Rival stars on GNLF blacklist
Vice-chancellor forced out of Vidyasagar campus
Samir sees terror polls in CM belt
Atal puts off reshuffle to check dissent
Zee backs tape telecast
BJP chief in last-gasp plea to Mamata
CPM warns Cong of Mamata Delhi fallout
BJP sets sights on JP dividend
Star snaps in House leave government blushing
Gill comment revives Jaya fate debate

Siliguri, March 29: 
Seven prominent hill Opposition leaders figure on the GNLF’s list of most-wanted people it wants arrested for last month’s ambush on its boss Subash Ghising.

Not satisfied with the arrest of militant Gorkha leader and Ghising detractor Chhattray Subba, the GNLF has now launched a campaign demanding the arrest of pro-Gorkhaland leaders.

The GNLF had said after Subba’s arrest last week that he was “number nine” on its list of conspirators and had urged the administration to get the prime plotters at the earliest.

The party had set a deadline of April 1 for the special investigation team to arrest the eight people it says are the masterminds of the February 10 strike on their leader. If they are not, the GNLF threatened, it will call an indefinite hill bandh from next Monday.

The GNLF has furnished to the police a list of Opposition leaders who, the party claims, hatched the conspiracy against Ghising.

Confirming that the special investigation team had received such a list, an official connected with the inquiry told The Telegraph that the GNLF had been pressuring the police to arrest some Opposition leaders in the hills. A senior GNLF leader also figures on the list.

“The GNLF has handed us a list of prominent Opposition leaders who it suspects had masterminded the attack on the Ghising. Among them are the two leaders of the Communist Party of Revolutionary Marxists (a breakaway group of the CPM), R.B. Rai and D.S. Bomzan,” the official said.

He added that the other leaders named in the list are the convener of the United Democratic Front and president of the Bharatiya Gorkha Janashakti, C.R. Rai, Akhil Bharatiya Gorkha League (ABGL) acting president Tseten Sherpa, former Congress legislator and president of the National Union of Plantation Workers Dawa Narbula.

“The surprise inclusion is that of the GNLF’s Kalimpong branch president and executive councillor, C.K. Pradhan. The GNLF list also includes the names of two contractors, who allegedly financed the operation,” the official revealed.

Darjeeling superintendent of police Sanjay Chander, however, denied that any such list was handed over to the SIT by the GNLF. “The GNLF may have made some demands of their own. We are verifying some names revealed by the persons arrested in the case,” he said.

Asked if the names match those on the GNLF’s most-wanted list, Chander said: “We are on the look out for Tseten Sherpa as we have concrete leads on his involvement. We are not being pressured in any way by the GNLF.”

An Opposition leader, who did not wish to be named, described the GNLF’s efforts as an effort to snuff out its rivals before the Assembly elections. “The GNLF is pressuring the police to implicate all prominent Opposition leaders as it wants to wipe out all opposition before the polls,” he said.

Pradhan denied having any hand behind the attack on Ghising. “How can a son plan to assassinate his own father? Subash Ghising is my father and I’m his son,” he said.


Midnapore & Bolpur, March 29: 
The stalemate at Vidyasagar University continued for the seventh consecutive day today with vice-chancellor Anandadev Mukherjee being forced to stay away from Midnapore because of “wild agitations” by SFI activists.

Mukherjee is functioning from his office at Jadavpur University, where he teaches in the Geology department. Important files are being referred to him by the registrar of Vidyasagar University, Jogen Debnath.

“I will not go to Midnapore until and unless outsiders stop vandalism in the name of organising students’ movements,” Mukherjee told The Telegraph.

In 1985, Calcutta University, too, had witnessed a similar situation. The then vice-chancellor, Santosh Bhattacharya, who was not allowed to enter his chamber at the College Street campus by the Citu-controlled employees association, functioned from his Palm Avenue residence.

Mukherjee has met Governor Viren J. Shah, who is also the chancellor, and higher education minister Satyasadhan Chakraborty. “Bothgave a patient hearing to me and asked me to continue my job from Calcutta. Both of them have assured me that they will initiate steps to bring back normalcy at the university,” he said.

The SFI had organised a demonstration in the university campus last Wednesday demanding timely publication of results, probe into leakage of question papers of different university examinations and construction of a women’s common.

SFI members had met the vice-chancellor at his chamber to inform him about their grievances. But Mukherjee had refused to meet the SFI delegation on the ground that “almost all the representatives were outsiders and not students of the university”.

SFI activists then stormed into his chamber and manhandled him. The secretary of the CPM-controlled West Bengal College University Teachers Association (WBCUTA), Anil Bhattacharjee, was present at Mukherjee’s chamber when SFI activists ransacked the office.


