Advani sermon on ideology image
Maran�s condition serious
Sonia tragedy cry to pin down Prasada
CNN logs in to infotech India
Swamy fire on Vaiko date with LTTE
Mission Six for negotiators
Soren eyes tribal support
Uma set for comeback to Atal team
Buddha puts Ghising party on guard
Radiation good for potatoes� health

New Delhi, Nov. 6: 
Home minister L.K. Advani described the BJP�s �image of a party with a strong ideology� as its principal identity and urged his colleagues to reinforce it.

Addressing BJP central office-bearers here today, Advani said the �misconceptions� about the party�s image should be promptly corrected.

Briefing the press on the meeting � which lasted over eight hours and was chaired by BJP president Bangaru Laxman � party spokesman Narendra Modi quoted Advani as saying that just as the Congress had the legacy of the Independence era and the �aura� encasing Mahatma Gandhi as its USP and certain parties had casteist politics, the BJP had ideology as its trademark.

The meeting also formulated tentative strategies on next year�s Assembly elections in Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry, Kerala, West Bengal and Assam and decided that the state units would begin talks on seat-sharing with their allies and start the spadework. The state leaders are expected to meet the high command in December to fine-tune strategy.

Asked to respond to the idea of a �mahajot� in West Bengal with the Congress, Modi said while the BJP supported the idea, it would expect Mamata Banerjee as the �senior partner� to take the first step towards its formation.

Laxman gave a call to make the BJP more �programme-oriented� and reach out to various social sections. As a first step in this direction, it was decided that nucleus cells would be created at the level of villages and towns to involve the three crore BJP members in the two-month campaign to disseminate Laxman�s Nagpur message.

It was also decided that the BJP would observe the 50th anniversary of the Constitution on January 26 next year in a big way by paying homage to its framers.

Sources said the programme was drafted to offset the negative impact of the BJP�s agenda to review the Constitution � particularly among the Dalits and backward castes, who see it as a back-door method of ending reservations.

The BJP also decided to commemorate Jan Sangh founder Shyama Prasad Mukherjee�s birth centenary by organising seminars and discussions on the subject of national security.

In addition to the existing cells dealing with specialised subjects, today�s meeting proposed to create new cells for backward castes, senior citizens and sports.

Race for CM�s post

The BJP leadership failed to arrive at a consensus on Uttaranchal�s chief minister. Advani held two sets of meetings with the Kumaon and Garhwal representatives of Uttaranchal � B.C. Khanduri and Ramesh Chandra Pokhriyal of Kumaon and Swami Nityanand and Kedar Singh Fonia of Garhwal � but no decision was taken.

Sources indicated that while K.C. Pant was more or less out of the race despite the Prime Minister�s keenness to have him as the first chief minister of Uttaranchal, the search had started for a candidate from among the MLAs who unanimously felt an �outsider� should not be foisted.

Sources said that the BJP legislature party was likely to meet tomorrow or day after in Dehradun to elect its leader who would be expected to take the oath of office when Uttaranchal formally came into being on November 9.    

Chennai, Nov. 6: 
Ailing Union commerce and industry minister Murasoli Maran�s condition turned serious today.

Maran, admitted in Apollo hospital here, is said to be suffering from a heart ailment and he could be taken to US for further treatment.

The 66-year-old minister was rushed to the hospital on October 28.

Doctors then had claimed that he was suffering from �acute migraine� and that he would be discharged after a couple of days.

Even then he was admitted in the Intensive Coronary Care Unit (ICCU), but the hospital argued that anyone complaining of acute stress and suffering from high blood pressure was admitted there.

But sources said his condition progressively worsened. Unconfirmed reports said a pacemaker has been inserted.

Maran is the nephew of chief minister M. Karunanidhi, who was seen in the lobby today, looking grim.

Maran�s son Kalanidhi is the CEO of the successful Tamil satellite channel SUN TV.    

New Delhi, Nov. 6: 
Stung by Jitendra Prasada�s jibe on her �foreign origin�, Sonia Gandhi today reminded her �great army of workers� of the �two tragedies� that destroyed her world.

