September signal for elections
Advani crowned poll general
CPM keeps Basu on road to Delhi
Student shoots monitor in school
Calcutta weather

New Delhi, April 29 
Elections for the 13th Lok Sabha look set to be held at the end of September or beginning of October, despite pleas by the BJP and several of its allies to have them in June or July.

The Election Commission will decide on the dates after an all-party meeting on May 3. However, indications are that it would be logistically impossible for the commission to carry out the gigantic exercise at such short notice. The meeting will be attended by six national and 48 regional parties.

Most small parties are against early elections as they are unable to organise resources. The BJP and its allies feel early elections will help them as they could cash in on the perceived ?sympathy wave? for Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee. The Congress has left the decision to the poll panel.

Arguing in favour of late polls, commission officials pointed to the difficulties of mobilising lakhs of poll personnel and paramilitary forces. They also referred to the ongoing heatwave across the country and the monsoon, which will set in by June.

According to sources in the Prime Minister?s Office, the government is resigned to a late poll. Hinting that early elections are unlikely, a senior Cabinet minister yesterday said if the government continues till September-October, it would not function as caretaker but as a normal administration. He said the fact that the commission had convened an all-party meeting on May 3 indicated the polls would be delayed.

Since the 1998 elections, about 50 lakh new voters have reached the minimum voting age of 18 and have to be included in electoral rolls. The ongoing revision of electoral rolls is likely to be completed by the third week of July, making early elections improbable.

The BJP and its allies, such as the Samata Party, the TDP, the BJD and the DMK, want early elections. Most other parties prefer polls in September or October.

Janata Dal president Sharad Yadav, after meeting chief election commissioner M.S. Gill, said the commission should not be pressured into working out a date that suits some parties. He said the poll panel should be allowed to take decisions independently.

?The commission should be allowed to hold free, fair and transparent polls. Political parties should not compel it into holding early polls,? he said. Yadav said according to his party, the best time was late September or early October.

A joint CPM-CPI team of general secretaries H.S. Surjeet and A.B. Bardhan also called on Gill, urging him to hold polls in the second half of September. In their memorandum, they said by the time roll revisions were completed, the whole country will be in the grip of monsoon, which would not only hamper the elections but also voter participation.

?The northern belt will be hit by heatwaves in June, while monsoon will set in in southern and western coastal regions in a big way. The rains will end by the beginning of September,? they said.

Tamil Maanila Congress and the Samajwadi Janata Party representatives also met Gill and demanded late elections.

Sharad Yadav said his party was opposed to clubbing state elections with general elections.    

New Delhi, April 29 
If the 1998 mukhauta ? A.B. Vajpayee ? is the real face the BJP is going to the people with this time, the muscle will come from L.K. Advani.

Eclipsed by Vajpayee in the 13 months of power, Advani is waxing again: the party today appointed him chairman of the Committee for National Campaign and Election Management.

Advani?s anointment confirms that the party still regards him as its ace strategist. His appointment was announced by BJP president Kushabhau Thakre, who, by implication, will play a more low-profile role. The BJP?s rout in the November Assembly polls under Thakre?s stewardship was roundly criticised as a ?poor?reflection of his leadership. More so because of the surprise defeat in his home state Madhya Pradesh.

In conferring the post on Advani, the BJP has departed from the past practice of parcelling out the job among three committees: election management, manifesto and campaign management. For the first time, the three functions have been amalgamated into a central committee and the post of a chairman created to head it.

?Advaniji is a senior person, he has served as the BJP president twice. We cannot have him as the convenor. This is the only post befitting his stature and experience,? a BJP general secretary said. Advani will be the brain behind the polls by virtue of his record. Under his leadership, from a supporting role in 1989 the party became a power player in 1998.

BJP sources indicated Advani will now spend most of his time in the party headquarters. Like Vajpayee, he is expected to contest, but, the sources said, he will hit the campaign trail after the nitty-gritty are worked out.

The BJP central office went into a tizzy today to find a suitable office for Advani, since his original room is occupied by successor Thakre. Efforts were also on to find a place for his personal aide, Deepak Chopra.

Advani?s team comprises the tried-and-tested quartet of Pramod Mahajan, K.N. Govindacharya, M. Venkaiah Naidu and Sushma Swaraj. The other members are K. Jana Krishnamurthy, Narendra Modi, Jaswant Singh, V.P. Goyal (national treasurer), Arun Shourie and Arun Jaitley.

The third figure in the BJP triumvirate, Murli Manohar Joshi, does not figure in the committee. Sources said he will be one of the ?star? campaigners.

