Scornful Kalyan invites expulsion
PM takes jab at justice
Mulayam unites colours of India
Buddha dons crown of thorns
Calcutta weather

New Delhi, Nov. 26 
A defiant Kalyan Singh today dared the BJP high command to expel him for his onslaught on Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, finding himself friendless in the party with even mentor L.K. Advani launching a counter-attack, salvo for salvo.

Signalling that he was ready to part ways with the BJP, the deposed Uttar Pradesh chief minister said: ??I have told my supporters that the path I have chosen is strewn with thorns. If you want to come with me, it will be your choice. But before you follow me, get ready to burn your houses.??

Kalyan, who had lashed out at Vajpayee yesterday, stepped up the tirade today. ??The decision to remove me was taken by the highest command, and I have used this phrase to mean only Vajpayee,?? said Kalyan, who was in Delhi to attend the wedding reception of Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Yadav?s son, Akhilesh.

Stung by the outburst, Advani led the top brass in returning the fire, making it clear that the leadership is not ready to give Kalyan a long rope and he could be sacrificed to salvage Vajpayee?s authority. Describing the rebel leader?s charges as ??extremely irresponsible and factually baseless??, the home minister said the decision to replace Kalyan was a ??collective?? one.

??For the past four months, central leaders of the BJP, without exception and unanimously, were of the view that a change of leadership in Uttar Pradesh was desirable. It was not just a collective decision but a unified view of the party,?? Advani said.

The home minister scoffed at his protege?s grouse that he was not consulted on the leadership change. ??To say that he was not given an opportunity to state his point of view is equally untrue. The party cannot afford the kind of distrust that is being generated,?? he said.

The leadership indicated that it is considering strict action against the former chief minister, including expelling him.

??Proper action may be taken against Kalyan. This kind of situation cannot be tolerated for long,?? said J.P. Mathur, who chairs the party?s disciplinary committee.

The deposed chief minister had spoken out yesterday in Aligarh, where he was camping to avoid meeting Vajpayee, who was in Lucknow.

While refusing to budge from his stand, Kalyan, however, refused to lay out his cards. ??I have plans for the future but they will not be unveiled yet. When the mango is ripe, it will be plucked. But rest assured, I will not allow the mango to rot and fall,?? he said.

Kalyan tossed aside rumours that he was tilting towards Mulayam ? once his bitter foe ? and insisted that he was attending the wedding reception only to ??fulfil a social obligation??.

He, however, reiterated his allegation that Vajpayee not only shook him off the state but ??rewarded?? his detractors as well.

??I can only say that those responsible for the poll debacle have been rewarded, some in Delhi and others in Lucknow,?? he said, referring to state BJP chief Rajnath Singh, who has been made a Central Cabinet minister, and state ministers Lalji Tandon and Kalraj Mishra.

In Lucknow, Mishra brushed away the barb. ??Why should I comment? Do I have to comment on the reaction of every common man who speaks against the Prime Minister??? he said.    

New Delhi, Nov. 26 
Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee and Chief Justice of India A.S. Anand were on a collision course today, each holding the other responsible for the inordinate delay in dispensing justice in the country.

Trading fire on the occasion of the Supreme Court golden jubilee celebrations, Vajpayee announced that a total revamp of the judicial system was on the anvil as the state of affairs in criminal law ?shocking?. But Justice Anand squarely blamed the Centre for the huge backlog of cases, saying it had not appointed the required number of judges.

In a hard-hitting speech, Vajpayee said the shake-up would entail installing a proper mechanism to appoint judges, prescribing a code of ethics and setting up an alternate dispute redress system at all levels of the judiciary. But he assured that his government was fully committed to its independence.

?Our government is under a popular mandate to initiate far-reaching judicial and administrative reforms. We shall soon set up a national judicial commission which will recommend judicial appointments in superior courts and draw up a code of ethics for the judiciary,? he said.

Indicating a massive shake-up, Vajpayee suggested developing alternative dispute settlement mechanisms ?at all levels of the judiciary?; arbitration as the ?obvious? choice for civil cases; ?forcing arbitration? by law on a certain class of cases; scrapping or drastically simplifying ?outdated laws?, particularly civil and criminal procedure codes and the evidence Act, to remove delays; and a total ?revitalisation? of lower courts.

Lashing out at the judiciary on Law Day, Vajpayee said: ?The state of affairs in criminal law is more shocking. Members of organised gangs indulge in crime without fear of punishment. The rate of conviction in various crimes is pathetically low.?

He pointed out that over two crore cases were pending in subordinate courts and over 32 lakh in high courts. ?At a time when we want to accelerate the pace of socio-economic development, India cannot afford justice in slow motion,? he said.

This is the first time that the Prime Minister has spoken of setting up a national judicial commission and crafting a code of ethics for judges. The government is likely to bring a Bill soon.

Justice Anand, who shared the dais with Vajpayee, rapped the government for not taking appropriate measures to establish more courts and appoint more judges.

He said at the high court level alone, there were 150 vacancies, and at the level of lower courts, over 1,000 posts were vacant.

This morning, Justice Anand inaugurated the Supreme Court website. In another function held by the Supreme Court Bar Association, Justice Anand said: ?I am sorry to say that the responsibility for the backlog is in no small measure due to the apathy of the government.?    

New Delhi, Nov. 26 
It was the biggest pre-millennium bash ? the party to end all parties. Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav tonight played host to a lavish wedding reception for his son.

Barring Congress president Sonia Gandhi, all the political bigwigs of the capital showed up at Mulayam?s Krishna Menon Marg residence.

