Atal serves roti and reforms
In defeat, Kiwis marvel at mystique
Cong holds Bills to Bofors ransom
Toehold for Chaddha extradition

New Delhi, Oct. 25: 
In his second term as Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee could please few. In his third, he has set high standards: he is trying to please everybody by marrying Indira Gandhi?s roti, kapda aur makan with P.V. Narasimha Rao?s reforms.

President K.R. Narayanan to-day articulated the Prime Minister?s new agenda for governance, saying his government would consider replacing the system of a ?no-confidence motion? with a ?constructive vote of non-confidence?. The government would also ensure a fixed term for the Lok Sabha and Assemblies to pre-empt instability at the Centre and in the states, he said.

In the social and economic sectors, the government?s statement of intent echoed the agenda of two former Congress regimes. If Vajpayee?s social sector thrust promising shelter for all, water for all and healthcare for all had a familiar ring of Indira Gandhi?s garibi hatao call, his economic blueprint for attracting foreign investment, streamlining tax policies and reforming key sectors had the unmistakable hallmark of Rao?s masterplan.

In the customary address to a joint session of Parliament, Narayanan spelt out the National Democratic Alliance?s determination to push through electoral reforms, tighten internal security and launch the second phase of economic reforms. The Lok Pal Bill would include the office of the Prime Minister and a comprehensive electoral reforms Bill would be brought soon, he said.

The President assured the minorities of full protection and said that reservations for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes would be extended for another 10 years. Quota percentages above 50 (followed by Tamil Nadu and Karnataka) would be sanctified through legislative steps.

Sources said that the Union Cabinet, which prepared the draft of the President?s speech, included a categorical assurance to minorities after railway minister Mamata Banerjee insisted on it.

But the address did not touch upon the NDA?s promise to introduce a legislation to debar persons of foreign origin from holding the posts of president, prime minister or vice-president.

The reference was dropped after stiff opposition from Mamata and communications minister Ram Vilas Paswan. They felt that without broad consensus, such a legislation would boomerang as it would be seen as a blatant attempt to disqualify Congress president and leader of the Opposition Sonia Gandhi.

Narayanan also voiced grave concern over the coup in Pakistan, and said that India was determined to thwart all disruptive activities. Delhi would maintain all-round vigil in the wake of the spurt in cross-border terror in Kashmir and attacks on security forces post Kargil, he said.

He said Pakistan had stepped up its proxy war since it had been forced to pull back from Kargil, and urged that country to stop exporting terror and end its hostile propaganda against India.

Narayanan said a commission of experts and noted public figures would be appointed to study the Constitution and suggest changes in the light of the nation?s 50 years of experience.

He also outlined details of the second generation of economic reforms.

Narayanan said that to achieve 7-8 per cent growth for the economy, bold policy reforms were required. This meant that the government would have to restrict itself largely to providing policy and regulatory leadership, leaving the private sector to bring in the ?dynamism and efficiency of the competitive environment?.

The President also mentioned the new information technology ministry, saying it would soon implement a comprehensive action plan to transform India into an infotech superpower.

Commenting on the general elections, Narayanan acknowledged the role of regional parties which form the backbone of the NDA government. ?The participation of regional parties in managing the affairs of the country at the national level in a stable and coherent coalition augurs well for our democracy and federal polity,? he said.

He reiterated the government?s resolve for ?a proud, prosperous India?, and assured that the principles of secularism, social justice, federal harmony, probity and socio-economic equity would be fully implemented.

However, even before the President?s speech was over, the Prime Minister was reminded of the pitfalls on the please-all path. While Narayanan was announcing that the government would create the Uttaranchal, Vananchal and Chhattisgarh states, a scream stunned the House. ?Why no Bodoland?? wondered aloud an Independent member from Assam. After today?s promises, more such questions could lie ahead.

Reacting to the speech, the Congress alleged that there was no consensus on the government?s nuclear doctrine and a public debate had not been held. It demanded that the government furnish parameters of the national population policy.    

Kanpur, Oct. 25: 
Call it gamesmanship or call it the art of niggle, but there is no substitute for the old adage that holds true in modern sport ? ?beat your rival in the mind and everything else will fall into place?.

The mere sight of a turning wicket was enough to hand a psychological battering to New Zealand from the time they stepped into the Green Park. They may have fought back brilliantly in restricting the Indians to a mere 74-run first innings lead but Anil Kumble?s triple strike late last evening was enough to end their challenge. It was just a question of how long and how much from then on.

The leg spinner?s six for 67 in the second innings and 10 wickets in the match may have played a big part in India?s eight-wicket victory but credit must also go to the new opening pair of Devang Gandhi and Sadagopan Ramesh.

?We really didn?t have the technique to bat under these conditions,? Kiwi skipper Stephen Fleming conceded.

It also signalled India?s first major success in the Kapil Dev era. The prolific allrounder, however, played down his part. ?I don?t deserve any credit. The entire team should get all the accolades. At the end of the day, it?s the boys who do all the hard work. I?m just trying to support them and ensure that they have an easy time on the ground,? the coach said.

For Sachin Tendulkar, the result was nothing unexpected. ?We played very well and always kept the pressure on.?

