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INDIA-L  October 2000

INDIA-L October 2000


India Network News Digest - October 20 , 2000


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Fri, 20 Oct 2000 10:45:11 -0400





TEXT/PLAIN (411 lines)

Today's India Network News Digest is compiled by the India Network Services
               P.O. Box 556, Bowling Green, OH 43402, USA
             Telephone: (419) 352 9335 Fax:  (419) 352 9334
                             Fri 20 Oct 2000

India Network News Digest - October 20 , 2000  Volume 12 Issue 182
Brought to you in co-operation with Various News Reports from India
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Today's News Items
#1. Laxman strikes a different note
#2. Basu calls for alternative at Centre
#3. Global oil prices to determine rollback: Naik
#4. Paswan will launch new party on Nov 23
#5. Sonia will remain AICC president, says Captain Satish Sharma
#6. India calls for UN meet to prohibit use of N-weapons
#7. Cong dissidents ridicule Arjun Singh's statement
#8. State considered use of force to free Rajkumar

#1. Laxman strikes a different note
By Neena Vyas

NEW DELHI, OCT. 19. The differences within the BJP on how to project its
relationship with the RSS, and especially on its views on the minorities,
erupted sharply today with the party president, Mr. Bangaru Laxman,
asserting that the BJP's views were ``significantly different from that of
the RSS.''

Mr. Laxman's statement, made at Gurdaspur in Punjab and released by the
party office here, comes close on the heels of the assertion of the BJP's
``unbreakable'' and ``historical'' bond with the RSS by the Union Home
Minister, Mr. L.K. Advani.

Mr. Laxman stated categorically that what the RSS chief, Mr. K. Sudershan,
had said about Christians and Muslims at the RSS Agra meet last weekend
``do not represent the views of the BJP''. Mr. Sudershan was ``entitled to
his views and it is up to the different sections of our diverse society to
react,'' Mr. Laxman added while making it clear that the BJP did not agree
with those views and had no inclination to join a debate.

Some political observers are inclined to see in this a reflection of the
``struggle at the top,'' for, after all, it is well known that Mr. Laxman
was handpicked by Mr. Vajpayee for the job of party
president. Mr. Laxman's ``line'' of differentiating the BJP's views from
that of the RSS is being seen as an articulation of Mr. Vajpayee's line -
as opposed to Mr. Advani's stance - but there are some party leaders who
believe that Mr. Vajpayee is usually ``more subtle'' and would not have
used the party president to fight a proxy war with Mr. Advani.

There is also the conjecture that since after Mr. Vajpayee there is no
known ``soft line'' man in the BJP, Mr. Laxman may be positioning himself
for that slot. But what is being conceded at various levels is that the
``struggle for succession'' to Mr. Vajpayee has begun in right
earnest. Only a few days ago a senior BJP leader signalled that Mr. Advani
alone would be acceptable to the party if a situation arose in which
Mr. Vajpayee were to be no longer the Prime Minister.

At an informal meeting of the minority morcha of the BJP on Wednesday some
plain-speaking was done with members openly saying that Mr. Sudershan's
public speech at Agra had done immense damage to their attempt at wooing
the minorities and undone what Mr. Laxman had attempted from Nagpur.

#2. Basu calls for alternative at Centre

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The special conference of the CPM to update the party
programme began here on Friday, with West Bengal Chief Minister Jyoti Basu
calling for efforts to shape up a third alternative to the BJP-led NDA
government at the Centre.

Mounting a scathing attack on policies and programmes of the Centre, Basu
in his presidential address said "what is immediately necessary is a third
Left democratic alternative to the NDA government at the Centre".

The West Bengal leader called for concerted efforts to mobilise all
sections of masses to give shape to such an alternative and hoped that the
updating of the party programme would accentuate that process.

Referring to the demand of his political adversaries for dismissal of his
government invoking Article 356, Basu said he was certain that the "people
of West Bengal will give a fitting rebuff to forces of instigation".

