SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI



THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
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N A T I O N

Bowled Over
Finally, ‘politics’ prevails over IPL
New Delhi, March 22
The Indian Premier League (IPL) may be the most exhilarating mix of cricket and glamour with the power of money and millions of fans backing it, but it was politics that had the final say on Sunday. Armed with security concerns, it was the Congress that finally won the game.

26/11: FBI’s legal team to visit India
New Delhi, March 22
With the trial in the Mumbai terror attacks scheduled to commence from tomorrow, a legal team from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) will be arriving here soon to look into certain aspects of the evidence relating to the 26/11 strikes.

Maya begins campaign in UP
Deoria, March 22
Knowing well that the road to New Delhi goes through Uttar Pradesh, BSP supremo Mayawati today assured the people of the state that if her party assumes power at the Centre Uttar Pradesh would be treated as the most favoured state.



EARLIER STORIES



OBAMA EFFECT: An election campaign poster is seen carrying the portrait of Prajarajyam chief Chiranjeevi (R) next to an image of US President Barack Obama during a campaign in Hyderabad on Sunday. — AFP

Foolproof maritime security still a dream
3 yrs needed to build effective monitoring system: Navy
New Delhi, March 22
The Navy has said it would take a few more years to build an effective system to prevent militants from using the sea route to carry out an attack like the one in Mumbai recently.

Now, Nanhi Chhaan launched in Delhi
New Delhi, March 22
After getting tremendous response across the cities and villages of Punjab, Nanhi Chhaan, an initiative to save girl child and trees, was launched in the Capital.

Fight over NTR’s political legacy hots up
Hyderabad, March 22
Over 13 years after the death of legendary hero and former Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister NT Rama Rao, the feud in the family over his political legacy has resurfaced ahead of the Assembly elections.

Uma slams Kalyan for Babri apology
Lucknow, March 22
Bhartiya Jan Shakti Party president Uma Bharati today did not mince words in cutting former BJP leader Kalyan Singh to size for apologising for his role in the Babri Masjid demolition in 1992.

Rebellion stares at JD(U)
New Delhi, March 22
The JD(U) will contest the upcoming Lok Sabha elections in Bihar as a divided house after its senior party leaders put up a rebellion over denial of tickets to them. Senior leaders — former party president George Fernandes and former union minister Digvijay Singh — did not figure in the JD(U) list of names released today for 25 candidates out of the 40 Lok Sabha constituencies available in the state.

ULFA denies having base in B’desh
Guwahati, March 22
Even as India mounts diplomatic pressure on neighbouring Bangladesh to evict bases of north-east militants from its soil, the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) has denied that it has shelter in that country.

Prahlad Patel returns to BJP
Bhopal, March 22
Prahlad Patel, former Union minister and the estranged trusted lieutenant of Uma Bharati, returned to the BJP yesterday. Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan and state BJP president Narendra Tomar were among those who were present at a specially-arranged function at the MP BJP headquarters to welcome back Patel.

Battle Royale
Sadhu to play ‘Krishna’ for Cong in Bihar
Patna, March 22
The Lok Sabha polls in Bihar is like ‘Kurukshetra’, the battle field of Kauravas and Pandavas during ‘Mahabharat’, and Sadhu Yadav will play the role of Lord Krishna and guide the Congress (Pandavas) in its battle royale with the RJD-LJP combine and the NDA.

Near-miss Incident
IAF chopper ‘may not have’ contacted ATC
New Delhi, March 22
The IAF helicopter in the Presidential entourage, which had a narrow-miss with an Air India aircraft at the Mumbai airport last month, was under visual flight rules (VFR) instead of being instrument-guided and probably had no contact with the control tower at the airport, informed sources have indicated.

Azhar scouts for poll turf
New Delhi, March 22
Mohammad Azharuddin may not have been given a ticket from Andhra Pradesh but the cricketer-turned-politician appears to be in great demand elsewhere. The former Indian captain has been on a seat-scouting trip ever since it became clear that he would not be allowed to bat for the Congress from the home turf.

