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N A T I O N

Crackdown on LTTE men
Chennai, March 10
In a major crackdown on sympathisers of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) by the police yesterday, 41 persons, including 16 Sri Lankans, have been arrested. This follows strictures by the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi.

Sonia wants Q’s extradition: Digvijay
New Delhi, March 10
There is “no doubt about it” that the Congress party and its chief Sonia Gandhi want the extradition to India of Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi, who is believed to be the conduit in the Bofors payoff scam, said party general secretary Digvijay Singh.

CBI helpless in tracing Bofors money
New Delhi, March 10
The CBI seems to have thrown its hands up to trace the Rs 64 crore Bofors pay-off money and the trail of the amount withdrawn by Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi from his two London bank accounts in January last year, saying that the Swiss authorities have refused to cooperate in the matter.


EARLIER STORIES



Bollywood actress Mallika Sherawat flanked by Hollywood producer Bill Bannerman (left) and director John Lind at a press conference to announce their film ‘Unveiled’, in Mumbai on Saturday. Mallika will play the lead role in this film.
Bollywood actress Mallika Sherawat flanked by Hollywood producer Bill Bannerman (left) and director John Lind at a press conference to announce their film ‘Unveiled’, in Mumbai on Saturday. Mallika will play the lead role in this film. — PTI

UP poll: Cong bargaining hard
New Delhi, March 10
Having got down to the nitty gritty of building alliances for next month’s assembly poll in Uttar Pradesh, the Congress is now faced with the tough task of accommodating the demands of the parties with whom it is having a dialogue.

Karunanidhi’s daughter may enter politics
Chennai, March 10
Political speculation here is rife that Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi's daughter Kanimozhi is all set to enter the Rajya Sabha as a Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) member when the elections take place in June.

Probe sought into culture centre finances
New Delhi, March 10
A petition has been moved in the Delhi High Court for further probe into the alleged financial irregularities in the Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts and Culture (IGNCA) as pointed out by the Comptroller and Auditor- General (CAG).

Respect Marathis or get hit: Raj Thackeray
Mumbai, March 10
Raj Thackeray, nephew of Bal Thackeray and leader of breakaway Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), is in fresh trouble after he asked his followers to beat up migrants from Bihar if “Maharashtrians were insulted”.

Jaitley BJP in charge of MCD poll
New Delhi, March 10
Bharatiya Janata Party's high-profile general secretary Arun Jaitley, after his spectacular role in making his party win in Punjab, is on his way to add another feather in his cap as he has been given charge of April 5 elections to the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD).

Bihar Cabinet all set to expand
Patna, March 10
Decks seemed to be finally cleared for the much-awaited Cabinet expansion of the ruling NDA in Bihar with the approval of the amendment to the Bihar Legislature (Removal of Disqualification) Act, 1950, to exclude more posts from the ambit of office of profit .

Shiv Sena candidate is Mumbai mayor
Mumbai, March 10
Fresh from its victory in the elections to the Mumbai Municipal Corporation, the Shiv Sena-BJP combine today got its candidate Shubha Raul elected as mayor of Mumbai.

Security beefed up at Pandher’s residence
Noida, March 10
Security has been tightened at the residence of Nithari serial killings accused Moninder Singh Pandher here today; a day after fresh violence broke out with protesters targeting his house. Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) personnel were deployed and barricades have been put up on the road leading to the d-5 residence of Pandher. Protestors, who pelted stones at the house, were taken to an unknown place by the police and released there. OC

Cops verifying Ali’s antecedents
Hyderabad, March 10
The police is ascertaining the antecedents of Mir Hasan Ali, who shot into news for unaccounted wealth of thousands of crores of rupees. Hasan Ali belongs to Hyderabad and his divorced wife Mehboobunnisa Begum resides in the Banjara Hills area here. The police said a few cheating cases were registered against him in the early 1990s. There are about seven criminal cases registered against Hasan, but we are still verifying whether it is the same person booked by the income tax authorities, city police commissioner Balwinder Singh said. TNS


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Crackdown on LTTE men
Arup Chanda
Tribune News Service

Chennai, March 10
In a major crackdown on sympathisers of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) by the police yesterday, 41 persons, including 16 Sri Lankans, have been arrested. This follows strictures by the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi.

