Congress infighting its worst enemy in Kerala
Muslim intelligentsia keen on secular front
Cong veterans make way for rookies in Mumbai
Udhampur Lok Sabha seat BJP focuses on Muslim pockets Special polling booths for
BJP focuses on Muslim pockets
Special polling booths for
Comment Don’t give Hoshiarpur to CPM, say Congress leaders BSP candidate from Jalandhar
Don’t give Hoshiarpur to CPM, say Congress leaders
BSP candidate from Jalandhar
It’s development vs Panth in Patiala
Patiala, March 27
‘Maharani’ Preneet Kaur, who is the incumbent Congress candidate is expected to ride the crest of a down-to-earth image and the large number of development works which have been undertaken in the constituency during the past two years. This includes a Rs 126-crore sewerage project and an upcoming township over 300 acres of land in Patiala and the start of flood protection works under a Rs 146 crore NABARD project in most of the Assembly segments affected by the Ghaggar and other seasonal rivulets during the monsoon.
The state government has also announced that Patran will be made a subdivision which was a long-pending demand of the people of the area. Mrs Preneet Kaur’s managers are also touting the fact that the ongoing development tempo can only be maintained if the Congress MP is re-elected from the constituency.
Capt Kanwaljit Singh of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) cannot boast of a similar development track record except in the Banur constituency which he represents in the Assembly. The SAD leader is, however, a wily politician. He is trying to take the debate to areas which have still not been covered by the state government. So, he is focussing on the government’s inability to establish any industry in the state notwithstanding the fact that the Akalis were also unsuccessful on this account. He is also highlighting the fact that Patiala has the highest number of unemployed youth in the state.
However, the politics of this constituency is not hinged on any one of the political issues. Besides the urban rural divide, there is also the divide between the farmers and the peasants. While urbanites are inclined towards the Congress, the rural vote is, by and large, with the Akalis. The Congress has its support base in the backward and Scheduled Castes amongst the rural voters while the Jat farmer vote is with the Akalis. In such a set-up, issues take backstage with voters more or less casting their votes on established lines and the election becomes an arithmetic exercise.
It is in this scenario that the candidature of Capt Kanwaljit Singh looks promising. Even during the last election when Ms Preneet Kaur trounced Mr Surjit Singh Rakhra of the SAD by nearly 80,000 votes, she won only because of the division in Akali votes. Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra’s candidate Prem Singh Chandumajra polled 90,000 votes. Last time, Ms Preneet Kaur was a fresh candidate who was fighting a divided Akali Dal in an election in which the anti-incumbency factor was in her favour. This time, she will be taking on an united Akali party which will try to take advantage of the anti-incumbency factor facing the Congress. The fact that the constituency is by an large a rural one where the Panth factor could also work does not help the cause of the Congress.
The decisive factors in this election could be the effort put in by Chief Minister Amarinder Singh for his wife Preneet and the sympathy factor accruing due to the illness of Mr Tohra on the candidature of Capt Kanwaljit. Former MPs Sant Ram Singla and Prem Singh Chandumajra could make an important contributions to the Akali and Congress camps, respectively.
The Patiala seat has been won thrice by the family of the former Patiala royal house with ‘Rajmata’ Mohinder Kaur winning the seat in 1967, Capt Amarinder Singh in 1980 and Preneet Kaur in 1999. Gurcharan Singh Tohra defeated Capt Amarinder Singh in 1977 while Congress candidate Satpal Kapoor annexed it in 1971, SAD candidate Charanjit Singh Walia won in 1985, Akali Dal (Mann) candidate Atinderpal Singh won in 1989, Sant Ram Singla of the Congress won in 1992 and Prem Singh Chandumajra of the SAD won twice in 1996 and 1998.
Congress infighting its worst enemy in Kerala
Thiruvananthapuram, March 27
It was only on Friday evening that suspended Congress general secretary T. Saratachandra Prasad called off his fast-unto-death at the party headquarters here at the behest of the Congress High Command.
Prasad had launched the fast on Thursday morning in protest against state party chief P.P. Thankachan suspending him and fellow general secretary Rajmohan Unnithan for raising allegations against Karunakaran's son and Power Minister K. Muraleedharan.