Sonia, deeply hurt by Prasada�s charges that she was incompetent and ruled by a coterie, said she wanted her party workers to judge her stint as the AICC chief. Without naming Prasada, she said tolerance should not be mistaken for weakness and pointed out that freedom of speech was not freedom of abuse.

In an emotional letter to the 8,500-odd party delegates who will be choosing between her and Prasada as Congress chief at the organisational polls on November 12, Sonia said: �Accepting an active political role was not easy for me. And yet, I could not disregard the call of millions of our co-workers to take the daunting task of fulfilling the dreams of beloved departed leaders (Indira and Rajiv Gandhi).�

Sources close to Sonia said she was upset about Prasada�s reference to her foreign origin. Prasada also claimed that the party�s fortunes took a nose-dive since she took over.

On Saturday, Prasada-associate Begum Noor urged the leadership to make public the A.K. Antony report that had cited Sonia�s foreign origin as contributing to the Congress debacle in the 1999 elections. It was the party�s worst-ever performance at the hustings.

Reviving the Panchmari promise to make the Congress a party of �the best and brightest�, Sonia said she wanted to strike a balance between the youth and the wisdom of senior leaders.

�It is a great moment for working together in our great party that is modern in its outlook, sensitive to its past, confident about the future, rooted in secularism, will strive to bring hope and succour to the poor, Dalits, the minorities, backwards, the women and disadvantaged,� she said.

Support for Sonia continued to pour in. Karnataka chief minister S.M. Krishna and senior leader from Kerala K. Karunakaran criticised Prasada for claiming there was a coterie around the AICC chief. Krishna said that the entire party unit of Karnataka would back her.

State delegates from Delhi queued up outside 10 Janpath, declaring their support for Sonia. So far, Prasada has failed to get any support from any quarter.

10 Janpath insiders said that a change of guards was expected in Delhi next month. Chief minister Sheila Dixit is tipped to be given an organisational assignment and Ambika Soni is set to take over as the new chief minister of Delhi.

Delhi Congress leaders have been demanding Dixit�s ouster for some months and now the high command has firmed up its mind.    

Mumbai, Nov. 6: 
In its continuing effort at �regionalisation�, CNN will launch two locally produced programmes on lifestyle and infotech on Saturday, a top executive of the channel said today.

Indiadotcom and Style South Asia will be the first shows commissioned by the Time Warner Group company in Asia as �an extension to our regionalisation strategy�, CNN executive vice- president Rena Golden said.

CNN�s south Asia channel, launched last July with a region-specific schedule, will air the weekly half-hour shows on Saturdays at 9 and 11 pm. Produced by UTV Entertainment, an Indian company, Indiadotcom, will be hosted by Anish Trivedi, investment banker turned anchor, and Style South Asia by noted danseuse Mallika Sarabhai.

Golden said Indiadotcom was designed to be different from other shows on information technology(IT). �It is really not about IT as such, but about info-tech.�

Intended to cover every aspect of IT, the programme will be long on analysis and short on �day-to-day types of news�. Indiadotcom team will travel around the country, explaining how IT influenced our daily lives with India emerging as �an IT super power�, Zarina Mehta of UTV Entertainment said.

Style South Asia promises not to be �fashion-oriented� lifestyle show. It will take a peek at art, architecture, food, fashion, heritage and personalities, Sarabhai said. The first episode will feature Nita Ambani, wife of Mukesh Ambani and the eldest daughter-in-law of the country�s premier business family.    

New Delhi, Nov. 6: 
Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy today said home minister L.K. Advani was seeking the law ministry�s opinion on MDMK chief Vaiko�s recent meeting with the LTTE�s intelligence wing chief, Anton Balasingham, in London.

Vaiko�s act is a violation of the provisions of Unlawful Activities Act since the LTTE is a banned organisation. Swamy said he had written to Advani after Vaiko�s meeting with the LTTE leader as it undermined national security.

