Rebels lay siege to Kalyan govt
This is the way the world ends
Bus sinks third time in botched salvage attempt
Fun & fines with Jadeja in chair
Calcutta weather

New Delhi, May 7 
Uttar Pradesh chief minister Kalyan Singh?s fate hangs in the balance as 36 dissident legislators of the BJP submitted their resignations to party chief Kushabhau Thakre today.

The dissidents said they have given Thakre a week to replace Kalyan Singh. If their demand is not accepted, they have threatened to put in their papers directly with Uttar Pradesh Assembly Speaker Kesri Nath Tripathi.

The anti-Kalyan group also claimed their numbers would increase to 65, a little over one-third the strength of the 175-member BJP legislature party. If all dissident MLAs resign, Kalyan Singh?s coalition government, with a slender majority of 12, could be in serious trouble.

With Lok Sabha polls imminent, the BJP high command had till yesterday ruled out the possibility of dumping Kalyan Singh. But it appears to be having second thoughts today.

Party spokesman K.L. Sharma refused to give a categorical answer when asked if Kalyan Singh would be replaced. ?The issue of a change of leadership rests with Thakreji,? he said.

But Sharma?s words also indicated the BJP was trapped in a Catch-22 situation in Uttar Pradesh. ?In view of the polls, taking a decision either way is not going to be easy,? he added. Sources in the dissidents? camp, however, claimed Thakre had given ?positive? signals at the end of a three-hour meeting this morning.

The rebels, who had almost given up hopes yesterday after Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and home minister L.K. Advani had told off the Uttar Pradesh trio of Rajnath Singh, Lalji Tandon and Kalraj Mishra in separate meetings, said they were ?upbeat? after meeting Thakre today. ?He heard us out patiently and even seemed to see merit in some of our arguments,? said a legislator.

The dissidents told Thakre they had no problems with the BJP or its national leaders, and their ?oust-Kalyan? campaign had been initiated ?purely in the party?s larger interests?.

?We specified to him that had elections been held in June, we would have returned quietly to our constituencies and worked for the party. But with polls five or six months away, Kalyan Singh?s leadership would severely damage the BJP?s image and erode its vote base,? said Devendra Singh Bhole, a former minister.

Having taken their battle against Kalyan Singh this far, the rebels also made it clear to Thakre that if the chief minister was not removed within a week, they would think of other ?strategies?, like submitting their resignations directly to the Speaker. Rajesh Pandey, a dissident leader, said they were planning to meet in Lucknow after a week to chalk out the future course of action.

With Vajpayee and Advani publicly declaring that Kalyan Singh would not be replaced, it will be ?difficult? for the high command to retrace its steps, despite Thakre?s apparent prevarication, sources said. Advani has openly sided with Kalyan Singh on all issues, whether on support to the Bahujan Samaj Party or rewarding the BJP?s alliance MLAs with Cabinet berths.

BJP sources said there was no love lost between Vajpayee and the Uttar Pradesh chief minister. Vajpayee was reportedly irked by Kalyan Singh?s advocacy of the backward castes. But the Prime Minister ? close to one of the anti-Kalyan leaders, Lalji Tandon ? did not want to be seen as backing the dissident faction.

Thakre?s assessment was ?considerably influenced? by former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Sunderlal Patwa, now in charge of Uttar Pradesh, sources said. Patwa is said to have been ?sympathetic? to the rebels.

But with Vajpayee and Advani unlikely to yield to the dissidents and upset the Uttar Pradesh equations a few months before the Lok Sabha polls, sources said Singh had a ?fair? chance of continuing.

CM truce bid

Kalyan Singh today refused to accept that 36 party MLAs had submitted their resignations to BJP president Kushabhau Thakre, says our special correspondent. He said: ?I have not received any information about the resignations. Ours is a big family and little problems crop up, which can be solved through discussions.?