No candidate against Lalu, Paswan: Cong
Patna, March 22
Showing its gratitude towards RJD chief Lalu Prasad and LJP supremo Ram Vilas Paswan for their help in smooth running of the UPA government at the Centre, the Congress today announced that it would not field any candidate against the two leaders.

Code violation by Nitish?
Delegates power of transfers to CS
Patna, March 22
While reacting to the Election Commission’s query about the Bihar police chief and his deputy (ADG) visiting Chief Minister’s house on the occasion of Holi, Nitish Kumar said he should not be told about following the model code of conduct by anybody as he followed it “religiously and 24x7”.

Jaya slams Lankan move on Kachchativu
Chennai, March 22
AIADMK leader Jayalalithaa today flayed the Sri Lankan government’s move to declare Kachchativu, an islet ceded to it by India in 1974, as a ‘sacred area’, saying it belonged to India and demanded its retrieval.

Bangladesh bars ‘war criminals’ from travelling
The Bangladesh government has imposed a bar on ‘suspected war criminals’ from travelling abroad, according to Law Minister Shafiq Ahmed.

BSP candidate alleges loot to escape party fee
Bhopal, March 22
A BSP Lok Sabha candidate from Madhya Pradesh cooked up a story of being relieved of Rs 25 lakh in cash by dacoits to avoid paying the amount to his party in return for the nomination. At least that is what the police say. The BSP, of course, has denied the cash-for-ticket allegation.

EC names AK Mohanty as new DGP
Hyderabad, March 22
AK Mohanty, a 1975 batch IPS officer, will be the new Director-General of Police for Andhra Pradesh, the Election Commission (EC) notified a day before the nominations open for the elections of 42 Lok Sabha and 294 candidates for the state Assembly, sources said here today.

Raja Bhaiyya hurt in chopper crash
Pratapgarh, March 22
Raghuraj Pratap Singh aka Raja Bhaiyya today had a narrow escape as a helicopter with him and two others on board crashed into Chausa river here, police sources said. The independent MLA from Kunda Assembly seat and the two other persons received injuries in the crash and were rushed to the nearby hospital. Their condition is stated to be stable now.

No decision on Varun’s reply yet
New Delhi, March 22
For the second day today, the Election Commission (EC) discussed the reply sent by BJP Pilibhit candidate Varun Gandhi on his alleged anti-Muslim speeches, which sparked off wide spread criticism.

Army on expedition to explore Lakshadweep
Agatti, March 22
Highlighting man’s insatiable thirst for exploring uncharted territory, the Army today launched a first-of-its-kind expedition here to test both skills of personnel in amphibious warfare and showcase their concern for ecology.

Raj Thackeray booked for hate speech
Nashik, March 22
The Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray was today booked on charges of violating the model code of conduct and promoting enimity between groups. The police registered a case against Raj, a day after he revived his anti-north Indian campaign at a poll rally here.

Buddhadeb regrets Nano loss
Diamond Harbour (WB), March 22
As the Tata Motors prepares to launch its presitigious Nano small car in Mumbai tomorrow, West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today blamed the Trinamool Congress for the flight of what would have been his state’s dream project.

Maoists blow up school building, health centre
Medninagar (Jharkhand), March 22
Maoists blew up a primary school and a primary health centre in extremist-hit Palamu district while a powerful land mine was recovered after the two incidents late last night in the run up to the general elections.

Editors guild flays attack on Manorama office
New Delhi, March 22
The Editors Guild of India has condemned the last night attack on Kozhikode office of TV channel Manorama News allegedly by CPM workers.

 





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Bowled Over
Finally, ‘politics’ prevails over IPL
Vibha Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 22
The Indian Premier League (IPL) may be the most exhilarating mix of cricket and glamour with the power of money and millions of fans backing it, but it was politics that had the final say on Sunday. Armed with security concerns, it was the Congress that finally won the game.
Absolutely no politics. It is a question of security arrangements… — Cong

. . . . . . . . . . . . .

