Mamata keeps NDA pot boiling
Short of century, high on victory
Pakistan sees early-July date
Innocent and on the run
Calcutta Weather

Calcutta, June 10: 
Mamata Banerjee tonight lent credence to raging speculation about her return to the National Democratic Alliance by saying that she was not ruling out the possibility.

�I am not ruling it out (re-joining NDA) neither am I saying it�s going to happen,� she said after chairing a meeting to review the party�s poll performance in Midnapore district.

This was the first time Mamata made a public comment on the possibility of her return to the BJP-led alliance, a prospect that has been at the centre of intense speculation since her defeat in the Assembly elections.

The Telegraph had reported last month how Mamata and the NDA were taking small but firm steps towards a rapprochement.

Mamata said a decision on returning to the NDA would not be her own for she was going to ask the party to make up its mind.

�Whatever it is, it will have to be a collective decision... We are in no hurry. It will be a unanimous decision like the one taken while leaving the NDA,� she added.

The Trinamul working committee will sit and decide whether the party would rejoin the NDA, Mamata said.

However, Mamata avoided elaborating whether she would hand down such a decision to the party in which she continues to be the sole arbiter even after the poll debacle. Ajit Panja, MP, for instance, has never accepted the decision to leave the NDA as a collective one.

Mamata�s comments � opening up the possibility of a reunion � follow several rounds of meetings with leaders of the ruling coalition in Delhi, beginning with a visit to Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. She later held talks with home minister L.K. Advani and NDA convener George Fernandes, over whose alleged role in the Tehelka revelations she quit the alliance just before the elections.

The initial reluctance in the Vajpayee camp seems to be giving ground to the attraction of getting a group of nine MPs back into a coalition rocked frequently by differences among allies.

When questioned, Mamata initially expressed irritation. �Why ask the same thing again and again? There are so many of our supporters rendered homeless in Midnapore and districts by the ruling party. We have already submitted a memorandum to the President, Prime Minister and the Union home minister and all other political parties, except, of course, the CPM,� she said.

Today�s Trinamul meeting, attended by eight of the nine party MLAs who won in the district and the MP from Panskura, Bikram Sarkar, among others, decided to name Dipak Ghosh as the district chief. Ghosh won from Mahishadal. So far, Trinamul has not had a full-fledged district president.

The appointment of Ghosh is being perceived as muzzling of Sisir Adhikary who had originally been entrusted with the responsibility of overseeing the party�s election campaign in the district.

The chairman of the Trinamul policy-making body, Pankaj Banerjee, said Mamata would lead a team to Midnapore on June 23 and participate in a sit-in demonstration in front of the district magistrate�s office and other important places in protest against the lack of development in Bengal�s largest district during Left Front rule.

For a change, the Trinamul leader put the issue of �CPM�s terrorism� on the backburner and spoke at length on Midnapore�s development needs.

�Terrorism by the CPM is taking place all over Bengal. So, why talk about it now? Let us talk about development,� Banerjee said, reflecting a new thinking in Trinamul.


Calcutta, June 10: 
Shiv Sundar Das was just a frail eight-year-old in Bhubaneswar, when Kapil Dev�s team posted an incredible 279-run win at Leeds, 15 years ago.

Today, Das played a stellar role in India�s first victory outside the subcontinent since that win over Mike Gatting�s side. In fact Das, now 23, pocketed his first MoM award by averaging 112.00 in the Bulawayo Test, which India won by eight wickets.

India�s comfortable win, inside four days, means this two-Test series against Zimbabwe cannot be lost. Actually, Sourav Ganguly is just days away from leading India to an away-series victory (beyond the subcontinent) for the only time after the summer of 1986.

The spotlight will then be more on Sourav but, for now, Das remains the cynosure.

Mighty pleased, Das told The Telegraph from the Holiday Inn: �For a relative newcomer like me, it�s great to have played a part in a special win... I dedicate this MoM award to my parents (Uttam and Kanchan Bala) and coach (Kishore Mania).�

Das was batting on a sound 30 in the first innings when an umpiring error saw him being declared out. Today, he remained unbeaten on 82.

Was he conscious about approaching what would have been his second Test hundred?

�Once I got past 50, yes, but Laxman�s dismissal (on 132, still 54 short of the target) made me focus only on hanging around. Even Sachin (not out 38) suggested I stay till the end... I�m not disappointed I didn�t get to hundred. Rather, I�m just happy that India won,� Das replied.

Such is Das� commitment he informed he will, in the next few days, have a one-on-one with idol Sunil Gavaskar, who is in Zimbabwe on a media-assignment.

�I need to sort out a few things and intend speaking to Mr Gavaskar before the second Test (in Harare from Friday). I had a couple of close shaves this afternoon and I�m quite unhappy about that...� Das remarked.

It�s this attitude which will earn Das many more Test caps.

Predictably, Sourav had high praise for his opener. �Shiv Sundar has always been a quality player and, so, his batting didn�t come as a revelation. He should keep up this excellent work.�

Speaking exclusively, again from the team hotel, Sourav added: �This victory has been satisfying but, at the highest level, nothing comes easy. To win the series, then, we�ll have to play good cricket in Harare too.�

Asked who uncorked the champagne, in the dressing room, the captain laughed and said: �Well, this evening, we settled for beer. Our date with the champagne will be in Harare... Let us first have the series with us.�

According to Sourav, tomorrow will be a day off �- coach John Wright�s way of saying �thank-you and well done.�


Islamabad, June 10: 
The Pakistani administration expects General Pervez Musharraf to travel to India between July 6 and 11, sources said.

