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INDIA-L  October 2000

INDIA-L October 2000


India Network News Digest - October 12 , 2000


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Today's India Network News Digest is compiled by the India Network Services
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                             Thu 12 Oct 2000

India Network News Digest - October 12 , 2000  Volume 12 Issue 176
Brought to you in co-operation with Various News Reports from India
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Today's News Items
#1. PM will find way to reduce oil prices: Naik
#2. Laxman assures Celeste of religious freedom
#3. Rao, Buta sentenced to three years' RI
#4. UP civic polls pose new challenge to BJP
#5. Mamata restricts party MPs from meeting PM
#6. Prospects of Rajkumars release brighten
#7.  Rao's life - a story of stupendous success, downfall
#8. Paswan to float new party if Sharad doesn`t quit JD(U)

#1. PM will find way to reduce oil prices: Naik
By Sushma Ramachandran

NEW DELHI, OCT. 11. The Petroleum Minister, Mr. Ram Naik, has said that
the Prime Minister, Mr. A.B. Vajpayee, would find a solution if the
Trinamool Congress leader, Ms. Mamata Banerjee, persisted with her demand
for a roll-back in oil prices. ``I feel the Prime Minister will find a
solution; it is not a very big problem.''

In an interview to The Hindu , Mr. Naik said, ``I am not commenting
intentionally because it is not my area.'' He felt that when the Prime
Minister explained the situation to Ms. Banerjee, ``the matter is over''.

Ministry sources said a possible solution could be further reduction in
customs and excise duties if Ms. Banerjee stuck to her demand. This would
not affect the oil pool deficit but achieve the desired effect of reducing
retail prices for consumers.

#2. Laxman assures Celeste of religious freedom
By Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI, OCT. 11. The U.S. Ambassador to India, Mr. Richard Celeste,
today queried the BJP on a number of issues - religious freedom and the
status of Christians in India, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT),
the Kashmir issue and even the party's problems in Gujarat where it
suffered a defeat in the local body elections last week.

Mr. Celeste, accompanied by Embassy officials here, called on the BJP
president, Mr. Bangaru Laxman, at the party office and discussed a number
of political issues. The BJP released a short summary of Mr. Laxman's
responses to Mr. Celeste's queries.

Mr. Laxman affirmed that the party was fully committed to the principle of
religious freedom guaranteed in the Constitution to all citizens. The
Government did not object to religious conversions if carried out
voluntarily and freely. Implicit in this assertion was the often-repeated
BJP view that in many cases conversions were the result of threats and

The party voiced its suspicion that in some of the North-Eastern States
``certain Christian groups'' were involved in ``militant
activities''. Mr. Bangaru's response was: ``the Government was somewhat
watchful of the militant activities of certain Christian groups, including
links with some insurgents in the North-East.''

Though this was not specifically mentioned, the queries raised suggest
that this was in the context of the Nagpur Dussehra address of the RSS
chief, Mr. K.S. Sudershan, last week, where he had virtually demanded that
all foreign missionaries be turned out of the country even as he charged
that they were involved in insurgency in the North-East.

#3. Rao, Buta sentenced to three years' RI
NEW DELHI: Former Prime Minister P V Narasimha Rao and his Cabinet
colleague Buta Singh were on Thursday sentenced to three years' rigorous
imprisonment in the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha bribery case by a designated
court, which granted them bail while suspending the sentence till November

In a packed high-security court room in Vigyan Bhawan, special judge Ajit
Bharihoke pronounced the sentence making Rao suffer the ignominy of
becoming the first former Prime Minister to be convicted and sentenced to

The trial court also fined them Rs 2 lakh each and said non-payment would
invite a further imprisonment of six months.

Immediately after pronouncement of the sentence, Rao and Singh moved bail
applications before the judge. He granted them bail on a personal bond of
Rs 2 lakh and a surety each and kept the sentence suspended till November
8 to allow them to appeal against the conviction in the Delhi High Court.

Rao and Singh were sentenced to three years imprisonment for being
convicted under Sections 7 and 12 of the Prevention of Corruption
Act. Both were also sentenced to another three years term under Section
13(1)(D) of the Act. The judge, however, clarified that the sentences
would run concurrently.

The court directed CBI to register a fresh case against three JMM MPs
Suraj Mandal, Simon Marandi and Shibu Soren to find out the source of
money deposited by them in Punjab National Bank's Nauroji Nagar branch
after the no-confidence motion against Rao government was defeated on July
28, 1993.