BJP president Bangaru Laxman had also objected to Vaiko�s meeting with Balasingham and said the MDMK chief will have to explain to the NDA why he met the LTTE leader.

Addressing a press conference here today, Swamy alleged the BJP leadership of not being tough with the LTTE and that there were ministers in the Union Cabinet (implying those from the PMK and the MDMK) who were soft on the LTTE.

Swamy said that by being soft on the LTTE, �the BJP-led government was harming India�s interest as we are losing moral support to get Pakistan declared a terrorist state�.    

Chennai, Nov. 6 : 
As Raj Kumar completed 100 days in captivity, the four emissaries tonight said they would venture into the forests tomorrow morning as they have received word from Veerappan that he is ready for fresh talks.

One of the negotiators said on conditon of anonymity that they were �more hopeful� of success now than in the past. The mission will be the sixth since July 30 when the Kannada star was taken hostage by the bandit.

There has been little information on Raj Kumar�s health. Though the emissaries insist there is nothing much to worry, the septuagenarian star appeared haggard, helplessness writ large on his face, in the pictures taken in the third week of October.

Karnataka has been abuzz with rumours that Raj Kumar had sent an audiotape to his family, saying his health was deteriorating and asking for �necessary steps� to be taken for his early release.

That, however, is unlikely if Veerappan remains adamant on his demand on the release of Tada detainees, jailed in Karnataka, and five Tamil nationalists imprisoned in Tamil Nadu.

The Supreme Court has reserved orders on the petition challenging the release of the Tada detainees. The trend during the hearing has not held out any hope either for the human rights activists or for the Tamil Nadu and Karnataka governments who are willing to fulfil Veerappan�s demands to end the standoff.

The apex court had even voiced doubts on the legality of Karnataka�s decision to free the prisoners. �Prima facie, we are convinced that Karnataka�s decision is illegal...�, the judges had said, while criticising the government for failing to nab Veerappan.

Observers believe that the court is unlikely to accept Karnataka�s arguments. Veerappan, they feel, knows as much.

Venugopal, a Mysore-based lawyer appearing for some of the detenus, has been quoted as saying that he would try a different tack in the Supreme Court. He is considering challenging a Mysore Tada court decision in 1996, refusing to grant bail to 51 detenus while allowing 76 others to be freed.

The apex court bench had so far confined itself to the decision to withdraw the cases at Veerappan�s demand. The state can now challenge the continued detention of the tribals on the ground that it was untenable under law.    

New Delhi, Nov. 6: 
With JMM chief Shibu Soren deciding to pull out of the NDA, the race for the numbers game has hotted up in Ranchi. Soren said he is leaving for Patna tonight for talks with Laloo Prasad Yadav, as well as with the Congress and the Left parties, to form a non-NDA government in Jharkhand.

�I will meet Laloo Prasad Yadav after the JMM executive body finalises its decision (of whether to stake claim or sit in the Opposition),� Soren told our Patna correspondent on phone.

�The NDA leaders underestimated my strength. It is unfortunate,� he added.

Samata Party sources said Soren had spoken to NDA convener George Fernandes over phone today.

The JMM chief said he was ready to accept any formula but would not compromise on the chief minister�s post. He regretted that Fernandes had come under BJP pressure and backtracked from his assurance to back the JMM�s claim for chief-ministership.

The BJP hardened its stand following Soren�s decision to quit the NDA. Senior BJP leader J.P. Mathur said the JMM claim has no basis as it does not have the numbers. �We would rather sit in the Opposition than surrender our claim for chief ministership,� he said.

However, the Samata was conciliatory and said the JMM should reconsider its decision to quit the NDA. Party spokesperson Shambu Srivastav said his party is �unhappy that JMM has decided to sever ties with the NDA. Fernandes and the Samata leadership tried their best to retain them in the NDA.�

JMM leaders said the party could return to the NDA fold if Soren was offered chief-ministership.

In the 82-member Assembly � the effective strength is 81 following the death of a CPI legislator � the BJP, with its 32 seats, claims a wafer-thin majority with its allies, the Samata (5), the Dal (U) (3) and two Independents.