Calcutta, March 29: 
Samir Putatunda, the breakaway CPM group’s challenger to chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, has alleged that the party’s activists are threatening his supporters with dire consequences and forcing them to stop campaigning.

Putatunda, leader of the Party for Democratic Socialism, also alleged that “CPM activists are planning to hold the election at gun-point because the main fight in Jadavpur will be between the CPM and PDS”.

CPM state secretary Anil Biswas brushed aside the allegation, saying he will ignore what the PDS and its leaders had been saying over the past few days.

Putatunda alleged that CPM activists had threatened Sachin Mandal of Kasba with dire consequences because he had joined PDS after quitting the CPM. “Mandal has lodged an FIR with Kasba police station, informing the police about CPM atrocities,” Putatunda said.

The CPM had also threatened Anindya Banerjee, a PDS activist in Jadavpur who had reportedly destroyed many CPM posters, Putatunda alleged.

Putatunda presented a list of his party’s supporters who were either being threatened by CPM activists or had been assaulted in a number of areas in the Jadavpur constituency.

“Not only ordinary supporters, the CPM is also trying to terrorise our candidates. Gaffar Ali Khan, our nominee from Kharagpur who joined our party from the Marxist Forward Bloc, was threatened last night and told by CPM activists not to file his nomination,” Putatunda said.

Putatunda alleged that the situation was worse than in 1972 when candidates from all political parties were at least allowed to file their nominations. “But this time, the CPM is planning to terrorise our candidates so that they dare not fight the polls,” he said.

Undaunted by the “CPM’s terror tactics,” the PDS leaders said they would visit Tripura to launch a party unit there. PDS president Saifuddin Chowdhury will go to Tripura on April 8 to meet “disgruntled” CPM leaders who have already contacted the breakaway group’s leaders in Calcutta and told them they are willing to join them.

“Saifuddin will go to Tripura as we have received a number of phone calls inviting us to visit the state and meet some important CPM functionaries willing to come to our fold,” Putatunda said.


New Delhi, March 29: 
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee has postponed his Cabinet expansion plans till after the budget session to put the lid on dissension within the ruling alliance and the BJP.

During the Parliament recess, Vajpayee will concentrate on National Democratic Alliance (NDA) rallies across the country to counter the “Tehelka challenge” and ensure that the government is better equipped to take on the Opposition in the second lap of the budget session.

“There is no urgency to either reshuffle or expand the Cabinet,” BJP sources said. For the purpose of day-to-day functioning, vacancies caused by the exit of defence minister George Fernandes and Trinamul Congress ministers Mamata Banerjee and Ajit Panja had already been filled, the sources said.

There was speculation within the BJP and the NDA that Vajpayee would reconstitute his council of ministers after the first half of the budget session “to strengthen his own hands after the Tehelka damage”. But he was “advised” by his strategists not to “fish in troubled waters yet”.

For instance, the Samata Party is keen on a Cabinet berth to make good the loss caused by Fernandes’ resignation. But there are at least five contenders, “each with equally strong claims”.

“Mahendra Bathia is a three-term MP and a Dalit, Brahmanand Mandal and Manjhe Lal belong to the most backward communities, whose votes cannot be ignored, Renu Kumari’s claim is that she is a woman and Prabhunath Singh thinks he is a more bona fide representative of the Rajputs than Digvijay Singh (the minister of state for railways). So who can be inducted and who can be dropped? All of them think they can split the party,” Samata sources said.

Although there are no vacancies in either the Janata Dal (United) or the Lok Janshakti Party’s quota, there were fears that the two parties would clamour for more if the Samata was accommodated.

At least two Dal(U) MPs —Devendra Prasad Yadav, a former Cabinet minister in the H.D. Deve Gowda regime, and Nawal Kishore Rai — are waiting in the wings.

Union minister Ram Vilas Paswan’s fledgling Lok Janshakti has three ministerial aspirants—Paswan’s brother Ramchandar, Jai Narain Nishad and Ramesh Jigjigane.

Former Union minister Ramakrishna Hegde has already made it clear that he cannot be overlooked in any such exercise. BJP sources said though Hegde did not have the potential to rock the government, he could prove a “major embarrassment” by speaking his “mind aloud”.

Within the Telugu Desam, too, there is “pressure” from some MPs to participate in the government. The BJP is as keen to rope in the Desam to ensure “greater stability” in the coalition, but Desam chief Chandrababu Naidu is content with offering outside support.