Thakre also declared today the BJP will fight the elections and campaign jointly with allies on the basis of the National Agenda for Governance. The intention is to reinforce the image of being a solid block to sell the ?stability? plank.

Equally important, he said the BJP is prepared to yield as many seats as possible to allies if that will bring it close to the majority mark. This is a departure from 1998 when the party bargained until the last moment to put up candidates in as many seats as possible.

The party?s national executive is meeting here from May 1 to 2 when issues like whether to release a manifesto or not, seat adjustments, and new alliances will be discussed. The conclave is expected to pass just one political resolution on the recent developments. But state leaders have been invited to assess poll preparedness in each state.    

New Delhi, April 29 
The CPM has not ?foreclosed? its options on Jyoti Basu?s prime ministership and the party?s future participation in a Central government.

?Our 1998 party congress decision does not foreclose any options. Decisions of the CPM congress were based on a review of political developments of 1996,? Politburo member Prakash Karat said today.

If a situation like last week?s develops again, the CPM is certain to consider Basu as Prime Minister. The Politburo had veered round to Basu?s premiership at an emergency meeting on Sunday.

In 1996, Basu had missed the top job by a whisker. Three years later, he again came very close to getting it, only to be stalled by the Congress.

The two issues that the CPM, forced by the recent power tussle in Delhi, is considering afresh ? Basu?s prime ministership and the party?s participation at the Centre ? had rocked the party on the eve of the formation of the United Front government.

But though Basu had declined the offer in 1996, the United Front government had found two other candidates ? H.D. Deve Gowda and I.K. Gujral. Moreover, the CPM?s refusal to participate in the government did not lead to a mid-term poll.

Karat hinted that the Politburo was ready on Sunday to consider Basu?s candidature, provided the Congress supported a third force government. ?We would have considered, if there had been any such proposal from the Congress,? said Karat. He said the Politburo had not decided on Basu?s candidature in its morning session, but was waiting for a go-ahead from the Congress on the third force government.

Though Karat maintained a third force government could have been led by any other leader, the parties which blocked the way for a Congress alternative ? the Samajwadi Party, the RSP and the Forward Bloc ? had declared they would accept only Basu.

If Basu had made it this time, it would have been a landmark in the history of communism in India, apart from being a revision of the ?historic blunder? of 1996. Karat signalled the Calcutta party congress? resolution, endorsing the CPM central committee?s decision to keep Basu out of power-play at the Centre, could change tomorrow, depending on political exigency.

Till the last congress, the pro-participation group had not made much headway. But since the BJP government?s installation, the group, led by Basu has grown in strength.

It is clear that Basu?s name will continue to crop up for prime ministership. Samajwadi Party leader Amar Singh said his party wants to project Basu as the third force?s prime ministerial candidate in this elections. Dismissing the proposal, Karat said: ?After our recent experience with the Samajwadi, we cannot take this seriously.?    

Ranchi, April 29 
Ominous echoes of the recent murder of 13 teenagers in a Colorado school sounded in Hatia today as a Class IX student gunned down his classmate inside the school.

Ashish Kumar whipped out a revolver from his pocket and shot dead his class monitor Manish Kumar just before school began this morning. The two students had had a row a few days ago after Manish reported to his teachers against Ashish.

The ghastly incident mirrored another killing in a remote Canadian village where a ninth grade dropout today walked into a high school and shot dead a student with a .22 calibre rifle.

Students of Class IX B at the Saraswati Vidya Mandir said Ashish had been carrying a revolver in his bag for several days. He had threatened Manish a few times.

Manish ? who lived with his mother and uncle as his father is away on government service in Muzaffarpur ? had spoken to his mother about the threats. He had told her that one of his classmates was carrying a revolver. But she had refused to take him seriously. The other students in the class had not reported the matter to the school authorities either.

This morning, Manish arrived while students were still trickling in just before assembly. As he set down his satchel and was about to walk to the school grounds, Ashish came in. He walked up to Manish, took out his .315 pistol and fired. Amid the wave of panic that the gunshot triggered, Ashish came down from his first floor classroom and nonchalantly walked out of the school.

Police have recovered the gun, but have not been able to find Ashish.

Ashish had been a student of DAV Sector III school but was thrown out. There had been numerous complaints against him after he joined Saraswati Vidyamandir.    

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

Temperature: Maximum 35.5?C (1?C below normal)
Minimum 28.9?C (3?C above normal)

Relative humidity: Maximum 87%
Minimum 66%


Sunset: 5.59 pm
Sunrise: 5.08 am

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