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INDIA-L  October 2000

INDIA-L October 2000


India Network News Digest - October 17 , 2000


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Today's India Network News Digest is compiled by the India Network Services
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                             Tue 17 Oct 2000

India Network News Digest - October 17 , 2000  Volume 12 Issue 179
Brought to you in co-operation with Various News Reports from India
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Today's News Items
#1. 'Advani is BJP's choice if need be'
#2. Cyclone alert in 3 states
#3. Buta Singh files appeal in JMM bribery case
#4. Economy is doing fine: Sinha
#5. Only nominal roll back in proces: Venkaiah Naidu
#6. Mamata to be next Bengal CM
#7. Rao getting support from Cong leaders
#8. Veerappan releases son-in-law of Rajkumar, filmstar still in jungle


#1. 'Advani is BJP's choice if need be'
By Neena Vyas

NEW DELHI, OCT. 16. There is no doubt in the mind of the Bharatiya Janata
Party that if the situation arises, the Union Home Minister,
Mr. L. K. Advani, will be its choice for the position of Prime
Minister. It will not tolerate opposition from any of the allies on this
and would ``rather break the National Democratic Alliance than accept any
other leader as Prime Minister.''

The question has been popping up regularly - the media has carried out
some surveys on who was most acceptable as Prime Minister after
Mr. Vajpayee. Mr. Advani's criticism of Mr. Jaswant Singh in relation to
the Kandahar episode was seen in this context, and Mr. Vajpayee not having
named a number two before going in for surgery also fuelled the
debate. And of course, Mr. Vajpayee's health itself has generated interest
in the question: who after Vajpayee?

Mr. Advani's participation in the RSS camp in Agra yesterday is being seen
by some political observers as a move to get the RSS' backing on the
succession issue.

While the general view seems to be that Mr. Advani was the ``natural
choice of the BJP'' as the man next to Mr. Vajpayee, there are some who
shy away from discussing a possible post- Vajpayee situation. The Prime
Minister is in good health and the question about a successor does not
arise, they say. But the general mood seems to be that though the question
has not arisen and is unlikely to arise in the near future, it is clear
the BJP's choice would be Mr. Advani, and it will not tolerate opposition
from the allies even if such a protest materialises.

Speaking on a condition of anonymity, a senior leader said the ``BJP would
rather walk out of the NDA than accept the dictation of allies on this

``The BJP's choice is very clear. Mr. Advani is the number two man after
Mr. Vajpayee, and he will be the choice for the job of Prime Minister, if
the need arises,'' Mr. J. P. Mathur said adding that at the moment there
was no danger to the Prime Minister's health. And his view was that there
would be no opposition from the allies.

Mr. Jana Krishnamurthi was more careful in responding to questions on the
likely successor to Mr. Vajpayee if the need arose. The BJP was a
democratic party and the ``decision will be taken by the parliamentary
party. But the time has not come. Atalji will continue, in fact, he will
lead the party in the elections due in 2004.'' However, in the case of
Mr. Vajpayee a unilateral announcement was made by Mr. Advani and no one
in the BJP remembered that electing the leader was the privilege of the
parliamentary party.

#2. Cyclone alert in 3 states

BHUBANESWAR/ HYDERABAD: Orissa and Andhra Pradesh braced for another
crisis as a depression in the Bay of Bengal blew up into a severe cyclonic
storm Monday. It was headed in the west-northwesterly direction.

Met office sources in the capitals of the two states said the atmospheric
depression had moved westward and intensified into a cyclonic storm. It
lay about 500 km east off Macchalipatnam at 8.30 am.

The Orissa and Andhra coasts were likely to be buffeted by gales up to 65
to 75 km per hour in the next 48 hours, Andhra state revenue minister P
Gajapathiraju said. It could also rain in the coastal and interior
areas. A central control room, manned by two senior IAS officers, has been
set up to monitor the cyclone situation, he said. AP chief minister N
Chandrababu Naidu reviewed the situation at a high-level meeting.

Heavy to very heavy rainfall was likely in the coastal districts of
Srikakulam, Vizianagaram, Visakhapatnam, east Godavari, west Godavari,
Krishna, Nellore, Prakasam and Guntur in the next 48 hours.

A cyclone warning had been sounded for the Andhra coast and a close watch
was being maintained on the Orissa coast. Fishermen have been advised not
to venture into the sea, which is likely to be very rough.

The authorities in the coastal districts had been alerted and advised to
take all precautionary steps and monitor the situation at regular

Orissa's special relief commissioner Ajit Kumar Tripathy said the
government was fully prepared to face any eventuality. He said the number
two flag had been hoisted at Paradeep and Gopalpur ports and authorities
advised to concentrate on the habitation along the coast.

