Court stays Jessop selloff
Left partners in RS seat row
MLA plea for son�s release
Easy marks hope after tough test
Mayavati takes first step in crown chase
Miffed Mulayam sees Delhi hand
President�s rule after House oath
MPs cry for Advani scalp
One from each ally in Ibobi team
Seer on Gujarat peace mission

Calcutta, March 7: 
The Centre�s effort to sell a major stake in Jessop suffered a big setback today after Calcutta High Court directed the authorities to keep the disinvestment on hold till the final judgment.

The Joint Forum of Unions and Associations of Jessop had moved the high court challenging the decision of the Union government to privatise the company. The Centre has decided to sell 70 per cent of its stake to Calcutta-based Ruia Cotex for Rs 18 crore.

Giving the verdict, Justice Ashok Ganguly directed the Board for Industrial and Financial Reconstruction � a body to which sick units are referred for revival � not to give effect to the proposed disinvestment of Jessop till the judgment is delivered once the case comes up for final hearing after four weeks.

The judge directed the respondents to file affidavits stating their stand in this regard within two weeks. S. Pal, counsel for the petitioners, alleged that the move to sell a majority stake in Jessop was not only arbitrary but also unconstitutional.

�The Centre has taken the decision unilaterally and is trying to sell it to a private party, violating all norms. Neither was any advertisement published nor any tender floated to get offers from private parties,� the petition said.

A. Malhotra, appearing for Jessop, informed the court that the Centre had already referred the company to BIFR. Giving Balco�s example, she said the Supreme Court had ruled that the management had every right to sell any stake it wanted without informing employees. This, she argued, also applied to Jessop.

Kalyan Banerjee, who appeared on behalf of the Union government, argued that the petitioner had no locus standi to file the case before Calcutta High Court as the decision had been taken by the Centre. The petitioner, he said, could have taken it up with the Supreme Court.

�We are determined to prevent the Centre from selling the important PSU to a private party and for this we shall apply all our strength. First, the Union government has taken the decision unilaterally, and second, the price that has been fixed is very low. We smell something wrong in the deal,� said Citu leader Ajit Chowdhury.

Jessop employee representatives yesterday met chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and told him that they were ready to run the company by forming a co-operative. They urged him to write to Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee again to review the Centre�s decision to disinvest in the company.

Though Bhattacharjee and industry minister Nirupam Sen wrote to Vajpayee and heavy industries minister Manohar Joshi, urging them to reconsider their decision, Writers� Buildings has yet to receive any response.


Calcutta, March 7: 
The Left Front meeting over sharing of seats for the ensuing Rajya Sabha polls witnessed an unruly scene as the CPM refused to give the CPI a seat from its quota as promised in 2000 by then Front chairman Sailen Dasgupta.

Five seats from Bengal in the Rajya Sabha fell vacant recently. Given the composition of the Assembly, the Left Front will be able to win four seats. But the CPM wants to keep three seats for itself and offer the fourth to the Forward Bloc.

In 2000, the CPM had refused to offer a seat to the CPI. As a result, Gurudas Dasgupta of the CPI had failed to retain his berth in the Rajya Sabha from Bengal. The CPI had then decided to quit the Left Front government in protest.

Two CPI ministers, Nandagopal Bhattacharjee and Sreekumar Mukherjee, did not attend office for weeks. The issue was resolved after the CPM agreed to give the CPI a seat from its quota during the 2002 polls.

During the Front meeting today, there was a hot exchange between CPM and CPI leaders. Manju Kumar Majumder and Bhattacharjee of the CPI reminded Anil Biswas and Front chairman Biman Bose about Sailen Dasgupta�s assurance.

But the CPM refused to listen to the argument. Bose later told reporters that the situation had changed a lot and his party did not consider it wise to offer the CPI a seat from its quota.

Bose also claimed that both CPM general secretary Harkishen Singh Surjeet and his CPI counterpart A.B. Bardhan had discussed the issue of seat-sharing between the CPM and CPI in Bengal and were reportedly convinced that CPI should not fight the Rajya Sabha polls this time.

However, Majumder and Bhattacharjee denied this. Bhattacharjee told reporters that Surjeet and Bardhan often met to discuss various political issues.

�(But) this does not mean Bardhan has agreed to the CPM�s decision of not giving us a seat to contest the Rajya Sabha polls this time. We believe the CPM�s unilateral decision of not giving us the seat as promised by their leader, Sailen Dasgupta, will go against the unity of the ruling Front,� he said.

Bhattacharjee, however, said his party would not quit the Front. �But our next course of action will be decided during the state committee meeting of our party on March 11.�


Siliguri, March 7: 
Assam Congress legislator Chandan Sarkar today appealed to the abductors of his eldest son Pradeep to release him on �humanitarian� grounds as the 21-year-old is supposed to sit for his higher secondary examinations starting on March 19.