If we cannot stop terrorism, let’s stop playing cricket — BJP

Observers have a reason to believe that it was the pressure from Congress-led UPA government that prompted the IPL to shift the Twenty20 tournament out of the country. The Congress was not interested in holding the tournament during the election time from the very beginning and was only biding time by “appearing to allow states to take independent decision on the issue”.

Congress leaders admit that even a minor breach of security during the tournament could have damaged electoral prospects and any untoward incident had the potential to cause irreparable damage to prospects of the party in the coming general election.

On its part, the Congress instantly washed its hands off the IPL decision, saying that politics had not prompted such a move. AICC general secretary Veerappa Moily clarified that there was no politics involved in IPL going out of India and security consideration was the sole reason for shifting of the league. “Absolutely no politics. It is a question of security arrangements, which have to be made by each of the state governments. State to state, the governments may have their own perception. It has nothing to do with any political party.”

The BJP, however, lost no time in criticising the decision. A party spokesman said, “If we cannot stop terrorism, let’s stop playing cricket.” In all possibility, the party will not waste much time in making the shifting of IPL a poll issue.

Security concerns notwithstanding, the IPL debate was threatening to take the shape of a BJP versus Congress battle. Political fault lines were quite visible with Congress-led governments and those run by the BJP in states heading in opposite directions over holding the tournament in the midst of elections.

Added to it were speculations that the Congress was using the IPL to corner NCP chief Sharad Pawar on the alliance issue. NCP sources cite the Centre’s U-turn on the IPL security issue to support their theory.

The Center’s role is visible. Maharashtra, which was earlier expressing willingness to hold additional matches, later said it was not possible. The Centre raised the security issue and asked the IPL to revise its schedule. It was also agreed not to have matches on the day of the polling in states and the counting day.

But it again asked organisers to reconsider the revised schedule and also cautioned the states interested in holding IPL matches that it would not provide any help from CPMFs during games. This forced many to reconsider their plans.

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26/11: FBI’s legal team to visit India

New Delhi, March 22
With the trial in the Mumbai terror attacks scheduled to commence from tomorrow, a legal team from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) will be arriving here soon to look into certain aspects of the evidence relating to the 26/11 strikes.

Official sources said a team of legal experts from the FBI would be arriving here in the next two to three days to hold discussions with officials from the Law Ministry before flying to Mumbai, where they will also meet with lawyers appearing on behalf of the government.

The FBI team would also finalise its own chargesheet in the case, which it will submit before the US courts.

Six US nationals and a British national lost their lives in the attacks.

As per the US laws, the FBI has to probe the death or torture of any American citizen outside the US and submit a charge sheet.

In the Mumbai case, they had interrogated Mohammad Ajmal Amir Iman Kasab, the lone terrorist arrested for the audacious terror attacks.

The US experts would go into the charge sheet filed by the Mumbai police and examine the statements of witnesses besides working out a schedule for its sleuths to appear before the Special Court in connection with the electronic evidence gathered during the 26/11 probe.

The FBI has already extended support to the Indian investigators that its sleuths, who probed the terror strikes, would be recording their statements through video conferencing.

India and the US share a mutual legal assistance treaty (MLAT) which came into effect on December 3, 2005. — PTI

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26/11
Pak shares DNA profiles with Interpol

Paris, March 22
Pakistan has shared the DNA profiles of suspected terrorists linked to last year’s attacks in Mumbai with Interpol, the policy today said in what it called a benchmark move here.

Interpol, which has 187 member countries, said the information would allow it to help Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to determine “the full international dimension” of the attacks.

“Pakistan’s decision to send its DNA terrorist-related profiles to Interpol so that all member countries can compare their DNA profiles against them sets a benchmark for Interpol in terrorist-related investigations,” Interpol Secretary-General Ronald K Noble said in a statement.

Interpol had said in December that India had not shared information with it about the attacks, which killed 179 people.

Pakistan, under pressure over Indian accusations that the 10 gunmen who had attacked Mumbai came from Pakistan, had also complained that India had yet to provide it with any evidence to push its investigation forward.

