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INDIA-L October 2000

Subject:

India Network News Digest - October 24 , 2000

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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
                             Tue 24 Oct 2000
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India Network News Digest - October 24 , 2000  Volume 12 Issue 184
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Brought to you in co-operation with Various News Reports from India
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Today's News Items
-------------------
#1. Infiltration continues: Fernandes
#2. BJP begins exercise to select Jharkhand CM
#3. High court admits Rao's appeal in JMM case
#4. ON VEERAPPAN'S TRAIL: Taking no chances
#5. Uma denies involvement with anti-Masjid movement
#6. Laloo to support CPM's third front
#7. Jitendra Prasada in race for Cong chief's post
#8. Rajnath Singh to replace Ram Prakash Gupta as U.P. Chief Minister
#9. Congress panics, puts off elections to PCC
#10. Mamata to wait for PM to make the first move
------------------------------------------------

#1. Infiltration continues: Fernandes

SRINAGAR, OCT. 23. The Defence Minister, Mr. George Fernandes, today said
infiltration from across the border was on the increase in Jammu and
Kashmir but ruled out a repetition of the Kargil conflict. Pakistani
troops succeeded in occupying the Kargil heights which were unprotected
then, but ``the situation has changed as our troops are manning the
borders with more vigour,'' he told reporters here.

Borders areas such as Poonch and Kupwara were being constantly manned to
ensure that a Kargil-like situation did not develop. The conflict was the
result of lack of proper security arrangements, he said adding ``we have
taken adequate measures now and there is no question of a repetition.''

Mr. Fernandes said there was no let up in infiltration from across the
border. ``The casualties of infiltrators indicate increase in the
infiltration attempts from across the border.''

Denying reports that Pakistan had moved nine Army divisions from Marala
towards the international border near the Rann of Kutch to conduct massive
exercises, he said ``there is no truth in the press reports.'' ``Pakistan
has deployed troops for carrying out exercises but they are as far as 70
to 75 km from our borders and there is no threat to India.''

``The situation on the Line of Control is normal and as before. If there
is any difference, the shelling from across the border has been stepped
up. It is an up and down game. Sometimes there is step-up in the
activities but at other times there is no activity. There is no cause for
alarm.''

The situation in the militancy-torn State was improving which was evident
from the fact that ``more and more infiltrators are being killed.''

Asked whether the Centre would consider a unilateral ceasefire as
suggested by the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen supreme commander, Syed Salahuddin, he
said security forces were not opening fire unprovoked. ``We are not arming
our jawans just to get killed in the firing by Pakistani troops. The
ceasefire was shortlived as Islamabad did not favour a dialogue,'' he
said.

#2. BJP begins exercise to select Jharkhand CM
By Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI, OCT. 23. The preliminary round of consultations in the
Bharatiya Janata party to select a Chief Minister for Jharkhand began
today with the party president convening a meeting here of its MLAs, MPs
and MLCs.

Although at the end of the day those present left the decision to the
party high command, the opinion of each one was sought in confidence by
the leadership.

Present at the meeting were Mr. Bangaru Laxman, party president,
Mr. Kushabhau Thakre, former president, Mr. Jana Krishnamurthi,
vice-president, and Mr. Narendra Modi, general secretary. Mr. Kailashpati
Mishra, who is party in-charge of Bihar's political affairs, had asked the
leadership to leave him out of this process as he personally knew each of
the MLAs well and felt that some of them may hesitate to give their
opinion in his presence.

It seems that while the MLAs favoured the idea of one among them being
chosen as Chief Minister, they were not averse to the leadership selecting
an MP for the job. Senior party leaders were tight-lipped about the choice
of the majority, but three names that were doing the rounds were those of
Mr. Babulal Marandi, MP, Mr. Karia Munda, party office-bearer, and
Mr. Yamuna Singh, who has been an MLA several times. Currently, he
represents the Palamau assembly segment. However, the emergence of a
fourth dark horse is not being ruled out at this juncture.

The BJP has made it clear that the Chief Minister will be from the party
which has a strength of 32 MLAs in the 80- member Assembly to be carved
out of the Bihar Assembly. Besides these 32, there are 5 MLAs from the
Samata Party, and 3 from the Janata Dal. This takes the strength to
40. And the BJP is expecting the support of the 12 MLAs from the Jharkhand
Mukti Morcha.

