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INDIA-L  October 2000

INDIA-L October 2000


India Network News Digest - October 2 , 2000


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Today's India Network News Digest is compiled by the India Network Services
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                             Mon 2 Oct 2000

India Network News Digest - October 2 , 2000  Volume 12 Issue 168
Brought to you in co-operation with Various News Reports from India

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Today's News Items
#1. PM hopes to retain Trinamool support
#2. PM stresses party-Govt. relations
#3. Pawar threaten stir against petrol price hike
#4. Krishna hits back at critics
#5. Mission Mamata fails, George returns
#6. Nation remembers Bapu's 131st birth anniversary

#1. PM hopes to retain Trinamool support
By Neena Vyas

NEW DELHI, OCT. 1. The Prime Minister, Mr. Atal Behari Vajpayee, and the
Bharatiya Janata Party are still hopeful of continued support to the
National Democratic Alliance by the Trinamool Congress although the NDA
convener, Mr. George Fernandes' visit to Calcutta to meet the Trinamool
chief, Ms. Mamata Banerjee, ended without any positive response.

``Talks are going on with Ms. Mamata Banerjee, we hope her support will
continue,'' Mr. Vajpayee told reporters after the BJP national executive
committee meeting here this evening. Asked whether she had been consulted
on the increase in the prices of petroleum products, he said she had been
present at the NDA meeting when the matter was discussed. He, however,
conceded that ``she had some reservations, she had a different opinion on
some matter, but went along with the consensus.''

Ms. Banerjee had cited the hike in prices of petroleum products, ``which
has hurt the poor'' for her resignation. But there are fears in the BJP
that there is more to it than meets the eye. After all, Ms. Banerjee had
talked about the ``mahajot'' idea - a grand front against the Left Front
in West Bengal - quite a while ago, and the Congress(I) response is well
known. The party would have nothing to do with her as long as she is with
the BJP.

All accounts suggest that Mr. Fernandes, who along with a PMO official,
Mr. Sudhendra Kulkarni, was sent by the Prime Minister last night to try
and pacify Ms. Banerjee has returned without success. Reports from
Calcutta suggest that Ms. Banerjee remains firm, pointing out that the
interests of the poor were uppermost in her mind when she decided to
withdraw from the Government.

Mr. Fernandes, who met Ms. Banerjee, Mr. Panja as well as Mr. Sudip
Bandopadhyaya, Trinamool whip in the Lok Sabha, refused to comment on what
had transpired saying he would report to the Prime Minister.

The Trinamool chief's three-day ultimatum for withdrawal of the price hike
is also not likely to be accepted by the Government in view of the huge
Rs. 25,000-crore oil pool deficit. Mr. Ram Naik, Petroleum Minister, had
indicated this.

Other straws in the wind suggest that Ms. Banerjee may have decided to opt
out of the NDA because of her electoral compulsions in West Bengal. One,
she does not want to be associated with any unpopular decisions, and the
price rise will surely be unpopular. Two, any alliance with the
Congress(I), open or otherwise, could bring richer dividends. Three, she
had recently submitted a memorandum on the flood situation to the Prime
Minister along with Congress(I)'s Mr. Priya Ranjan Das Munshi, and that
was perhaps an indication of her mood to move closer to that
party. Reports from the Congress(I) suggest that acceptance of
Ms. Banerjee's leadership in Bengal would not be a problem.

However, the BJP is still hoping that the Congress(I) may not like to take
a stridently anti-CPI(M) posture as it may have to depend on the latter's
support to form a government at the Centre in the future.

But the counter argument is that the Lok Sabha elections are still four
years away while the West Bengal Assembly election is due to take place
within six months.

Mamata remains firm
By Our Special Correspondent

CALCUTTA, OCT. 1. Even as some of the Prime Minister, Mr. A. B. Vajpayee's
men have been in and out of the city since last night to persuade the
Railway Minister and Trinamool Congress supremo, Ms. Mamata Banerjee, to
return to the National Democratic Alliance Government, the latter remained
firm on quitting the BJP-led Government in protest against the hike in
prices of petro products.

``If the Government hurts the average man, then we have no option but to
protest against that Government. We have done just that,'' she said.

Last night, the NDA Government was jolted by Ms. Banerjee's announcement
at a press conference that she and her colleague, Mr. Ajit Panja, Minister
of State for External Affairs, would quit the Cabinet in protest against
the ``anti- people'' hike in the prices of petroleum products.

