Atal pitch for one-party vote
Priyanka for Uttar Pradesh warfront
Second woman in murder mystery
Spy unlocks US nuclear secrets
Calcutta weather

New Delhi, April 28 
Descending on the nation?s drawing rooms to launch the election campaign, A.B. Vajpayee tonight handed voters a three-starred checklist: remember the ruinous drama that pushed the country into an abyss, change the system to ensure that it never happens again and give a clear verdict to insulate the next government from ?the push and pulls of twos and threes?.

In an address through Doordarshan, Vajpayee not only displayed raw outrage at the Opposition?s toppling game, but also betrayed exasperation at managing a coalition and a latent eagerness to return to power on his party?s own steam.

?During the debate in the Lok Sabha, as well as outside, my colleagues and I asked repeatedly: what is the issue on which the government is guilty of such misconduct that it should be brought down, that the country should be pushed into an abyss? Not one new fact was brought out, not one issue of any gravity was raised to warrant what was being done,? Vajpayee said.

Playing on the perceived sympathy factor, Vajpayee appealed to the people to commit the recent political episode to memory. ?This is what you must ponder: is this the way the country should be trifled with? There is only one way to prevent such episodes from recurring in the future: that is, to remember.

?Because peripheral issues are deliberately stoked to divert us, we forget. The old pattern recurs, the entire ruinous sequence is repeated again. And before we know it, another generation is lost. So my first request to you is: Remember.?

The Prime Minister urged the voters to give a decisive mandate and not a fractured one, so that the next government is not made vulnerable to the ?push and pulls of twos and threes?.

He also appealed to the voters to ?rise above caste, sectarianism, parochialism and the advantages to your immediate group?. Through the references to ?twos and threes? and the exhortation for a holistic approach, Vajpayee indicated that he is looking for a clear majority of its own for the BJP.

At the same time, apparently leaving room for manoeuvre if he has to depend on mercurial allies for a second tine, Vajpayee sought to drive home the need for checks and balances against a rerun of the toppling game. Vajpayee, and his party earlier in the day, made fervent appeals that there should be some mechanism to let a government run its full course.

Citing the German Constitution, Vajpayee said to remove the Chancellor there, the House has to vote confidence in another person. ?In the very act of removing one Chancellor, therefore, his successor is installed,? he added.

Pointing out such a small change would have ?prevented what the country is being put through?, Vajpayee said there are ?many such small things that can be done and should be done?.

His call to send a government with a majority will be echoed in the BJP?s poll slogan. It has been changed from the ?able PM? slogan of the 1998 elections to ?stability in the thirteenth Lok Sabha?.

Vajpayee?s address through Doordarshan ? his favourite platform on more than one occasion in his short tenure ? drew flak from the Congress which said it was an act of impropriety on the part of a caretaker government.

The run-up to the campaign kick-off had begun in the morning with Vajpayee exuding confidence in returning to power and promising a second generation of reforms at a CII meeting.

He listed elimination of red tape, spread of reforms to farming and the small-scale industry, encouraging foreign investment, evolving corporate good governance, development of knowledge-based industry and encouraging primary education as the key points on the agenda.    

New Delhi, April 28 
The Congress leadership plans to have Priyanka Gandhi spearhead the party?s campaign in Uttar Pradesh in an attempt to blunt the edge of the BJP and Samajwadi Party opposition in the state.

The move will help launch Priyanka?s career. There has been a growing demand since the last elections in 1998 that she be groomed in politics.

Alliances with the ADMK in Tamil Nadu, Rashtriya Janata Dal in Bihar and tacit understanding with the BSP in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Punjab are some of the features of the Congress? poll strategy.

The party, however, is divided on the issue of a pact with the BSP. While a section wants a formal seat-sharing alliance with the BSP in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar, others feel that an informal and tacit understanding in Uttar Pradesh would be enough. ?Otherwise, Mayavati will ask for the moon,? a leader from Madhya Pradesh said.