Party leaders here today made it clear that giving away the Chief
Ministership to the JMM - Mr. Shibu Soren has been claiming it - was out
of the question. The calculation is that if the JMM backs out, the party
will be able to get a couple of MLAs from among the independents to make
up for the shortfall of one MLA.

Mr. Kailashpati Mishra later said the party view was that the Government
would be a coalition set-up, the Chief Minister would be from the BJP but
he must be an `adivasi' (tribal).

#3. High court admits Rao's appeal in JMM case

NEW DELHI: The Delhi High Court Tuesday admitted for hearing former prime
minister P V Narasimha Rao's appeal against his conviction in the JMM MPs
bribery case and issued notice to the CBI for filing reply by November 7.

Rao's counsel R K Anand told Justice R S Sodhi that the trial court had
"erred" both on facts and law while holding the former prime minister
guilty and sentencing him to three years' rigorous imprisonment.

He said the trial judge had based his order of conviction solely on the
statement of approver Shailendra Mahato and "erred" in giving him pardon.

The proceedings for granting pardon to Mahato were not followed as per the
law laid down by the Supreme Court, he claimed.

Anand said, according to the Supreme Court ruling, "if the pardon is
granted illegally then the approver's statement has no value".

"The question of corroboration of approver's statement is immaterial if
proper procedures for granting him pardon is not followed," he said adding
there was no corroboration of Mahato's statement.

The court, after hearing a brief argument by Anand, observed that "if this
was the situation, then there is nothing for the CBI for basking in
glory. How can a person be found guilty on such an evidence?" it asked.

"If this is all you are challenging, then you should be more keen to file
an appeal," the court observed.

A special CBI court on October 13 had sentenced Rao and his former cabinet
colleague Buta Singh to three years' RI and imposed a fine of Rs two lakh
on each of them.

The trial court, however, stayed operation of the judgement and granted
bail to both the convicts till November 8, enabling them to file appeals
in the high court.

The court had admitted Buta Singh's appeal for hearing last week.

#4. ON VEERAPPAN'S TRAIL: Taking no chances
By Srinivasa Prasad & M B Maramkal

NEAR A HIDEOUT: When Veerappan is around, there is only terror in the
air. Everybody knows he is somewhere there, not very far. Tribals of the
nearby villages and forest watchers know it but are too terrified to even
utter his name. Late last week, the bandit and his hostages were in the
jungle, not very far from the road connecting Dimbam and Satyamangalam in
Tamil Nadu. Scouting of suspected hideouts, protracted interviews with the
tribals and officials led a Times of India team to a certain hamlet
surrounded by dense and hilly forest.

There were all the indications that the bandit was holed up, not more than
a couple of km from the hamlet, at least for a few days, before he
switched to another safe place.

Some indications: Sudden wealth of the tribals (some of them had crispRs
500 notes, a source said), mysterious movements of strangers and vehicles
up to the hamlet, stopping of outsiders from entering even the approach
road leading to the hamlet.

The hamlet is accessible from the road, first by an eight-km dirt track
surrounded by thick bushes, occasional wild elephants and then a short
trek. The track is watched by loyal villagers and members of the Tamil
outfits which joined hands with Veerappan in kidnapping Kannada screen
idol Rajkumar.

An arduous journey on the dirt track, wading through thorny bushes and a
stream lead to the foot of the one of the three gigantic hills. The
hideout is apparently on the slope of one of these hills. Tribals throw
terrified glances towards where they believe "Veerappa'' is on the
hill. Scouting the hillside through powerful field glasses only reveals a
dense jungle interspersed with rocks and open spaces but no other
movement. There is deafening silence. Venturing deeper into the jungle
would be futile. One could pass the hideout by a few feet and not be
aware.

``Climb the rock near the `kere' (tank) and be visible to his men so that
you stand a chance of being spotted by them,'' a source had advised.

In fact, that is just about the only way one could attempt an interview
with him. The only other way is a random, chance meeting with the
kidnappers. But that might lead to one thing: Sudden death for intruders.

The hideout is ideally located for an ambush. From the den above, his men
could watch all intruders from a long distance -- Veerappan is believed to
have acquired even nightvision glasses -- and shoot them even if they have
the slightest suspicion that the intruders are from the police or forest
departments.

