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INDIA-L  October 2000

INDIA-L October 2000


India Network News Digest - October 6 , 2000


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Fri, 6 Oct 2000 10:56:36 -0400





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Today's India Network News Digest is compiled by the India Network Services
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                             Fri 6 Oct 2000

India Network News Digest - October 6 , 2000  Volume 12 Issue 172
Brought to you in co-operation with Various News Reports from India
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Today's News Items
#1. Atals mollification bid invites Cabinets ire
#2. I am not for rollback: Naik
#3. News Analysis: Mamata breaking off from NDA?
#4. BJP worried over reverses in UP, Gujarat
#5. TDP posturing on oil price
#6. Talks only after Pak ceases aid to terrorism
#7. Militants using new infiltration routes
#8. Raj abduction: State MPs urge PM to prevail on MK

#1. Atals mollification bid invites Cabinets ire
Kalyani Shanker
(New Delhi, October 5)

IT WAS a near-Cabinet revolt as well as pressure from allies which made
the Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee hold back the rollback of
petroleum products as demanded by the Trinamool Congress leader Mamata

If Mr Vajpayee was playing a solo game in handling Mamata Banerjee by
sending his emissary and PMO official Sudhindra Kulkarni, he probably
miscalculated the support of his Cabinet ministers.

Almost all senior BJP ministers including Mr Advani, Yashwant Sinha,
Jaswant Singh, Ram Naik and Pramod Mahajan, resisted the move to rollback
prices of petroleum products as it amounted to the Government yielding on
bended knees to an ally.

Defence Minister George Fernandes, who had been deputed by the Prime
Minister to Calcutta to talk to Mamata on Monday, is also said to be
against such a move. Other Samata leaders also agree with him. Mr
Fernandes is said to be miffed at the way Mamata treated him on his
visit. The Samata party feels that when the issue was thrashed out in the
NDA, there was no point in throwing tantrums afterwards.

Then there were other allies including DMK, Akali Dal and JD(U) who were
not in favour of the Prime Minister's formula. In fact, while other allies
like TDP made some noise, the DMK had prepared itself to accept the hike.

Shiv Sena appears to be peeved at the talk of Mamata's party getting one
more Cabinet berth while its claim had been ignored. This has also opened
a Pandora's box.

Politically also the BJP is getting ready to live without Mamata. "We
suspect she may not continue with us and therefore we are getting ready to
exist without her. We will be happy if she does not go out. It is for her
to prove her intentions," said a senior BJP leader who thinks that the
Prime Minister has "exposed Mamata in the bargain".

"Now the ball is in the court of Mamata. Let us see whether she waits
until the PM returns from his operation or pulls out. She may do a
Jayalalitha," a BJP strategist said.

BJP sources hinted that one reason why the party also would not like to
bend before Mamata was that it was getting reports that she was planning
to leave the NDA. "What if she takes concessions and then quits. Where
will we be?", asked a senior BJP leader.

As far as Mamata is concerned, she is pushed to the corner by this week's
developments. She was shown in television saying that the October 6
Cabinet will decide about the rollback. She has no face-saving solution
now. Her options are limited.

Either she has to pull out or wait until the PM returns after his
operation. She has already put her party on notice about the possibility
of an imminent pullout. She also has to face the pressure from her party
MPs and ministers are also not very happy about the happenings.

There is speculation that she may announce Trinamool's pullout from NDA
soon. "She has to do it sooner or later. Her eyes are on the Writers'
Buildings. Without the Muslim votes she cannot reach there. She will not
get Muslim votes as long as she is with the BJP," explained a Trinamool

However, it would be easier for her to bargain with the Congress for an
alliance as long as she is in the NDA. The minute she leaves, she loses
her bargaining power. Tomorrow is crucial as to what the Trinamool supremo
will do. The BJP, on its part, appear to be reconciled to the situation.

#2. I am not for rollback: Naik
By Our Staff Reporter

CHENNAI, OCT. 5. The Centre will continue to subsidise kerosene and LPG to
the extent of 33 and 15 per cent respectively even after dismantling the
administered pricing mechanism (APM) by March 2002, the Union Minister for
Petroleum and Natural Gas, Mr. Ram Naik, said here today.

Addressing presspersons and later participating in the foundation stone
laying function for a three-million tonne refinery expansion project of
the Chennai Petroleum Corporation Limited (CPCL), he said the APM would be
dismantled in phases. Afterwards, the subsidy on the two products would be
borne by the Centre, instead of the Oil Coordination Committee.