Days after the BJP rallied behind the Vajpayee government on the Tehelka expose at the party’s national executive, conflicting pulls and pressures appear to be at work. Yesterday, home minister L.K. Advani sought to punch holes in the conspiracy theory and criticised the government for the delayed response to the disclosures.

Today, party national secretary Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi spoke up for Tehelka, whose credibility his party has tried to undermine.

Naqvi was quoted by PTI as saying in an interview to Tehelka that “I believe that Tehelka has done a good job so far as journalism is concerned. We in the BJP are not against Tehelka for exposing corruption in the system. Corruption has always been there in our socio-political system. Now with the Tehelka tapes, it lay exposed in the eyes of the public.”


New Delhi, March 29: 
Zee today said its decision to show the Tehelka tapes was an editorial one without any vested interests.

“A short while ago the channel was accused of being saffron. But in the post-Tehelka scenario it is being linked with the Congress and accused of being funded by foreign agencies,” Zee corporate communications network chief Ranjan Bakshi said at a news conference.

“It is a Catch-22 situation,” he said, regretting the “whisper campaign” against the channel, which has been accused of having “vested interests”. Zee, he said, wanted to be transparent and he had called the conference “to clear the polluted air”.

Bakshi said Zee, a public holding company, had editorial independence like all newspapers and airing the Tehelka tapes was a collective editorial decision.

Claiming that the tapes were a hit with 30 million viewers who had watched them over four days on 15 channels, he said Zee could show more such spycam operations depending on their credibility.

Raju Santhanam, content head of Zee News, said it was an “editorial decision” to show the tapes simultaneously on 15 channels. He said the response from viewers across the country was “amazing”. “We have got some 10,000 e-mails from people talking about corruption at all levels,” he said.

Asked if the channel would sue Organiser, the RSS mouthpiece, for its write-up which showed the network in a poor light, he said: “We are looking at some legal options.”

Santhanam said the tie-up with Tehelka was a sound business decision. Terming the exposé as “the biggest journalistic story since Independence”, he said the scoop needed coverage. “We have been lucky to get it,” he said, but refused to say how much Zee had paid for the tapes.

Asked if Zee had a 26 per cent equity stake in Tehelka, Santhanam said: “We hold no stake as of now. But due diligence (economic evaluation) is going on. If it makes good business we will think about it.”

Santhanam said Zee had been “complacent” about increasing competition from the TV Today promoted channel, Aaj Tak, but added that it was chalking out a strategy to maintain its lead in news programming. A decision was likely within the “next 15-20 days”, he said.


New Delhi, March 29: 
BJP president K. Jana Krishnamurthi indicated that his party was still willing to back Mamata Banerjee if she reciprocated by declaring her support to the NDA government at the Centre.

Krishnamurthi’s last-gasp plea to the Trinamul Congress leader came a day after BJP vice-president in charge of West Bengal Kailashpati Mishra declared in Calcutta that the Mamata chapter was closed.

Asked to spell out the status of the BJP-Trinamul equation, Krishnamurthi said: “We have told her (Mamata) that if she wants our support to take on the Left Front in the state, she should support the NDA at the Centre. So far she has not responded to our demand.”

But he still saw a ray of hope, despite the Trinamul edging closer to the Congress. “We understand that the Congress has placed conditions with regard to numbers and power-sharing. Once Mamata accepts the tie-up with the Congress, we will take it as a signal and go ahead on our own,” Krishnamurthi said.

Asked if the BJP had started making preparations on its own, Krishnamurthi said: “The election programme is expected to be announced in a day or two. We have not stopped our election preparations. The state election committee has gone ahead in identifying constituencies where the BJP can contest and is in the process of choosing candidates.”

Though the party was ready to go on its own, Krishnamurthi claimed its culture was such that “we would like to extend political courtesy to her”.

He gave the impression that while the BJP’s main agenda in Bengal was to boot out the Left Front government, in Kerala it was not keen to back the Congress-led UDF to achieve the same end.

“The BJP is totally opposed to Marxist rule. In Bengal, if Trinamul allies with the Congress it does not mean we are out to defeat Mamata,” Krishnamurthi said.


New Delhi, March 29: 
The possibility of an alliance between Sonia Gandhi and Mamata Banerjee has set off alarm bells within the CPM.

The party leadership today warned the Congress of “national-level repercussions” if it teamed up with the Left Front’s main adversary, the Trinamul Congress, in Bengal.

“The consequence of such an alliance for Congress at the national level will be to forfeit any claim as a consistent force fighting the BJP and the NDA alliance,” the CPM said in a statement.