Tensions between the two countries, which are both members of Interpol, worsened since the attacks on India’s financial heart that killed 179 people. — Reuters

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Maya begins campaign in UP
Shahira Naim
Tribune News Service


BSP chief Mayawati addresses a public meeting at Deoria near Gorakhpur on Sunday. — PTI

Deoria, March 22
Knowing well that the road to New Delhi goes through Uttar Pradesh, BSP supremo Mayawati today assured the people of the state that if her party assumes power at the Centre Uttar Pradesh would be treated as the most favoured state.

Addressing a public rally to launch her election campaign in the state from Purvanchal, one of the most backward regions of the state, Mayawati appealed to the people to send maximum number of parliamentarians from her party this time or else be prepared to lag behind in terms of development.

“When I took over the reins of the state two years ago, the treasury of every department was virtually empty. It will take 15 to 20 years to bring the state back on rails.”

The meeting saw Mayawati introducing the candidates of three more neighbouring parliamentary constituencies of Kushinagar, Bansgaon and Salempur. In the outgoing parliament, the BSP did not have a single seat from the Gorakhpur division.

In her address, she made the development of the region her major poll plank. BSP supremo reiterated before the gathering her repeated demands to the Congress-led UPA government for the Rs 80,000 crore special packages for Purvanchal, Bundelkhand and infrastructure development of the state which, according to her, had fallen on deaf years.

Holding this as the reason for her withdrawal of support from the UPA government, Mayawati said while she was trying to do some work with her state’s limited resources, she would ensure that it received special treatment if her party formed a government in New Delhi which was not possible without the required numbers from Uttar Pradesh.

Among the other things promised by her were reservation to the poor among the upper caste, inclusion of 16 OBC sub castes in the SC category, creation of separate state of Purvanchal, Bundelkhand and western Uttar Pradesh.

She also guaranteed to keep the interests of the poor in view while formulating national and international policies and of wiping out terrorism and the Naxal problem. Keeping an eye on the minority vote she assured that under her rule no one would be harassed in the name of terrorism. 

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Foolproof maritime security still a dream
3 yrs needed to build effective monitoring system: Navy

Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 22
The Navy has said it would take a few more years to build an effective system to prevent militants from using the sea route to carry out an attack like the one in Mumbai recently.

The existing post-26/11 security plan that envisages monitoring movement of all kinds of boats just can not be implemented in any quick-fix fashion. It would take nearly three years to build up capacities, have satellite links, radio transponders and fit boats with some tracking system enabling the network to constantly monitor around 3 lakh boats, including merchant ships, small boats and fishing trawlers, said Naval sources.

The Navy, that was given overall charge of the maritime security a couple of weeks ago, has also apprised the government of the fact that sea-borne militants like those who attacked Mumbai, might not come on these “monitored” boats.

Anybody boarding a boat forcibly, as they did, could very well destroy the tracking equipment installed on board by dumping it into the sea.

“The monitoring has to be a method that does not rely on co-operation of the boat owner alone. A radar or sensor-based system has to be juxtaposed with this monitoring system,” said Naval officials.

The government has already ordered aerostat radars worth $600 million that would dot the country’s coastline.

The government wanted all boats of sub-300 tonne variety to be fitted with an automatic identification system (AIS). At present, it is mandatory for merchant ships having more than 300 tonne capacity to have AIS to sail. In case, the same is installed on all boats, the existing system of monitoring would collapse as our ground and ship-based stations do not have the capacity to take on the additional load.

Presently, only non-fishing boats like passenger ferries of the sub-300 tonne variety will be on AIS that allows two-way communication. Other fishing boats will be fitted with a “b-class” AIS. This costs about Rs 5,000 per boat. It has lower frequency and does not allow two-way communication.

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Now, Nanhi Chhaan launched in Delhi
Akhila Singh

Tribune News service

New Delhi, March 22
After getting tremendous response across the cities and villages of Punjab, Nanhi Chhaan, an initiative to save girl child and trees, was launched in the Capital.

