Rajnath in no-trust challenge
Lady�s silence torments Mahanta
NDA puts Jaya in UTI sideshow
Political cloud over literacy centre
Like father, in support of father�s cause
Calcutta Weather

Lucknow, Aug. 12: 
Uttar Pradesh chief minister Rajnath Singh today dared rival Mulayam Singh Yadav to go ahead with his threat to pull down the BJP-led government by moving a no-confidence motion.

The Samajwadi Party leader had said yesterday he had 27 ministers of the Rajnath-headed government in his bag, implying that he can bring down the government if he wants to. �I cannot call him a liar because I wouldn�t want to say that to my elder brother, but what I can say is that if he is so confident of having 27 of my men with him, what stops him from pulling my government down?�� Rajnath asked.

Buoyed by the defeat of Naresh Aggarwal, the power minister he had sacked, Rajnath said: �Mulayamji ko meri sarkar girane ki poori chhoot hai. In fact, he should go to the Governor with a proposal to defeat me on the floor of the House.�� Rajnath claimed that he had the support of 240 MLAs in the 403-member House.

He would also be drawing satisfaction from Aggarwal�s political isolation. Even Mulayam has been lukewarm to the ousted Loktantrik Congress Party (LCP) leader�s overtures. Today, Aggarwal went knocking on the door of another Uttar Pradesh heavyweight � also a former chief minister � Kalyan Singh, who, out of the BJP, is in political wilderness.

Despite Rajnath�s show of confidence, it was not clear how much support he had from the LCP. The Aggarwal group claimed it had five ministers and the BJP said 17 of the 19-member party were with the chief minister. While three ministers, Baccha Pathak, Vinay Singh and Vikramjit Maurya, were still being seen with Aggarwal, two others � Ganga Singh and Sangram Singh � who were not openly against him till yesterday, pledged their support to Rajnath formally today. Even the three Aggarwal lieutenants have said they would continue to be ministers.

The former power minister is finding it difficult to clutch on even to the LCP office at Lalbagh. While some of his party workers have laid siege to the office, saying it is �rightfully theirs�, others from the now-dominant breakaway group with 16 ministers have threatened to take it back. A showdown could occur tomorrow with workers of the other faction, led by Shyam Sunder Sharma, the new LCP legislature party chief, deciding to converge on the office.

�How can he lay claim to the party office when the party has expelled him?�� fumed Vivek Singh, adding: �He cannot claim to head the LCP with not even a single minister supporting him. It is ridiculous.��

The worst, however, seems yet to come for Aggarwal. LCP ministers have asked the government to probe the corruption charges against Aggarwal, who is believed to be worth over Rs 100 crore.


Guwahati, Aug. 12: 
The tremors in the Asom Gana Parishad, triggered by the alleged scandal involving party president Prafulla Kumar Mahanta, refuse to die.

Fuelling the lurking suspicion in the minds of AGP members is the refusal of the lady � who has been linked to their leader � to �either deny or confirm� the reported secret marriage between her and Mahanta. Last week, the former chief minister dismissed the charge of �bigamy� against him as a plot by the Congress to malign his image.

�I will not say anything now. In a day or two, you will hear whatever you want to hear,� the lady, who has been linked to Mahanta, said today over her cellphone.

The mother of one and an employee in the Assembly secretariat, who has been embroiled in controversy on earlier occasions too, said she had �many things to say� but was waiting for an opportune moment. She, however, refused to be interviewed in person, saying: �Just wait for a few days.�

Last year, the lady had made the 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.

A senior AGP leader said that despite Mahanta�s denial, the �vague� reaction of the lady has put doubts in the minds of partymen. �Questions have also cropped up as a natural corollary to her mysterious silence,� he said. �Why hasn�t she denied the charges outright? What will she say after two days which she cannot say now?�

According to another source, partymen were also questioning the �authority� of the AGP office-bearers who met on Thursday to �approve� Mahanta�s denial and suspend another leader, Rajendra Mushahary, arrested last week on rape charges.

The source said the AGP constitution did not have any provision for an office-bearers� meeting. �Only the party executive or steering committee can take decisions,� the source added. The party has yet to constitute the steering committee after the organisational polls in January.

The meeting of the office-bearers was hastily summoned on Thursday after a vernacular daily went to town with a report on Mahanta�s alleged hush-hush marriage to this lady at a Mumbai temple in March this year. Though earlier reports had hinted at an �ageing AGP leader being hit by Cupid�s arrow�, that was the first time Mahanta�s name appeared in print linking him with the lady.

Sources said there are allegations within the party that the office-bearers� meeting was �stage-managed� by the former chief minister, who was away in Delhi.


New Delhi, Aug. 12: 
With Parliament entering another week of turmoil tomorrow over the UTI scandal, the ruling coalition sought to create diversions to take the heat off finance minister Yashwant Sinha.

In Chennai today to meet ally DMK�s leader M. Karunanidhi, George Fernandes, NDA convener, said Jayalalitha had recommended the name of disgraced UTI chief P.S. Subramanyam when her party was a partner in the Delhi coalition.

�She gave the name. I myself wrote it down and forwarded it to the PMO. Jayalalitha insisted on his name,� Fernandes said.

Jayalalitha has already denied any links with the former UTI chairman. Enraged over reports of her being involved in Subramanyam�s appointment, she had issued a statement yesterday: �I categorically state that I do not have any connection whatsoever with this issue at all.�

ADMK�s organising secretary Thambi Durai today said in its �eagerness to shift the blame on others�, the BJP had found a �scapegoat�.