Tamil Nadu director-general of police D. Mukherjee said, “In the wake of the prevailing tense situation in Sri Lanka, the police is taking stringent actions to prevent infiltration of Tamil militants in the state, by stepping up security arrangements in the coastal districts coordinating with the Indian Navy, Indian coast guard, and the intelligence bureau.

“The state government has issued instructions to the police to step up the vigil and take stringent action against those attempting to smuggle explosives and arms to the LTTE in Sri Lanka and supporting the LTTE.”

“The police is conducting patrolling along the coastal belt, besides stepping up the security arrangements. Strict action is also being taken and will continue to be taken, irrespective of whichever political party or organisation they belong to, against those extending support to LTTE directly, or those who clandestinely providing financial and material support.

Mukherjee said the police had busted a hawala racket through which money was being provided to the LTTE the after of a Sri Lankan Tamil in Tiruchirapalli on March 6 and seizure of Rs 10 lakh from him.

Information from him, led to the arrest of another Sri Lankan Tamil from Permanalur and the seizure of 150 bags of iron balls, weighing 4,500 kg from him.

Two other Sri Lankan Tamils were arrested from Chennai. An Indian was arrested for providing Rs 17.66 lakh of hawala money and one more was arrested at Pudukottai on Thursday, he added.

Mukherjee said the police had conducted surprise raids here and Tuticorin, deep south of Tamil Nadu, on January 23 and seized 7.5 tonnes of iron balls. Twelve persons, including five Sri Lankans, were arrested.

Investigations revealed that the material had been brought from Dadar in Mumbai, by road to Chennai for onward transportation to Sri Lanka via Tuticorin. Subsequently, another 2.5 tonnes of the material was also seized.

He said on February 12, the Indian Navy seized 92 bags of aluminium bars near Dhanushkodi. During the course of the investigation, 11 persons were arrested and 1.5 kg of aluminium bars seized.

The coast guard seized a boat laced with explosives and laden with arms and ammunitions off the Palk Straits. Five persons, including four Sri Lankans were arrested and the boat was later destroyed in mid sea.

The Indian Navy again seized a country boat carrying explosives and aluminium bars and arrested three Sri Lankans. Mukherjee said 10 of those arrested had been detained under the NSA (National Security Act).

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Sonia wants Q’s extradition: Digvijay

New Delhi, March 10
There is “no doubt about it” that the Congress party and its chief Sonia Gandhi want the extradition to India of Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi, who is believed to be the conduit in the Bofors payoff scam, said party general secretary Digvijay Singh.

Interviewed by Karan Thapar on a CNN-IBN programme, Singh also dismissed as “rubbish” reports that Gandhi’s children Priyanka and Rahul had met the businessman’s son Massimo during his visit here soon after his father was arrested in Argentina last month on an Interpol alert.

“Yes,” Singh asserted twice when asked whether the Congress and Gandhi wanted Quattrocchi’s extradition from Argentina, where he is now out on bail.

“It is in the interest of this country, the CBI, the Congress and everyone that we successfully bring Quattrocchi back,” Singh maintained.

“Rubbish”, Singh retorted when Thapar asked him about the supposed meeting of the Gandhi siblings and Quattrocchi junior.

Singh went on the defensive when specifically asked whether the meeting had taken place at a party organised by Biju Janata Dal (BJD) Rajya Sabha member Jay Panda.

“This is speculation that some people have come out with but I don’t agree.” He was again on the back foot when Thapar suggested the meeting might have taken place but that Singh did not know about it.

“The point I am making is that the government has never interfered with the investigation of the CBI. As for as Rahul and Priyanka are concerned, they have nothing to do with it,” Singh contended.

The delay in announcing Quattrocchi’s arrest has raised a storm in Parliament with the opposition charging that the government was not keen on his being brought back to India.