The Delhi chapter of the initiative that started from auspicious corridor of Golden Temple in Amritsar, was inaugurated here today in the sacred premises of Sacred Heart Cathedral.

“We started this inclusive and secular initiative seven months ago and people in each village of Punjab know about the Nanhi Chhaan today. More than 500,000 saplings were distributed in Punjab under the initiative,” said Harpal Singh, chairman, Nanhi Chhaan.

Talking about the connect between girls and trees, Harpal said, “Little girls grow up to become mothers and mothers are giving; they protect their children. Similarly, trees provide wood, shade and oxygen without asking for anything in return.”

Raising concern over low sex ratio of Delhi, which is 800 girls on 1,000 boys, Harpal said there were lots of rational arguments to protect nature and girl child and still people were not responding.

“We decided to invoke the positive power of faith and saw the overwhelming response from both religious leadership and citizens. Faith has been used for all the wrong purposes, but at Nanhi Chhaan we unite faith,” said Harpal.

He said a legal wing had also been started under the initiative that would analyse the laws, which are iniquitous with regard to women.

Inaugurating the Delhi chapter, Governor of Delhi Tejendra Khanna said Haryana and Punjab were paying heavy toll for the Green Revolution.

“There is so much pressure on the land to yield consecutive crops that it does not get time to recuperate. The consequence of this could be seen in different imbalances that we witness in development indexes of the states. No society would be considered developed unless its citizens know how to respect women,” said Khanna.

Archbishop of Delhi, Rev Vincent M Concesso, presented special address on the occasion. “It is time for us to recognise the potential of faiths and communities in communicating good social messages. It is alarming to know that well-to-do literate people need more to be educated about socially sensitive issues,” he said.

Talking about the importance of children in Indian society, chairman of Save the Children, Arun Maira, said, “We would be amongst the largest economies soon, but that would depend on how we change the condition of our children for better, as they are the ones to take the country to that level.”

Secretary General and CEO of World Wild Fund, Ravi Singh, said the tree cover in the country was shirking and the percentage had come down to 22 per cent on paper and 11 per cent in reality.

“Haryana and Punjab are two states that have lost their bio-diversity considerably and probably that is the reason for other imbalances that we see in the states,” said Ravi.

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Fight over NTR’s political legacy hots up
Tribune News Service

Hyderabad, March 22
Over 13 years after the death of legendary hero and former Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister NT Rama Rao, the feud in the family over his political legacy has resurfaced ahead of the Assembly elections.

In a sensational disclosure, NTR’s elder son-in-law D Venkateswara Rao, now a Congress legislator, has claimed that the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) founder-president was so disgusted with his younger son-in-law and the present TDP chief N Chandrababu Naidu for “dethroning” him in a political coup in August 1995 that he wanted him to be killed.

Recalling the last days of NTR, who died a sad man in 1996, Rao said: “NTR called his son Balakrishna and asked him to stab Naidu to death and show him the blood-stained sword. He wanted Naidu to be punished for the treachery.”

Mentioning this in a letter to Balakrishna, who is now actively campaigning for the TDP, Rao cautioned him against the “devious tactics of Naidu who has perfected the art of use and discard people.”

Interestingly, Rao was comrade-in-arms for Naidu during the internal crisis in the TDP and subsequent revolt against their father-in-law that led to the latter’s dethronement. However, Rao later went back to NTR and remained loyal to him till his death.

“Joining hands with Naidu in unseating NTR from power was the biggest mistake in my life,” Rao said.

Rao, whose wife D Purandareswari is a Congress MP and a Union minister, revealed that Naidu had offered him the post of deputy chief minister in return for supporting him in the coup against NTR.

He said he was writing a book titled “The other side of the truth” detailing the developments that led to the August 1995 coup against NTR by Chandrababu Naidu. The book will be released after the elections.

The revelations just before the elections have come as a major embarrassment to the TDP. Apart from NTR’s actor-sons Balakrishna and Harikrishna, his grandson and popular hero “junior NTR” has been taking part in the electioneering.