Being spotted by Veerappan's men is important for whoever wants to talk to
him. After Veerappan spots somebody, he could just ignore the intruder
unless he suspects he is in some kind of danger. If the bandit wants to
talk to the visitor, he will have them watched till he is convinced that
all that the visitor wants is to talk. But this confidence-building
process could take days, or even weeks.

Conscious of his public relations, Veerappan in the past responded to such
attempts. A couple of months ago, a lawyer went as far as contacting
Veerappan's henchmen. The message came: Wait. He is still waiting.

Some of the tribals in the hamlet, beneficiaries of Veerappan's largesse,
are his loyalists. Some are sympathisers. One tribal, after speaking
Kannada and Tamil for a whole day, broke into English. The Times team made
it clear, in every way that was possible, that it wanted only a meeting
with the kidnappers.

A tribal urged patience. A long wait at the foothills yielded no
response. By weekend, Veerappan sneaked into a new hideout, just a 6-km
hop for him in the jungle, on the other side of the hill.

But access to anywhere near the other side of the hill by road is 50-km
long.

To be concluded

#5. Uma denies involvement with anti-Masjid movement
By Akshaya Mukul

NEW DELHI: Uma Bharti, BJP MP and leading light of the Ramjanmabhoomi
movement, appeared before the Liberhan Ayodhya Commission of Inquiry on
Monday. But unlike her usual garrulous self, she was extremely guarded,
taking her time to answer questions. On a few occasions she even refused
to answer, saying that in eight years she had forgotten a lot of details.

On being asked why she turned from preaching to practising politics in
1984, Bharti answered because she was upset with the feudal oppression in
her area. But why the BJP? ``It just happened,'' was her one-line
reply. ``I even got offers from the Congress and Left parties,'' she added
as an afterthought.

Was it anything to do with the BJP's religious ideology then? ``I never
thought of religion from a political perspective. Religion for me is a
very personal matter, something like buying a brand of toothpaste,'' she
told Anupam Gupta, counsel for the commission.

When asked about the BJP's religious ideology, a cautious Bharti said,
``It's difficult to explain a group's religious belief. Only an
individual's belief can be explained.'' ``But isn't a group composed of
individuals?'' Gupta asked. After a pause, she replied somewhat
cryptically: ``When a group is in a temple, it will only discuss religion,
nothing else.''

On the anti-Babri Masjid movement, Bharti categorically stated that she
had nothing to do with it till October 31, 1990, the date she was arrested
along with others in UP's Banda district for defying the ban order of the
then chief minister Mulayam Singh Yadav. ``I heard about the police firing
on Hindus in the rest house and wept the whole night,'' she said,
explaining how she fled the next morning with a shaved head. ``By then, I
was emotionally involved with the movement and was invited to become part
of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad's Marg Darshak Mandal - its highest decision
making body,'' she disclosed.

When Gupta pointedly asked her about the BJP's role in the movement,
Bharti tried to evade by saying that many BJP leaders used to come to
Ayodhya. Nothing more. She also contested Gupta's claim that in July 1992,
the kar seva continued for 15 days.

An emotional Bharti then started explaining how secular she was, how a
Muslim supported her family after her father's death, and how she felt
that the relationship between the two communities should be like Bharat
and Ram. ``Bharat gave back Ayodhya to Ram after 14 years. Had the Muslims
given the Babri Masjid to us, there would have been no quarrel,'' she
said. However, she lost no time in launching a frontal attack on the
Congress and Left parties for allegedly having created a wedge between the
two communities. ``It was only the BJP which got a negative image. It's so
difficult to remove it,'' she said.

The hearing is not yet over and Bharti will be examined again next month.

#6. Laloo to support CPM's third front

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Rashtriya Janata Dal supremo Laloo Prasad Yadav has
thrown his weight upon the idea of a third front mooted by the CPM, but
suggested that the Congress too be roped in to fight the ``communal
threat'' posed by the BJP and its allies.

Participating in a meet-the-press programme at the Press Club here on
Monday, he said the emergence of a third front was the need of the hour.

``But we should mobilise the support of all and unite them. We should also
talk to the Congress because it is secular in nature. Our objective is to
safeguard secularism,'' he added.

When pointed out that the economic policies of the Congress were strongly
opposed by the Left parties, he said the Congress was in the process of
reworking them and Sonia Gandhi had constituted a committee for this
purpose.