�Though we have not received any ransom call or any other demand from the alleged kidnappers� I now firmly believe that it is the handiwork of Assam-based extremist outfits,� Sarkar told The Telegraph over phone from his Joteswar home.

Eyewitness have confirmed that the three motorcycle-borne abductors were not local people. Quoting them, Sarkar said they had to ask for directions. They probably crossed to Jaldapara.

A clarification

The superintendent of government railway police, Siliguri, Ajoy Kumar, has clarified that Bidhu Lama, one of the three constables suspended for a drunken brawl at the Tenzing Norgey bus terminus in Siliguri, was the temporary driver of north Bengal armed police inspector-general D.K. Sinha, and not the driver of north Bengal inspector-general of police N.R. Das, as reported by this paper.


March 7: 
Alarmed by reports of trouble in different places after a �tough� mathematics paper in the ongoing Madhyamik examinations, school education minister Kanti Biswas today assured examinees that answer scripts would be evaluated �sympathetically�.

Biswas said he had convened a meeting with head examiners next week to discuss the matter. �A lenient view on evaluation of answer scripts will be taken if the majority of the head examiners feel the paper was really tough or some of the questions were out of the syllabus,� Biswas said.

However, the minister himself does not think the questions were tough or out of the syllabus. �I have personally discussed the matter with teachers of some secondary schools� . The examinees are confused because of a sudden change from the traditional form of questions,� he said.

At the Bhadrapur Nandakumar High School in Birbhum, a group of students clashed with police on Wednesday after the mathematics exam.

District superintendent of police Jayanta Basu said the students fought the police because they were not allowed to cheat in the examination.


New Delhi, March 7: 
Bahujan Samaj Party leader Mayavati today resigned from the Lok Sabha, fuelling speculation of a tacit understanding with the BJP to form a government led by her in Lucknow after a brief spell of President�s rule in the state.

Mayavati, who won the Akbarpur Lok Sabha seat in 1999 and has been elected from two Assembly seats in Uttar Pradesh this time, asserted that her party would make every attempt to form the government in the state. While welcoming President�s rule, she kept her options open on a tie-up with the BJP. Mayavati and mentor Kanshi Ram were, however, firm that they would not support any party, including the BJP, to lead the government.

The BSP chief has convened a meeting of MLAs, MLCs and MPs from Uttar Pradesh as well as 10,000 prominent party workers in Lucknow on Saturday to decide on future strategy.

Mayavati and Kanshi Ram had held a series of futile parleys with the BJP to form the government in Lucknow. The talks failed as the BJP insisted on its chief minister while offering a Union Cabinet berth to Mayavati and anointing Kanshi Ram as Vice-President.

But Mayavati has her eyes set on Lucknow. �If a BSP government cannot be formed in Uttar Pradesh, then no other party can do so,� she said, refusing to elaborate on whether she was still seeking BJP support. �I do not want to say anything now. I will do so at a proper time. We will not reveal our cards now,� Mayavati said.

Asked if the resignation was part of a plan to present a fait accompli to the BJP to support Mayavati, Kanshi Ram said: �We are not afraid of elections. Whatever the BJP has to do is its problem.�

Analysts feel that once tempers over Ayodhya cool down, probably after March 15, efforts may be made to instal a BSP-led government in a repeat of the 1995 experiment. In exchange, the BJP may get the support of Mayavati�s 13 MPs in the Lok Sabha.

Despite the BJP�s ambivalence, Mayavati and Kanshi Ram went soft on the saffron party on issues like Gujarat and Ayodhya and parried questions about seeking its support to form the government. Significantly, the BSP did not participate today in the Opposition dharna outside Parliament demanding the resignation of home minister L.K. Advani and chief minister Narendra Modi for their failure to contain communal frenzy in Gujarat.

Mayavati also remained non-committal on the Opposition demand for a ban on the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Bajrang Dal, saying all parties should sit together and decide such issues by rising above partisan considerations.

Addressing a joint news conference with her here, Kanshi Ram downplayed her decision to quit the Lok Sabha. The party needed Mayavati�s guidance in Uttar Pradesh, Uttaranchal, Punjab, Delhi and Haryana while he would concentrate on the other states, Kanshi Ram said.

Replying to questions about the offer of the Vice-President�s post, Kanshi Ram said Atal Bihari Vajpayee, then Congress president Sitaram Kesri and former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda had suggested that he become the President. �I did not want to become the President five years ago. Now the offer of (the post of) Vice-President is laughable. I told them that I want to be in politics, among the people,� Kanshi Ram said.

Asked whether the BSP shared the Opposition view that Modi should be dismissed and President�s rule imposed in Gujarat in view of violence there, Mayavati said her party would take a view only after a high-level committee is constituted to probe the matter and submitted its findings.