Around 400 delegates from across the country, including politburo and
central committee members, are attending the four-day session convened to
incorporate necessary changes in the 1964 party programme, including the
question of CPM's possible participation at the Centre in a like-minded

Inaugurating the meet, CPM general secretary H K Surjeet said though the
party firmly believed that the alternative to imperialism was only
socialism, there was need to have self-critical analysis of what went
wrong and how to rectify erroneous practices in the light of the setback
to socialism after the fall of the Soviet Union.

Surjeet came down heavily on the Election Commission (EC) for
derecognising CPM as a national party and wanted it to change its rule
taking into account present political realities in the country.

"The recent decision of the EC to derecognise the CPM as a national party
is totally unjustified and unreasonable", he said.

"A party which has received nearly two crore votes in the 1999 Lok Sabha
elections and which always got 5 to 6 per cent of the total votes polled
in the country and which is the third largest party in the Lok Sabha is
deemed unfit to be a national party according to the present rules of the
Election Commission.

"The national role of the CPM can not in any way be curtailed by such
lopsided and deficient rules. Democratic opinion in the country has
already decried the present criteria being applied by the EC," Surjeet

Charging that the BJP was still governed by the RSS ideology of Hindutva,
Basu said the constitutional reforms embarked on by the government was
part of the efforts to fulfil the goal of the RSS.

"Today we have at the Centre a party committed to the ideology of
Hindutva. But Hindu gurus have never argued that you have to attack others
to safeguard Hinduism," he said.

He said though there were parties in the NDA which did not embrace the
ideology of Hindutva, they were bound by the opportunisitc alliance for
the sake of power.

Criticising the path of development pursued by the Congress and BJP
governments, Basu said though much progress had been made in
industrialisation and development of science and technology in the last 50
years, vast majority of people were still kept out of the sphere of

"Successive governments have failed to make a dent in the situation by
following the bourgeoise, landlord policies", he said.

He claimed that his party had correctly analysed when it adopted its
programme 36 years ago that without agrarian revolution there could not be
a democratic transition.

Earlier, welcoming the delegates, Kerala Chief Minister E K Nayanar noted
that "communal alliance" at the Centre threatened to dislodge Left Front
governments in West Bengal and Tripura and it was unfortunate that the
Congress with narrow political motives was colluding with the communal

#3. Global oil prices to determine rollback: Naik

GUWAHATI: The price of oil will be reduced if the international price came
down to $20 a barrel, union petroleum minister Ram Naik said.

Talking to newsmen, Naik said only at that price level could the country's
massive oil pool deficit of Rs 23,600 crore be taken care of.

Regarding Ms Mamata Banerjee's demand of rolling back of the prices, Naik
said the matter would be decided by the prime minister. ''Let him come
back he will decide after meeting his ministerial colleagues and other NDA
members. But I have kept ready all the relevant facts and figures,'' he

He, however, assured that there would be no more upward revision of
petroleum prices.

''Let it come down to $21-22 a barrel and the ministry will reduce the
price. I will be too happy to do that,'' said the union minister, who was
here to attend the signing ceremony of the MoU between Reliance and Oil
India Limited (OIL) on the supply of gas to the proposed Rs 4,000 crore
gas cracker project.

#4. Paswan will launch new party on Nov 23

MUMBAI: Union communication minister Ram Vilas Paswan on Thursday said
that he would formally announce launching of his party on November 23 at a
public rally at the Red Fort in New Delhi.

Talking to newspersons after a function organised to dedicate
telecommunication infrastructure for the millennium business park at
Mahape in Navi Mumbai, Paswan refused to disclose the name of his new
party but when cornered he said, ''there will not be the word 'dalit' in
the name of the new party.'' The new party would represent all sections of
society, he maintained.

Paswan, who is president of the 'Dalit Sena', said his decision to form a
new party was receiving tremendous response from various organisations in
the country. Besides, former Uttar Pradesh minister Rajaram Pandey and
Janata Dal and Bahujan Samaj Party leaders of Bihar and UP have extended
full support to it.

To a question, he said his new party would be a constituent of the
National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and continue to support the NDA
government. However, it would contest the assembly and gram panchayat
elections in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh on it own strength, he said.