Immediately after news of the resignations reached him, Singh asked his chief detractors Lalji Tandon and Kalraj Mishra (both ministers) to meet him tonight. Kalyan Singh said: ?I never give up. I am still trying to find an amicable solution to the crisis?.

The mood in the anti-Kalyan camp was far from conciliatory. Lalji Tandon refused to appeal publicly to the MLAs to withdraw their resignations. ?It is up to our senior leaders to take an appropriate decision,? he said.    

The world will come to an end today, predict doomsayers. If you are reading this, it hasn?t happened yet.

Rumour has fed panic after prophets of doom claimed it would all be over on May 8, 1999.

It began with Terry Peterson, an Evangelical Christian from New Brunswick, Canada, who had a vision 10 years ago. In his vision ? which involved destruction wrought by a continent-wide earthquake with California as its epicentre ? would strike the city between 11 pm on May 7 and one hour before dawn on May 8 (anytime during the day in India). Chunks of America, his vision revealed, will ?plunge into the ocean as God?s punishment for the ?immoral? state?s sins?.

In India, the rumour mill has been kept churning by astrology magazines. A Delhi-based Hindi magazine, Mahalaxmi Samrat, prophesied a cyclone with its focus in Alang in Gujarat on May 8.

A Kannada weekly, Tharanga, last year multiplied its sales with an alarming account of a deluge in 1999 with the human race being wiped out in large parts of America, England, France, Greece and India. ?The sky will be covered with dust, the earth will tremble, there will be continual lightning and the temperature will drop below zero,? the magazine said.

Kashi Panchang, a magazine published from Varanasi, said the planets would line up in the sky on May 8, leading to earthquakes, fires and floods on earth.

For people who have been bitten once ? by earthquakes as in Chamoli or by floods as in Alang, Gujarat ? the prophecies have made them shy of being scornfully cynical.

About 95 per cent of the labourers in the shipyard in Alang have upped and returned home to Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Orissa. The exodus from Chamoli is on, fed by a groundswell of fear and panic.

Not many of those fleeing in terror know it, but the doomsayer could be quietly smirking at the cynic?s nonchalance.

After the tornado in Oklahoma, the same storm system is going strong, spreading severe weather and tornadoes into the southeast of America.

It is science versus superstition. Take your pick.    

Berhampore (Murshidabad), May 7 
Five more bodies were today found along the banks of the Bhagirathi river, taking the official toll in yesterday?s bus tragedy to 29. Unofficially, 33 persons were said to have been killed in the accident.

Twenty-two bodies were retrieved yesterday and the official toll put at 24.

But the administration feared that the toll could rise because though 24 persons were travelling with valid tickets, others may have boarded the bus on the way.

The mishap occurred when a Malda-bound North Bengal State Transport Corporation (NBSTC) express bus from Calcutta ploughed through a bridge on National Highway 34 and plunged into the Bhagirathi river a few hours before dawn.

If the administration took its time in launching salvage operations yesterday, the effort today was ham-handed. The bus sank to the river bed for the third time. Preparations to launch the salvage operation started only at 9 am.

Officers said it would have been fruitless to dive soon after dawn because the bodies would already have been swept kilometres away. No one seemed to realise that if the bus was not located, clues to the cause of the accident would be lost.

NTPC divers from Farakka dived into the Bhagirathi, but they could only swim six feet below the surface because of the strong current.

They scoured the river for a couple of hours and gave up. They could not recover a single body. All the bodies were found on the banks, some 30 km away from the spot.

Partha Sinha Roy and Sudip Goswami, who led the two diving units, said they could not dive very deep because the current would have snatched away their oxygen masks.

?It was too risky to go any deeper. Touching the bed of the river was out of the question,?? Roy said.

As NTPC drivers struggled with the strong current, a team of Calcutta Port Trust (CPT) divers tried to locate the bus at Gorabazar ghat, about one km away from the spot.

Yesterday, the administration tried to salvage the bus, but it sank to the bed when the three country boats it was placed on overturned.

