Top city executive missing
Jaya calls war council in ominous signal
BJP gives tormentor a long rope
Father and son in dream debut
Calcutta weather

Calcutta, April 2 
The managing director of Exide Industries, Satyabrata Ganguly, has disappeared without a trace. Ganguly has not returned home since he set out from his Alipore residence for an early morning walk at the Agri-Horticulture Society Gardens in South Calcutta.

?We are keeping our fingers crossed,? said city police commissioner D.C. Vajpai. He did not rule out the possibility that the chairman and managing director of the Rs 565-crore Exide Industries might have been kidnapped. The apprehension comes against the backdrop of several kidnappings in the recent past (see graphic).

Chief secretary Manish Gupta said all border checkposts have been alerted. Additional police commissioner (II) S.I.S. Ahmed said passenger manifests of flights were being scrutinised and an intensive vigil has been mounted.

Ganguly set out for his walk as usual at 4.45 this morning, dressed in T-shirt and shorts. He normally returns around 6 am. His masseur waited till 6.30 am and left after reporting that he had not returned. Ganguly was not seen inside the Horticulture Gardens where he walks often in the company of his peers. ?One of the gatekeepers said he was wearing blue shorts, while another said he was wearing white. His T-shirt was white,? said Ganguly?s son-in-law Purnendu Roychowdhury.

With no news of him for another hour or so, his elder brother Subrata Ganguly was informed. The elder Ganguly, himself a well-known professional who is vice-chairman of cement major ACC and chairman of electronics firm Webel, informed the Alipore police station about the disappearance over the phone around 8.30 am. But even 15 hours later, the police said no official report had been made at the Alipore police station.

?We can?t force the family to lodge a diary,? said Ahmed. Family members, however, did not want to take hasty decisions in the absence of the missing man?s wife. ?Let Ganguly?s wife come back to Calcutta (she returned late tonight) before any formal complaint is lodged,? said a relative.

Relatives said Ganguly was planning to join his wife in Delhi later today. Mrs Ganguly had been to Jaipur, where Ravishankar, their guru, is based. He teaches a stress-relieving exercise through meditation called ?Art of living?.

The Gangulys were likely to make a trip to Kathmandu, said Roychowdhury, Ganguly?s son-in-law. ?His itinerary is not with us and we have not yet been able to get in touch with his secretary,? he added.

The police have gathered from morning walkers who were regulars with Ganguly that they did not see him during their exercise around the perimeter of the gardens. Some of them said the Exide boss often drove to the gardens. This morning he had decided to stroll across.

Roychowdhury admitted the family was nonplussed. The 57-year-old Ganguly is known to be organised and orderly, a man not given to eccentric behaviour.

?He can?t leave just like that,? said Barun Das, company secretary at Exide. ?But I don?t think he could have been kidnapped. Satyabratada is a very nice person. I don?t think he has enemies who would want to take him hostage.?

Among Ganguly?s co-walkers at the Horticulture Society are several businessmen and senior executives. Sudarshan Birla, with whom Ganguly enjoyed a special relationship and whom he often met in the mornings, has been president of the society in the past. With so many people around, it is unlikely that Ganguly was kidnapped from the gardens.

Ganguly, a chemical engineer, started as a management trainee in Dunlop. He was closely associated with Birla after he joined Exide from Dunlop in 1986. Since then, Exide has changed hands with the ownership passing to Rajan Raheja, the Mumbai-based real estate tycoon. Ganguly has led the company to healthy profits under both regimes. His ties with Birla continue to be warm.

G.P. Goenka of Duncans echoed the shock with which many of the city?s business elite greeted the news of Ganguly?s disappearance.

?He passes by my house every day during his trip to the gardens,? said Goenka, who also wondered why there should be suspicion of a kidnapping.

?After all, he is an executive at Chloride (as Exide Industries was earlier known),? Goenka said. ?Some time ago, I heard some antisocials from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar are shifting base to Calcutta. I wonder if that is true. Of course, a single instance of this sort does not mean that Calcutta is becoming an unsafe place. The state government must take immediate action.?    

April 2 
The core group of advisers around ADMK chief Jayalalitha will be pushing for a complete break with the ruling coalition when the party general council assembles for a crucial one-day conclave tomorrow.