Sonia Gandhi will contest from Amethi and will be projected as the party?s prime ministerial candidate. Party leaders from Medak (Andhra Pradesh), Gulbarga and Chikmagalur (Karnataka), Chhindwara (Madhya Pradesh) and Jodhpur (Rajasthan) want Sonia Gandhi to contest two seats. They want her to choose from any of these constituencies.

Congress managers are confident that Priyanka?s presence would take the sting out of the BJP and its allies? strategy questioning Sonia Gandhi?s foreign origins. Congress leaders said several partymen from Uttar Pradesh have requested Sonia Gandhi to draft Priyanka into politics. ?She has an uncanny resemblance to Indira Gandhi. Nobody can question Priyanka?s credentials and the campaign against Sonia Gandhi?s Italian antecedents would fall flat,? a Congress leader said.

Priyanka has been helping her mother write speeches. During the 1998 elections, she had added a line in Sonia Gandhi?s speech at Delhi?s Ramlila ground, which had accused A.B. Vajpayee of lying. Speaking on Bofors, Sonia Gandhi had said: ?Vajpayeeji safed jhoot bol rahen hain (Vajpayee is telling white lies)?.

Priyanka does social work in Delhi. She was recently seen with other volunteers of Mother Teresa?s Missionaries of Charity at their unit at Jangpura, where hundreds of shanties had been destroyed in a fire. Priyanka often helps out Sisters at the Missionaries of Charity. On an earlier occasion, she was among the first to reach when slum children had been taken ill after an attack of food poisoning.

Congress leaders said Sonia Gandhi has been flooded with requests as varied as making Priyanka Youth Congress chief to allowing her to contest Lok Sabha polls from Phoolpur or Rae Bareli in Uttar Pradesh. ?Priyanka is unlikely to contest but she will support her mother,? a leader said.

With Rahul Gandhi away in London, Priyanka doubles as a friend and companion to Sonia Gandhi. She was playing host at 10 Janpath when ADMK chief Jayalalitha called on Sonia Gandhi for the first time. Last Sunday, after Sonia Gandhi told the President that she had failed to muster the numbers to form the government, she declined to meet party heavyweights and preferred, instead, to spend time with her daughter.    

Calcutta, April 28 
Six-year-old Sumit Sharma today told the police that he had met the ?gandi (bad)? aunty, who had tried to strangle him, a number of times at a swimming pool in Salt Lake even as detectives traced a woman who had a liaison with his father Manoj.

Police retraced the route taken by Manoj from his Salt Lake residence to Debra in Midnapore. At the end of the day, detectives said they had stumbled upon clues which would soon give them a breakthrough.

Thirty-three-year-old Manoj is still missing. His family claimed that they had not received a ransom call. The businessman had taken his two sons, Mudit, 8, and Sumit for their usual Sunday outing, saying they would be back after dinner. When they did not return till 11.30 pm, relatives went to look for them. In the early hours of Monday, they found Manoj?s car parked near the crossing of Park Street and Camac Street. Mudit was found dead in the vehicle. Police later traced Sumit in Debra and brought him home.

Deputy commissioner of police (detective department), Narayan Ghosh, said Sumit told interrogators that a ?gandi aunty??, who met Manoj in Victoria Memorial, had tried to strangle him. He cannot recall what had happened to his father and brother.

Sumit today said his father would take him and his brother for a swim at the pool. He said his father would speak to gandi aunty there. The boy said he had been seeing the woman for the last six months, but had never spoken to her. ?Sumit stands by this version of seeing the woman time and again,?? Ghosh added.

The police traced a woman Manoj used to visit often. ?The woman may not be involved in the murder because she has an alibi. But she did admit that Manoj would see her often and that they had a relationship,?? the police said. Sumit was shown a picture of this woman. ?He said the woman in the photograph was not the gandi aunty who had tried to strangle him,?? a detective said.

Police, however, conceded that the boy changes his story intermittently. He refers to a woman in one instance, and, at the next, asks interrogators why they are talking about a gandi aunty.