CPT divers, who were scouring the river on a launch, dropped anchor from time to time, hoping that it would hit the bus. Repeated attempts brought no success, but as they were about to give up, the anchor struck something hard.

Underwater visibility was poor and divers hoped that it was the bus. The NTPC crane was brought and the ?hard object?? strapped with an iron chain. As the crane lifted it, the wire snapped.

?No one could say for sure that the object was the bus wreckage,? said district magistrate H.K. Dwivedi. It was already 5.30 pm and salvage operations had to be called off for the day.

Dwivedi said visibility beneath the water was so limited that sonar equipment would have to be brought from Calcutta to locate the bus.

The bodies found today were decomposed. District officials said it will be difficult to identify them. So far only 13 victims have been identified.

The state government today announced that the commissioner, Presidency division, will hold the administrative inquiry into the incident and submit his report within a month.    

Running a touring party is not just physical training, gym work and cricket practice. It should also involve concentration, love, enjoyment and fun. A happy, contented party is essential if you are to win and the Indian team is certainly that.

One of the areas which has created both fun and discipline is the fines committee which has recently been set up. For years, most other countries have had a weekly fines committee, which adjudicates on the goings-on within the team. Among other issues, those that are strictly monitored are lateness and wrong dress, but there are open periods when players can report instances of misdemeanours which they feel warrant attention during a particular match.

Most of these reports are somewhat doubtful, to say the least, but generally create much mirth and discussion at the time. If the committee feels the report is fictitious, the person making the complaint is himself subject to a fine. Our chairman is a powerful selection? the irrepressible Ajay Jadeja. Of course, some of the boys have suggested that he has sought this responsible position to avoid punishment for some of his own adventures! Let me assure you, however, that our open sessions will take care of that. No matter what the status of the individual concerned, from manager to consultant coach, he will not be above charges. To demonstrate the point, Sachin Tendulkar was the first to be fined for tardiness.

He pleaded not guilty as he was held up at a meeting, but in true democratic fashion, his appeal was dismissed. Under the Australian system, players have the right to appeal, but are fined double the original amount if the appeal is found to be unwarranted.

Incidentally, no one in the Australian team has ever won an appeal, but this didn?t stop the players from appealing and the mock trials were generally hilarious.

Azhar?s name also appeared early on the list of offenders under a decree by the coach which says that during fielding practice, any catch which hits a fielder?s toe calls for an automatic fine. Azhar was a little unlucky as a valiant dive saw a great effort foiled when the ball lobbed out of his hand on to his toe. Azhar took his penalty in the right spirit and the players enjoyed the skipper?s plight. Such fines may seem trivial but play a vital role in the bonding of the team.

Interestingly, ever since the fine for tardiness has been instituted, with Ajay Jadeja himself being an offender, incidents of players being late for the bus and official functions have become a thing of the past. This is quite an achievement and it is hilarious to see team members checking the time and then scurrying for the bus.

India have been lucky to have been based in Leicester. The practice conditions are perfect and of course in a city with many Indians they have been well lokked after and supplied with their favourite Indian dishes. Travel is also easy from our central England base and when we hit the roads in our plush customised coach our travel time time will be kept down to a minimum.

How easy it is today. Our manager Brijesh Patel and I were discussing tours of another era when, in the course of a single trip, you would have to travel by bus, train and then bus again to reach your destination in the following days. Most hotels lacked private facilities and the showers and toilets seemed miles away along freezing and narrow corridors. Oh for the old days! Not likely, however, when we are staying in a beautiful four-star hotel with a gym and a heated pool.

Gameplan Syndication    

Today?s forecast: Partly cloudy sky with possibility of development of thundershower towards afternoon or evening. Not much change in day temperature.

Temperature: Maximum 37.2 (1?C above normal)
Minimum 29.2?C (3?C above normal)

Relative humidity: Maximum 85%
Minimum 63%

Rainfall: Nil

Sunset: 6.02 pm
Sunrise: 5.03 am

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