The presence of wife Chetna may have inspired Kumble but it was also his way of proving his mettle before the selectors after being dropped for the one-day tournaments in Toronto and Nairobi. ?Anil was our main strike bowler. There was a feeling that he was going to get the batsman out every time he came onto bowl. The rest can?t be like him and have to be content with playing the supporting role. Everybody can?t be a hero,? Sachin put it aptly.

But the debate over an under-prepared track will rage on. ?A couple of batsmen came close to a hundred. I wouldn?t term it a perfect strip but the important thing is that the match had produced a result,? Kapil said.

?The track was not good for strokeplay. You had to get the runs in nudges and pushes,? was Fleming?s opinion. The circumstances may have been disappointing for the visitors but Fleming does not want the International Cricket Council to enforce a uniform conduct for pitches. ?That would take away the beauty and mystique of playing in different parts of the world.?    

New Delhi, Oct. 25: 
The Bofors controversy is set to come to the boil with the Congress threatening to stall all proceedings in Parliament till Rajiv Gandhi?s name is dropped from the chargesheet.

Shifting from consensus to confrontation, the Congress today indicated it might block crucial Bills on insurance, patents and Fema if the government continued to indulge in the ?politics of vilification and witch-hunt?.

?Stop playing politics. Unless Rajiv Gandhi?s name is cleared, we will not co-operate in important legislation,? said Kapil Sibal. Congress president Sonia Gandhi expressed ?deep anguish? and said: ?My husband is totally innocent. We will not let the government rest. We will not like to obstruct proceedings but will have to see how the situation develops.?

As part of its floor strategy, the Congress plans to force adjournments tomorrow. The party will meet in the morning before the Lok Sabha meets and work out the exact form of protest.

The clamour over the Bofors chargesheet shows that hawks are gaining the upper hand in the Congress. The party?s fighting mood was manifest today when the Lok Sabha met after the President?s address to a joint session.

As soon as obituary references were over, decibels rose in the Congress benches. Party members got to their feet and charged the BJP with conspiring to malign the main Opposition party. ?You are trying to defame a dead man,? shouted Mani Shankar Aiyar.

As Sonia Gandhi watched in silence, the party shouting brigade slammed the government, setting the tone for the rest of the session. CPM and Rashtriya Janata Dal members joined the melee with a different slogan: protest against the rise in diesel prices.

As the members refused to calm down, the Speaker adjourned the House for the day.

But Bofors continued to hold the attention of parties throughout the day. At a news conference this afternoon, the BJP flung back charges at the Congress, accusing it of interfering with the law. ?The Congress had challenged us to file a chargesheet on Bofors. Now that it has been filed the party is creating a huge fuss,? said BJP leader Venkaiah Naidu. He exonerated the government of any role in preparing the chargesheet. ?The law was allowed to take its own course and should now reach its logical conclusion,? he said.

On legal precedents of filing chargesheets against the dead, Naidu said: ?We will have to look into that. There are various arguments. One is that if you drop one name the case will get weakened.?

?Politics of corruption cannot be allowed to blackmail the polity of the nation,? he added.

One thing is clear: the government is going to push the Congress to the wall on Bofors, an issue that convulsed the political landscape more than a decade ago.

Though the Left had shouted itself hoarse when the controversy exploded, its main enemy at present is the BJP. Since the BJP is trying to resurrect the Bofors ghost, BJP-haters in the Left are not ready to join the witch-hunt.    

New Delhi, Oct. 25: 
Three days after filing the Bofors chargesheet, India signed a treaty with the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which could help extradite Win Chaddha, one of the key accused.

Chaddha, charged with receiving kickbacks in the Bofors deal, is now based in Dubai. The treaty does not mean an immediate return of suspects as it provides only the legal framework for extradition.

The court of the country from which extradition is being sought will also have to be satisfied with the merit of the case before the accused are handed over. Since the treaty has retrospective effect, action can be taken irrespective of the date of the crime.

The extradition treaty covers terrorists, economic offenders and other criminals. It could have paved way for the return of Dawood Ibrahim and his close associates linked to the Mumbai blasts case. But Dawood and his aides have now become Pakistani nationals and are reported to be in Karachi.

The extradition pact was signed by the visiting UAE minister for justice and Islamic affairs, Mohd. Makhira Al Dhaheri, and external affairs minister Jaswant Singh at Hyderabad House this evening.

Besides the extradition treaty, two more agreements were reached today. Union home minister L.K. Advani signed an agreement on mutual legal assistance in criminal matters. Law minister Ram Jethmalani signed an agreement on mutual legal assistance in civil and commercial affairs.

The treaties will now have to be ratified by both countries. Indications are that the ratification, mandatory for the extradition treaty to come into effect, will take four to six weeks.

The extradition treaty between the two countries was mooted after the serial bomb blasts in Mumbai in 1993.

As several people suspected to be behind the Mumbai blasts case, like Dawood, had taken refuge in Dubai and other places in the UAE, Indian authorities thought of getting an extradition treaty with Abu Dhabi in place.

Since then, however, the treaty was caught in red tape. It was initialled in 1997, but could be formally signed only today. The delay allowed fugitives like Dawood to slip out of India?s reach.

Political instability in India, too, had stood in the way of the agreement. However, after the BJP-led alliance returned to power, efforts for signing the treaty gathered momentum.    


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