Although the final dates will possibly be announced over the coming week, the July 6-11 period is now under discussion between the two sides.

Earlier, it was being said the meeting might not take place before the third week of July, but with reports of the Indian Prime Minister showing rapid recovery after his knee operation, the two sides are in contact through their diplomatic channels, discussing the first half of next month as the possible meeting time.

�In case General Musharraf goes to Delhi on the 6th of July, his meeting with Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee can take place on the following day,� said a source in the foreign ministry.

The sources said the discussion on fixing the dates was in its final stage and an announcement is expected any time now..

A team of Pakistani officials might soon visit Delhi to discuss logistic and security issues with their counterparts in India, the sources added. The arrangements that this team will discuss include the proposal for Musharraf to offer Friday prayers at the historic Badshahi mosque in old Delhi.

There is also a proposal from Pakistan�s side for the chief executive to visit Ajmer, but the sources said so far discussion on this part of the trip was much too preliminary to say for certain if Musharraf would indeed go there.

Reports here suggest Pakistan and India have started talking on concrete non-core issues in preparation for the Musharraf-Vajpayee summit and at least two such issues have been identified. A report quoting diplomatic sources said the two issues � the visa regime between the two countries and fishermen straying into each other�s maritime zones � would also be part of the composite dialogue between the two leaders.

The Indian high commissioner, Vijay K. Nambiar, paid a courtesy call on interior minister Gen. (retd) Moinuddin Haider and the two issues were discussed.

The official version of the meeting did not touch upon the details of the meeting. Official sources said: �We are moving very cautiously over these two issues which could be part of the composite dialogue between the two leaders. But it is too early to say if these two issues will come up for discussion in New Delhi. Maybe Pakistan could want some progress on the Kashmir issue before it is ready to move towards a composite dialogue.�

Moinuddin Haider and Nambiar focused on making the whole process of providing visas on both sides as convenient as possible. The possibility of opening up the respective consulates in Karachi and Mumbai also figured in the talks. Pakistan had closed the Indian consulate in Karachi about six years ago for security reasons.

The second point, which could be part of the summit dialogue, relates to problems arising out of illegal fishing in each other�s waters, where there are no marked boundaries. The proposal is to treat such disputes as a provincial � rather than national � matter.


London, June 10: 
Devyani Rana, the woman at the centre of the Nepal drama, is �totally innocent� and in no way responsible for the murderous behaviour of her boyfriend, the late Crown Prince Dipendra, according to reports emerging from London.

A friend of the Scindia family, to which Devyani belongs on her Indian side, has spoken for the first time, providing what seems to be an authoritative account of her current mental condition.

Devyani is the niece of senior Congress leader Madhavrao Scindia and his BJP-supporting sister, Vasundhara. Another sister, Usharaje, is Devyani�s mother, who is married to the Oxford-educated Pashupati Shumsher Jung Bahadur Rana, a former finance and foreign minister of Nepal.

Although there has been speculation that Devyani had been moved to either London or somewhere in Russia, the friend of the Scindia family, who asked not be identified, said she was being looked after by the Scindia family in India. Some measure of protection was also being given to Devyani by the Indian authorities because it was felt her life could be in danger.

�She is being hounded by the press and is in no position to talk to anyone,� said the source. �They want to be left alone. The whole thing has deeper implications. It is not just about a boy and girl in love.�

When Devyani heard about the palace massacre, �she went hysterical. She has had to be sedated. The girl has nearly had a breakdown�.

On the day before the killings, there had been yet another argument between Dipendra and his mother, the late Queen Aishwarya, whose intransigence is being seen by the Scindias and their friends as partly to blame for the tragedy. �No one really knows why Dipendra snapped.�

According to the account that has emerged in London � and this appears to be the best sourced so far � the argument between mother and son ended abruptly. �She told him to go upstairs to his room.� It appears that Dipendra felt deeply humiliated. �You don�t say that to a man of 29 in front of so many people.�

The Queen is being painted by the Scindia clan in a not very flattering light. �Dipendra was petrified of her. She even controlled her own husband.�

The Scindias are perplexed that the Queen found Devyani unacceptable, given that the royal families of India and Nepal are so-intermingled through marriage.

The source spoke highly of Devyani: �She is not a society girl. She was not manipulative.�

The relationship between her and Dipendra was a long-standing one. �They met at a very, very young age through mutual friends. He fell for her. Since then he has wanted to marry her. It is a sort of Romeo and Juliet story. This has been going on for a long time.

�It had reached the stage where the girl�s side said, �forget about getting the Queen�s permission, she will never agree. Run away and get married. Just elope and get married.� The girl�s side has been very supportive throughout.�

Whether Devyani meant it or not, she is supposed to have offered to part from the Crown Prince as she did not want to be held responsible for the rift in the Nepalese royal family. �But he said, �Nothing doing�. In fact, he wanted a ....�

The source thought for a moment and indicated that Dipendra wanted to make a point by having a �big wedding�.

Another friend of the wealthy Scindia family reflected their anger at being made to feel socially inferior by Queen Aishwarya.




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