The Met office, however, clarified that no cyclone warning had been
sounded for the Orissa coast but the system was being watched round-the-

Heavy rainfall is also likely in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and at
many places in south Orissa, Tamil Nadu, south interior Karnataka, Kerala
and Lakshadweep, the Met office said.

The West Bengal government also sounded a general alert in three coastal
districts in view of a cyclone forecast, even though the flood situation
in nine districts of the state had improved.

Finance minister Asim Dasgupta said in Calcutta the district authorities
of Midnapore and North and South 24 Parganas were alerted following the
forecast. Though the waters were receding in most places, the situation in
Bagda and Swarupnagar areas of North 24 Parganas district and some areas
of Nadia district remained problematic.

#3. Buta Singh files appeal in JMM bribery case

NEW DELHI: Former Union minister Buta Singh sentenced to three years
rigorous imprisonment in the JMM bribery case along with former prime
minister P V Narasimha Rao, filed an appeal on Tuesday in the Delhi high
court challenging the trial court order.

Buta Singh, in his appeal filed in the court registry, claimed that the
special judge had "erred" in holding him guilty of bribing four JMM MPs
and "failed" to consider that the "prosecution had not been able to bring
any incriminating evidence" against him.

Singh's counsel Satish Tamta said "there was neither any direct nor
circumstantial evidence to draw the inference of conspiracy" against his
client. The appeal is likely to come up for hearing on Wednesday.

He said the conviction was entirely based on the "uncorroborated
testimony" of approver Shailendra Mahato, one of the four JMM leaders, who
was allegedly bribed.

The trial court failed to appreciate that the approver himself "is
unworthy of any reliance" because he innumerable of times had been telling
"lies" on the issue, he alleged.

The special CBI court here had sentenced Rao and Singh to three years
imprisonment on October 12 and also imposed a fine of Rs two lakh on each
of them. The court had said that on failure to pay the fine, they will
have to undergo further imprisonment of six months.

An associate of Rao's counsel R K Anand said that appeal by the former
prime minister will be filed only after Anand returns from abroad.

Anand is in Belarus as member of an observers' group to oversee the
elections there and would return on Wednesday.

Singh's counsel said the testimony of an approver was required to pass two
tests -- that the approver was creditworthy and his testimony was
corroborated with material evidence with reference to the allegation.

However, in this case the prosecution evidence had failed to connect Singh
with any offence and there was no corroboration to any of the allegations
against him, Tamta claimed.

He said neither a case under section 120-B (criminal conspiracy) nor
sections 7, 12 and 13(2) read with section 13 (1)(d) of prevention of
corruption act could be made against Singh.

Referring to the JMM MPs meeting with Singh, his counsel said any
appreciation of the circumstantial evidence should be consistent with the
main allegation, not with any "hypothesis".

The trial court has granted bail to Rao and Singh on their furnishing
personal bond of Rs two lakh each and sureties of the like amount, till
November eight.

#4. Economy is doing fine: Sinha
The Times of India News Service

NEW DELHI: Finance minister Yashwant Sinha on Monday said the Indian
economy was doing fine despite widespread concerns over inflation,
declining growth, oil prices and the downgrading of India's outlook by
Standard and Poor's.

Inaugurating the annual Economic Editors' Conference here, the finance
minister argued that things were not as gloomy as was being made out. He
said there were no signs of fiscal slippages and the government would soon
adopt quick remedial measures to improve the performance of industries
which were suffering a slowdown.

``India will again be among the fastest growing economies in the world
this year,'' Sinha said. Economic reforms are strongly under way, he said
and listed a number of big-ticket reforms in the pipeline.

Sinha expected the rate of inflation to come down to a reasonable level
once the impact of the hike in the prices of petroleum products tapers
off. He pointed out that excluding oil prices, the inflation for
manufactured goods and primary articles was still less than 3 per cent.

Major initiatives on the cards include: Introduction of fiscal
responsibility legislation and competition law in the winter session of
Parliament; amendment to the Banking Regulation Act to allow dilution of
government stakes in public sector banks to 33 per cent; and a Bill
combining SICA and the bankruptcy law to tackle industrial
sickness. Besides, there will be substantial movement on labour law
reforms and national highway development projects.

Sinha said the pace of reforms might have disappointed ``some friends
abroad'', but emphasised that the government was carrying out the reforms
in a ``certain context'' amidst the ``din and bustle of a democracy''.

Last week Standard and Poor's had cited the slow pace of reforms as a
factor for revising the country's long-term currency rating outlook from
``BB positive'' to ``BB stable''. ``We will move at our pace,'' the
finance minister said, rejecting the idea that India may miss the bus. ``I
don't think that any bus can leave without India on board. India is too
large to miss any bus.''

