Advani runs for cover under Tada
Vajpayee power blast on Sena
Mamata is ready, if the PM is
Mahanta clears �bigamy� trial by party
Calcutta Weather

New Delhi, Aug. 9: 
Badgered by the Opposition, home minister L.K. Advani today repeated the Centre�s homilies on the violence burst in Jammu and Kashmir and finally fell back on his ministry�s proposal to introduce a refurbished Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (Tada) to �crush� the resurgence of militancy.

�I am urging the government to introduce a law that could substitute Tada since we need effective legislation to deal with terrorist activities,� Advani told the Rajya Sabha after a discussion on the recent massacres.

In the Lok Sabha, the Opposition did not allow Advani to reply.

Advani�s proposal came hours before the Jammu and Kashmir Cabinet passed a resolution extending the Armed Forces (J and K) Special Powers Act, 1990, to the four districts of Kathua, Doda, Jammu and Udhampur in the Jammu region.

For the Opposition, the wave of killings is a vindication of its fears that the fruitless Agra summit would trigger more adventurous militant raids.

Advani, however, did not agree that the summit had shown the government in a poor light; he insisted that for the first time, the Centre had refused to yield to President Pervez Musharraf. �This was also the first time that a Pakistani head of state gave a public go-ahead to terrorist groups,� the home minister said.

The Opposition said it would support any effort the government makes to stop the killings, but rapped Advani for failing to rein in militancy. �Everybody after the Agra summit knew there would be a fresh spurt in terrorism? Why did you not hold meetings immediately instead of waiting till yesterday?� asked Congress� Priya Ranjan Das Munshi.

Even ally Telugu Desam could not give the government its unqualified support. �When the NDA government was formed, people had a lot of expectations. Unfortunately the government has failed to measure up to their hopes,� Desam MP C. Ramachandraiah said.

In his statement, the home minister repeated that Pakistan�s post-1971 strategy has been to bleed India bit by bit. �I want to assure the august House that the government shall leave no stone unturned in bringing back peace to Jammu and Kashmir. It must be appreciated that we are fighting a proxy war of multiple dimensions unleashed by an inimical country,� he said.

But the assurance rang hollow for the Opposition which raked up issues like the tussle between the PMO and the home ministry for control over Jammu and Kashmir.

The Congress dismissed the statement as a �statistical list� and asked Advani to resign on �moral grounds�.


New Delhi, Aug. 9: 
The war of words between the BJP and the Shiv Sena, its disaffected ally, has just got shriller. Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee has pulled up Shiv Sena minister Suresh Prabhu for the abysmal power situation and brusquely told him to either �improve or an alternative mechanism will have to made�.

Vajpayee�s withering comment was as cryptic as it was laden with possibilities.

Sources said Prabhu was upset over Vajpayee�s remark at the meeting yesterday where he had gone along with his deputy, Jayawantiben Mehta, to make a presentation on the progress in the power sector.

�Prabhu tried to explain that efforts were being made to deal with the situation, but there were certain issues over which he had no control,� sources said.

The deputy chairman of the Planning Commission, K.C. Pant, finance minister Yashwant Sinha, minister of state for planning and programme implementation Arun Shourie, and minister of state for coal Shahnawaz Hussain were also present at the presentation.

Sources present at the meeting said the Prime Minister gave short shrift to Prabhu�s explanations and asked him to speed up the pace of reforms.

Power ministry sources said the Prime Minister�s Office had called for an update on the power sector because of the �disturbingly slow progress�.

However, ministry officials refuted this and claimed: �The presentation was made by Prabhu at his own initiative. The Prime Minister was very appreciative of the steps taken by the power ministry and wished them well�.

Sources said: �The Prime Minister was upset about the inability of the independent power producers to generate affordable electricity.� Power ministry officials claimed that the Dabhol Power issue was not specifically discussed.

�There was a clear direction to the power minister to act fast. Prabhu explained that he had no control over issues that required inter-ministerial clearances. Moreover, he argued that state governments were proving to be stumbling blocks in resolving disputes,� the source said.

At this stage, Yashwant Sinha pointed out that an inter-ministerial committee already existed to deal with such problems.

An official release said: �(The) Prime Minister took keen interest in the presentation made by Prabhu and the strategies evolved by the ministry to solve various issues.� Prabhu put forward the line of action proposed by his ministry.    

Contai (Midnapore), Aug. 9: 
Mamata Banerjee today put the onus for her return to the National Democratic Alliance on Atal Bihari Vajpayee and promptly set about narrating how she has always stood by him.

She said she was ready to support the ruling coalition again �once Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee seeks it from us�.

�We will certainly strengthen the hands of Vajpayee once he seeks our support,� she said at a gathering of her party supporters at Aurobindo Stadium here.

NDA convener George Fernandes said the Prime Minister would soon announce a decision on Mamata�s return to the alliance. �Mamata had a talk with Vajpayeeji. I had also discussed the issue of Trinamul�s return to the NDA with him. Now, as the convener of the alliance, I can tell you that Vajpayeeji will soon make an announcement on this,� Fernandes said amid loud cheers from Trinamul supporters.