Quattrocchi is believed to be the recipient of the Rs 640 million Swedish arms manufacturer Bofors allegedly paid as bribes to secure an Indian Army order for 400 artillery guns. — IANS

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CBI helpless in tracing Bofors money
S S Negi
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, March 10
The CBI seems to have thrown its hands up to trace the Rs 64 crore Bofors pay-off money and the trail of the amount withdrawn by Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi from his two London bank accounts in January last year, saying that the Swiss authorities have refused to cooperate in the matter.

In its two sets of detailed affidavits, filed in the Supreme Court on Quattrocchi’s money trail and his arrest in Argentina, the CBI said: “The Swiss authorities have declined the request for assistance on the grounds of time bar.”

Quattrocchi had withdrawn nearly Rs 20 crore amount, allegedly linked to Bofors pay- off, from his two London bank accounts on January 16, 2006 after the agency had given clearance to the Crown Prosecution in Britain to de-freeze his accounts.

The affidavit, signed by agency’s DIG Harbhajan Ram, submitted that in response to the Delhi Chief Metropolitan Magistrate’s request issued to the Federal Office of Justice in Berne, it had responded through the Indian Embassy that “it is not possible under the Swiss law to continue a matter of money laundering when the prosecution of the underlying crime has not resulted in a conviction so far and its continuation is now barred by the rule of lapse of time.”

The “probable result” of the money laundering trail, had been conveyed to the Indian Mission in Berne on October 31, 2006, as the authorities there said that the “decision by the competent cantonal magistrate confirms the legal situation and makes it clear that no addition cooperation is available in the matter.”

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UP poll: Cong bargaining hard
Anita Katyal
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 10
Having got down to the nitty gritty of building alliances for next month’s assembly poll in Uttar Pradesh, the Congress is now faced with the tough task of accommodating the demands of the parties with whom it is having a dialogue.

The Congress is in talks with Ajit Singh’s Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), the V.P. Singh and Raj Babbar-led Jan Morcha, the CPI and smaller parties like Bharatiya Samaj Party and the Samanta Party.

While a pact with the Jan Morcha appears to be a certainty as it is not asking for a very large share of seats but an alliance with the RLD is proving to be far more difficult as Ajit Singh has sought at least 100 seats, a demand which the Congress is not willing to concede. Similarly, the Bharatiya Samaj Party, which has a following among the Rajbhars, is also learnt to have made unreasonable demands. In addition, Apna Dal leader Sohne Lal having a substantial base among the Kurmis is bargaining with both the NDA as well as the Congress.

While the Congress leadership is trying to cobble together a “fourth front” for the UP poll, a section of the state unit is particularly incensed with Ajit Singh’s demands which, they believe, will further weaken the party.

“He is making demands which are well beyond his party’s area of influence and we should not allow that,” remarked a UP Congress leader. The RLD, for instance has asked for seats in the Aligarh Lok Sabha constituency on the ground that it is in Western UP where it has a substantial following among the Jats. On the other hand, the Congress says this is their seat since it has a sitting MP from Aligarh and is in a position to win at least three or four Assembly segments here.

The Congress is also wary of the RLD leader as he has acquired the reputation of being an unreliable alliance partner. A vocal section in the Congress which is resisting a tie-up with Ajit Singh is arguing that the RLD chief cannot be trusted as he can even switch sides after the elections if he is able to strike a good deal with another political party.

A section in the party is concerned that the Congress leadership might give into Ajit Singh’s pressure tactics as it is bargaining from a position of weakness after its recent defeats in Punjab and Uttarakhand, its abortive efforts to impose President’s rule in UP and price rise.

On the other hand, there are more takers for an electoral pact with the Jan Morcha in view of V.P.Singh and Raj Babbar’s credibility and the fact that they have been instrumental in tapping public hostility against the Mulayam Singh Yadav government. Talks with Jan Morcha are learnt to be at an advanced stage with Amethi MP Rahul Gandhi and Raj Babbar holding two rounds of discussions on Friday and today.

Meanwhile, senior Congress leaders Ashok Gehlot, Motilal Vora and Janardan Dwivedi along with UPPCC chief Salman Khursheed and CLP leader Pramod Tiwari met here today to draw up the party’s publicity plans.