Sinha reiterated that the government would not revise downward the
economic growth target for the current year merely on the basis of the
first quarter performance, even though the RBI has scaled down its
projection for growth from 7-6.5 per cent to 6.5-6 per cent and the Centre
for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) has forecast an even lower growth of
5.8 per cent. In its budget this year, the government had projected an
over 7 per cent growth rate.

``I have some experience in the matter. In 1998-99, the debate was whether
the growth will be 3 per cent or 4 per cent. But we ended that year with
6.8 per cent growth. We achieved 6.4 per cent growth in 1999-2000. The
``doom and gloom'' scenario was proved wrong in the past,'' Sinha said.

The finance minister said only a few segments of industry are facing a
slowdown - among them electrical equipment, paper and paper products, wood
products and heavy commercial vehicles. ``We have already initiated
certain measures to revive demand for these industries. We have had
discussions with the apex chambers of industry. We have asked them to give
concrete suggestions. We will take quick remedial measures,'' Sinha said.

The finance minister also expressed confidence that the current year will
end with a reasonable level of foreign exchange reserves and the current
account deficit will be contained within two per cent of the gross
domestic product. He said the government would maintain the fiscal deficit
at the targeted 5.1 per cent of the GDP as tax collections were buoyant
and expenditure was under control.

#5. Only nominal roll back in proces: Venkaiah Naidu
The Times of India News Service

CALCUTTA: The Centre will make "'small concessions" to Union railway
minister Mamata Banerjee by rolling back only nominally the price increase
of kerosene and LPG as a "face -saving device" for her.

But there is hardly any scope for even partial rollback in case of
diesel. This is what the senior BJP leader and the union minister for
rural development Venkaiah Naidu has confided to his state party
colleagues during his stay in the city on Monday.

He also told the party colleagues that the Prime Minister himself was
ready to make the concession earlier. But the BJP allies in the ruling
National Democratic Alliance opposed vehemently, threatening that it would
open the floodgate of similar demands, if Vajpayee succumbed to Mamata's

While addressing a Press conference , however, Naidu reiterated formally
the assurance of the Prime Minister to the Trinamul Congress chief to give
a relook to the entire issue. " Any decision about the rollback would be
taken keeping every aspect of the situation in mind."

Denying any strain in relation with Banerjee, Naidu claimed that the
Trinumul is firmly with the NDA. " There is question of losing her'', he

Naidu who spoke to Mamata before coming to Calcutta also tried to reassure
the angry ally about the Centre's sincerity to help her fight against CPM
'terror by means of some kind of central intervention after the winter
session of Parliament.

"Mamata herself does not want imposition of President's rule in West
Bengal. All she wants is some kind of shock to the Left Front
government. But both Chandrababu Naidu and myself have advised her to
assess the ground reality whether it will help her or CPM'', Naidu told
his party leaders here.

On Mamata's ire about being ignored during the recent cabinet expansion ,
Naidu informed his state leaders that Satyabrata Mukherjee was first
considered as the second minister of state in the ministry of external
affairs along with Ajit Panja. But the Prime Minister changed the idea as
both Panja and Mukherjee are from the same state. Besides it would have
bad blood between Trinamul and BJP.

Naidu, who is known as a close one to the prime minister, however ruled
out any promotion to Panja or third berth for Trinamul in the union
government in near future. "Shivsena with 15 Mps and BJD with 10 Mps have
already made their demands. So Mamata with 9 Mps in her kitty have to
wait'', Venkaiah told BJP leaders .But he asked them to mend fences with
the 'senior partner in West Bengal' and adviced Mamata's bete noire Tapan
Sikder to restrain in his tirade against her.

#6. Mamata to be next Bengal CM
Arindam Sarkar
(Calcutta, October 16)

THE BHARATIYA JANATA PARTY has said that it will ensure that Trinamool
chief Mamata Banerjee becomes the next chief minister of West Bengal and
the BJP-Trinamool combine forms the next government in the state.

Union Minister for Rural Development M. Venkaiah Naidu said that his party
was clear on its stand regarding Mamata. She stood by the party in good
and bad times and the BJP would ensure her chief ministership, he added.

"Our single-point agenda here is to defeat the Left Front. We want the
last Red bastion to fall in the coming Assembly polls. And to ensure that,
Mamata will be the chief minister. We will fight them politically and also
weaken their hold over the administrative machinery, which they use to rig
the elections. Just watch out, the Centre would intervene at the right
time," Venkaiah Naidu told The Hindustan Times in an interview.