Rejecting the contents of the letter, Naidu alleged that it was written at the behest of Chief Minister YS Rajasekhar Reddy to defame the TDP.

“The coup against NTR is a history and it was done only to save the party from going into the hands of evil forces (NTR’s second wife Lakshmi Parvathi),” Naidu said.

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Uma slams Kalyan for Babri apology
Shahira Naim

Tribune News Service

Lucknow, March 22
Bhartiya Jan Shakti Party president Uma Bharati today did not mince words in cutting former BJP leader Kalyan Singh to size for apologising for his role in the Babri Masjid demolition in 1992.

“He has hurt me and millions of Hindus who looked upon him as their leader. When you create a movement, you do not have the right to retrace your steps,” she said.

Expressing her inability to understand the opposition to his alliance with the Samajwadi Party (SP), Uma Bharati admitted that SP president Mulayam Singh Yadav and the former BJP CM were old friends. “After all, Kalyan Singh and Mulayam Singh Yadav had formed a government together in 2003,” she said.

Despite Kalyan Singh hurting her over his stand on the Babri Masjid issue, the sadhvi-politician would not campaign against him. “I respect him a lot and will not campaign against him. I will campaign wherever the BJP wants me to but not against Kalyan Singh,” she told mediapersons.

According to her, the decision not to contest the Lok Sabha election this time was due to the lack of resources. “We lost in Madhya Pradesh because we did not have the resources. This time we decided to support another political party and the BJP was closest to us ideologically. I must make it clear that my whole-hearted support is for LK Advani and not necessarily for the BJP as a party,” she explained.

Refusing the possibility of merging her party with the BJP or returning to the BJP fold, she requested the media not to humiliate her by asking this question over and over again.

Commenting on the “hate” speech of Varun Gandhi in Pilibhit, the fiery speaker advised him to exercise restraint in his speeches and avoid hurting Muslims who were part of the Indian population.

However, she equated Varun Gandhi with Sanjay Dutt and said that if the former was being criticised, then criticism was also in store for actor-turned-politician who was known to be friendly with anti-national elements. “You cannot castigate one and eulogise the other,” she stated.

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Rebellion stares at JD(U)
Digvijay decides to go solo

New Delhi, March 22
The JD(U) will contest the upcoming Lok Sabha elections in Bihar as a divided house after its senior party leaders put up a rebellion over denial of tickets to them. Senior leaders — former party president George Fernandes and former union minister Digvijay Singh — did not figure in the JD(U) list of names released today for 25 candidates out of the 40 Lok Sabha constituencies available in the state.

Soon after the list was announced by party president Sharad Yadav during a press conference here, a defiant Singh declared that he would contest from Banka, a seat he has held in the past.

“I will contest the polls. This I have decided... Whether other parties want to support me is up to them,” the former Union minister said, when asked whether he would be an Independent candidate there against JD(U) official nominee Damodar Rawat. An angry Singh also said a situation had been created where he was being forced to leave the party.

Fernandes, who was denied ticket from Muzzafarpur on grounds of poor health, has already said he would contest from that seat as he does not want to be a member of the Rajya Sabha, an offer made by Yadav. In Patna, minister Nagmani resigned from the Nitish Kumar government as his name did not figure as the candidate from Ujiarpur Lok Sabha seat. Dismissing reasons cited by Yadav for denying ticket, Digvijay Singh told reporters said everyone knew he was keen on contesting from Banka, a seat that he had lost last time.

During his press conference, Yadav had said Singh was not being given ticket as his constituency profile has changed after delimitation. Moreover, he is a Rajya Sabha member.

Singh countered that though the profile of Banka constituency has changed, it hardly mattered to him as he never banked only on his Rajput caste voters, whose main pockets have shifted after the constituency was redrawn.

“I never had this misconception that people of my caste were there in Banka to see me through,” he said, adding that he never dabbled in caste-based politics.