#2. PM stresses party-Govt. relations
By Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI, OCT. 1. The Prime Minister, Mr. A.B. Vajpayee, today emphasised
the need to strengthen the relationship between the Bharatiya Janata Party
and the Government even as he sought to dispel the growing notion that he
alone had recently been taking all important decisions related to purely
party matters. At the same time, he asked party-persons not to raise
issues which become points of public debate, but feel free to discuss
problems at appropriate party forums.

It was left to the Union Home Minister, Mr. L.K. Advani, to compare the
Nagpur call to all good persons to support the BJP, to the call given by
Jayaprakash Narain in 1977 asking all parties to sink their differences
and join the movement to save democracy, even as the party president,
Mr. Bangaru Laxman, reported that his Nagpur message has been received
very well, especially by the Dalits, Adivasis and Muslims.

Speaking briefly at the party's one-day national executive committee
meeting - the first to be held under Mr. Laxman's presidentship -
Mr. Vajpayee contradicted the view that has gained ground that Mr. Laxman
was his personal choice for presidentship. He asserted that consultations
and discussions had taken place and then a collective decision arrived at.

He said that a partyperson whether in Government or in the party
organisation was essentially doing the same job. The party should feel
free to bring to the notice of the Government any issue that it feels
strongly about, and the party should also carry effectively to the people
the achievements of the Government.

He talked about the difficult economic situation and his successful visit
to the United States, where he was welcomed as a representative of
India. He said during his visit the attacks on Christians in the country
were mentioned by some, but they clearly understood and had no fears about
the Government's secular intentions and policies.

Only indirectly he referred to Ms. Mamata Banerjee's resignation from the
Cabinet, by saying that sometimes difficult decisions had to be taken in
the national interest and it was not easy tackling a difficult situation.

In his address, Mr. Advani said the Nagpur decision to expand the party's
support base was not a new strategy. In 1996, in Bhopal, the BJP had taken
two decisions - to expand its base, and to reach out to other parties
which it had done successfully, ending with the formation of the NDA
Government at the Centre.

Briefing reporters , Mr. Jana Krishnamurthi, said that executive had
decided that in November and December the party would undertake mass
contact programmes, especially in the states going to the polls next
year. For one week from October 14 major public meetings would also be
held to take the Nagpur message to the people and observe completion of
one-year of the 1999 Vajpayee government.

A detailed strategy discussion for the five States going to the polls will
also be held tomorrow.

#3. Pawar threaten stir against petrol price hike

NAGPUR: NCP president Sharad Pawar on Sunday warned of an agitation in
protest against hike in petroleum products and said the resignation by
railways minister Mamata Banerjee showed that the BJP-led coalition had
not taken political parties into confidence on the issue.

"We will have to start an agitation on the issue as the move has hit hard
the middle class and the weaker sections" Pawar said addressing the first
national convention of his party here.

He supported Banerjee's demand for withdrawal of hike in petroleum

He also accused Vajpayee government of pursuing anti-farmer policies. In
his presidential address to the convention, Pawar hit out at both the
BJP-led NDA and the Congress.

While he faulted NDA for a "total lack of clarity and sense of direction",
he indirectly blamed the Congress for the rise of regional parties.

#4. Krishna hits back at critics
(Bangalore, Oct 2)

Karnataka Chief Minister S M Krishna today indirectly hit back at some
senior ruling Congress leaders in the state who had questioned his
government's handling of the Rajkumar kidnap crisis.

"A sensitive matter has to be viewed from all angles and an appropriate
decision taken. We can't take decisions in haste," Krishna, who was
speaking at a Gandhi Jayanti function at KPCC office here, said apparently
referring to the Rajkumar issue.

"Forget about others. At least the Congressmen should realise this," he
said in an apparent sarcastic reference to former Chief Minister S
Bangarappa and senior Congress leader C K Jaffar Sharief who had last week
expressed reservations about the government's handling of the issue.

Krishna said the litmus test of a leadership was in their capacity to take
appropriate decision after weighing all the consequences.

He said he believed in the theory that 'one might be soft in speech but
should always carry a stick'.

In an embarrassment to the Krishna government, Bangarappa had fully backed
the September 28 bandh called to protest the delay in securing the release
of Rajkumar from the captivity of forest bandit Veerappan and had
indicated that he was not happy with the way the issue was tackled.

Reports had also quoted former Railway Minister C K Jaffer Sharief as
having said that the Rajkumar crisis should not have been allowed to drag
on for this long.