The tenor of the statement betrays the CPM’s anxiety over the possible alliance. The CPM pointed out that the Congress would be treating the Left Front and the CPM as its “main enemies” if it chose to ally with Mamata’s party.

Though the CPM leadership has been dismissing the Congress-Trinamul alliance as inconsequential, there is little doubt that it has rattled the party. “Is the Congress leadership now veering towards an anti-Communist platform?” wondered the statement.

The party reminded the Congress that though Mamata has quit the BJP-led coalition, at no stage has she attacked the Vajpayee government or his party.

“The Congress is being asked to forge an anti-Left platform. This is not an alliance directed against the BJP and communal forces,” stressed the CPM. The Congress runs the risk of losing the Left’s support if it teams up with Trinamul in one of the few remaining strongholds of the CPM.

This means that the alliance will revive the CPM’s inherent animus towards the Congress. During the last couple of years, there has been a suspension of hostility with the BJP emerging as a potent political force at the national level.

The uneasy truce between the Congress and the Left had strengthened with the ascendancy of the Vajpayee government at the Centre and the rapidly shrinking base of the Congress in Bengal. In the last Lok Sabha polls, Trinamul upstaged the Congress as the Left Front’s main adversary in Bengal.

A couple of years ago, the CPM gave up its twin-danger theory of treating both the Congress and the BJP as equal enemies and began to view the BJP as the main enemy. In 1999, CPM general secretary Harkishen Singh Surjeet went out of his way to support a campaign to form a Sonia-led government at the Centre, upsetting many in his own party. The CPM had by then come a long way from its deep-rooted anti-Congressism — all for the sake of keeping the BJP out of power at the Centre.

The understanding, however, has always been fragile. The talks between the Congress and Mamata have now pushed it to the brink.


New Delhi, March 29: 
After trying hard to woo the Buddhists, the Sikhs and the Jains to expand its social base, the BJP-led government is planning to usurp Jayaprakash Narain’s legacy to seduce the secular camp.

The government has decided to celebrate the birth centenary of Jayaprakash Narain in a big way. The National Celebration Committee of the ministry of culture will chalk out plans to observe the day, culture and tourism minister Ananth Kumar said here today.

In its bid to woo the Sikhs, the Vajpayee government had given Rs 300 crore for the tercentenary celebrations of Khalsa panth in 1999.

Last year, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee visited the famous Buddhist shrine at Sarnath and announced a few schemes for the Buddhists.

This year, the government is planning to celebrate the 2,600th birth anniversary of Lord Mahavir. It has allocated Rs 100 crore for the year-long celebrations starting April 6 during which special projects will be launched.

The BJP and RSS view the Jains, Buddhists and Sikhs as off-shoots of Hindu religion and believe they should be brought back to the pantheon to counter the proselytising Christianity and Islam.

On the other hand, the plans to celebrate JP’s birth anniversary is calculated to send a message across the political spectrum that the BJP is no longer a Hindutva party and that it wants to expand its social base by embracing all segments, including the Mandalites and the Dalits.

As part of the Mahavir celebrations, the government today decided to declare April 6 this year as “Ahimsa Day” and prepare a national register of Jain manuscripts, Ananth Kumar said.

He said the Prime Minister would inaugurate the celebrations at a function here on the day and release a commemorative stamp and coins in the denomination of Rs 5 and Rs 100.

The National Celebration Committee under the chairmanship of Vajpayee, to oversee the celebrations, has also decided to create permanent assets and launch special projects for the conservation of important Jain monuments. According to Kumar, the Mahavir Vanasthali Park here would be remodelled, as part of these efforts.


Mumbai, March 29: 
Two days ago, her picture on the cover of a film magazine landed her in trouble. Today, her picture on the covers of the Assembly diaries landed the government in trouble.

It was a sweet revenge for Sonali Bendre, nursing her wounds in the confines of her home since the state government ordered her arrest on Tuesday in a 1998 case over a dress she wore which it said had insulted Hinduism.

Opposition BJP and Shiv Sena members took out government-distributed diaries with Bendre and her fellow Bollywood actresses on the covers in the Upper House today, catching deputy chief minister Chhagan Bhujbal, who is believed to have given the police the go-ahead as home minister to the actress’ arrest, off guard.

“How can the same government that ordered the arrest of Sonali Bendre distribute diaries that have the actress on the cover?’’ former Sena culture minister Pramod Navalkar asked.

“We members are embarrassed by this act of the government,’’ echoed Leader of Opposition, Nitin Gadkari, who is from the BJP.

Opposition members found the potential ammunition when they opened a small briefcase they were presented with by the government on the opening day of the budget session.

