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INDIA-L  October 2000

INDIA-L October 2000


India Network News Digest - October 3 , 2000


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Today's India Network News Digest is compiled by the India Network Services
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India Network News Digest - October 3 , 2000  Volume 12 Issue 169
Brought to you in co-operation with Various News Reports from India
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Today's News Items
#1. Cabinet's loss need not be NDA's, hopes BJP
#2. Quota for women: Speaker calls for British model
#3. Venkaiah Naidu quits party post
#4. Govt bends to please Mamata on petroprice hike
#5. At last, Congress has something to cheer about
#6. Musharraf rules out prospect of war with India
#7. `Trying for Cong chief's post not a challenge'
#8. Govt to hold talks with Oppn on Raj kidnap today

#1. Cabinet's loss need not be NDA's, hopes BJP
By Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI, OCT. 2. The BJP is not taking too seriously reports that the
Trinamool Congress could be moving away from the National Democratic
Alliance in order to forge an electoral pact with the Congress(I) for the
Assembly elections due in March next year.

And by saying that it will concentrate on flood relief work, it is
virtually signalling that Central action against the State is ruled out
for the moment.

Senior party leaders here are of the opinion that although Ms. Mamata
Banerjee, Trinamool president, may indeed press her resignation from the
Cabinet, she will not opt out of the NDA. In fact, the party is hoping
that the Prime Minister will be able to persuade her to at least allow her
colleague, Mr. Ajit Panja, to continue in the Government.

The party is of the view that the Trinamool constituency in Bengal is
stridently anti-Left as well as pro- Vajpayee even if not pro-BJP. This
will prevent her from going for an alliance with the Congress(I) which is
not seen as being strongly anti- Left.

The BJP's West Bengal unit which had presented a report on the political
and flood situation in the State to the national executive committee
meeting yesterday, held further discussions with central party
office-bearers on the political situation there today.

The Trinamool withdrawal from the Central Government apparently did not
figure at the meeting which was attended by all State unit presidents and
general secretaries.

Rollback ruled out

Senior BJP leaders also virtually ruled out any rollback in the prices of
petroleum products saying the Centre had imposed only one-third of the
total burden of the oilpool deficit on the consumers. One view is that the
uneasy relationship with the Trinamool will continue and Ms. Banerjee may
continue making some populist statements, even critical of Government
decisions, but she will continue her alliance with the NDA.

As one senior leader remarked, ``If she is preparing to be the Chief
Minister of Bengal she needs to show that she is a responsible
politicians.'' In short, she cannot afford the luxury of theatrics.

The State's report on the political situation was along expected lines,
with accusations of political murders against the CPI(M) and use of
administrative machinery against political opponents. The BJP's charge was
that as the CPI(M) was losing its grip on the rural areas, its cadres were
letting loose a reign of terror to subjugate the people. The report gave a
long list of BJP workers killed during political clashes over the last few

Mr. M. Venkaiah Naidu, who briefed reporters, did add that while the party
will ``pursue this issue, the focus will be on flood relief work''. It was
another way of saying that for the time being the BJP is not going to
emphasise its demand for some Central action against the State Government.

#2. Quota for women: Speaker calls for British model
By Our Special Correspondent

HYDERABAD, OCT. 2. The Lok Sabha Speaker, Mr. G.M.C. Balayogi, feels that
India can profit from the British experience in giving greater
representation to women in Parliament and legislatures.

According to him, women constitute 44 per cent of the strength of the
British House of Commons, `the mother of all Parliaments', without any
statutory reservations. Political parties field more women candidates for

Mr. Balayogi, who led the Indian delegation to the conference of
Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) in London recently, said the
meet underlined the need for fairer share for women in Parliaments. In
Sweden, women MPs outnumber men with a percentage of 54. In India, it is a
mere 9 per cent. Some Islamic countries have no women in Parliaments.

The Speaker was having a chat with reporters at his Hyderabad residence on

He said the CPA millennium meet also adopted a resolution that the
developing and the underdeveloped countries should also have a place in
the World Trade Organisation (WTO) scheme of things.

Participating countries numbering 50 exchanged views on the role of media
vis-a-vis Parliament and of information technology in enhancing the
functioning of Parliament. It debated the proposal for setting up an
International Court of Crimes. India abstained from voting on world
criminal court proposal as it entertained certain reservations. The
resolution was lost for want of support.