Yadav himself will contest from Madhepura from where he had lost the polls in 2004. Three JD(U) MPs of the outgoing Lok Sabha — Prabhunath Singh (Maharajganj), Rajiv Ranjan Singh Lallan and Meena Singh (Arrah) - have been given tickets.

Under a seat-sharing pact with its NDA partner the BJP, JD(U) has left the 15 remaining seats for the saffron party. A few days ago, Yadav had written to Fernandes saying the party would give him a Rajya Sabha berth, as it does not want him to contest the Lok Sabha polls because of his ill health. — PTI

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ULFA denies having base in B’desh
Bijay Sankar Bora
Tribune News Service

Guwahati, March 22
Even as India mounts diplomatic pressure on neighbouring Bangladesh to evict bases of north-east militants from its soil, the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) has denied that it has shelter in that country.

It is widely believed by India security forces that the top leadership of the banned ULFA, including its commander-in-chief Paresh Baruah, is taking shelter in the neighbouring country.

However, in the latest edition of its mouthpiece —‘Freedom’, — the soft copy, which has been e-mailed to the media here, the banned outfit once again dismissed India’s claim that it has been using Bangladesh soil to conduct terror attacks in the country.

“By her action, India is conspiring to destroy the revolutionary freedom-seeker identity and brand ULFA, a repulsive terrorist organisation internationally. From these propagandas one can take it that Indian colonial rulers have given up the process to find a peaceful resolution to the Indo-Asom conflict,” ULFA’s mouthpiece says.

Moreover, ULFA tried to add a new dimension to the Assam agitation of 1979-85 against illegal Bangladeshi migrants by stating that the mass movement from 1979 had erupted actually to safeguard the survival of Asom. It said, “Long standing oppression, tyranny, lootings was the real cause of the movement.”

The outfit stated that it couldn’t be branded a terrorist group as it had not taken the war (to liberate Asom) to Delhi or Mumbai and not carried out any attack anywhere in India.

A senior security official here said ULFA’s denial about it bases in Bangladesh was hard to believe, given the ample evidence that were with the Indian government to substantiate its claim on north-east militants groups, including ULFA taking shelter in Bangladesh.

Director-General of Police (DGP), Assam, GM Srivastava claimed that ULFA leaders were not only taking shelter in Bangladesh, but also doing brisk business out of the country.

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Prahlad Patel returns to BJP
Tribune News Service

Bhopal, March 22
Prahlad Patel, former Union minister and the estranged trusted lieutenant of Uma Bharati, returned to the BJP yesterday. Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan and state BJP president Narendra Tomar were among those who were present at a specially-arranged function at the MP BJP headquarters to welcome back Patel. His homecoming is seen as a major boost to the BJP since he has a popular base in the Mahakaushal (Jabalpur-Seoni) area of the state and may be fielded as the BJP candidate against Union minister Kamalnath from the Chinndwara Lok Sabha constituency. Patel had quit the BJP along with Uma Bharati in the year 2004. He was the number two in Bharatiya Janashakti, the political outfit floated by Bharati. Subsequently, he fell out with her and declared himself as the president of the “Bharatiya Janashakti”.

Interestingly, while Patel is already back in the BJP, Bharati too is making the ‘right’ move to re-join the party. Her re-entry, however, is unlikely to be as smooth as Patel’s. While Shivraj Singh Chauhan was keen to bring Patel back into the BJP fold, he is not as enthusiastic about Bharati’s homecoming since she is perceived as a threat to him.

However, Sushma Swaraj, who is contesting the LS polls from the neighbouring Vidisha constituency, was cautious in her reaction to Bharati’s offer to campaign for Advani.

“It is a proposal which can only be welcomed,” Swaraj said but was non-committal when asked about Bharati’s re-entry into the BJP.

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Battle Royale
Sadhu to play ‘Krishna’ for Cong in Bihar
Sanjay Singh
Tribune News Service

Patna, March 22
The Lok Sabha polls in Bihar is like ‘Kurukshetra’, the battle field of Kauravas and Pandavas during ‘Mahabharat’, and Sadhu Yadav will play the role of Lord Krishna and guide the Congress (Pandavas) in its battle royale with the RJD-LJP combine and the NDA.