Mingling with political luminaries were captains of industry, Bollywood stars and cultural icons. The attendance even outshone the Republic Day party hosted by the President. The President himself was there. So was the Vice-President.

For a few hours, knives were sheathed and smiles replaced scowls. Even Kalyan Singh, who was shredding Atal Behari Vajpayee all through the reception, swallowed his anger for a few minutes and greeted the Prime Minister with a namaste. Vajpayee returned the courtesy.

The moment was not missed by cameramen who egged on Vajpayee and Kalyan to pose.

With BJP rebel Sakshi Maharaj by his side, Kalyan had been in full form earlier ?pouring vitriol on the Prime Minister. For Mulayam?s sake, he suspended hostilities for a few minutes.

So what if Sonia was absent? Her lieutenants were present in full strength. Manmohan Singh, Jairam Ramesh, Madhavrao Scindia, Sitaram Kesri trooped in one by one.

Former Prime Ministers were there, too. The absence of H.D. Deve Gowda and I.K Gujral was hardly felt. Chandrasekhar, Narasimha Rao and V.P. Singh ? all turned up.

Third front leaders came to tell Mulayam all was not over. The vanquished Laloo Yadav, the one-time political partner of Mulayam, his confidant Harkishen Singh Surjeet, CPM politburo members Prakash Karat and Sitaram Yechury, CPI general secretary A.B. Bardhan ?-trooped in one by one. Former finance minister P. Chidambaram cut a lonely figure as he walked in unnoticed and unattended. But the CPM general secretary was kind enough to have a chat with the former finance minister, whose policies he had endlessly criticised when Chidambaram was in office.

Former Congress leader P.A. Sangma shared a light moment with his one-time colleague Jairam Ramesh while the BJP?s parliamentary affairs minister Pramod Mahajan appeared in deep conversation with Congress leader Najma Heptullah.

If political personalities shone, film stars blazed their way down the carpeted path leading to the lawn ? Amitabh Bachchan, followed by his daughter and son-in-law, Dilip Kumar, Jeetendra, Sridevi, Anil Kapoor and, of course, Samjawadi Party?s very own Raj Babbar.

Industry was not very far from filmdom. K.K. Birla and Anil Ambani turned up while Subroto Roy of the Sahara Parivar was one of the second-rung hosts.    

Calcutta, Nov. 26 
The CPM?s plans for life after Jyoti Basu took concrete shape today with Buddhadev Bhattacharya?s appointment as deputy chief minister.

With Bhattacharya coming in to share his workload, Basu, who, till the other day, pressed the politburo to let him relinquish office, can be said to have dropped his formal plans for retirement.

?I am a free bird now,? Basu told The Telegraph tonight. ?Buddha will now have to bear more responsibility.? Basu may be relieved, but his new deputy seemed ill at ease.

At the photo-op this morning, minutes before going into a meeting on the Haldia Petrochemicals complex, Bhattacharya told cameramen: ?There is nothing to smile about. A crown of thorns has now been placed on my head.? Also present in the meeting were Basu and finance minister Asim Dasgupta.

Bhattacharya, the unofficial Number Two for some time now, was ceremonially made Basu?s understudy ? the ageing chief minister?s first in 23 years ? in two meetings. Bhattacharya stayed away from both.

The meeting of the Bengal CPM secretariat was an open-and-shut affair as the die was cast by the party politburo on November 17. Left Front chairman Sailen Dasgupta and state party secretary Anil Biswas proposed Bhattacharya?s name. All members seconded it. Basu was present in the secretariat meeting, the outcome of which he had scripted well in advance in the politburo.

Basu himself made the announcement in the nearly hour-long Left Front meeting soon after. Explaining that indifferent health and difficulty in attending office in Writers? Buildings had led to his decision on appointing a deputy, he asked the Front partners to accept Bhattacharya?s appointment.

?I cannot go to Writers? everyday. Sometimes I am forced to function from my home because of poor health. In this situation, we need a deputy to help me run the government. We have selected him (Bhattacharya) for the job and I hope you will support it as there is no room for a debate on it ,? Basu told the partners, making it clear that the issue ? contrary to reports in a section of the media ? was not negotiable.

Many political observers said Bhattacharya?s career has, at this point, begun to mirror Basu?s. Over thirty years ago, Basu had twice occupied the office of deputy chief minister in the Ajoy Mukherjee government and become known as a tough administrator.

The Front partners fell in line, but urged the chief minister to set up a core committee with representatives from all parties to monitor and coordinate the working of ministers. ?I shall consider it and get back to you,? Basu reportedly said.

The chief minister will now have to inform the Governor of Bhattacharya?s appointment, which will have to be gazetted.

State CPM secretary Anil Biswas and politburo member Biman Bose, who played an important role in Bhattacharya?s appointment, said the deputy chief minister?s functions will be defined by Basu.

Party officials, however, indicated that Bhattacharya would begin to handle all important files marked for Basu from tomorrow.

Bhattacharya sought to assuage Front partners? fears that stemmed from today?s development. In the Assembly, the new deputy chief minister said he would strive to carry on along the course charted out by Basu and try to further consolidate relations between the government and the people. ?I am fully aware of the increased responsibilities,? he said.    

Today?s forecast: Partly cloudy sky. Not much change in night temperature. Maximum temperature: 29.4?C (Normal) Minimum temperature: 16.8?C (normal) Maximum humidity: 94% Minimum humidity: 40% Rainfall: Nil Sunset: 4.46 pm Sunrise: 6.02 am    

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