Mamata said she had never uttered a single word against Vajpayeeji after she resigned from the ministry. �I never said a single word against the NDA, too, and already we have supported the alliance and voted for them on the floor of Parliament. It was I who had requested Vajpayee not to resign because I always wanted to strengthen his government,� Mamata said. �Now I am ready to do anything for a stable NDA government. We did not oppose the NDA only to combat the CPM, our enemy,� Mamata said.

�We had quit the NDA in protest over the Tehelka issue and made certain demands. But the Vajpayee government agreed to all our demands (Fernandes� resignation and the inquiry commission). So we never spoke a single word against Vajpayeeji. I even rushed to Delhi when Vajpayeeji offered to resign.�

The Trinamul leader expressed her gratitude to Fernandes. �I am grateful to him because he responded to my invitation and came here to address the meeting. I am, indeed, very happy.� Mamata also came down heavily on the Congress. �We are certain that the Congress in our state is hobnobbing with the CPM and conspiring against us. Naturally, in Bengal, we will go alone and fight the CPM on our own strength. At the national level, we will support the Vajpayee government.�

Fernandes said: �Speculation is on for the past few months over Mamata�s return to the NDA. I wanted her in our alliance. Some people asked me why. In Bengal only she can fight the CPM.�

The NDA convener asked the CPM-led government to arrest and punish the killers of Trinamul supporters. �The CPM has changed its leadership. Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee is the new chief minister, but there is no change in the pattern of organising attacks on the activists of its Opposition parties.�

Trinamul activists were jubilant after Mamata�s indication that she was ready to extend support to the NDA.


Guwahati, Aug. 9: 
Rocked by scandals after being humbled at the hustings, office-bearers of the Asom Gana Parishad today suspended former minister Rajendra Mushahary, charged with rape, but stood by their president and former chief minister, Prafulla Kumar Mahanta, facing allegations of �bigamy�.

The arrest of Mushahary, former minister for welfare of plain tribes and backward classes, on Sunday came as a big blow to the party, but it wasn�t as hard as what came next. A vernacular daily this morning named Mahanta as the �ageing AGP leader wounded by Cupid�s arrow�.

Last week, it was alleged in some reports that �a leader� of the party had indulged in �bigamy� with a �fetching beauty�, an employee at the Assembly secretariat.

In a denial faxed from Delhi to the party headquarters here this afternoon, while the office-bearers� meeting was in progress, Mahanta dismissed the reports as �baseless� and termed them an attempt by the Congress to malign his image. Mahanta is in Delhi reportedly in connection with the letter of credit scam. The case was revived by the Congress government last week.

Claiming that he �headed a happy family of three children�, Mahanta said there was not a single incident in his long public life which could cast a shadow on his character.

That the party wanted a written denial from the president before adopting a resolution to back him was evident from the timing, �2.23 pm�, of the faxed message he sent from Delhi. The resolution absolving Mahanta of the bigamy charge was announced minutes later, at 2.30 pm, by former agriculture minister and party spokesman Chandra Mohan Patowary.

Patowary said: �We stand by our party president. He has appealed to the people not to be misled by reports in the media. He will move court against publication of reports which have crossed all limits of decency.� Mahanta will return tomorrow.

The former agriculture minister, however, announced that the AGP office-bearers had found Mushahary �guilty of bringing disgrace to the party�. A bail application from the former minister was rejected for the second time during the past 48 hours by the chief judicial magistrate, Kokrajhar. Mushahary was remanded in judicial custody for 14 days on Monday.

Party sources said Mahanta �got the benefit of the doubt� as the controversial secretariat employee, who rose from the post of a stenographer, had earlier been linked with two former ministers, one from the AGP and the other from the Congress.

Sources said today�s meeting was convened after red-faced party members �demanded� a discussion on the �scandals� and a clarification from Mahanta.

Even after the official resolution was adopted, the office was the scene of animated discussions among party members, concerned over the prospect of an adverse impact of the �scandals� on the image of the party which is yet to recover from the election battering.

This morning�s report claimed that Mahanta and his �lady love� had tied the knot at a hush-hush ceremony in a Mumbai temple on March 21, when he was the chief minister. Apart from Mahanta�s securitymen, two of his party colleagues and two businessmen friends were allegedly present at the ceremony, the report said.

Last year, the woman, mother of one, had made headlines when she was nominated to the Assam Public Service Commission allegedly by a �top government functionary�. The proposal was, however, turned down by Governor Lt Gen. (retd.) S.K. Sinha, whose approval was required.




Maximum: 31.5�C (-1)
Minimum: 26.5�C (+1)


12.1 mm

Relative Humidity

Max: 956%
Min: 73%


A few spells of light to moderate rain.
Sunrise: 5.14 am
Sunset: 6.11 pm

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