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Karunanidhi’s daughter may enter politics
Arup Chanda
Tribune News Service

Chennai, March 10
Political speculation here is rife that Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi's daughter Kanimozhi is all set to enter the Rajya Sabha as a Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) member when the elections take place in June.

Kanimozhi, the poet daughter, recently shot into controversy when a Tamil cultural festival, “Chennai Sangamam”, hosted by her, was funded by the state government.

The festival turned out to be a huge success with hundreds of rural artists, musicians, dancers and theatre groups performing traditional forms of fine arts in public places, including beaches, parks and auditoriums.

Kanimozhi, a poet and writer, was its co-patron; the other patron being Tamil Mayyam (Tamil Centre), an organisation that promotes Tamil culture, music and literature.

However, other than the success of the festival, what emerged was a new personality in Dravidian politics, 39-year-old Kanimozhi, who had earlier avoided involvement in partisan politics and was more of a poet and social worker.

After the DMK came to power last year, Kanimozhi was seen gradually participating in the party's functions. She even led the DMK women's wing rally on the International Women's Day here.

When questions were raised about the funding of the festival by the state tourism and culture department, Karunanidhi defended it by saying the government did not provide huge funding as insinuated by some, but had only organised the inaugural function at a cost of Rs 27 lakh and had spent Rs 80,000 on publicity hoardings.

In the presence of his ministers and DMK functionaries, Karunanidhi said, “Kanimozhi has my poetic ability, literary craving, love for the Tamil language and the ability to work hard.”

However, after this controversy erupted, Kanimozhi insisted she was yet to make up her mind about joining politics.

“It is not a very easy decision to take. I have had a private life so far and will have to sacrifice a lot to get into this. I cannot say yes or no about anything,” Kanimozhi said.

Kanimozhi, if elected to the Rajya Sabha, will certainly be an asset to the DMK party as she carries herself with grace, can articulate well, is educated and speaks English fluently; unlike most of the party leaders, whose linguistic capability is limited to only Tamil.

However, she added, “I can tell you this much for now. It is ridiculous to say that my involvement with Tamil Mayyam was a stepping stone for my entry into politics. I would rather get elected by the people and represent them.”

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Probe sought into culture centre finances
S S Negi
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, March 10
A petition has been moved in the Delhi High Court for further probe into the alleged financial irregularities in the Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts and Culture (IGNCA) as pointed out by the Comptroller and Auditor- General (CAG).

The petition, filed by a retired IAS officer D P Singh, who is also a playwright and stage actor having won several awards, including Sangeet Natak Academi and Lohia Sahitya Samman, has sought direction to the government to hold an independent inquiry into the financial affairs of the culture centre since 1995.

The CAG in its report for 1999 had pointed out many financial irregularities in the construction of the culture centre building for which a special fund of Rs 100 crore was released by the Centre.

“The CAG pointed out the undue payments to the architects, contractor even for the work which had not been done,” Singh in a public interest litigation (PIL) said. The court has fixed the hearing of the petition on March 26.

The petitioner has named the union ministry of culture, the culture centre and its president Kapila Vatsyayan as respondents in the case.

“The CAG had pointed out that it has confined its inquiry essentially to construction in which unprecedented 21 per cent service charges and overheads on expenditure of Rs 100 crore, apart from the enormous expenditure on building project committee, which was made non-accountable to the government,” the PIL claimed.

Singh, who had been vice president of the Indian Council of Cultural Relations and held the post of director in art institutions like the Indian Culture Centre, Fiji, Bharat Bhawan, Bhopal and North Central Zone Culture Centre, Allahabad, while in government service, said that the culture centre was allotted a plot of 24.7 acres prime land near India Gate here for the construction of a new building apart from allocation of Rs 100 crore in 1999.

Besides, a plot of 10 acre was allotted to it by the government in Bangalore but the buildings were not completed yet.

The petitioner has also challenged the government order of February 2, 2005, appointing Vatsyayan as president of the IGNCA Trust, claiming that the appointment was in violation of the trust deed as she had been associated with it since 1990.