Noting that he did not foresee any "political difficulty" in the
dismantling process, he said people had already accepted the recent hike
in the prices of the petroleum products. On the resignation of the Union
Railway Minister, Ms. Mamta Banerjee, following the hike, he said, "she
was present at the Cabinet meeting and at the meeting of NDA leaders when
the issue was discussed". Expressing his inability to divulge the response
of Ms. Banerjee at the meeting, Mr. Naik pointed out that the Cabinet had
finalised the hike and the issue now rested with the Prime Minister and
Ms. Banerjee.

Asserting that the prices of petroleum products could not be reduced, he
said the Prime Minister had not agreed to any rollback. Even, "I am not
for a rollback".

Explaining the circumstances which led to the hike - global crude oil
prices shot up three times in the last 18 months - the Minister said the
Centre had little option but to opt for the three-pronged strategy
involving a hike in the prices, cut in the import and excise duty on crude
and appealing to the State Governments to desist from passing on the
incremental increase in the sales tax to the consumers. Issue of oil bonds
and fiscal measures also figured in the plan. These components were
expected to aid the Centre in meeting the estimated Rs.23,600-crore oil
pool account deficit.

To another query, Mr. Naik said prices of petroleum products would be
reduced if the global crude oil prices maintained at $22 per barrel and
after the Centre wiped out its oil pool account deficit.

#3. News Analysis: Mamata breaking off from NDA?
By Ambikanand Sahay

NEW DELHI: If the signals emanating from the Kalighat residence of Mamata
Banerjee in Calcutta are any indication, the Trinamul Congress is now
preparing to break away from the National Democratic Alliance.

All leaders of Banerjee's party have suddenly become tightlipped even as
the followers down the line are beginning to flex their muscles for a
show-down. Reporters who camped at Mamata's house for whole of Thursday
couldn't elicit any relevant soundbyte except for a one-liner from Sudip
Bandhopadyaya, ``We shall talk to the press only on Friday''.

It's more or less clear that the maverick Mamatadi didn't expect ``sudden
display of political courage'' by the Vajpayee government's political
managers who ensured that any decision on roll-back of petro products'
prices was deferred till the Prime Minister returned from his knee surgery
in Mumbai. In fact, she didn't have any clue to what all had been
happening between Hyderabad and New Delhi behind the scene. Nobody told
her that the man she was counting on most, Chandrababu Naidu, had assured
the Prime Minister's political managers that the Telugu Desam would, in no
case, precipitate a crisis.

Other constituents of the NDA, including the DMK, the Akali Dal and the
Biju Janata Dal, agreed with the view that ``you just can't go on exerting
pressure on the government like this again and again''. For, all of them
would suffer if the edifice of the NDA crumbles at this point of time. The
moment the political managers gauged this sentiment rightly, they decided
to be tough. The current feeling in NDA circles in the Capital is that
it's time to be firm once and for all. But this doesn't mean that the BJP
is working for a faceoff vis-a-vis the Trinamul Congress. Top leaders of
the BJP are of the view that Mamata would ultimately listen to reason.

But the general mood in the Trinamul camp in Calcutta is a little
different. Party workers want Mamata to react to New Delhi's virtual
``rejection'' of her demand. They want her to join issues with the BJP
and, if possible, negotiate with the Congress and Saifuddin Choudhary for
a ``Mahajot''. On her part, Mamata wants to take some more time before
firming up her mind. For, a loss of face before the coming elections might
prove disastrous for her.

Moreover, she has to consider the Muslim vote-bank issue. It is
significant that Muslims had by and large voted against her party in the
civic elections in West Bengal. That was why the Congress could do so
well. And what is perhaps more significant is that the Congress is doing
well in other states as well despite the lacklustre performance of its
leadership. This view has been reestablished in the aftermath of the
recent byelections.

#4. BJP worried over reverses in UP, Gujarat
The Times of India News Service

NEW DELHI: The BJP has admitted that the debacle in the local bodies'
elections in Gujarat and the Samajwadi Party win in an assembly byelection
in Uttar Pradesh are cause for concern.

``The party is concerned over the reverses in Gujarat,'' senior party
leader J P Mathur said on Wednesday. He said though the factors in the
local bodies' elections were different from those in assembly elections,
the central party leadership was waiting for a report from the state unit
about the reasons for the party's poor performance both in panchayat and
municipal elections in Gujarat.