Bharihoke had in his judgement last week said that CBI had failed to
identify the source from where the bribe money emanated.

The court said: "The trial requires inquiry into the motive so a case
under Section 13(1)(E) of the Prevention of Corruption Act should be

The court also directed CBI to confiscate the bribe money that was paid to
the JMM MP Shailendra Mahato, who turned approver later.

Rao and Singh were pronounced guilty on September 29 by the designated
court of bribing MPs belonging to the JMM and other parties in 1993 to buy
their votes to save the minority Congress government against a
no-confidence motion.

The judge, while pronouncing the conviction order, had said that CBI had
been able to prove the role of Rao and Singh in the criminal conspiracy
and abetment of the crime to save the minority government in 1993.

The court had relied upon the statement of approver Mahto who had said
that each JMM MP had received Rs 50 lakh soon after the no-confidence
motion was defeated.

The court held that recovery of money from the Nauroji Nagar branch of
Punjab National Bank (PNB) in South Delhi substantiated the statement of
the approver.

#4. UP civic polls pose new challenge to BJP
The Times of India News Service

NEW DELHI: After its debacle in the Gujarat local bodies elections, the
BJP is faced with another daunting challenge: the municipal elections in
Uttar Pradesh next month.

Following its poor performance in the panchayat polls and a string of
by-election defeats in the state earlier this year, the party approaches
the civic polls with odds heavily stacked against it.

At a meeting in Lucknow on October 9, the state party leadership discussed
the wider implications of the elections to 11 corporations and 145
municipalities on November 20-23 and decided to send observers to the
concerned areas well in advance. The municipal polls are being seen as a
warm-up for the state's assembly elections early next year. Their outcome
could well be the portents for the larger battle ahead.

Interestingly, though so much is at stake in the municipal polls, a
central office-bearer of the party is yet to be put in charge of the
state. The mood in the party seems to be far from upbeat. Asked about the
BJP's prospects in the November outing, party general secretary Sunil
Shastri on Wednesday said, ``After losing the recent by-election, it will
indeed be a tough fight; only with a united fight can we hope to do

However, BJP sources are quick to point out that the party has a head-on
advantage as traditionally small towns have been seen as its basic
constituency. It will be interesting to see if the party has been able to
hold on to its small-town votaers or factors like incumbency and prices
have dented its urban base.

The party's prospects do not appear very good if the response to UP BJP
chief Kalraj Mishra's recent roadshow is any indicator.

#5. Mamata restricts party MPs from meeting PM
By Biswajit Roy, The Times of India News Service

CALCUTTA: No Trinamul Congress MP will call on the PM without the prior
permission of Mamata Banerjee. The fiat has been issued in view of the
perceived attempts by the BJP to break the party, said Trinamul Congress
sources here.

The `injunction' also stipulates that party leaders make sure that Mamata
confidant Sudip Bandopadhyay is present during their interaction with the
BJP leaders, including the PM.

While they are quick to absolve the PM of such attribution, they tacitly
blamed one Union minister from the state - a veiled reference to Tapan
Sikdar - for conspiring to lure away party MPs to the BJP in the event of
Mamata Banerjee pulling out of the National Democratic Alliance. Reports
of such attempts, they insisted, had emanated from the BJP itself.

Ironically, it was Banerjee who fired the first salvo by luring away BJP
general secretary Pares Dutta who was appointed the Trinamul Congress
spokesman in the state on Tuesday. In a retaliatory move, the BJP has
sounded Ajit Panja, minister of state for external affairs.

Mamata, meanwhile, has gone to Delhi to resume her duty as the railway
minister. On her way to the airport, a visibly relaxed Mamata went to
visit the Sribhumi Sporting Club puja.

Praising Sujit Basu, Sribhumi patron and a close lieutenant of the
dissident CPM leader and state transport minister Subhas Chakraborty,
Mamata broke into a Rabindrasangeet, ``Gaane gaane tobo bandhano jaak
tootey'' (Let the music take the fetters off you).

Leaving the listeners doing guesswork about what she meant by ``fetters,''
she left for the airport. Sheer coincidence, Chakraborty also boarded the
same flight, kicking off a fresh round of speculation.

#6. Prospects of Rajkumars release brighten
G. C. Shekhar
(Chennai, October 11)

RAJKUMARS RELEASE looks imminent as the presence of three new negotiators
in Nakkeerans Gopals team may be the face-saving formula for Veerappan to
release him. Since Veerappan himself had specifically asked for
P. Nedumaran, leader of the Tamil Nationalist Movement, the prospects of
Rajkumars release have brightened and officials handling the crisis are
expecting a breakthrough by weekend.