The non-NDA parties, including the JMM (12), Congress (11), RJD (9), CPI (2), CPI-ML (1), MCC (1) and UGDP (2), have 38 seats, two short of majority. If two Independents join Soren or if the non-NDA group splits the Samata, JD(U) or BJP, it will be able to cobble together the magic number of 41.

The JMM is banking on a rebellion among tribal members of the BJP combine over denial of the top post to the JMM which was in the forefront of the Jharkhand agitation.

Even Soren�s critics within the party are unhappy with the issue, �The government is now being hijacked by those who have never participated in the movement for a separate state,� said N.E. Horo, veteran JMM leader who does not agree on a number of issues with Soren.

JMM vice-president R.K. Anand claimed that about 10 BJP MLAs have promised to back Soren.

�Anything can happen,� Soren said, indicating that the Samata and the Dal(U) could support him and there could be a split in the BJP as �it also has tribal members�.

Dismissing as �100 per cent wrong� predictions that his party might suffer a split, he said this was a �canard� spread by vested interests.    

New Delhi, Nov. 6: 
The decks have been cleared for the appointment of Babulal Marandi as Jharkhand chief minister, while in Uttaranchal it is now clear that the race for chief-ministership has narrowed down to the selection of an MLA with the two BJP high command nominees � K.C. Pant and B.C. Khanduri � out of the race.

The ball got rolling for Jharkhand this evening when Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee asked Marandi to put in his papers as minister of state for environment and forests.

Marandi�s resignation also prepared the ground for a minor Cabinet expansion at the Centre which will be effected tomorrow. Senior Jharkhand BJP leader Karia Munda, also in the reckoning for chief-ministership, is expected to take Marandi�s place.

Sadhvi Uma Bharti, who announced her decision to renounce mainstream politics two months ago, is likely to be reinducted as the minister of state for rural development with independent charge.

Incumbent rural development minister M. Venkaiah Naidu is likely to be moved to the surface transport ministry which fell vacant after Rajnath Singh was made Uttar Pradesh chief minister. BJP sources said Naidu was �unhappy� with rural development and sought a ministry where he could prove his �dynamism and ability to implement schemes�.

The other new inductee tomorrow is likely to be Khanduri, the chief whip of the BJP parliamentary party in Lok Sabha.

The new ministers will take the oath of office at 6 pm.

BJP sources said both Vajpayee and home minister L.K. Advani were keen on either Khanduri or Pant for Uttaranchal as they were perceived as �weighty leaders with pedigree�. While Pant, who was felt to have the �requisite experience� to run a new state, is the son of Uttar Pradesh�s first chief minister Govind Vallabh Pant, Khanduri is the nephew of Hemvati Nandan Bahuguna.

But the high command was opposed stiffly by the Uttaranchal MLAs, who despite regional and caste divisions, managed to close ranks in demanding that one of them should head the state.

BJP sources said Khanduri will, therefore, be compensated with a Union Cabinet berth. His likely induction also shows that the prospective Uttaranchal chief minister may be from the Kumaon region since Khanduri hails from Garhwal. The BJP is trying to do the balancing act between the two regions by electing Dehradun as the capital and setting up the high court in Nainital to placate the Kumaonis.    

Siliguri, Nov. 6: 
The Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) is wary as Buddhadev Bhattacharya takes over as chief minister.

During his tenure as home minister and in-charge of his party�s affairs in the hills, Bhattacharya was more at loggerheads with the council chairman than Jyoti Basu.

Though the ruling GNLF members of the council are circumspect, anti-GNLF and pro-Gorkhaland organisations are optimistic about the change of guard at Writers� Building. They are banking on Bhattacharya�s no-nonsense image to curb the GNLF�s arbitrary style of running the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council.