The briefcase contained copies of the Governor’s address, diaries and pens.

Initially, legislators were amused when they saw the photos of skimpily-dressed actresses including Aishwariya Rai, Manisha Koirala and Raveena Tandon on the covers of the diaries.

Opposition members sensed the political explosives hidden in the diaries when police arrested Bendre — a photographer and a designer — for adorning the cover of Showtime magazine in a kurta printed with religious motifs and sacred words.

Though the diaries had pictures of a number of actresses, the Opposition picked on Bendre’s photograph for its potential to embarrass the government.

After being caught on the back foot, Bhujbal, an adroit politician, tried to diffuse the situation with banters. “I would not mind taking back the picture if the Opposition members did not like them,’’ he said.

Guffaw and cackle broke out from the treasury bench, which found it hard to defend the government on this sticky issue.

“How would you justify the arrest of Sonali Bendre for posing semi-nude on a magazine cover when you are distributing her photo to the MLAs,’’ Navalkar said.

Council chairman N.S. Pharande, presiding over the House, said, tongue firmly in cheek, he understood the members’ dilemma. “I know what you will face if you go home to your wives with such glamourous photos.’’

He suggested light-heartedly that the members who do not know what to do with the photos leave them in their lockers in the MLAs’ hostel.

In the next breath, Pharande pulled up the government for not taking enough care to see such photos were not distributed to the members with the Governor’s address.

Afterwards, a government official said the private agency that had supplied the diaries had made the mistake. “It would be suitably punished for embarrassing the government,’’ he added.


Chennai, March 29: 
Chief Election Commissioner M.S. Gill’s comment that the law of the land will be the final arbiter in deciding whether a convicted person can be allowed to contest an election has revived the debate on Jayalalitha being able to fight the Tamil Nadu Assembly polls.

Legal experts said Jayalalitha, who got a three-year term in the Tansi land scam, could file her nomination papers but she was unlikely to do so for chances were high that her papers would be instantly rejected. With elections round the corner, she would have little time to appeal against the decision in the high court or Supreme Court.

A leading lawyer pointed out that according to the Constitution, once the election process has been set in motion, no court can intervene, whatever be the nature of grievance.

On Monday, Gill had told reporters that “individual cases would be dealt with as per the law and the instructions of the Election Commission to the returning officers”. The returning officers are empowered to decide whether the nomination papers are in order, and even the Chief Election Commissioner cannot reverse their orders. Any appeal would lie in the courts and would be taken up only after the polls.

Asked what were Jayalalitha’s chances of being approved by a returning officer, a top lawyer said they were negligible, for two reasons. First, the Representation of the People Act disqualifies anyone convicted to a two-year term from contesting any election for six years thereafter.

Second, the Election Commission’s order of August 28, 1997, states that irrespective of whether a conviction is stayed or an appeal is pending, anyone sentenced to a two-year term stands disqualified from contesting an election.

Top lawyers Kapil Sibal and Rajeev Dhawan — both have been Jayalalitha’s counsels in some case or the other — have termed the EC’s order draconian and charged it with trying to usurp the powers of the courts. Dhawan even went to the extent of lambasting the EC for trying to “tinker with the Constitution”.

Some supporters of Jayalalitha, though, are still holding out hope for the ADMK chief. Dravidar Kazhagam leader K. Veeramani, a lawyer himself, pointed out a recent Supreme Court judgment which says no conviction could be deemed final during the pendency of an appeal in a higher court.

Cho Ramaswamy, who has displaced Veeramani as Jayalalitha’s adviser, also cited some previous Supreme Court rulings to argue that Jayalalitha still stood a chance.

Some lawyers, too, argued that the EC’s order had remained unchallenged before a court of law. In the circumstances, ADMK sources have been quoted as saying that Amma could move court shortly to appeal against the EC order.

But legal experts said such a pre-emptive effort could backfire on her if the Supreme Court refused to intervene.

They feel her best chances of contesting the polls were to pressure the EC and the returning officer concerned to get a favourable order. Once such an order is passed, the DMK will have little chance of getting it reversed.

Sources, however, said with the BJP in power at the Centre and DMK ruling in the state, it would not be easy for her to “bend the law”.

In the circumstances, the best option before her would be to keep away from elections, get elected as the leader of the ADMK legislature party in case it gets a majority or if the front led by it triumphs collectively, and then go to stake her claim to form a government, sources said.

Her bete noire P. Chidambaram has, however, argued that no Governor can accept the claim of a convicted politician to form a government.

But at that stage, Jayalalitha could well move court.


Maintained by Web Development Company