According to the sources, Veerappan may make it appear that Nedumaran and
the two other civil rights activists (who have accompanied him) convinced
him into releasing Rajkumar. Since all the three negotiators belong to a
fringe Tamil nationalist party Veerappan could end up saying that these
three leaders were sympathetic to his cause and that he bowed to their
Tamil sentiments.

Apparently Veerappan is getting tired of the long judicial process in
getting the detainees from the prison. The adjournment of the Supreme
Court case in this regard to October 17 further proves this point. The
escape of Nagappa has shown that holding on to the captives, feeding and
shifting them is proving to be a tiresome task. The bandit had also been
unhappy with Gopal for not putting forth his case effectively with the two

Hence he decided to ask for Nedumaran, who, other than being a pro-LTTE
politician, has taken up Tamil causes frequently. The extremists with
Veerappan had suggested the name of the other two negotiators - a civil
rights lawyer and a retired college professor. According to police
sources, by getting three new negotiators, one of them a politician,
Veerappan was actually looking for an acceptable way out to end the
hostage drama.

Though the monetary aspect of any deal with the bandit remains shrouded in
secrecy, top officials are confident that the new negotiators are the fig
leaf Veerappan was waiting for. It is for this reason that they decided to
rush Nedumaran in spite of his blatant pro-LTTE leanings. While there has
been some criticism about Nedumarans choice the authorities point out that
sending Nedumaran was better alternative than releasing extremists from
jail as demanded by Veerappan.

Nedumaran has also clarified that his mission was prompted solely by his
concern for the safety for the linguistic minorities of the two states and
had nothing to do with the LTTE or its designs. In fact Ive never met any
of the extremists who are with Veerappan at present, he has said in an
interview before leaving for the forests.

With an expectant Karunanidhi government anticipating Rajkumars release in
the coming days, the two state governments may respond to the Supreme
Courts latest directive not before Monday. By then the issue before the
court could become infructuous, officials hope.

#7.  Rao's life - a story of stupendous success, downfall
Agencies/New De

Born in a humble farmer's family, P V Narasimha Rao's life has been a
story of stupendous success as much a tragic tale of downfall.

His ascendance to the office of Prime Minister took the political circles
by some surprise in 1991 and his conviction, first ever for any former
premier, on a criminal charge of bribery has been a surprise too.

The 79-year-old Rao, who became the ninth Prime Minister of the country on
June 21, 1991, was also prosecuted in St Kitts forgery case in which he
was acquitted, but the acquittal has been challenged in the Supreme Court.

He was also charged in Lakhubhai Pathak cheating case which is still under

"Law will take its own course," was a stock-phrase often used by Rao, who
was himself accused in February, 1996 of having bribed the JMM MPs to save
his minority government during a no-confidence motion in Parliament in
1993 after his name got embroiled in the allegation of Rs one crore
payment to him by share broker Harshad Mehta.

Rao became Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh in 1971 and was appointed AICC
general secretary in 1974. He was elected to Parliament in 1977 and became
the Minister of External Affairs under Indira Gandhi in 1980 and was later
shifted to the Home Ministry in 1984.

Rao, who almost bid adieu to politics in 1991 and was not fielded in the
Lok Sabha elections, became Prime Minister after Rajiv Gandhi was
assassinated. He was the first South Indian premier in the history of
independent India.

#8. Paswan to float new party if Sharad doesn`t quit JD(U)
Lucknow, Oct 11 (PTI)

Union Communications Minister Ram Vilas Paswan today got a shot in the arm
in his pursuit to launch a new political party when the three-member
Janata Dal (R), an alliance partner in the Ram Prakash Gupta government in
Uttar Pradesh, extended its support to him.

Announcing this at a joint press conference here with Paswan, JD(R) leader
Rajaram Pandey said he was wholeheartedly with Paswan.

JD(R), a splinter group of the former Janata Dal, has three members in the
Uttar Pradesh Assembly and all the three are ministers in the Gupta

Paswan said if Civil Aviation Minister Sharad Yadav did not quit as
JD(U) president, he would go ahead with his plans to float a new political
party at a rally in New Delhi on November 23.

He was utterly disappointedwith the present JD(U) leadership which was
fully responsible for the shrinking base of the party and its
derecognition by the Election Commission as a national-level party.

Mr Paswan said the new political outfit to be launched by him would remain
a part of the National Democratic Alliance.

End of India Network News Digest

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