Lucknow, March 7: 
Angry at being given short shrift by the Governor who recommended President�s rule for Uttar Pradesh, Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav has charged Raj Bhavan with acting at the behest of the Centre.

�Governor Vishnukant Shastri is following the directives of the BJP government in New Delhi,�� Mulayam said, adding that the recommendation to the President was not only unfair but unnecessary.

The Samajwadi, which has called for a state-wide protest tomorrow against Shastri�s decision, warned that �the government in Delhi will have to pay a price for the Governor�s bias as he has gone against the people�s mandate�. The party will also protest the murder of its legislator from Bareilly, Manzoor Ahmed, who was gunned down near Raj Bhavan yesterday.

Shastri had earlier rejected Mulayam�s application to form the new government saying the single-largest party did not necessarily mean a party able to provide stability. He had also given enough indications that he would not invite Mulayam as he feared �horse trading in the House�.

The Congress, which made Shastri wait the whole of yesterday to express its stand on the situation but did not turn up, has called the decision �hasty�. The Governor had on Wednesday given time to the Congress to clarify their position on supporting the Samajwadi, falling short of an absolute majority by 56 seats.

Had the Congress pledged its support to Mulayam�s party, the story today could well have been different. After giving time to the Governor, state Congress chief Sriprakash Jaiswal went off to Aligarh. The Congress had earlier refused to comment on the issue saying the high command was �busy with Gujarat�.

Jaiswal, however, is not ready to take the blame, in some measure at least, for pushing Uttar Pradesh towards President�s rule. He is happy blaming Shastri and Mulayam for the state�s fate.

Without naming the Samajwadi, Jaiswal said: �The party which has received the largest number of seats has failed to cobble a majority. They didn�t come to us seeking our support. It is their failure.��

Incidentally, Jaiswal and former state party president Salman Khurshid have always been against joining hands with Mulayam.

Caretaker chief minister Rajnath Singh could not conceal his glee at Mulayam�s isolation.

A visibly happy Rajnath said: �I appeal with folded hands to all those so-called secular parties to form a government in Uttar Pradesh and save the state from President�s rule. It is my deepest wish and earnest prayer that all such parties should come together as one to form a government here. We, on our part, are happy to be in the Opposition.��


New Delhi, March 7: 
After receiving the letter from Uttar Pradesh Governor Vishnukant Shastri recommending President�s rule, the Union Cabinet expectedly endorsed the move but the process will take a few days as the newly-elected legislature must first convene.

The Governor dissolved the Assembly today, preparing the ground for the new House to meet. The newly-elected members have to be sworn in for the 14th Uttar Pradesh legislature to be convened. The pay and allowances of legislators cannot be drawn till they are formally registered as members of the House.

Last evening, the Governor wrote to the Centre saying as the fractured election verdict has made it impossible for any party to form a stable government in Lucknow, the state had to be placed under President�s rule.

Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee presided over the hour-long Cabinet meeting that accepted the Governor�s recommendation.

Until such time any party or group can come up with the right number � 202 is the majority mark � the Assembly will be placed under suspended animation.

Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav had staked claim to form a government earlier but has so far been unable to get the required numbers. He had sought a month�s time, which is far too long to be accepted by the Governor.

Bahujan Samaj Party leader Mayavati today resigned from the Lok Sabha � choosing to station herself in Lucknow as an MLA � sparking speculation that within a few months of President�s rule, she and the BJP will come together and form a government.

State BJP leaders believe it would not be politically correct after the party�s poor performance in the election to try and form the government just yet.


New Delhi, March 7: 
Parliament was thrown into turmoil today with Opposition parties staging a dharna outside the House over the Gujarat killings and the Ayodhya issue and later forcing the Lok Sabha to adjourn for the day.

The Opposition demanded the dismissal of home minister L.K. Advani and Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi for failing to contain communal frenzy.

A united Opposition forced the government to agree to a discussion in the Lok Sabha on Monday on the Gujarat situation, though the Lower House was to have a holiday that day. A short discussion was also allowed in the Rajya Sabha this afternoon.

To compensate for the time taken up by the discussion, the House will sit on March 16.

The ADMK, the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Nationalist Congress Party did not participate in the sit-in in front of Mahatma Gandhi�s statue.

NCP leader P.A. Sangma held a separate news conference demanding Advani�s and Modi�s resignation.

Led by leader of Opposition Sonia Gandhi, nearly 200 MPs assembled at Parliament�s main gate, protesting the killings in Gujarat and demanding the resignations of the home minister and the chief minister.

After the dharna, the members forced adjournments of both Houses � first till 12 noon and then till 2 pm.

The Lok Sabha was then adjourned for the day, while the Rajya Sabha resumed business after a short discussion on Gujarat.