The general view on the role of media was that it should follow its own
code without the State regulating its functioning. There was a perceptible
decline in the coverage of Parliamentary news in the media. In this
context, an exclusive channel or network for parliamentary coverage was
favoured, he said.

But Mr. Balayogi declined to comment on the Delhi special court judgment
in the JMM bribery case.

#3. Venkaiah Naidu quits party post
By Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI, OCT. 2. Mr. M. Venkaiah Naidu, seniormost general secretary of
the BJP, today requested the president, Mr. Bangaru Laxman, to relieve him
of all party responsibilities. This is keeping with the one man, one post
formula followed in the party. He will assume charge as Cabinet Minister
of Rural Development here tomorrow.

For the present, there is no move to fill up the vacancy caused by
Mr. Naidu's exit from the powerful position of general secretary. He was
also the party spokesperson.

Mr. Laxman will distribute work to his new team of office-bearers in the
next one week or ten days. After the visit of the Russian President,
Mr. Vladimir Putin, and before the Prime Minister goes to Mumbai for a
knee surgery, there will be one round of consultations among Mr. Laxman,
Mr. Atal Behari Vajpayee and the Union Home Minister, Mr L.K.Advani,
before specific tasks are given to the office-bearers.

A new development is the almost daily consultation between Mr. Vajpayee
and Mr. Advani on party as well as government matters, a senior BJP leader
said today.

#4. Govt bends to please Mamata on petroprice hike
The Times of India News Service & Agencies

NEW DELHI/CALCUTTA: The Atal Behari Vajpayee government on Monday offered
a partial rollback of the petroprice hike after the Trinamul Congress said
it had scaled down its demand for a total rollback but wanted some relief
for the common people.

The decision was taken after a meeting the Prime Minister had with Home
Minister L K Advani and Defence Minister George Fernandes, BJP sources

Sudhendhu Kulkarni, an Officer on Special Duty in the Prime Minister's
Office, will be in Calcutta to discuss the offer with Mamata Banerjee, who
had resigned as railway minister over the issue and threatened to pull out
of the National Democratic Alliance if the prices were not rolled back in
three days.

"Roll back the price hike or be prepared to see us in the
Opposition," this was Mamata's message to the prime minister when he spoke
to her over the phone on Sunday.

In Calcutta, a senior Trinamul MP told The Times of India, ``We wanted
356. Instead we were given 256.'' The Centre's refusal to use Article 356
(dismissal of the state government) and, instead, increase the price of
LPG to Rs 256 a cylinder immediately before the Puja, ``made us look like
absolute fools'', he said.

And the indications were that the Trinamul Congress was ready to accept a
partial rollback. Party spokesman Pankaj Banerjee said Mamata was putting
pressure on the Centre to lower the quantum of the price hike.

"Everybody knows that the price hike is inevitable. What we object to is
the timing and the amount of the increase. This will hit the common man
and, as a political party which faces an election in six months, we will
be hit the hardest,'' another party MP said.

The decision of the Trinamul Congress members to walk out of the Union
Cabinet was a ``calculated decision'' prompted by several factors. The
price hike would give the CPM an advantage during the assembly elections
in 2001. With the hike in the price of diesel, an increase in the railway
passenger fares would become inevitable. This would also deny Mamata the
chance to present a pro-people rail budget, as she had planned to do.

Mamata's senior lieutenants had their personal grievances as
well. Minister of State for External Affairs Ajit Panja had hoped for a
Cabinet berth and Sudeep Banerjee the post of a minister of state. ``We
joined the NDA government because Vajpayee had personally made these
promises. We were shocked to find that he did not keep them,'' said a
senior party leader.

``Ajitda was not only denied a full ministerial berth, he was insulted
asanother minister was included in the ministry to clip his wings,'' a
party member said.

Meanwhile, Mamata seems to have given a long rope to the NDA government as
she continued to maintain a distance from the Congress, asking her
colleagues to snub the Congress overtures. ``The Congress is like a
drowning man wishing to clutch at the last straw to survive. But we are
not in any hurry to hold their hands,'' Pankaj Banerjee said.

