Security power-shift in Kashmir
Apex Court silence gives leeway to opinion polls
Priyanka in Amethi with family card
Split-clock ticks as Pawar & Co fail to click
Lyricist?s body found in Hooghly
To the readers

Srinagar, Sept. 9: 
As militants continue to attack security personnel and their encampments, the Jammu and Kashmir government has made a crucial change in the state?s security set-up.

In an order passed on September 3, the government, at the behest of chief minister Farooq Abdullah, has changed its security adviser and replaced the Rashtriya Rifles chief, Lt General Avtar Singh, with the general officer commanding of the 15th Corps of the army, Lt General Kishen Pal.

This is a major change and may pave the way for the army?s return to the counter-insurgency operation. In the middle of the Kargil operations, the army had announced that it was withdrawing from the war against militants and would henceforth concentrate on guarding the border. It had received the go-ahead from the defence ministry and the Cabinet Committee on Security Affairs headed by Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee.

Since then, even after militant activities reached a fever pitch, the army resisted requests to go back to tackling terrorism. Army chief General V.P. Malik had told the government that duties on the border would be affected if such a step was taken.

The fresh appointment of an army general as security adviser has been kept under wraps for almost a week now, probably to prevent the Election Commission getting wind of such a major change. Once the poll dates are announced and the model code of conduct takes effect, it becomes impossible to make such crucial changes.

The security adviser to the Jammu and Kashmir chief minister heads the unified command of the counter-insurgency operation. Previously, the commanders of the 15th and 16th corps, stationed in the state, would also serve as security advisers.

When the army took the decision to get out of anti-terrorism operations, Farooq Abdullah was not consulted. This enraged the chief minister and his relations with General Avtar Singh were far from cordial. With militancy in the state scaling new heights, he finally had his way and got Singh replaced on the eve of first phase of polling on September 5.

Not that the new adviser, General Pal, begins with a clean slate. He is taking criticism for the 15th Corps for not being able to anticipate the extent of the Pakistani build-up in Kargil. He has faced the three-man probe team set up by the Centre. Though awarded a Sena medal and included in the list of Independence Day awardees, he is facing flak from some sections of the defence ministry.

Attack on campaigners

Militants today hurled a grenade at a poll campaign vehicle in Doda, injuring 13 persons, reports UNI. Two policemen wounded in the attack are said to be in critical condition.


New Delhi, Sept. 9: 
The Supreme Court today declined to grant interim relief to the Election Commission which had sought to ban publication or telecast of opinion and exit polls, and asked a Constitution bench to hear the issue.

The refusal of interim relief leaves the print and electronic media with much scope to interpret the matter and take their own decisions on disclosing the survey results.

A three-member bench of Chief Justice A.S. Anand and Justices K.T. Thomas and M. Srinivasan fixed the matter to be heard by a five-member Constitution bench on September 14.

Refusing to give any interim relief or an order ? either by staying the ban or upholding it ? the apex court said all authorities should act in aid of the Supreme Court instead of wanting the Supreme Court to assist them.

The court was of the view that the judiciary was being involved to solve problems which should have been sorted out by the administration. The apex court has been pointing out in several recent judgments that it was being consulted in areas which were strictly administrative and in normal circumstances the judges would not have meddled in them.

?Read Article 144 of the Constitution... all authorities, civil and judicial, in the territory of India shall act in aid of the Supreme Court. Now you want us to act in aid of you... almost in all matters of governance,? Chief Justice Anand told Election Commission counsel Harish Salve.

The poll panel had moved the apex court with a writ petition seeking a mandatory direction that all parties, including the media, should not publish, telecast or disseminate information relating to exit and opinion polls till the final phase of the election ends on October 3.

In the day-long courtroom drama, the poll panel application was first taken up by a three-judge bench of Justices S.B. Majumdar, M. Srinivasan and U.C. Banerjee. The bench in a short ruling said the matter involved several constitutional issues and the powers of the poll panel bestowed under Article 324. Hence a five-judge Constitution bench should alone decide the matter.

But the bench added the parties were at liberty to place the matter before the Chief Justice for the formation of the Constitution bench. The application for interim relief by the Election Commission should also be heard by the Constitution bench only, it said.

At this, Salve rushed to the Chief Justice?s court and said the matter was very urgent as the second phase of polling was slated for September 11 and three phases were to follow. ?Under these circumstances, to ensure free and fair polls, the exit and opinion poll surveys should be banned....the Election Commission ban order relating to it should be enforced.?

The Chief Justice?s court, comprising Justices Rajendra Babu and R.C. Lahoti, was told by the attorney general that Justice Srinivasan was to join it by the afternoon to facilitate better understanding and the matter should be taken up then.

Salve addressed the bench when it re-assembled at the fag-end of the day, saying: ?Opinion and exit polls at this juncture would influence the voters going to vote in the coming four phases of the election and hence the gravity of the situation demands a ban.? But the court refused to issue an interim order.

One view has it that now the media can go ahead with the publication of the results of exit and opinion polls in the absence of any clear-cut ruling, but they will have to restrict themselves to the 48-hour deadline before any phase of polling commences.

The apex court decision also leaves some legal leeway for Jain TV. An earlier order had advised the company not to publish the results of the surveys.

HC clarification

Madras High Court today clarified that no advertisement by parties could be carried on electronic media during the 48 hours preceding any phase of polling.    