He said in the last 24 years, the Left Front used its cadres and state
machinery to win elections. Lack of effective Opposition also worked in
its favour. He said things were different now. The BJP was in a position
to extend infrastructural support and the Trinamool could provide
leadership in the form of Mamata Banerjee.

"The BJP at the Centre is aware that the combine has become a rallying
point of anti-Left forces. There is also no difference of opinion over the
present situation in the state. Both the BJP and the Trinamool want
Article 356 but the Centre has to take a considerate view of the situation
and then act. Fortunately, now a consensus is also growing among the NDA
partners, especially the Telegu Desam, who are sympathetic towards
Mamata's cause," Naidu claimed.

He said that the Centre, in order to counter the Marxist oppression and
violence in the State, was considering taking some corrective measures few
months ahead of polls. "Mamata's apprehensions are right. The blue print
of our action, that also includes declaring six districts in Bengal as
disturbed areas, is being considered. The BJP, the TDP and other allies
are discussing various means on how to go about to ensure free and fair
polls in Bengal. People are ready for the change, we are gearing up to
help them," Venkaiah Naidu said. "We will also take up the matter with the
Election Commission. And we will seek its help in conducting polls under
strict vigilance and in a fair manner."

#7. Rao getting support from Cong leaders
Pioneer News Service/New Delhi

The official line of the Congress party notwithstanding, several senior
leaders have lent moral support to former Prime Minister P V Narasimha
Rao, who is preparing to challenge the verdict in the JMM case in the High

While senior Congress Working Committee member Vijaybhaskar Reddy called
on Mr Rao on Sunday, four Congress Chief Ministers and at least 10 PCC
chiefs have talked to him on phone.

Mr Reddy, who hardly enjoyed cordial relations with Mr Rao, is understood
to have expressed his concern for Mr Rao and disapproved of the
leadership's decision to abandon him. However, other CWC member and a
senior leader from the South, Mr K Karunakaran, has taken a different
line, saying he was not at all sad at Mr Rao's conviction.

Sources said Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Digvijay Singh's open support
for Mr Rao earned him many friends and that set the tone with other Chief
Ministers expressing their sympathies with the former party president on
phone. Some PCC presidents, who did not want to invite the wrath of the
leadership, also preferred to talk to Mr Rao on phone.

Contrary to the message given by the Congress officially, senior leader
Pranab Mukherjee also said that the party had not deserted Rao after his
conviction. He told a newspaper that the junior spokespersons might have
erroneously given a wrong picture but Ms Sonia Gandhi herself visited Mr
Rao the day he was convicted by the court.

Apart from Mr Mukherjee, senior leaders like Jitendra Prasada, Manmohan
Singh, R K Dhawan, Sitaram Kesri and others have also been in touch with
Mr Rao. In fact, in a sign of changing political equations, Mr Rao visited
Mr Kesri in the hospital, where he is being treated for hip fracture. Mr
Rao and Mr Kesri were not on good term for last few years.

#8. Veerappan releases son-in-law of Rajkumar, filmstar still in jungle

Chennai, Oct. 16: Sandalwood smuggler Veerappan on Monday night freed S A
Govindaraj, son-in-law of Kannada film icon Rajkumar after two and half
months in captivity and further boosted the hopes of an early release of
the matinee idol. It was not immediately clear if and when Rajkumar would
be freed.
Govindaraj, one of the three hostages held by Veerappan, was freed outside
Sathyamangalam forest at 7 pm and was travelling to Bangalore, Additional
DGP A X Alexander (Special Operations) said.

Govindaraj, along with the actor, was one of the four who had been
kidnapped on July 30 from the actor's Doddagajanur farmhouse in Erode
district of Tamil Nadu. The others were Nagesh, another relative of
Rajkumar, and Nagappa Maradagi, a film assistant director. On September
28, Nagappa escaped from the clutches of the brigand.

Meanwhile, sources close to G Sukumar, human rights activist and one of
the four emissaries on the latest mediation mission in the forests, said
the team of negotiators was returning to Chennai on Tuesday.

Other members of the emissary team are the editor of Tamil bi-weekly
Nakkeeran R R Gopal, Tamil nationalist and pro-LTTE politician P Nedumaran
and human rights activist B Kalyani.

However, the release of Govindaraj evoked surprise here. Both the
Nakkeeran and Nedumaran camps expressed surprise over the fact that the
son-in-law was released and not the filmstar himself.

In Bangalore, Karnataka Home Minister Mallikarjun Kharge told reporters
that talks between the emissaries and Veerappan were 'progressing well'
and a 'good message' was expected. He, however, declined to set any
timeframe for getting the 'good message.'

End of India Network News Digest

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