#5. At last, Congress has something to cheer about
By Smita Gupta

The Times of India News Service

NEW DELHI: For the Congress, there is something to cheer about at last. In
recent local body elections in the states, the Congress has stormed
Gujarat - the only state where the BJP is in power on its own - and held
the LDF to a draw in Kerala. With Assembly elections due in both states
next year, this comes as a big boost for the moribund Congress

For the BJP, its rout in Gujarat has brought rival groups in the party at
each other's throats - indeed, the Prime Minister has sought a report on
the basis of which the central leadership will do its post-mortem. So
while the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance may still look strong - for
lack of a credible Opposition at the Centre - its gradual withering away
in the states is ominous: In Uttar Pradesh, for instance, where the BJP
heads a shaky coalition, most political commentators - not to mention the
party's own strategists - are virtually resigned to bowing out of power in
next year's Assembly elections. That would leave it with just Punjab,
where it is the Akali Dal's junior partner, and Himachal Pradesh, where it
is Sukh Ram's senior partner.

For the Left, the results in Kerala could not have come at a worst moment,
coinciding as it does with its dominant component, the CPM, losing
national party status: In West Bengal, its other bastion - where, Assembly
polls are also due next year - the Left is battling the NDA in a state,
parts of which have been devastated first by violence and then by
floods. What is worse for the Left in Kerala, is that the BJP has made a
small but significant showing in these elections.

On the other hand, the results are particularly commendable for the
Congress, given that its state units in both Gujarat and Kerala are badly
divided - in the former, it is Ahmed Patel versus Madhavsinh Solanki,
while in the latter, t is K. Karunakaran versus A.K. Antony. An indirect
acknowledgement of this came in the party's official release on Monday: It
is titled ``Gujarat, Kerala victories belong to grassroots activists, says

The results merit a closer look: In Gujarat, the Congress has swept the
rural areas, winning 22 of the 23 district panchayats and 160 of the 210
talukas. In the urban areas, of the six municipal corporations, it has won
Rajkot - ending a 15 year stranglehold of the BJP here which is also
significantly chief minister's Keshubhai Patel's district - and is ahead
in Ahmedabad.

In Kerala, the share of the LDF and UDF in the last local body elections
was 60-37; this time, this trend has been reversed, and it is split
evenly. And unlike Gujarat, the UDF has done well both in rural and urban
Kerala. Of the five corporations, the LDF has won two, the UDF three. Of
the 52 municipalities that govern the smaller towns, the UDF is well ahead
having won 33. In the district panchayats, the LDF has slipped from 11 to
seven, while the UDF has climbed from three to five. And in the gram
panchayats, the UDF is number one with 5,286 seats against the LDF's

#6. Musharraf rules out prospect of war with India
(Karachi Oct 3)

Pakistan's military ruler General Pervez Musharraf denied that war with
India is likely. "As long as our nuclear deterrent is in place there is no
danger of war with India, " musharraf said while addressing journalists
gathered in karachi yesterday.

"I assure you that nothing will happen.There is no danger of war,
" Musharraf said.

Musharraf also announced the publication of a judicial inquiry report on
the causes of the disintegration of Pakistan in 1971 that has been kept
under wraps for almost three decades.

"I have formed a committee, which is examining the report. The entire
report will be made public except the portion that deals with
international relations, " Musharraf said.

The inquiry was ordered by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, Prime Minister at the time
and father of deposed Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto. He was put
to death during the martial law regime of late military dictator General

A portion of the report that dealt only with military failure in former
east Pakistan was recently published in an Indian magazine and reproduced
in Pakistani newspapers. Pressure has been mounting since then for the
government to publish the report.

General Musharraf also announced that general elections for the national
and provincial assemblies would be held in 2002.

"We would return to democracy and would also ensure the continuity and
sustainability of the reforms and the path set for the country, " he said.

He listed the measures his government has taken to rehabilitate the
economy and said it was meeting its targets. "We have been able to halt
the slide of economy and restore the confidence of the investors,
" Musharraf said.

He said 300 representatives of the US based AES power company would arrive
in Pakistan this week. They have shown interest in investing in Pakistan
and purchasing the Karachi electric supply corporation (KESC), a state
utility, the general said.

#7. `Trying for Cong chief's post not a challenge'
Harish Gupta

Jitendra Prasada has been in the news for sometime now. A traditional
Congressman and a Gandhi family loyalist, he is now considered a
dissident. He is gradually emerging as a rallying point of all those
Congress leaders who think the party cannot be revived under Sonia
Gandhi. Excerpts from an interview by Associate Editor Harish Gupta.