D.S. Bomzan, central committee member of the breakaway Communist Party of Revolutionary Marxists and Gorkhaland United Front spokesman, said: �Since the council is a political institution under the West Bengal government, we hope that both the GNLF and the CPM will try to maintain a cordial relationship. But what is to be watched is how Buddhadev Bhattacharya, who maintains a clean and untarnished image among the present lot of CPM leaders, will handle the council.�

�The GNLF has been running the council for the last 12 years. Bhattacharya has always been very vociferous over the GNLF�s style of functioning, its failure in submitting accounts and alleged embezzlements. It will be Bhattacharya�s moral responsibility as the chief minister now to live up to his clean image and clear the mess in the council,� Bomzan added.

�We will certainly watch him closely. It remains to be seen whether Bhattacharya can live up to his image by not compromising with GNLF chief Subhas Ghising on the council issue,� he said.

Ghising, who is also the council chairman, did not comment on the change of guard. A senior GNLF leader said: �Any comment by the council chairman could be distorted by GNLF detractors to jeopardise the impending proposed tripartite talks between the council, the state and the Centre.

The talks will focus on additional empowerment of the council and its demand for the inclusion of the Darjeeling hill areas in the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution, which would confer �tribal� status to areas under the council�s purview. It would be unwise for the GNLF president to make any comments at this juncture.�

�It remains to be seen how the new incumbent handles the government�s and the party�s relationship with Ghising. Ghising, who shared an amicable relationship with Basu, was instrumental in paving the way for the CPM to regain the Darjeeling Lok Sabha seat for two consecutive terms. Tacit electoral understanding between the two saw the GNLF contesting only the Assembly polls in the three hill segments of Darjeeling, Kurseong and Kalimpong,� an observer remarked.    

Mumbai, Nov. 6: 
You need not lose sleep next time you hear that the vegetables and chicken you had for dinner at a friend�s were exposed to radiation.

After a decade of research on how to increase the shelf-life of produce and poultry with atomic energy, the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre is setting up plants to put the technology to commercial use.

�The food exposed to restricted doses of radiation is absolutely safe for human consumption,� Arun Kumar Sharma, head of Barc�s food technology division, said. �It is being applied widely in the West to preserve the perishable.�

Irradiated food should not be equated with those contaminated by radioactivity since the dividing line is clearly drawn, the scientist said, admitting that the mention of the word brought up the horror of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster to �lay people�.

Sharma said irradiated foodstuff was declared safe way back in 1981 by an expert committee formed by three UN wings � the World Health Organisation; the Food and Agricultural Organisation; and the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Japan, scarred with the Hiroshima bombing, was the first country to embrace the technology in a big way primarily to help boost its sea food exports.

India also allowed irradiation of vegetables, spices, fruit and poultry within �prescribed doses� in 1996 by amending the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act of 1954. It set up a national monitoring agency under the ministry of health and family welfare to process applications from the industry.

Irradiation in small and medium doses stops sprouting and dehydration of tubers, including potatoes and onions, increasing their shelf-life and slashing storage losses.

It delays ripening of fruit, extending the life of mangoes and bananas by two weeks, and disinfects grain and help preserve poultry and sea foods.

Sharma said Barc first set up a plant in Vasi on the outskirts of Mumbai a few months ago to irradiate spices. �It is a huge success. The plant is processing almost 30 tonnes of spices every day.�

The onions in your curry may soon be irradiated, too. Barc is setting up a bigger plant in Nashik, the country�s onion bowl. with a production capacity of 10 tonnes per hour. The unit is set to go on stream early next year.

Onion farmers can heave a sigh of relief when the plant comes up because �part of their produ- ce rots in transit�, the scientist said.

Sharma said Barc is holding talks with potato farmers and poultry owners in different states to help set up inexpensive irradiation plants. He said the research centre was ready to transfer the technology for commercial use.

As Barc scientists try to �popularise� irradiated food, many people are apprehensive about irradiated food�s safety.

The state agriculture minister said recently he would oppose the research centre�s attempt to �poison onions with atomic energy�. �Like many people, the minister was misinformed about the technology,� Sharma said. �We will have to try and bridge the communication gap before the technology catches on in the country.�    


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