Significantly, Yadav was in the city to attend a seminar organised by the
CPM in connection with the ongoing special conference of the
party. Stalwarts like Deve Gowda and Yadav, among others, joining hands
with the CPM leaders was reportedly a part of efforts to revive the
anti-BJP and anti-Congress third front.

Yadav said the BJP was gaining because of the division among the
opposition parties and the nation was facing danger on economic and
religious fronts.

Thanking the Congress profusely, he recalled that it was that party which
had helped him in the time of crisis. ``We will talk to them and try to
tie up with them,'' he said, adding that the Congress also would join the
bandwagon through common agitations against the the BJP.

Asked whether he had suggested this to the CPM leaders, Yadav said, ``I
did not talk to them.''

Reiterating that BJP was his number one enemy, he alleged that they were
conspiring against him by trapping him in false cases.

``No BJP minister can escape the net of prosecusion for their corruption
once they step down,'' he warned.

Referring to the tag attached to Bihar as a land of criminals, he claimed
that many people, including a few from Bihar, wanted to project a
distorted picture of the state and were quick to send wrong signals when
some incident took place.

The RJD chief also called for a joint stir against the economic policies
of the BJP by launching nation-wide agitations on the lines of Dandi march
and salt satyagraha of the freedom struggle era.

#7. Jitendra Prasada in race for Cong chief's post
The Times of India News Service

LUCKNOW: Congress Working Committee (CWC) member Jitendra Prasada has
given enough indications to convey that he is in the race for the party
president's post now held by Sonia Gandhi.

On the other hand, the Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee's new president
Prakash Jaiswal has dared anyone to contest against Sonia Gandhi, who, he
says, is the ``most democratic leader to head a political party.''

In an indirect reference to Prasada, Jaiswal said: ``Jo Soniaji ke khilaf
ladega woh chunav mein tinke ki tarah ud jayega.'' (Whoever dared to
contest against Sonia would be decimated).

Talking to the Press here, Prasada, while making an implied reference to
Sonia Gandhi, charged that ``the party leaders have failed to strengthen
it.''

Asked who exactly was responsible for weakening the party, Prasada said,
``all the Congressmen are responsible for it.''

Having given enough indications that he was in the race for the AICC
president's post, Prasada, former UPCC chief, however, said it was too
early to say whether he would be in the running or not. ``My fight is for
the restoration of inner party democracy and for the holding of free and
fair organisational elections even if it entailed secret voting,'' he
stressed.

Maintaining that every delegate could be a prospective candidate, Prasada
said ``the picture would be clear only on the day of the nomination'' and
was at pains to clarify that his posturing should not be construed as a
challenge to anyone. ``I have merely raised certain issues which I feel
needed redressal.''

Queried about the letters he had penned to the party's Central Election
Authority Ram Niwas Mirdha, purportedly drawing his attention to the
likelihood of the organisational polls not being fair, Prasada refused to
divulge the contents but said he had merely apprised him of all that was
brought to his notice by the party workers.

Prasada said his campaign for free and fair elections was in conformity
with the Panchmarhi declaration and ``there is nothing unconstitutional
about it.''

Prasada was stumped when asked why he chose to be a conspicuous absentee
at Sonia Gandhi's rally in Kanpur on Saturday but addressed media persons
on Sunday. Earlier, the CWC member had chosen to visit Padrauna a day
ahead of the AICC president's visit to the district.

Meanwhile, Jaiswal has thrown an ``open challenge'' asking anyone to
contest for the Congress party president's election against Sonia Gandhi.

Asked whether this was a threat to the dissidents in addition to
strengthening their contention about lack of inner party democracy,
Jaiswal beat a hasty retreat and said he was merely conveying the views of
the workers who would brook no opposition to Sonia's leadership.

Emphatic that the party's forthcoming organisational elections would be
the ``most free and fair held till now,'' he rubbished all talks about the
polls being doctored in any way.

Terming Sonia Gandhi as the most democratic leader to head any political
party, he said the Congress was one party where maximum internal democracy
prevailed. But when asked why then were PCC presidents were always foisted
from above and never elected, Jaiswal chose to hedge the issue.