The IGNCA Trust was created by the government in 1987 to promote art and cultural activities in the country by allocating Rs 50 crore for the corpus fund and no trustee could be appointed for the second term.

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Respect Marathis or get hit: Raj Thackeray
Shiv Kumar

Tribune News Service

Mumbai, March 10
Raj Thackeray, nephew of Bal Thackeray and leader of breakaway Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), is in fresh trouble after he asked his followers to beat up migrants from Bihar if “Maharashtrians were insulted”.

Thackeray’s statement came on Thursday night at the first anniversary of the MNS. Addressing his followers, Thackeray said he had not changed his stand from the one two years ago when Shiv Sainiks loyal to him attacked Bihari migrants arriving in Mumbai to take a railway examination.

“I have never changed my stand since the Kalyan incident. Biharis should remember that if they abuse us our hands will rise. If they try it again we will hit them again. We will hit them everyday for breakfast, lunch and dinner. They can stay here but they should treat Marathi people with respect,” Raj Thackeray said in his address.

Thackeray’s aggressive stand comes after the MNS’ humiliating defeat in the civic elections across Maharashtra. In Mumbai, the party managed just seven seats.

However, North Indians, who account for nearly 40 per cent of Mumbai’s population, have decided to hit out at Thackeray.

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Jaitley BJP in charge of MCD poll
Satish Misra
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 10
Bharatiya Janata Party's high-profile general secretary Arun Jaitley, after his spectacular role in making his party win in Punjab, is on his way to add another feather in his cap as he has been given charge of April 5 elections to the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD).

The role in Delhi did not come an easy way to Jaitley who was earlier being given charge of Western Uttar Pradesh in the coming Assembly elections, sources said.

Former BJP president M. Venkaiah Naidu, who has been made the overall in charge of the elections in UP by party president Rajnath Singh, had announced that party general secretaries would be given charge of specific areas in the Assembly elections in UP and accordingly Jaitley was being given Western UP.

General secretaries Ananth Kumar, Thawar Singh Gehlot, Om Mathur, Gopinath Munde have been given charge of Kashi, Gorakhpur, Agra and Kanpur respectively. General secretary (organisation) Ramlal would be camping in Lucknow and would be coordinating with the RSS.

But, Jaitley declined to accept the responsibility of Western UP as he did not want a responsibility which he could not fulfil either to his own satisfaction. He knew fully well that he would be a “misfit” in Naidu's company.

The tug of war continued for few days. The BJP president had to intervene finally and Jaitley has been given charge of the MCD, an area which he knows well.

Meanwhile, the BJP’s central election committee is meeting here on March 14 and 15 to finalise the list of party candidates for the first few phases of UP and some crucial seats of the MCD.

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Bihar Cabinet all set to expand
Tribune News Service

Patna, March 10
Decks seemed to be finally cleared for the much-awaited Cabinet expansion of the ruling NDA in Bihar with the approval of the amendment to the Bihar Legislature (Removal of Disqualification) Act, 1950, to exclude more posts from the ambit of office of profit .

The Nitish government in a late night meeting on Friday decided to place the amendment Bill for approval in the ongoing budget session of the Assembly.

The move also aimed at saving 11 JD(U) and BJP legislators who were under threat of disqualification for alleged violation of office-of-profit rule in its present form.

At present the Cabinet has 27 ministers, including the Chief Minister.

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Shiv Sena candidate is Mumbai mayor
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, March 10
Fresh from its victory in the elections to the Mumbai Municipal Corporation, the Shiv Sena-BJP combine today got its candidate Shubha Raul elected as mayor of Mumbai.

Raul defeated Congress candidate Sheetal Mhatre by seven votes. Incidentally, both Raul and Mhatre hail from adjacent constituencies of Borivli and Dahisar, and are known to be closely acquainted to each other.

While Raul is a doctor by profession, Mhatre is an advocate. Eight members stayed away from voting. For the first time, voting was held by a show of hands instead of a secret ballot.

As per the arrangements between the Shiv Sena and the BJP, the deputy mayor would be from the latter.

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