Though Karhal seat in UP was not held by the party, its candidate lost to
the SP candidate by a huge margin. ``The BJP will take note of the setback
and put in all efforts to recover the situation,'' party general secretary
Sunil Shastri said.

The Gujarat wipe-out has shaken the party with both Prime Minister
Vajpayee and home minister Advani expressing concern over the deep erosion
in the party's support base. While the PM called for a ``post-mortem'' of
the Gujarat results, Advani held the view that the state unit should have
been aware of any change in the people's mood.

Intervening in the discussion on the Gujarat debacle in the BJP national
executive meeting last Sunday, Advani is reported to have said that had
the partymen been in touch with the people in the state they would have
known that the party's links with the people had come under strain.

Gujarat is the only major state where the party has a clear majority in
the assembly and a government of its own. Chief minister Keshubhai Patel
is coming to Delhi on Thursday. Though he will be here ostensibly to talk
to possible investors in Gujarat, party sources do not rule out talks to
assess the situation in the state.

#5. TDP posturing on oil price
The Times of India News Service

NEW DELHI: Now that the roll-back of petroluem products' price hike has
been deferred, the TDP has begun the posturing game, strongly advocating
the cause of the rural poor and a cut in the hike of kerosene price.

TDP parliamentary party leader Yerran Naidu on Thursday spoke vehemently
against the 200 per cent hike in the price of kerosene and Rs 40 hike in
LPG cylinder prices. ``The TDP wasn't consulted. In our earlier politburo
meeting, we had expressed our displeasure. We will soon hold another
politburo meeting to discuss price hike and how to carry the message to
the PM,'' Naidu said.

The political posturing is obvious. All NDA allies, including the TDP
which is not part of either the alliance or the government, knew of the
hike and its implications. Though the TDP is not part of the central
government and free to speak out, Naidu had earlier merely expressed his
reservations about states being asked to reduce the sales tax on petro
products, which he said would hurt the state's exchequer.

That was before Mamata Banerjee broke the NDA consensus and resigned on
the oil prices issue. If the prices are rolled back, Mamata would take the
credit for it and other parties, including the BJP, would appear less
concerned about the consumer.

That, according to TDP sources, prompted Naidu to tell the PM that Mamata
with just nine MPs should not be allowed to hold the government to
ransom. And that, TDP sources said, made the PM to defer the review of the
oil prices till after his knee surgery.

Having himself hiked the electricity tariff and transport fares in his own
state, Naidu could hardly preach populism to the central government. If
the oil prices are cut back in three weeks' time, the BJP and other allies
also will share the credit for the roll-back.

#6. Talks only after Pak ceases aid to terrorism
Shishir Gupta
(New Delhi, October 5)

RUSSIA TODAY agreed with India that a dialogue with Pakistan on Kashmir
could resume only after the termination of cross-border terrorism and
called for a joint campaign to defeat the Taliban's 'externally backed'
mission to destabilise the region.

In a joint statement released here after Russian President Putin's
four-day visit, the two countries said: "Composite dialogue as a part of
the Lahore process could be resumed only when necessary measures are taken
for cessation of support for cross-border terrorism and for respect of the
Line of Control."

On the nuclear front, Russia endorsed India's voluntary moratorium on
nuclear testing and "appreciated" New Delhi's efforts to develop a broad
national consensus on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

The two countries expressed deep concern over the situation in
Afghanistan, noting that the Taliban-controlled areas were breeding
grounds for religious extremism and international terrorism. To counter
the terrorist threat emanating from these areas, India and Russia have
decided to establish a Joint Working Group (JWG) on Afghanistan.

The six-page statement was demonstrative of the special relationship
between New Delhi and Moscow. It brought out a convergence of views on
issues critical to the two sides. There was also a similarity of approach
on a number of international issues, be it the ABM treaty or developments
in Central Asia.

In an obvious reference to Pakistan, the statement noted that there was no
military solution to the Afghan problem. It urged the Taliban and its
"external patrons" to negotiate the formation of a broad-based Government
having representation from all ethnic groups in Afghanistan.

The two countries warned the Taliban that "further measures" would be
taken against them unless they withdrew support to international terrorism
and drug trafficking. The statement urged the Taliban to conform to
international norms of human rights and international humanitarian law.