#5. Mission Mamata fails, George returns

CALCUTTA/NEW DELHI, OCTOBER 1: National Democratic Alliance's
trouble-shooter at large, George Fernandes, left Calcutta this morning
without much success in his mission to placate Mamata Banerjee. With the
Bharatiya Janata Party categorically ruling out a rollback of oil prices
today, the return of the Trinamool Congress to the Cabinet looks
increasingly remote.

The Union Railway Minister announced yesterday that she and her Trinamool
colleague Ajit Panja, minister of state for external affairs, had
resigned, as her party was kept in the dark about the hike in petroleum
prices. She gave three days to the government to reconsider the decision
failing which, she said, her party would decide if it would stay in the
ruling coalition.

Fernandes, who rushed to Banerjee's residence last night and discussed the
issue with her and Panja, didn't divulge to the reporters what transpired
in the meeting.

Later, at the Kewratal cremation ground in Calcutta to attend the funeral
of Netaji's nephew Sisir Bose, Banerjee told reporters: ``In my meeting
with Fernandes, I conveyed my sentiments that if the people are hurt we
(the Trinamool Congress) are also hurt. Our protest is for the people.''

Banerjee denied any knowledge of the arrival of another emissary from the
Prime Minister's Office amid speculation that a senior official is
expected to fly in from Delhi.

When asked what her plans are as the Prime Minister is not accepting her
resignation, she shot back: ``What could we do? We cannot accept the
decision to hike the prices of the petroleum products which will hit the
common man.''

When asked if the other NDA partners, who may not be happy with the hike,
spoke to her, she said: ``I cannot speak for others, I can only speak for
my party.''

But by ruling out any rollback of the increase in prices of petroleum
products today, the BJP left little scope for her to withdraw her
resignation. ``The Government has already passed the minimum possible
burden to consumers while announcing the hike,'' BJP vice-president Jana
Krishnamurthy told reporters after the party's national executive meeting
in New Delhi, while ruling out even a partial rollback.

Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee too dropped similar hints by avoiding
a direct reply to a question whether Banerjee would withdraw her
resignation. He hoped that the Trinamool Congress would continue support
to the NDA Government at the Centre.

``We are talking to her and we hope to get continued support of her
party,'' Vajpayee said after the meeting. Conceding that Banerjee was
present in both the NDA coordination meeting and the Cabinet meeting which
decided the hike, Vajpayee said that though she had a different opinion in
some matters, she went by the consensus.

Krishnamurthy appealed to Banerjee to understand the compulsions behind
the decision to hike the prices of petroleum products. ``The Government
took this decision after a detailed discussion in the Cabinet and in the
NDA Coordination Committee meeting. We appeal her to look at the context
in which the decision had been taken'', he said.

There, however, was no discussion in the national executive on the
political situation in West Bengal arising out of Mamata's resignation,
Krishnamurthy confirmed.

#6. Nation remembers Bapu's 131st birth anniversary
Agencies/New Delhi

The country on Monday remembered Father of the Nation Mahatma Gandhi on
his 131st birth anniversary.

President K R Narayanan, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, former Prime
Ministers V P Singh and I K Gujral and Congress president Sonia Gandhi and
Delhi Lt Governor Vijai Kapoor were among the dignitaries who visited Raj
Ghat, the memorial dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi, to pay their tributes.

An inter-religious prayer meeting was held there to pay homage to the
Prophet of Peace. A 24-hour non-stop spinning of the charkha, Mahatma
Gandhi's symbol, was also organised.

The dignitaries also visited Vijay Ghat, the samadhi of late Prime
Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri on the occasion of his 96th birth
anniversary. Later, floral tributes were paid to him in the Central Hall
of Parliament by deputy speaker of Lok Sabha P M Sayeed, Home Minister L K
Advani and leader of the Opposition Sonia Gandhi among others.

Various functions and exhibitions depicting the Mahatma's ideals including
a commemorative function at the Gandhi Smriti and Darshan Samiti at Tees
January Marg, where Mahatma Gandhi fell to the assassin's bullets, marked
the day.

Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit paid floral tributes at the Dandi
March statue of Mahatma Gandhi at the old secretariat complex where Bapu's
favourite "bhajans" were played.

A large number of functions were organised in the capital to mark the
day. The Gandhi mela, organised by the Municipal Corporation of Delhi,
concluded on Monday. A function was organised at Tihar jail to launch the
special confectionery items produced by the prisoners.

A website of painting by prisoners was also launched. The New Delhi
Municipal Council organised a classical vocal recital by C R Vyas and
on-the-spot painting competition on the Mahatma. The national rail museum
is holding a four-day exhibition on "Bapu and railways".

End of India Network News Digest

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