Unnithan reiterated all that he had said against Muraleedharan, including allegations of sexual misdemeanour against him.
Justifying the decision to call off the fast, Unnithan said: "We couldn't say 'no' when party all-India general secretary Ahmed Patel rang up, assuring us that the high command would consider our appeal petition against disciplinary action within a reasonable time."
Karunakaran detractors, who had come for a long haul and taken control of Indira Bhavan, the party headquarters here, made their exit rather grudgingly, as the drama ended abruptly.
The high command has been able to impose a ceasefire. But embers are far from doused and they may flare up any time. The new crop of dissidents has proved their clout, as shown by the high command's intervention. It is no secret that they enjoy the tacit support of major anti-Karunakaran groups.
Karunakaran is obviously annoyed with the high command for engaging in direct parleys with the two bellicose general secretaries, under suspension for anti-party activities. For the latter, it's a morale booster while for Karunakaran it's a subtle rebuff.
The Opposition Left Democratic Front remained confined to the sidelines, savouring tales of "women and lucre" against Muraleedharan, who was until the other a day the Left's trusted ally in the bid to topple the Antony ministry.
One might call this a light brigade advance against Karunakaran and his blatant dynastic politics. Hundreds of party workers had marched to Indira Bhavan where Prasad offered the satyagraha, donning a Gandhi cap and with a picture of the Mahatma in the background.
The vocal Unnithan had declared that he would not rest until he had cleansed the party of "a social evil" like Muraleedharan, the former party president, who "used to take select women party workers to a small room at Indira Bhavan".
There is already the talk of a grand move to finish off the Karunakaran dynasty in one fell swoop by defeating Muraleedharan in the Assembly by-poll in Wadakkancherry and sister Padmaja Venugopal in Mukundapuram, both near Erankulam.
But it's early days still, since the elections are a long way off, on May 10.
Muslim intelligentsia keen on secular front
Aligarh, March 27
Ms Mayawati has already announced the list of Bahujan Samaj Party candidates for Uttar Pradesh and other states. UP Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav seems helpless in forging some kind of an alliance with the Congress because Mr Amar Singh sees the Samajwadi Party leader as a possible comprise candidate for the Prime Minister’s post in the event of the non-NDA parties securing a majority in the next Lok Sabha.
The Muslim intellectuals have not yet given up. They convened a seminar on the theme of “Role of Minorities in the Context of Present Political Scenario” for evolving a consensus on the possible line of action. It came to conclusion that the minorities should strengthen the secular forces. How? By forming a grand alliance of secular political parties or at least striving for a comprehensive seat adjustment throughout the country for preventing the fragmentation of the secular votes.
Who will listen to the voice of a handful of Muslim intellectuals and why? They come from all parts of the country and may even have personal pockets of influence for mobilising Muslim opinion in favour of voting for common candidates. But most of them know that the task is easier said than done. They do not have the necessary mass following for making a major impact on the voting pattern.
Prof Shamim Ahmad, Prof Razaullah Khan and Dr Mohmmad Shahid have issued a joint appeal to the Muslim community based on the views expressed at the seminar. They have asked the clergy to not cause further confusion by issuing any kind of fatwa in favour of any particular party or candidate. It would be a monumental folly that would give the communal forces the opening for maligning the Muslim community.
There is loud thinking on the issue of mobilising public opinion in favour of the Muslims being persuaded to forgive the Congress for its past mistakes, including the one that caused the destruction of the Babri masjid. Deep down, they have come to realise that Ms Mayawati and Mr Mulayam Singh have both taken a position that would help them negotiate a power-sharing deal with the BJP-led alliance after the poll. Most of them privately admit that the Samajwadi leader actually wants to weaken the Congress to improve his chances of emerging as a compromise candidate for the top-most political job.
However, as intellectuals, they do not want to be seen openly canvassing for any particular political. Nevertheless, they are convinced that a small section of the Muslims may return to the Congress because of the duplicity of Ms Mayawati and Mr Mulayam Singh. The two leaders stand exposed in the eyes of the Muslim intellectuals today. The Muslim masses too may abandon the BSP and the Samajawadi Party and return to the Congress.
