booted out and worse, another Pandit brought in his place,� said a backward caste Rajya Sabha MP from central Uttar Pradesh.    

Mumbai, Nov. 3: 
A month and a half after he survived an attempt on his life, mobster Chhota Rajan today struck back from his hospital bed in Bangkok.

Rajan�s hitmen gunned down three suspected associates of Chhota Shakeel, his rival and a Dawood Ibrahim confidant, raising the spectre of a gangwar in the country�s commercial capital.

Police, who were caught unawares by the early-morning strikes in Panvel on Mumbai�s outskirts, were put on high alert immediately. All police stations were told to step up vigil on the rival gangs and thwart any attempt to unleash a vendetta violence.

�We are closely monitoring the situation,� police commissioner M.N. Singh said, confirming a link between the September 15 attack on Rajan and the killings. �We will not allow anyone to create disturbances here.�

Immediately after Shakeel�s hitmen had shot and wounded Rajan in a Bangkok apartment, the city police had tightened security in anticipation of revenge attacks.

The vigil, however, relaxed within weeks as Rajan showed no signs of getting back at his attackers and police officials thought that the injured gangster, caught in a legal tangle over his deportation, wouldn�t retaliate till he had fully recovered.

Police sources say Rajan�s gang may have laid a trap for Shakeel�s associates, one of whom was Vinod Chandu Shetty, a hotel owner from Chembur. They had been called to Panvel shortly after midnight, apparently to cut a deal.

But the two cars they were travelling in were stopped by the Rajan gang on the way. The other two killed were identified as Mohammad Shakeel and Shankar Iyer, owner of a cooking gas agency in Chembur.

Satish Hegde, who was travelling with Shetty in his car, was seriously injured in the attack. Hegde owns a dance bar in the area.

Deputy chief minister Chhagan Bhujbal said the Mumbai police was determined to bring Rajan back and try him for at least 17 serious cases pending against him. He said the Centre had assured the state government that it would make all attempts to get Rajan deported.

Bhujbal had met Union home minister L.K. Advani and external affairs minister Jaswant Singh early this week to expedite the don�s deportation.

Bhujbal, who is also the state home minister, said the three-member Mumbai police team camping in Bangkok was asked to return after the Thai authorities refused to deal with it. He quoted Thailand as saying that it would only deal with the Union government about Rajan�s deportation.

The Centre had recently revoked Rajan�s passport at the insistence of the Maharashtra government. �So now, his deportation should not be a problem,� Bhujbal said.

The Maharashtra government had earlier accused the Centre of dragging its feet on the deportation issue. Rajan had in the past helped Indian intelligence agencies in their fight against the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence as he got several key Dawood aides killed.

The deputy chief minister said the Centre should not try to extradite the gangster since India did not have an extradition treaty with Thailand and the process would take too long.    

New Delhi, Nov. 3: 
The Atal Behari Vajpayee government is contemplating a minor Cabinet reshuffle by next week to accommodate Madhya Pradesh firebrand leader Uma Bharti, whose political career has been floundering for some time. The government does not want to alienate her any further and is going out of its way to accommodate her.

The government proposes to shift M. Venkaiah Naidu from the rural development ministry and make him surface transport minister in place of Rajnath Singh, who has been recently sworn in as the Uttar Pradesh chief minister.

Though Naidu has expressed happiness with his assignment in the rural development ministry, the government feels he would be happier with the surface transport portfolio.

BJP sources said Bharti has not made up her mind yet and has been telling her friends that the rural development ministry is too vast and she would not be able to do justice to it.

The government hopes it will be gradually able to convince her and make her accept the responsibility, failing which, there is fear in the BJP central leadership that Bharti would walk out of the party and become yet another Kalyan Singh.    

New Delhi, Nov. 3: 
The Cabinet Committee on Security met today to review the situation on the borders, especially in the context of alleged Chinese incursions into Indian territory.

Arunachal Pradesh chief minister Mukut Mithi has been raising the issue for some time. His complaints were discussed by senior Cabinet ministers today. Defence minister George Fernandes, who recently visited Arunachal Pradesh, briefed Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee and his other Cabinet colleagues, including home minister L.K. Advani. This discussion assumes significance as the external affairs ministry is tryng to improve its relations with China.    

New Delhi, Nov. 3: 
NDA convener George Fernandes today made a last-ditch bid to keep the JMM in the National Democratic Alliance by offering the post of deputy chief minister to its nominee even as his ministerial and Samata Party colleague Digvijay Singh called Shibu Soren a �third rate� person indulging in �political blackmail�.

Soren, who reached Delhi yesterday, has not yet got an appointment with Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee. Even Fernandes was reluctant to meet him though JMM(S) sources claimed the Samata leader had agreed to talks. Sources close to Soren said Fernandes told him that the BJP with 32 MLAs, as against the JMM�s 12, had first claim to the top post.

The BJP, meanwhile, fuelled speculation about Lok Sabha MP Karia Munda being anointed chief minister as the party today announced names of organisational heads for states. Munda, a senior leader, did not figure on the list. Earlier indications were that Union minister Babulal Marandi will be the BJP�s candidate.

Soren, sources said, will have to consult his MLAs before agreeing to the deputy chief minister�s post. The party faces a possible split with the majority of legislators unwilling to accept anything less than chief ministership, while some others are reportedly in touch with the BJP.

Peeved at the lack of response from the NDA, Soren blamed home minister L.K. Advani and Samata leader Nitish Kumar for the imbroglio.

In a counter-attack, Digvijay Singh, Samata leader and minister of state for railways, said his party had never promised to support Soren�s candidature. �Neither George nor Nitish gave any assurance to him,� he said.

Digvijay lashed out at the JMM chief for negotiating with Laloo Yadav: �What a third rate man he is. He is talking to the same Laloo Yadav who, even the other day, said he would see to it that Jharkhand is merged with Bihar later. How can a Jharkhand leader like Soren talk to Laloo?�    


Maintained by Web Development Company