Amethi, Sept. 9: 
Twenty-four hours before her mother arrives to file her nomination papers, Priyanka Gandhi took this eastern Uttar Pradesh constituency by storm.

Delivering short but emotional speeches at two party workers? rallies, she brought back memories of the enormous influence the Gandhi family has wielded in Amethi.

People have got used to seeing a smiling Priyanka waving or saying a few words before or after her mother?s speech. Today, she addressed rallies, reminding party workers of the long relationship that her family ? especially her father Rajiv Gandhi ? had with this part of Uttar Pradesh.

?For me, it is a journey down memory lane. I had come here often along with my father when he represented this constituency for two terms,? she said.

?I want you to support my mother who will be coming tomorrow to file her nomination,? she said at the rallies in Jais and Gauri Ganj Assembly segments.

She asked voters to rally behind her mother and ?ensure her victory with the highest margin?. ?Amethi ki shaan ko phir se likhna hai (we have to re-write the glory of Amethi),? Priyanka said.

So far, Priyanka has planned campaigns and given final touches to Sonia?s speeches. She has declined an offer to contest.    

The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) is riven by divisions within months of its creation. Party sources reckon that the Sharad Pawar-Tariq Anwar-P.A. Sangma trio will part ways after the Lok Sabha polls.

NCP sources admitted that Pawar and Sangma were not even speaking to each other. Anwar is thought of as a non-entity within the party. Sangma and Anwar have accused Pawar of turning the NCP into a Maharashtra outfit.

The Sangma-Anwar camp is also unhappy with the clock symbol allotted to the NCP. They said if Pawar had consulted them, they would have got the Socialist Congress symbol, the charkha.

Pawar loyalists defended the party chief?s decision to concentrate on Maharashtra. ?We have a strong presence in the state and we are expected to do well here. What is the point in touring all over India, fielding and funding candidates in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and the Northeast if they cannot put up even a semblance of a fight,? said an NCP working committee member.

Pawar?s supporters wondered why Sangma was so concerned about the NCP becoming a regional party. ?Let us find out first why Sangma failed to make a mark in the Northeast after tall claims about Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh,? the working committee member said.

Pawar and Sangma differ over the post-poll scenario and the role of the NCP.

Sangma wants no truck with the BJP, a stand supported by Anwar. The Pawar camp, however, wants to keep all options open, particularly in Maharashtra.

The perception is that if there is a hung House after the Assembly polls, the NCP can come together with the BJP to keep the Shiv Sena and the Congress out.

Anwar is said to have sent several desperate messages to Pawar, asking the party chief to fund his campaign in Katihar in Bihar and speak to Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Laloo Prasad Yadav about providing him tacit support.

But Pawar did not respond positively. He said he had ?no rapport? with Laloo Yadav, who is now a Congress ally. He also said the party was too cash-strapped to help out Anwar.

In the past month, Pawar has not stepped out of Maharashtra. He has been to 204 out of 294 Assembly constituencies and plans to visit all by poll day on September 11.    

Calcutta, Sept. 9: 
More than 36 hours after he went missing, leaving behind a hurriedly-written suicide note, the body of lyricist Pulak Bandopadhyay was found floating in the Hooghly this morning.

Police said the 67-year-old lyricist had killed himself by jumping into the river at dusk on Tuesday. ?He jumped off a launch called ?Sonar Bangla?,? said Surajit Kar Purakayastha, superintendent of police, Howrah.

Police divers retrieved the bloated body, which was identified by the lyricist?s son on the river bank near jetty number three on the Calcutta side of the Hooghly.

Thousands of people gathered at Bandopadhyay?s ancestral home at Salkia, Howrah, where the body was brought laid.

After leaving home on Tuesday evening, Bandopadhyay, dressed in white kurta and pyjamas, had travelled up and down the rain-fed Hooghly in two motor launches before killing himself, eyewitnesses said.

?He seemed disturbed,?? said Durga Sen, who sat next to him on the ?Sonar Bangla?. ?I did not know then that it was Bandopadhyay. I saw this man suddenly stand up, rush through the passengers on the deck and jump off.?

A life-boat was lowered at the spot. But Bandopadhyay could not be traced. The matter was reported to the police after the launch reached its destination. The police ? who had received a report from the lyricist?s family about the suicide note ? suspected that the passenger who had jumped off was Bandopadhyay.

One of the country?s most successful songwriters with a few thousand lyrics to his credit, Bandopadhyay had had his place in the sun. Yet he was a victim of an almost chronic depression. Police said he was on anti-depressants for nearly two months.

Having enthralled three generations of Bengali music-lovers with his distinctive romantic lyrics, Bandopadhyay was finding it difficult over the past few years to churn out pop songs and cater to the demand of music companies and film producers.

?What obviously pained him was the fact that he was writing the songs which the artist in him never accepted. He would often say that many of the songs offend a lyricist?s fine feelings,?? his family members said.

?Kakamoni (uncle) was not well for the past few days. He told us on Tuesday evening that he was going out for a stroll. He never returned,?? nephew Amal Banerjee said. ?He was such a kind man and loved his family so much. His death is a great shock,? he added.

Among Bandopadhyay?s hits are Koto din porey eley, ektu bosho and O aakash pradip jelona sung by Hemanta Mukhopadhyay, Lolita go oke aaj chole jetey bolna and Bharat amar bharatbarsha by Manna De.    

The Telegraph website is a truncated edition because of the fire on Friday last. Apart from the front page there are links to the east section.   More on ABP's fire on 3rd September 1999

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