The trend may become visible sooner than expected. A section of young Muslims under different banners has already set out on a cross-country yatra, with UP as the focus of its campaign, for exposing the crafty game plan of the BSP and the Samajwadis. In their book, Mr Laloo Prasad Yadav is the only honest leader of the underclass and the minorities. He stopped Mr Praveen Togadia from entering Bihar and never misses an opening to attack the communal and anti-minority policies of the NDA alliance.
Cong veterans make way for rookies in Mumbai
Mumbai, March 27
According to sources here, veteran politicians of the Congress and NCP have refused to contest the elections from most of the six constituencies in Mumbai following a massive wave in favour of the National Democratic Front government. Among those who refused to contest are Maharashtra’s Minister of State for Home Kripashankar Singh former Mumbai Regional Congress Committee chief Murli Deora.
Kripashankar Singh is said to have worked overtime to rope in actor Govinda to contest against Union Petroleum Minister Ram Naik in Mumbai North after party leaders asked him to contest the elections. Kripashankar Singh is a migrant to Mumbai from North India and rose up the party’s ranks from a lowly vegetable vendor.
Similarly, Murli Deora decided not to contest and let his son Milind Deora contest the poll from South Mumbai. Deora junior will have to take on Union Minister Jaywantiben Mehta, a veteran of several electoral battles. Murli Deora himself is said to be sulking after Gurudas Kamat replaced him as Mumbai Congress party chief. Kamat is contesting the elections though.
Actor and sitting MP Sunil Dutt from Mumbai North West, however, decided not to chicken out and fight the tough challenge from Shiv Sena’s Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Nirupam.
Mumbai’s six Lok Sabha seats are home to a number of political heavyweights in the 13th Lok Sabha. Apart from union ministers Ram Naik and Jaywantiben Mehta, Speaker of the Lok Sabha Manohar Joshi is also from Mumbai. He will contest again from his Mumbai North Central seat.
Udhampur Lok Sabha seat
Jammu, March 27
Professor Gupta told this correspondent here recently that the first time in 1996 when he successfully contested the election from Udhampur, terrorism was at its peak and the issue was of providing security to the people of the far flung areas. However, with militancy gradually decreasing, the people were now aspiring for development.
Counting his achievements, he said he had initiated several steps for the economic uplift of the people in the area that the state government had virtually shunned during militancy. The establishment of Army cantonments at Bhaderwah, Kishtwar, Doda, Ramban and Reasi not only infused a sense of security among the people in the hot bed of terrorism, but also helped them economically.
He said he had personally visited the places where terrorists massacred innocent people in the constituency. He claimed that he had taken development to every nook and corner of the sprawling constituency by involving the Army and security forces in the reconstruction of bridges, school buildings and government offices that were burnt by terrorists.
The Army has launched “Operation Sadhbhavana” whereunder the neglected people were being provided health care and other assistance.
Professor Gupta said he had undertaken several steps to provide employment to the youth. As many as 6 battalions of the Territorial Army were being raised exclusively for the Jammu region. About 2,000 village defence committees (VDCs) had been constituted in the constituency and 20,000 rifles provided to the members for fighting militants.
He said Rs 125 crore had been invested in the constituency for laying a network of roads under the central road fund. Besides, the Army and the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) were engaged in the construction of many roads that would economically benefit these areas. A road was being constructed to link Bhaderwah with Chamba in Himachal Pradesh.
It was proposed to construct a bridge over the Ravi to link the remote areas of Bani and Basohli with Punjab and Himachal Pradesh.
He said at his initiative, work on the Jammu-Udhampur rail line was speeded with an investment of Rs 600 crore. The rail link was being further extended to Srinagar at a cost of Rs 6,000 crore.
BJP focuses on Muslim pockets
Jammu, March 27
The president of the state unit of the BJP, Dr Nirmal Singh who is the party candidate for the Jammu constituency, spent three days in Poonch where a large number of people, including Muslims, participated in his rallies. Eyewitness accounts said he drew larger crowds to his rallies than a ministerial team, headed by Mr Abdul Rehman Veeri, attracted in the same district.