#5. Sonia will remain AICC president, says Captain Satish Sharma
(Bachrawan (Rae Bareli), Oct 19)

CONGRESS MP from Rae Bareli, Captain Satish Sharma on Thursday scotched
rumours about party stalwart Jitendra Prasada contesting the post of All
India Congress Committee president in the party polls.

"I came to know about Mr Prasad's letter to the Chairman of Committee for
Organsiational Elections, Mr Ram Niwas Mirdha from the newspapers in
Delhi. But let me tell you that we in the party do not have knowledge of
any such exercise. I strongly believe that Ms Sonia Gandhi is going to
become the new AICC president and that too unanimously," asserted Captain

The Congress MP was speaking to mediamen after laying the foundation of
the Dayanand College of Bachrawan township, Rae Bareli today. During his
two-day visit to the constituency, he is scheduled to visit project sites
funded by the MP's quota.

#6. India calls for UN meet to prohibit use of N-weapons
HT Correspondent
(New Delhi, October 19)

IN A significant development, India along with 23 other countries have
moved a draft resolution in the UN General Assembly asking for an
international convention prohibiting the use or threat of nuclear weapons.

According to a Foreign Office spokesman the resolution, co-sponsored by 24
countries, requests the "Conference on Disarmament to commence
negotiations in order to reach agreement on an international convention
prohibiting the use or threat of nuclear weapons under any circumstances."

The resolution, which was moved on October 13, comes at a time when
Pakistan's military ruler General Pervez Musharraf is on record saying
that he was proud of nuclear weapons for 'Pakistan's sake'.

In an interview to a US TV channel, Gen Musharraf said that he hoped he
would never have to use the nuclear weapons, unless "Pakistan's future was
threatened". Islamabad has time and again invoked the nuclear mantra in
the context of Kashmir being a nuclear flash point. The resolution goes on
to say that the Conference on Disarmament should report the results of
these negotiations to the UN General Assembly. None of the nuclear weapon
powers have sponsored this resolution.

#7. Cong dissidents ridicule Arjun Singh's statement
Pioneer News Service/New Delhi

Senior Congress leader Arjun Singh's statement in Jaipur a few days ago --
that there is no challenge to Sonia Gandhi -- is a subject of ridicule in
"dissident circles".

Though the party managers frown at this word -- dissidents -- saying,
nobody falls in that category other than Jitendra Prasada, is learnt that
the names of at least two other Congress Working Committee (CWC) members
are in circulation for contesting against Ms Gandhi for the top post.

Though Mr Jitendra Prasada's bold assertions about a possible contest
during the last few days created an impression that he might contest
himself, sources close to him say he was not adamant and was ready to
support any other leader who feels like being a contender. Sources say Mr
Prasada's concern is the party's falling stock and he was convinced that
the Congress cannot be revived under Ms Gandhi's leadership.

That is why, sources explained, he is keen on a contest, which anyway will
strengthen party's democratic credentials. Sources in the party ask if Ms
Gandhi does not want a healthy contest, why did she change the party
constitution after over 50 years and set up an independent Central
Election Authority?

"After making lofty promises about free and fair polls, the Election
Authority has been turned into a weapon to capture the organisation. The
number of complaints and the nature of allegations from practically every
State prove that the entire exercise is being manipulated," a party MP

The high command's directive to DROs and PROs not to announce the names of
elected delegates and send the lists to AICC instead has caused
considerable heartburn among a section of the party. They consider this
move as the most blatant attempt at manipulation as the lists sent from
States could be altered by party managers before announcement. Party
spokesperson Anil Shastri is reported to have said that the high command
would ensure proper representation among the delegates, implying that the
elected members may be changed.

Party leaders also resent the lack of time between the completion of
electoral college and the date for filing of nominations for Congress
president's post. They view this as a ploy to discourage probable
contenders, who would not get any time for convassing before the

However, sources say none of these tricks can save Ms Gandhi from a
contest as the dissidents are carrying out their preparations in full
swing. Sources say they had earlier planned to hold a rally in Delhi to
sound the battle cry but that might not be possible now. But these leaders
have already prepared a long list of Sonia's mistakes and "friendly PCC
chiefs" are busy tutoring the "probable delegates" in this regard.