You have been talking of democracy within the party for sometime
now. Whatdo you mean by it?
I mean what every body else means. I mean what Soniaji had said in her
first address to the AICC: free and fair elections, free and fair
expression of opinion, and free and fair participation at all levels in
the organisation. My friend late Rajesh Pilot used to say that intra-party
democracy means an environment in which party workers can freely shape an
organisation of their wishes. I can't put it better than that.

You mean there is no freedom, no consultation before decisions are taken?
Consultations should be at all levels in a free and fearless atmosphere.

There is an impression that decisions are taken and the CWC is a mere
rubber stamp body.

I don't think so. The CWC is not a rubber stamp body.

How often does Sonia Gandhi consult you?
Whenever the Congress president thinks it's necessary.

When did you meet her last?
Quite sometime ago. Whenever I have something to say, I meet her or
whenever she has something to tell me.

It is reported in the Press that Sonia Gandhi has a coterie.

I have been reading about it.

Are you aware of such a coterie?
I am not.

But are you a member of the Congress president's core team?
It is the party chief's prerogative to chose her team.

Do you fall in her team or not?
Why are you asking me. Ask her. I am a Congress worker and she is the
Congress president.

How do you react to the abrupt removal of Salman Khurshid from the Uttar
Pradesh PCC chief's post?
The Congress president can make a change as and when she considers it
fit. The change in U.P. appeared abrupt because it was done just 45 days
beforethe organisational elections. If the Congress president has made a
change there must have been some reason for that.

Were you consulted?

But you have been pressuring the high command for his removal for long?
I never pressured anybody for the change. I never demanded or asked for
the change. I have only been saying that the Congress is getting weaker in
U.P.and all Congressmen should feel concerned about it and do everything
possible to revitalise the party.

One removal after the other -- first Ahmad Patel, then Ghani Khan
Chaudhary and now Salman Khurshid. Do you find a pattern?
If you mean that they all belong to the minority community, there
certainly is a pattern. But if you mean that the Congress is isolating
leaders from the minorities, I don't agree.

But V.N. Gadgil is on record that to keep the minorities with it, the
Congress lost the support of the majority. Do you agree?
Elections results have proved that we lost substantial electoral support,
both of the majority and the minority communities. Various Opposition
parties were able to beguile a considerable number of voters from the two
communities into believing that the Congress was tilting towards the
other. The result was that we lost both. If that has happened, we must go
into the reasons and rectify the situation. The big challenge is how to
restore the perception that secularism for the Congress does not mean
favouring or pampering one community or the other.

There are many who say that Sonia Gandhi's foreign origin is a stumbling

If you are referring to the point that Soniaji's foreign origin is a
handicap for her or the Congress, I can only say that when Sharad Pawar
said this in the CWC I had strongly opposed him.

Sitaram Kesri is on record that he would react at the right time about his
removal. Weren't you a party to his removal?
That is past. What is the use of going into that now. Kesriji has been and
still is a respected leader. He has a right to hold views on issues
andexpress them.

Do you think a one-man-one-post principle be applied in the
Congress? P.V. Narasimha Rao was removed under the same logic.

It is not correct to say that Rao was removed from the Congress
president's post on the one-man-one-post principle. But I think the
principle is valid. But Soniaji is an exception.

Can the party be revived?
The party will be back on the rails the moment Congress workers are given
a free and fair chance to shape the organisation of their dreams. That
must now be the effort in the organisational elections.

Arjun Singh has said he wouldn't contest for the CWC because of his age
?If that is to open the way for the young, I welcome the idea. Whether or
not to contest the elections is anyway an individual decision.

Then why did a young Noor Bano lose?
Because she did not get enough votes to win. However, she gave a very good
fight, a good number of our MPs backed her, which is remarkable.

Do you think the election process for organisational polls is correct?

The process is correct, but there have been complaints about the
practice. Ram Niwas Mirdhaji is a senior and experienced leader and knows
that as in charge of the election he is accountable not only to today's
Congress leaders and workers but to the history and heritage of the Indian
National Congress and to its future generations.

Now that Rajesh Pilot is no more, will there be a contest for the Congress
president's post?
If a consensus can be achieved, it is good. But a contest should not be
construed as a challenge. Isn't it a healthy sign in a democracy?