The ADMK tonight reiterated it is ready to pull out if the BJP so wants. Party presidium chairman V. Nedunchezian said the Prime Minister had not clarified whether he endorsed P.R. Kumaramangalam?s remark against Jayalalitha. The ADMK will announce its decision at tomorrow?s meeting.

Maverick Janata Party MP Subramanian Swamy, the prime mover behind the ADMK gameplan to switch sides from the BJP to Congress, is also arriving in Delhi and is expected to hold parleys with Congress hawks.

The Congress, sensing that it might be on the threshold of power, today signalled it is game for an alliance with the ADMK, and began warming up for an alternative arrangement if Jayalalitha pulls the plug.

A section of the ADMK, however, is unsure about the gains from an alliance with the Congress. The Congress may accommodate a number of Jayalalitha?s demands, but may be as reluctant as the BJP to gift her what she wants most ? imposition of Article 356 in Tamil Nadu.

But the ADMK leadership is keeping its eyes and ears glued to the BJP national executive, under way in Panaji. So far it has managed to piece together only a conflicting scenario. Senior BJP leaders are refraining from lashing out at Jayalalitha, but reports of rumblings against her are appearing in the media. The ADMK is trying to assess the extent of animosity before making its next move.

Last evening, the ADMK was on the verge of walking out of the central coalition and tempers were running high against the BJP leadership. But Vajpayee was still given a last chance to pre-empt the impression that ADMK had acted irresponsibly by reacting to a harsh statement by a Cabinet member.

The Prime Minister, however, merely said Kumaramangalam?s views were his own.

The ADMK council will keep up pressure on the government by reiterating its demand for George Fernandes? transfer to a less sensitive ministry. As long as Vajpayee does not expand or reshuffle his Cabinet to meet Jayalalitha?s demands, his government will not get any respite.

Attitudes of BJP leaders like Pramod Mahajan and Kumaramangalam will also come under fire. The council statement may also reflect Jayalalitha?s views on allies like Samata Party and Trinamul Congress.

Jayalalitha?s growing faith in the Congress poses real danger for the BJP. After meeting Sonia Gandhi at Swamy?s tea party, her attitude to the Congress had sounded confusing. Initially, she dubbed the t?te-?-t?te a ?political earthquake?, but then dismissed it as a ?social get-together? on her return to Chennai. But last evening?s statement by an eight-member top-rung team makes clear the kind of trust the ADMK reposes in the Congress. The Congress is now a real option for the ADMK and the statement deliberately expressed optimism in that newfound friendship.

If the Jayalalitha camp makes a provocative statement, it will be difficult for the BJP leadership to wriggle out of yet another embarrassing situation. For the BJP, these threats mean loss of face before an increasingly impatient rank and file gradually losing faith in the government?s ability to act tough.    

Panaji, April 2 
A day after sending stern live-or-let-go signals to Jayalalitha, the BJP tempered its annoyance with the ADMK boss, saying it was not looking for confrontation but would not give in to her demands either.

?I would not like to join issue with any alliance partner, but the demands being made on the Bhagwat issue are dubious and diversionary. We have already decided in the coordination committee, of which Jayalalitha is a member, that there is no need for a joint parliamentary probe into the matter,? party vice-president Kishan Lal Sharma said today.

Asked whether the party owned up to power minister Rangarajan Kumaramangalam?s dare to Jayalalitha, Sharma said: ?Those are his personal views. But even the Prime Minister has said that if any ally withdraws support, we will be able to prove our majority in the Lok Sabha.?

Sharma parried repeated questions on how the BJP would make up the numbers in case the ADMK pulls out. ?That is to be proved on the floor of the House, not to be discussed here,? he retorted.

Maintaining there was no threat to the Centre, the BJP leader said: ?Jayalalitha has not said anything about withdrawing support so far and our information is she will not withdraw support.? But beneath the surface confidence, there is a renewed sense of unease in the BJP about the ADMK leader?s reliability, especially because it believes the Congress has begun efforts to turn the Lok Sabha arithmetic against them.

Kumaramangalam, the eye of the latest storm, appears to have little faith in Jayalalitha and less regret about saying what he did. ?I have every right to express my views as an MP. In any case, I think she is planning to go back to her tested friends,? he said, emerging from lunch today.