Hitherto, the Muslim-dominated areas in Poonch, Rajouri and Doda districts have been either supporting the National Conference or the Congress and the BJP has received marginal support.
This time the trend is changing fast. Prof Chaman Lal Gupta, Minister of State for Defence, who is the BJP candidate for the Kathua constituency, had a bit of surprise when Muslim voters outnumbered Hindus during his series of pre-poll rallies in Udhampur and Doda districts in recent days.
The National Conference is yet to start its campaign for its candidate, Mr Surjit Singh Slathia, in Poonch and Rajouri belts. After NC leaders enter the border belt, it will be known whether the BJP will be able to sustain the quantum of support promised to it by Muslim voters.
In fact, the NC has fielded Mr Khalid Najib Sohrawardhy from the Udhampur constituency to spoil the BJP’s plan of wooing Muslim voters, who can tilt the scales in both constituencies because of being in majority in Poonch, Rajouri (voter strength of over six lakhs) and in Kishtwar, Doda, Banihal, Gulbagarh, Gool and Inderwal (having over five lakh voters.)
Though the National Conference has fielded a Rajput candidate to check Dr Nirmal Singh of the BJP from securing maximum support from the Rajput electorate and the Congress has selected a Brahmin to garner a major chunk of the community’s votes, the caste factor may not play a vital role in shaping the destiny of the candidates.
Jammu, March 27
For the migrants residing at various relief camps in Delhi, Jammu and Udhampur, electoral rolls of all 46 Assembly segments have been kept for inspection in the office of the Assistant Electoral Registration Officers concerned, an official spokesman said here.
Migrant voters have the option to vote through postal ballot papers as well as in person.
Voters may apply for the postal ballot papers in the prescribed form 12-c, available in the office of the Assistant Returning Officers. The migrant voters should send their forms duly filled in and attested, to the assistant returning officers so as to reach them on or before April 5 for the 1-Baramula parliamentary constituency, April 10 2004 for 2-Srinagar constituency and April 15 2004 for 3-Anantnag constituency, the spokesman said. — PTI
“WHERE am I to go?" retorted a youth when I asked him whether he had heard about the All-Arunachal Pradesh Students Union demand that the Chakmas leave the state. "This is my country. I was born here. No force on earth can remove me from this place," he added in a definitive tone.
I was at Diyun, a village on the banks of a tributary of the Brahmaputra, deep inside the Namdapha forests in Miao subdivision of Changlang district in Arunachal Pradesh about eight years ago.
The purpose of my visit was to study the living conditions of the Chakma refugees, a large number of whom had been settled there by the Government of India. I chose Diyun as it had the largest concentration of the Chakmas, who originally belong to the Chittagong hill tracts of Bangladesh.
During Partition, the Chakmas sought to be with India for which they even hoisted the Indian flags on their soil. But the Bengal Boundary Commission headed by Cyrill Radcliff awarded the hill tracts to Pakistan, although 98 per cent of the people were non-Muslim. They had to pay a heavy price for their defiance when the Pakistani rulers encouraged Muslim settlers from other places to occupy their land.
This, coupled with atrocities encouraged by the state agencies, reduced them to a minority in their homeland. When the Kaptai hydroelectric project submerged a vast tract of land in Bangladesh, about 40,000 Chakmas and Hajongs sought shelter in India. The Centre accommodated 30,000 of them in the North-East Frontier Agency (NEFA) as Arunachal Pradesh was known then.
Over the past 40 years, they have grown into the third largest ethnic group in Arunachal Pradesh. But they have never got representation in either the State Assembly or Parliament. What's worse, they have not even been granted citizenship of India, though a majority of them were born in India and have never seen the Chittagong hill tracts.
During the Assam agitation in the eighties, a systematic campaign was launched to evict the Chakmas from Arunachal Pradesh. But it did not succeed. But that did not prevent political parties, particularly the one led by Chief Minister Gegong Apang, from threatening forcible eviction of the Chakmas.
Human rights violations became the order of the day in the Chakma areas. On several occasions, human rights bodies condemned the policy of repression against the Chakmas. But all this did not have any effect on the state government which tried to throttle them by denying all civic amenities.