India and Russia also agreed that political stability in Central Asia,
bordering Afghanistan, was of "vital" interest to them. In this context,
they condemned outside support to terrorist activity in Central Asian

In the backdrop of Pakistan's bid to extend its geo-political influence in
the heart of Central Asia, the statement recognised the right of these
(Central Asian) States to take all necessary measures.

The statement "stressed" India and Russia's readiness to work with others
for an early commencement of the negotiations at the Conference of
Disarmament for banning future production of weapons grade fissile
material and other nuclear explosive devices.

While India is willing to participate in the CD negotiations, it may have
reservations over this issue as the proposed ban on fissile material
production has a bearing on the size of New Delhi's minimum nuclear

However, the joint statement addressed the Indian and Russian concerns
over unabated proliferation of nuclear weapons and missiles in the
region. The two sides felt that the possibility of a non-discriminatory
mechanism to prevent the spread of atomic weapons should be explored.

Opposing fresh negotiations, both sides agreed that the existing bilateral
and multilateral arms control treaties, including the controversial ABM
treaty, should be implemented.

During Putin's visit, a total of 17 agreements were signed between India
and Russia including the Strategic Partnership document,
Inter-Governmental Commission on Military Technical Co-operation and the
MoU on peaceful use of nuclear energy and space.

#7. Militants using new infiltration routes
Agencies/Gulabgarh; J&K

A large number of militants, mostly foreign mercenaries, have sneaked into
Rajouri and Poonch districts from across the Line of Control (LOC) through
new infiltration routes during the past few months, official sources said
here on Friday.

Shunning the traditional routes due to increased security along the LOC,
militants have used 15 new infiltration routes to enter the twin border
districts to carry out specific tasks of committing massacres, force
migration and communalise the situation, the sources said.

Most of the upgraded weaponry reportedly procured by militants, including
Strila and Stringer Missiles for targeting helicopters carrying troops and
12.7 mm guns for attacks on army, have also come through these routes,
sources said.

The routes are Sabra Gali, Chor Gali, Chamber Gali, Sona Gali, Kharha
Draman, Jabdi Gali, Gagrian, Shalpur, Dabi Balakote, Kanwari, Salotri,
Kaian, Tarkundi, Tralajagir and Jhandi Dhara.

The sources said over 500 militants belonging to Hizbul Mujahideen,
Harkat-ul-jehadi Islami, Harkat-ul-mujahideen and Lashker-e-toiba have
sneaked in since January this year.

Over 600 to 700 foreign mercenaries are camping at Nikhil base camp
opposite Mendhar for sneaking into Poonch district, they added.

#8. Raj abduction: State MPs urge PM to prevail on MK
DH News Service

A group of Karnataka MPs today called on Prime Minister A B Vajpayee and
urged him to pressurise Tamil Nadu chief minister Mr M Karunanidhi to take
"pro-active" steps to ensure safe release of Kannada superstar Dr Rajkumar
from the clutches of forest brigand Veerappan.

The MPs told Mr Vajpayee that Dr Rajkumar was kidnapped in TN territory
and was held captive in there.

Thus the TN government has more responsibility in ending the stalemate and
it should take more interest and steps in securing the release of the
matinee idol.

The MPs who met Mr Vajpayee included: deputy Opposition leader in Rajya
Sabha K Rahman Khan, State Congress MPs cell convener G S Basavaraju, Prof
I G Sanadi, Ms Margaret Alva, Mr K B Krishnamurthy, Ms Bimba Raikar. BJP
leader and former MP D K Taradevi was also present on the occasion.

Mr Khan and Mr Basavaraju told Deccan Herald after the meeting that Mr
Vajpayee was well aware of the developments on the Veerappan front and
assured he would inform the TN CM of the concerns of the MPs. He had also
summoned Union home secretary Kamal Pande to brief the MPs of the opinion
of the Centre in this regard.

The MPs said TN government should not be allowed to play only a supportive
role, demanded that it should take up a "pro-active" apporach towards
releasing the thespian. It should assume full responsibility in securing
the release. Noting that the Karnataka government had taken all possible
steps and cannot be expected to do more in this regard, the MPs said they
were not seeking deployment of commandos but only putting pressure on the
TN government to assume more responsibility.

The MPs said the Centre should not treat the issue as a mere inter-state
issue but see it as a national problem as extremist organisations were
involved in the kidnapping of the filmstar.

Submitting that organisations such as TNLA and others were actively
involved in it, the MPs said they could be having direct connection with
banned organisation LTTE.

End of India Network News Digest

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