And there are many in the party who share his sentiment, though they will only express it privately yet. ?Nobody can go on wanting whatever they want and saying whatever they want and holding the entire government to ransom all the time,? said a party general secretary. He agreed the party is not going out of its way to confront her and score points. The reason is quite obvious: the BJP wants Jayalalitha ? and the Congress ? to bear the onus for pulling out and pulling down the government.

No wonder Sharma spent a great deal of time today attacking the Congress for trying to destabilise the government. ?One of our major campaigns now is going to be to expose forces who have failed to deliver the goods in the past and are now trying to play a negative toppling game,? Sharma said. ?They have no alternative in mind, they are not ready to face elections, and yet they want to bring down the government.?

The Bhagwat issue, he felt, had been picked up by the Congress to ?divert attention from the terrible mistake they have made in Bihar by supporting Laloo Yadav?.

Although he did not directly link Jayalalitha?s demands on the Bhagwat issue with this, Sharma implied she was playing the Congress? game by making unreasonable demands, like shunting out defence minister George Fernandes and reinstating Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat. ?From what I know, Jayalalitha had agreed to the majority decision at the coordination committee meeting and we hope she stands by it,? Sharma said.    

Calcutta, April 2 
On the crowded courtside, beneath a blistering sun he sat, a sombre brooding presence. Careful not to cheer too early, cautious not to celebrate before it was time.

Syed Nayeemuddin is no stranger to triumph. But the former India soccer star and coach knows that in sport, second best is often just as good as last. So he held his breath ? and his applause ? till Syed Fazaluddin?s service winner had sealed game, set and match for India.

As the congratulations poured in as fast as the rivulets of sweat running down Fazaluddin?s face, victory must have seemed twice as sweet for Nayeemuddin. This was a big one for his son, victory on Davis Cup debut. But it was ? as all those who congratulated him know ? Nayeemuddin?s victory, too.

Hard taskmaster, rigid disciplinarian, a man who ran into trouble for driving his footballers too hard, Nayeemuddin knows the label has stuck. He has not spared his son the rod. Nor, it would appear from today?s victory on the grass courts of the South Club, spoilt his child.

Young Fazal ? and his brother Saif ? knew how hard their father could drive them. As hard as a racehorse on a never-ending home stretch.

Nayeemuddin thinks it has paid off. Fazal won a USTA-organised championship in 1994 and was selected to play against Italy in 1998. ?I am so happy for him. I have been very tough on him ? even caned him on occasion ? but now even he appreciates the sense of discipline I had instilled in him,? the proud father had said then.

So what did he have to say after today?s triumph?

?Fazal must qualify for the Grand Slams now. I am happy that he was successful here today, but this is just the beginning.?

In a world in which teenage prodigies (Boris Becker won his first Wimbledon when he was a little over 17) and burnouts (Becker was over the hill well before he was 30) are as frequent as double faults and aces, this might sound a little optimistic for a 23-year-old with only his first Davis Cup win under his belt.

But Nayeem has always dreamt big about his sons. The stopper-back who made himself a household name in Bengal knew too much about the ways of his game and chose tennis as the route to fame for Saif and Fazal.

Saif ?- in the US now and winner of the Rolex inter-college championship for the last two years ?- is shaping well.

It is a road Fazal has already travelled. He had spent a year (1993) in AITA?s academy in Delhi, before leaving for the US, where he studied at Temple University, Philadelphia. That?s when he started to focus more on his game.

Akhtar Ali, former Davis Cup coach and Fazal?s tutor at South Club, says: ?Nayeem has worked so hard to ensure proper facilities for his son.?

Nothing could be truer. From the time Fazal was an eight-year-old trying to whack the ball at one of the camps, Nayeem would always be present, silently judging his son?s ability, encouraging, nurturing, disciplining him.

Now he hopes Fazal?s stint as a Davis Cupper will harness his talent and give his game an edge of national pride. ?It has been marvellous for him to train with Leander and Mahesh, under the guidance of Jaidip (Mukerjea). Leander and Mahesh are like tigers when they go out to play for India. And that is what Fazal should become,? Nayeem said.    

Today?s forecast: Partly cloudy sky. Not much change in day temperature.
Temperature: Maximum 37.8?C (2?C above normal)
Minimum 25.8?C (2?C above normal)
Relative humidity: Maximum 92% Minimum 52%
Rainfall: Nil
Sunset: 5.31 pm Sunrise: 5.48 am    

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