The Chakmas went to the Supreme Court and won their case but it did not make any change in the ground situation with the state finding ingenious ways to deny them justice. Their demand for citizenship remained a far cry.
But all this did not deter them from making economic progress. Though their village lacked electric supply and their children had to trek long distances to go to schools, they toiled day and night on their land. They grew enough vegetables to meet the needs of the entire subdivision. While the indigenous tribal youth spent their time merry-making, the Chakmas provided cheap labour to the local population, so much so that the local tribes were virtually dependent on them.
But citizenship and voting rights remained a dream for the Chakmas. In the past, the Election Commission of India ordered several times the inclusion of the Chakmas in the voters' list but the state government flouted the orders with impunity. The pity is that even the Supreme Court's orders in this regard were cleverly circumvented.
Finally, the Election Commission of India ordered on March 3 this year the inclusion of 1,497 people from among them in the voters' list for the coming Lok Sabha elections.
Though thousands of them are eligible to vote, the state authorities were able to deny the rights to a majority of them. Even so, the rights conferred on the lucky 1,497 voters represent a major victory for the Chakmas and Hajongs, who have been fighting for this right for the past 40 years. The coming elections mark a watershed in their fight for citizenship rights.
Betrayed by Arif Khan, Barabasti Pathans root for RLD man
Barabasti (Bulandshahr): Malihabad (near Lucknow), Qaimganj in Farukhabad, Rampur and Barabasti in Bulandshahr have one thing in common. They are known as pockets of Pathan domination. However, Malihabad has produced Shabbir Hasan Khan, better known as Josh Malihabadi, a great Urdu poet of the last century. Qaimganj is the place of birth of Dr Zakir Hussain, former President of India and founder of Jamia. The Nawabs of Rampur are respected for their contribution to the promotion of art, culture and learning.
And Barabasti? Its only claim to fame is linked to Mr Arif Mohammad Khan’s achievements in politics. That really does not add up to much. A visit to his place of birth Barwara, one of the 12 Pathan villages of Bulandshahr put a question mark even on this dubious distinction. It would be imprudent to give names, for it may cause bad blood between the temperamental Pathan groups. Suffice it to say that it would require a herculean effort to stretch the list of his admirers in the 12 villages who are not members of his family.
The decision to contest the Lok Sabha election as a Bharatiya Janata Party candidate is seen as the last act of betrayal by most Pathans of Barabasti. It is not difficult to detect lack of conviction in the voice of his father, Mr Ashfaq Mohammad Khan, when he tries to offer the same explanation that were offered by Arif Mian when he walked over to the BJP office after having tea with Mrs Sonia Gandhi in Delhi.
Arif Mian must have established a record of sorts in the matter of changing parties. He began his career as young Swatantra Party candidate from the Anoopshahr Assembly constituency in the early seventies. He lost. In 1977, he was fielded by the Janata Party from the Bulandshar Assembly seat. He won the election and became the youngest person in the country to be made a minister.
But the Pathans of Barabasti were upset because he had dared to contest against a respected community leader, Mumtaz Khan. They never pardoned him for his audacity. And now they do not conceal the fact that Arif Mian’s family does not belong to Barabasti. They are outsiders and that is why the book of lineage of every Pathan family in the area does not include the name of his family.
Arif Mian can claim an entry in one of those stupid record books for having made a habit of changing parties and constituencies frequently. Here is a quick checklist. First election in the seventies for the Uttar Pradesh Vidhan Sabha was fought on the Swatantra Party ticket from Anoopshahr. In 1977, he contested the Assembly seat on the Janata Party ticket from Bulandshahr. Then we see him make his debut in national politics as a young candidate for the Lok Sabha from Kanpur in 1980. In 1989, he became a minister in Mr V.P. Singh’s anti-Rajiv Gandhi coalition. He travelled to the Bahujan Samaj Party and won the Lok Sabha seat from Bahraich. He lost from the same constituency in 1999. Now, he has joined the BJP and is contesting from a different constituency that is close to Bahraich.