Are you contesting? Some reports say you are in the race.

The question of contesting does not arise at the moment.

Because the process has hardly started.

#8. Govt to hold talks with Oppn on Raj kidnap today
DH News Service

As a decision on the next course of action to end the actor Rajkumar
kidnap crisis remains elusive, the Karnataka Government is all set to hold
a marathon round of discussions with Opposition parties, leaders and MPs
here tomorrow.

Chief Minister S M Krishna and Home Minister Mallikarjuna Kharge will hold
talks at 'Anugraha,` Mr Krishna`s official residence from 9 am onwards
till 12.30 pm, with each Opposition group separately.

The leaders of the BJP who constitute the main Opposition, State President
Basavaraj Patil Sedam, Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly Jagadish
Shettar and MLC D H Shankar Murthy would be invited for a breakfast
meeting at 9 am. The BJP has mostly been sympathetic to the Government`s
efforts barring sporadic, adverse comments by Mr Sedam and Union Minister
Dhananjaya Kumar.

From 10.30 am, the Janata Dal (Secular) group, led by State President
Siddaramaiah and comprising Leader of the Opposition in the Legislative
Council K H Srinivas and the party`s floor leader in the Assembly C
Chennigappa, will be heard. The JD (S) too has been supportive of the
Government`s moves throughout the crisis.

The Janata Dal (United) group will be met next, led by State President C
Byre Gowda and including its floor leader in the Assembly, Mr P G R
Sindhia and MLC M P Prakash, at 11.30 am. The JD (U) has been adopting a
dual stand, at times supporting and at other times criticising the

Finally, at 12.30 pm, MLC M C Nanaiah, who has remained non- aligned from
both the JD (S) and JD (U) ever since the Dals split, and MLC Basavaraj
Horatti, who had initially identified himself with the JD(U), will be
invited for talks.

Once the Opposition round is over, the Government will invite MPs of the
State for discussions at 4 pm at 'Krishna.` This is the first meeting
between the Government and MPs and is expected to exert political pressure
on the Central Government to support the Karnataka and Tamil Nadu
Governments in handling the crisis.

Senior Congress leader and MP S Bangarappa has written to the chief
minister explaining his inability to attend the meeting due to
preoccupation. He also spoke to Mr Krishna on telephone and expressed his
appreciation of the various steps taken by the Karnataka and Tamil Nadu
governments to handle the crisis. He also advised that good lawyers should
be retained to represent the State in the Supreme Court when the case
pertaining to release of TADA detenus, one of the main demands of forest
brigand Veerappan, comes up for hearing on October 12.

The talks are likely to focus on the fourth failed mission of Gopal to
negotiate the release of Dr Rajkumar and two others and the possible
repercussions of the recent escape of one hostage, Nagappa, from
Veerappan`s captivity. The question of altering strategy and its pros and
cons are also likely to figure, it is learnt.

However, any final decision will be taken only after Mr Krishna holds
discussions with his Tamil Nadu counterpart M Karunanidhi and the Raj

All the same, any drastic action like storming the bandit`s hideout still
remains a remote possibility since the outlaw has been changing location
every two days, according to Nagappa`s account. He had changed place 32
times in two months.

Moreover, the onus of ensuring the safety of Dr Rajkumar and other
hostages being squarely on the Government, any move will have to be both
judicious and foolproof.

'No hasty decision'

Chief Minister S M Krishna today indirectly took a dig at some political
leaders including those belonging to the Congress who had criticised his
way of handling the Dr Rajkumar hostage crisis.

Addressing Congress workers on the occasion of Mahatma Gandhi Jayanti at
the KPCC office here, the Chief Minister said the kidnap issue was a
sensitive matter and hence, it should be viewed from all angles. No hasty
decision can be taken, he added.

Mr Krishna, indirectly referring to the criticism from various quarters,
said forget about others. At least Congressmen should realise the gravity
of the situationn. He said the litmus test of leadership was the capacity
to take an appropriate decision after weighing all consequences.

He said he believed in the theory that one could be soft in approach, but
should always carry a stick. Mr Krishna pointed out that people had
commented that Mahatma Gandhi cannot lead the country to Independence
through non-violence. But, eventually Gandhi achieved his goal. ''Where is
the need to scream when there is a microphone?'' he asked.

End of India Network News Digest

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