Jayalalitha�s party now being an ally, the Congress � spearheading the attack on the government over UTI � will also interpret Fernandes� accusation as a subterfuge. Congress leaders said they would raise the UTI issue in the Lok Sabha tomorrow. �Let the finance minister clarify whether he met Subramanyam on July 2 or not,� a party floor manager said. If Sinha does not come �clean�, the party would consider moving a privilege motion, he said.

The motion will have to be moved in the Rajya Sabha where the finance minister had denied discussing the UTI crisis with Subramanyam. Congress floor managers are co-ordinating their strategy with the Left and other non-NDA parties.

Jayalalitha�s name was first mentioned by BJP vice-president Ram Das Agarwal in Jaipur on Friday, but with Fernandes repeating the allegation, it does not appear to be an isolated incident of a politician throwing a stone in the dark.

The ploy, however, looks riddled with holes as questions could now be asked on why Fernandes did what he claims to have done: forward Subramanyam�s name which, he alleged, was recommended by Jayalalitha.

His charge only strengthens accusations being hurled at the government of political interference in the working of commercial institutions owned by it, which it has been denying.

When Parliament opens tomorrow, the Opposition could pounce on Fernandes� allegation and turn it around to use it as a weapon against the government.

The treasury benches, however, believe that with nothing �concrete� against Sinha, a privilege motion can, at best, lead to mild censure by a parliamentary panel.


Calcutta, Aug. 12: 
Interference by a CPM front in the functioning of the state resource centre, the only agency working to bring more adult illiterates into the fold of literacy in Bengal, has put it on a collision course with its sole fund-provider, the BJP-led government in Delhi.

The Union human resources development ministry, on which the literacy centre is dependent for its Rs 60-lakh annual grant, feels the agency�s agenda is being hijacked and its activities stifled by its parent body, the Bangiya Saksharata Prasar Samiti, headed by CPM leader Biman Bose. Bose, along with samiti secretary Subir Bandyopadhyay, are members of the centre�s governing body.

�The centre has been refusing to put into effect some administrative arrangements suggested by us,� National Literacy Mission director-general J. Matthews said. �They want to foist a samiti man on the centre,� he said over the phone from Delhi, admitting the ministry knew that the move was political in intent. �We have been informed that the samiti is a front of the ruling CPM,� Matthews said.

The samiti-CPM efforts have led to the agency functioning without a director for most of this year, said officials. The last incumbent, Samir Guha, stopped attending office in January after complaining to the parent ministry that he was not being allowed to function. He was repeatedly gheraoed and abused and heckled in office by a section of officials, allegedly owing allegiance to the CPM, following his efforts to streamline the institute�s functioning, Guha had complained.

Guha�s going on prolonged leave added to the institute�s woes, officials said. They admitted that the agency�s job was now �merely reprinting� old editions and material. �We have printed only two new texts in the past few months,� a senior official said. The centre has a backlog of around 20 new texts which are gathering dust instead of being sent to press.

Although the Centre was not �immediately keen� to starve the centre of grants in view of the responsibility it had, HRD ministry officials warned that if it did not change course, future activities could be jeopardised. �Though we don�t want to starve the agency of money, it must keep in mind that it has to listen to us,� they said. �We provide 100 per cent of their finances. Are we wrong in expecting them to follow our directives?� a senior official asked.

The mass education department and centre officials tried to put on a brave face, but officials in Delhi confirmed that the government was aware of the �low output�. Political interference in its activities had all but derailed it from its �official work�, they said.

Nandini Kajori, the senior coordinator at the centre, however, described the allegations of political interference and low productivity as �baseless�.

�There�s no question of the samiti stifling us,� she said. Every state resource centre in India had a local university or a state-level NGO as its �parent body�, she said, explaining the presence of CPM-samiti leaders in the institute�s governing body.


Calcutta, Aug. 12: 
Politics of protest � or, should it be anti-protest? � in Calcutta got a new face on Sunday.

Suchetana, a second year student of political science at Presidency College, where her father, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, had studied Bengali literature and honed his skills in student politics, vowed to launch a movement countering the current campaign against the increase in tuition fees.

Protests against the fee rise are being carried out by the apolitical Independents� Consolidation, which controls the Presidency College Union. Today, Suchetana was speaking for the CPM students� body, SFI, which threatened to launch a counter-programme.

�The revised fees are very rational. There is no reason why we should oppose the government in this regard. We will take up the matter with the authorities to ensure normal functioning of the college,� Suchetana said at a hurriedly-called news conference held on the campus.

State CPM chief Anil Biswas� daughter, Ajanta, a student of history in the same college, is Suchetana�s comrade-in-arms. �Don�t you think that the movements against the fee hike are simply politically-motivated anti-SFI campaigns?� asked Ajanta when contacted separately.

Suchetana and her fellow SFI members urged guardians and students to stand by the government�s decision.

Clad in a check shirt and blue jeans, she arrived in a white Maruti-800 a quarter-hour after the news conference began. Appearing a little nervous as the television cameras and lensmen zeroed in on her, Suchetana took a back seat, but was persuaded against remaining there by the media. She then took her seat in the front row with her fellow SFI members.

Suchetana and Gouranga Dandapat, another SFI leader, said: �The enhanced fee structure is being imposed only on those students who can afford to pay. We are supporting the government�s move because ample provision has been made to ensure that students coming from economically-backward families are not deprived of higher education.�




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