According to senior leaders, the Rao controversy came as a test for Sonia
loyalists and they should gauge the mood of the party by the response the
official line on the conviction of former Prime Minister evoked. Even as
the high command sent a clear hands-off message, most senior leaders
visited Mr Rao and expressed his sympathy for him. The list of those who
felt Rao had been wronged speaks for itself: Sitaram Kesri, Manmohan
Singh, Jitendra Prasada, Pranab Mukherjee, R K Dhawan, Vijaybhaskar Reddy,
Ghulam Nabi Azad, Digvijay Singh, Ashok Gehlot, J B Patnaik, Vilasrao
Deshmukh, Salman Khurshid ... etc.

Dissidents feel that those who say there is no challenge to Ms Gandhi
should understand that senior leaders are no more willing to listen to the
diktats of those who came from the Tiwari Congress. And this will be
reflected more emphatically at the organisational polls.

#8. State considered use of force to free Rajkumar

From B S Arun
DH News Service

The Karnataka government did consider the use of force to free Dr Rajkumar
but opted for negotiations with Veerappan after evaluating risk
factors. This was disclosed to the Supreme Court by Law and Parliamentary
Affairs Minister D B Chandre Gowda in his affidavit here today. He also
submitted that the State government decided to withdraw Tada cases against
the 51 associates of Veerappan after considering the options and the
likely repercussions in future of succumbing to his demands and after
weighing it against the likely problems if any harm is caused to Dr

The five-page affidavit of the minister came in the backdrop of the
battering the State government received from the three-member bench headed
by Mr Justice S P Bharucha which was critical yesterday that the state was
not submitting materials citing who took the decisions relating to the
demands made by Veerappan.

Mr Chandre Gowda submitted : I have been party to most of the decisions
which have been taken in this matter, which culminated in the issuance of
a government order dated 8th August 2000 requesting the special public
prosecutor, in charge of Tada cases pending before the designated court at
Mysore against Veerappan and his associates to withdraw the charges. The
minister stated that the government had discussed the problems arising out
of the abduction and the options available at various levels including in
informal meetings held between himself, the home minister and the chief
minister as well as the cabinet meetings which were held frequently during
the period August 1 to 8.

FORCE: I submit that one option, which the government had always
considered relates to the use of force for releasing Dr Rajkumar. While
considering this option and evaluation of the risk factors, as advised by
senior officials at the level of home secretary and the chief secretary as
well as our own experience in the past, were also considered. After
detailed discussions on more than one occasion, the option of force was
ruled out in favour of acceding to some of his demands. The government
made it public that only Tada charges and not all cases against the
accused would be withdrawn. The final decision was taken between 4-5
August, 2000.

The minister told the court: It was after considering the options and the
likely repercussions in future of succumbing to his demands (that is the
signal sent by agreeing to such demands, and the fact that it may
encourage further such acts) and after weighing it against the problems
apprehended if any harm were to be caused to Dr Rajkumar, that the
decision to withdraw Tada charges were taken. Referring to an earlier
case, the minister said in his affidavit there had been a kidnapping in
1997 where the government had considered, inter alia, review of cases
against Veerappan and his associates. However, as the hostages were
released and Veerappan did not surrender, the government did not review
these cases. In May 1999, once again a suggestion had been received that
if these cases are reviewed, Veerappan might agree to surrender. However,
the surrender did not materialise. Nonetheless, such a review committee
was set up which has been reviewing the case of the Tada accused in
accordance with the court's judgement. It was also kept in mind that the
accused in the five cases registered in Karnataka have been in judicial
custody for long periods of 6-7 years and in the background of the current
hostage crisis, a decision to withdraw the Tada charges against these
accused would be in public interest and would outweigh the likely negative
fallout of such a decision. Mr Gowda informed the court: In the informal
cabinet meeting held on August 3 the cabinet had authorised the chief
minister, the home minister and myself as well as the chief secretary to
take a final decision in this matter and pursuant to this, we took a final
decision between 4-5th August, 2000.
End of India Network News Digest

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