For the Pathans of Barabasti the point of immediate interest is the political lobbying for the Bulandshahr Lok Sabha seat for Mr Ajit Singh’s Rashtriya Lok Dal. Mr Kalyan Singh of the BJP is projected as streets ahead of Mr Devendra Bhardwaj of the BSP. The Barabasti Pathans are rooting for Mr Imtiaz Khan for the RLD ticket. They swear by what he has done for the community. It was because of him that the villages have an efficient network of roads, above average uninterrupted power supply, by UP’s erratic standards, satisfactory communication system and availability of potable water. Pathan community leaders are convinced that if the RLD decides to field him from Bulandshahr, the 2.5 lakh Muslim votes and an equal number of Jat votes, who are considered as part of Mr Ajit Singh’s vote-bank, will ensure an easy victory for Mr Imitiaz Khan. Otherwise, there is no way Mr Kalyan Singh can be stopped from walking away with the Bulandshahr seat.
Ropar, March 27
The leaders who gave the proposal to the Congress high command include Mr R.C. Dogra, Health Minister, Punjab, Mr Amarjit Singh Saini, district Congress president, Ropar, Mr Kuldeep Nanda, district Congress president, Hoshiarpur, former MLA from Balachaur Ram Krishan Kataria, Rana Varinder Singh from Garhshankar, Chaudhary Ram Ratan from Mahilpur, Mr Pawan Adia from Gardiwala and Mr Sant Singh from Tanda.
Mr Dogra admitted that such a proposal has been sent to the party high command. The name of Mr Rana as the Congress candidate from Hoshiarpur constituency was proposed unanimously. He said the Congress leaders have sent a written request to the PPCC president, Mr H.S. Hanspal, the Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, the Congress in charge of the state, Ms Mohsinha Kidwai, the Congress General Secretary, Ms Ambika Soni, and the office of the Congress President, Ms Sonia Gandhi.
He, however, added that Ms Soni would still be the first choice of the Congress leaders from Hoshiarpur. However, in case she was not able to contest, Mr Rana was their unanimous candidate instead of the sitting Congress MP, Mr Charanjit Singh Channi.
Mr Dogra alleged that Mr Channi had opposed most of the Congress candidates from Hoshiarpur and Ropar districts in the last Assembly elections and even gave financial assistance to certain dissident leaders to defeat the official nominees of the party.
The leaders urged the Congress high command not to leave Hoshiarpur seat for the CPM on the plea that the party had never won from this area and did not even have a single MLA in Hoshiarpur parliamentary constituency.
BSP candidate from Jalandhar
Jalandhar: Mr Devi Dass Nahar, the Bahujan Samaj Party candidate for the Jalandhar parliamentary constituency, has a one-point agenda to ensure equal development of all rural and urban areas in his constituency — unlike in the past when stress was laid on development of certain “selected” urban and rural areas.
Mr Nahar, who has a strong hold among people of the important Balmiki community, started his political career in 1974 after bringing together Dalit youth under the banner of the youth Ambedkar Mission Society. Later, he actively participated in the activities of certain labour outlift and finally joined the Bahujan Samaj Party in 1984. He was “forced” to leave the party in 1991 following differences with a section of party leaders and formed the Bahujan Samaj Party (Ambedkar). Mr Nahar, however, rejoined the BSP after being persuaded by senior BSP leaders, who assured him that there would not be a repetition of things gone by and that his interest would be safeguarded.
Talking to The Tribune regarding his constituency, Mr Nahar said, “there are only certain urban and rural areas which been developed by the successive governments. Despite being the heartland of the comparatively affluent Doaba region there are many schools where there are no teachers, hospitals are without doctors and approach roads exist only on paper. Localities inhabited by poor people are without basic amenities. Both the SAD-BJP combine and the Congress have been guarding the interests of the rich. Nobody has paid attention towards the poor. The BSP wants to put an end to this inequality as it was done in UP”, asserted Mr Nahar.
“My priority would also be to develop the historical township of Sulatanpur Lodhi and bring it on the world tourist map if I am elected as an MP. An MP can do a lot of things with his Rs 10 crore development fund. The Congress has not fulfilled any of its promises during the two years of its rule in the state,” said Mr Nahar.
CONG HAS AMARSINH, SON IN MIND
WOMEN VOTERS OUTNUMBER
TARADEVI QUITS BJP,