Initiating the discussion, senior Congress member Pranab Mukherjee told the government that if it cannot govern it should quit. �If you are unable to protect, I am sorry, Mr Home Minister, you have no moral authority to continue in office.�

Accusing the government of delaying deployment of the army, Mukherjee asked whether it was not the duty of the Centre � under Article 355 � to protect people of the state. �Either govern or get out. It is your responsibility,� he said.

�What action did you take and why was there a delay in deployment of armed forces? How is it that even after the ninth day you are not able to contain it?� he asked.

He wanted to know whether whipping up one community against another �will give you political dividends�.

�People may lose sanity. But is it for the administration to lose sanity? Is it for the minister to lose sanity?� the Congress leader asked.

In Lok Sabha, Samajwadi Party members sought to raise the murder of their party MLA outside Raj Bhavan in Lucknow yesterday and the Governor�s proposal for imposition of President�s rule in Uttar Pradesh. Some members demanded action against those involved in the Gujarat killings.

Some Samajwadi members even refused to heed deputy speaker P.M. Sayeed�s plea to remain calm during obituary references. Sayeed later criticised their action at the business advisery committee meeting and said he would suspend members rushing to the well of the House.


Imphal, March 7: 
Congress leader Okram Ibobi Singh today took over the reins of Manipur, ending a nine-month period of President�s rule that will be remembered for one of the most intense mass uprisings in recent years.

The talking point, however, was not the restoration of democracy in this troubled state but the size of the four-party Secular Progressive Front (SPF) ministry. With Governor Ved Marwah giving him just a week�s time to prove his majority in the 60-member Assembly, Ibobi Singh averted the usual race for ministerial berths by including just three ministers in his Cabinet, one each representing the three allies of the Congress.

Apart from the chief minister � the 19th Manipur has had since attaining statehood in 1972 � Marwah administered the oath of office to CPI leader P. Parijat, Nationalist Congress Party member C. Doungel and K. Govindas of the Manipur State Congress Party (MSCP).

Ibobi Singh said his priority was to ease the financial crisis and improve the law and order situation.


Ahmedabad, March 7: 
He came, he saw, he tried to conquer.

Swami Jayendra Saraswathi � the Sankaracharya of Kanchi and the mediator on the Ayodhya issue � arrived here on a day�s visit with the message of peace.

He met the Governor and he met the chief minister. He visited the riot-torn areas and he consoled family members of the victims. And he met those who had lost their close ones in the Godhra carnage.

For all, he had one message: give peace a chance.

The seer said it was not politics that had brought him here. He would have preferred to have come earlier but had been held up.

�I got involved in the process to broker peace with the Centre, Muslims and the Ramjanmabhoomi Nyas and therefore the earlier plan had to be changed,� he said.

Sources said the seer was here on a specific peace mission. He wanted to convey to chief minister Narendra Modi and the VHP leaders that the violence in Gujarat was getting in the way of solving the Ayodhya imbroglio.

After meeting two survivors of the train carnage at Ramol and family members of the Godhra victims, the Sankaracharya went to the house of two Dalit girls in the Geeta Mandir area.

Speaking to reporters, he reiterated that the VHP had no role in the ongoing process of resolution of the Ayodhya dispute. He said the Ramjanmabhoomi Nyas, which would have the final say on the matter, has given a written assurance that it would abide by the court verdict.

�The real people who matter in this issue are those who belong to Ramjanmabhoomi Nyas. The trust has given a written assurance that it would maintain status quo in Ayodhya until the Supreme Court delivers its judgment,� he added.

He said bhoomi pujan would be done on March 15 at the undisputed site in Ayodhya. He claimed the dispute in all probability would be resolved by the parties concerned � the Centre, Ramjanmabhoomi Nyas and Muslims � before June 2.

Asked whether VHP would agree to a court verdict, the Sankaracharya said it was not a party to the matter.

He said no one should stop the Ram sevaks from going to Ayodhya because �now the idol is in a tent�. Therefore, there is little room for any trouble.

The Sankaracharya said there was only one god, not five gods, and all Indians should live in harmony.

�Ram and Lakshman were born of different mothers but had a great love for each other. But Bali and Sugreev despite being born to the same mother had an acrimonious relationship. Hindus, Muslims and people of other faiths have India as their common mother,� he said, appealing for peace.

He said the Centre and state governments should ensure that there was no discrimination on the basis of the victims� religion during the distribution of relief.

Saying he was working for peace between Hindus and Muslims over the Ayodhya issue, the Sankaracharya said the kind of �animal behaviour� witnessed in Gujarat recently starting with the Godhra train attack was reprehensible and must not happen again.

He flayed the media for exaggerating reports on violence in Gujarat and said it should play a positive role in strengthening the bonds of brotherhood between communities.

The Sankaracharya visited the injured in the civil hospital .


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