?Sumit goes blank suddenly and then does not recall what he has said. This is because he is in an acute state of trauma. We are waiting for a few days for him to calm down. His memory will clear. The boy can then give us a clear picture,?? a detective said.

Police artists have drawn a sketch of the woman based on Sumit?s description.

The Sharmas? family lawyer R.L. Joshi, however, said Sumit had not told the police anything about a woman. ?He never mentioned it in front of us. He could have done that while driving down from Midnapore, but that is unlikely because he was very drowsy then,?? Joshi said.    

Washington, April 28 
A scientist, accused of passing on nuclear secrets to China, also defied tight security and transferred large amounts of classified data from a government computer system, compromising ?virtually every nuclear weapon? in the American arsenal.

Wen Ho Lee, who was fired in March after persistent news reports on his spying activities, downloaded millions of lines of computer code that reveal how US atomic warheads work from the network at Los Alamos Laboratory in New Mexico into another more accessible system and stored them under different file names.

The stolen information amounts to ?a scientific blueprint? because it can allow scientists to reverse-engineer the explosive part of the weapon. It includes data on designing nuclear weapons, analysing test results and evaluating weapons materials broadly known at the lab as the ?legacy codes.?

The report on the front page of The New York Times will cause further embarrassment to President Bill Clinton who has tried to portray the breach in security as a problem older than his administration. But it now appears that Lee did the ?transfer? of data in 1995-95, when Clinton was very much in charge and pursuing a policy of ?constructive engagement? with China.

Senior Clinton officials have tried to pass the blame to each other as more information about Lee, a Taiwanese-born scientist, becomes public.

Energy Secretary Bill Richardson, who oversees top government labs, shut down computer systems earlier this month at all the three major nuclear labs to make changes in the security procedures.

Agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation are trying to determine whether the data transferred by Lee was stolen by another country. Lee is already suspected of having passed on the design of W-88, the most advanced US nuclear warhead, to China, allowing Beijing perhaps to mount multiple warheads on a single missile. He travelled to China for conferences with official permission from Los Alamos.

The latest breach, said to be much worse than the W-88 case, has come as a shock to most because of the extent of damage to the highly secret US nuclear establishment. Surprisingly, the breach was discovered only last month just after Lee was fired and his office computer examined.

Despite being a suspect, he had continued access to nuclear secrets for three years.

The Times reported American officials as saying that certain files downloaded by Lee have already been accessed by someone but it is not known whether the secrets were obtained by another country.

Senator Richard Shelby, the Republican chairman of the select committee on intelligence, said that his ?worst fears? were confirmed after the latest briefing by administration officials on the breach. ?China?s espionage is ongoing, it?s deep and we can?t wish it away.?

The ?legacy codes,? which can be used as tools to help design nuclear weapons through computer simulation, can be particularly helpful to China, which having signed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, depends on computers to upgrade and maintain its nuclear arsenal. Most of Lee?s downloading occurred just before China signed the CTBT, the report quoted US officials as saying.

The most shocking part of the story is how long it took the American system to react to Lee?s activities despite evidence staring them in the face.

The first suspicions arose in 1995 when he was the prime suspect in the theft of the W-88 design. No real action was taken as the buck kept getting passed among officials of the FBI, the Justice Department and the Energy Department. The Justice Department denied an FBI request for secret access to Lee?s office computer.

In 1997, Lee was moved to a job upgrading the legacy codes for five US warheads despite knowledge that he was under investigation. The justification for moving him to an equally sensitive post was that he had had access to the codes for years anyway and that computer ?firewalls? would prevent leakage of information.

It was only last month that the FBI got permission to search his office computer and found evidence of transferred files. This led Richardson to order the shut down of the government computers.    

Today?s forecast: Partly cloudy sky. Not much change in day and night temperature.

Temperature: Maximum 36?C (Normal)
Minimum 28.5?C (3?C above normal)

Relative humidity: Maximum 88%
Minimum 65%


Sunset: 5.58 pm
Sunrise: 5.09 am

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