#8. Rajnath Singh to replace Ram Prakash Gupta as U.P. Chief Minister
UNI
(Lucknow, Oct 24)

Union Surface Transport Minister Rajnath Singh will be the new Chief
Minister of Uttar Pradesh taking over from Mr Ram Prakash Gupta. State
President of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Kalraj Mishra said shortly after
his return from New Delhi that Mr Singh is likely to be sworn in after
Diwali. Mr Kalraj Mishra said that he had met the party high command in
New Delhi earlier in the day. Prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and
Union Home Minister L K Advani formally told the state party chief of this
decision in the national capital this morning.

Mr Mishra said that Mr Gupta had himself expressed his desire to step down
owing to age-related problems. He said unsuccessful efforts were made to
persuade Mr Gupta to take back his decision.

He informed that the final modalities about change of guard in the state,
would, however, be decided in a day or two. The BJP legislature party
would meet tomorrow to formally elect its leader.

#9. Congress panics, puts off elections to PCC

New Delhi, Oct. 23: The Congress high command pressed the panic button on
Monday when it decided to postpone the ongoing organisational elections at
the Pradesh Congress Committee level while going ahead with the elections
of the Congress president as scheduled.
Even as the office of the Congress Central Election Authorityat the party
headquarters 24, Akbar Road started the process of distributing the
nomination forms for the presidential elections, the PCC offices in
different parts of the country reportedly received messages asking them to
hold back the process of electing the PCC presidents and All India
Congress Committee delegates.

The election of the PCC delegates, which eventually constitute the
electoral college for electing the Congress president, will however carry
on as scheduled, according to sources.

Party sources said this will ensure the re-election of Congress president
Sonia Gandhi, even as the whole election process has run into
difficulty. The circular, according to party sources, was sent by the
chairman of the partys election authority Ram Nivas Mirdha.

Mirdha, however, remained vague and non-committal about the actual
situation, but admitted that there was a lot of confusion and chaos and
many tangles have to be resolved. He admitted that the election in several
PCCs has run into rough weather.

Though Mirdha did not state this in so many words, the election to many
PCCs is anyway unlikely to be completed before October 28, the last date
of filing the nominations for the Congress president post.These include
Tamil Nadu and West Bengal. In other States including Uttar Pradesh,
Bihar, Andhra Pradesh and Orissa, there is a major tussle between
different factions to ensure their nominees as PCC presidents and AICC
delegates.

The AICC delegates will constitute the electoral college for the election
of the Congress Working Committee. Apart from this, a section of old guard
dissidents led currently by former Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee chief
Jitendra Prasada appears keen to put spokes in Sonia Gandhis attempt to
get elected unopposed.

While so far Prasada has not made public his intent to contest against
Sonia Gandhi, his confidants have all along maintained that either he or
any of his nominees will challenge the Congress presidents pre-eminence in
the AICC. This in spite of the fact that Sonias re-election is considered
by one and all in the party as a foregone conclusion.

#10. Mamata to wait for PM to make the first move

New Delhi, Oct. 23: She resigned from the Cabinet, threatened to walk out
of the National Democratic Alliance, then withdrew her resignation but put
the government on tenterhooks demanding roll back of petroleum price
hike. She, however, is in no hurry now.

Trinamul Congress leader and Union Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee will
wait for the Prime Minister to make the first move, now that he is back
from hospital. She will leave for Calcutta on Tuesday to celebrate Diwali
and will only be back on October 29. The issue can rest till then.

Her associates said that she had not met the Prime Minister or discussed
the issue with him on phone since his return from Mumbai.

Mamata Banerjee, it may be recalled, had withdrawn her resignation only
after the Prime Minister had assured her through a fax that he will take a
relook at petroleum prices after his return from the knee surgery in
Mumbai.

But on the eve of the NDA governments anniversary, the Prime Minister had
issued a statement from his hospital bed in Breach Candy explaining how
the increasing petroleum prices in the international market had forced the
government to take that unpleasant step. He had also explained how in the
changing global scenario some hard decisions have to be taken at times.

This was being interpreted in political circles as an indirect hint to
Mamata Banerjee that rolling back prices would not be easy .

Surprisingly, none of the National Democratic Alliance partners had made a
noise demanding roll back of the hike in petroleum prices.

The Telugu Desam, too, had grumbled a bit when the Union government
announced the hike, but then kept quiet, realising that none of the allies
were ready to take to the streets on the issue.

TD chief and AP Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu had, however, insisted
that he would not reduce the sales tax on petrol in the State was against
the reduction of Central tax on petroleum.

--------------------------------------
End of India Network News Digest
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