This is how Bihar Pradesh Congress Committee president Anil Sharma described the election scenario and his party’s strategy for this state. Sharma along with Sardar Iqbal Singh (AICC secretary and organisational in charge of Bihar ) was addressing a press conference here today to introduce Sadhu Yadav, the controversial brother-in-law of Lalu Prasad Yadav, now a Congress candidate from West Champaran.

Explaining the reasons for the split in the UPA (Bihar), Sharma said if Duryodhan and the Kaurvas had given just five villages to Yudhisthir, there would have been no Mahabharat (the great battle of the epics).

What he implied to say is the Congress wanted just five out of the 40 Lok Sabha seats but Lalu and Paswan did not agree to it and the result is for every one to see. On his part, Sadhu maintained restraint and did not say a word against Lalu Prasad or his sister Rabri Devi. On being provoked by newsmen that Rabri Devi had declared having severed all her relations with him, Sadhu said being a brother he would always respect his sister and brother-in-law.

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Near-miss Incident
IAF chopper ‘may not have’ contacted ATC

New Delhi, March 22
The IAF helicopter in the Presidential entourage, which had a narrow-miss with an Air India aircraft at the Mumbai airport last month, was under visual flight rules (VFR) instead of being instrument-guided and probably had no contact with the control tower at the airport, informed sources have indicated.

As an inquiry into the February 9 incident by a joint committee of civil and military aviation officials progressed, there were indications that the helicopter had not established contact with the air traffic control (ATC) tower at the airport, which it was supposed to do in order to make a landing, the sources said.

They, however, said only completion of the probe would establish the exact reasons and circumstances and make important recommendations, including enhancing levels of coordination between civil and military aviation agencies, especially during VIP travel. Busy airports like Mumbai have controlled airspace around them and most of the air traffic is guided by instrument flight rules (IFR).

Pointing out that under no circumstances can an aircraft land at an airport or even change its position on the ground without permissions from the ATC, the sources said when a plane or helicopter had to land, it had to shift over from the approach control radar to the ATC tower, which was the appropriate authority for giving landing or take-off clearance. In Mumbai, the shift-over takes place about five km away from the airport. — PTI

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Azhar scouts for poll turf
Vibha Sharma

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 22
Mohammad Azharuddin may not have been given a ticket from Andhra Pradesh but the cricketer-turned-politician appears to be in great demand elsewhere. The former Indian captain has been on a seat-scouting trip ever since it became clear that he would not be allowed to bat for the Congress from the home turf.

After hints that the wristy batsman could be fielded from Nagaur or Tonk in Rajasthan to retrieve the sizeable Muslim vote base for the party there, indications are that he may contest from Meerut or Moradabad — two constituencies in Uttar Pradesh where Muslims hold the sway.

The Congress is desperate to regain ground in UP and Azhar, with his universal mass appeal, can make substantial difference to the party’s fortunes.

Congress state president Rita Bahuguna on Friday said the former Indian cricket captain had expressed his desire to contest from UP.

“We believe fielding him from Meerut or Moradabad will make a good impact,” she said. Azhar will also attend a Congress rally in Meerut tomorrow.

Azhar had been hinted as the party’s candidate from Andhra Pradesh. Party sources, however, said the seat he wanted to contest on could not be given to him as denying ticket to a sitting candidate would not have been prudent for the party at this juncture.

Later, the Congress zeroed on a couple of constituencies in Rajasthan, including Nagaur, which has a substantial number of Muslims besides Jats and Dalits. 

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No candidate against Lalu, Paswan: Cong

Patna, March 22
Showing its gratitude towards RJD chief Lalu Prasad and LJP supremo Ram Vilas Paswan for their help in smooth running of the UPA government at the Centre, the Congress today announced that it would not field any candidate against the two leaders.

“Our leader Sonia Gandhi has taken this decision not to put up candidates against Lalu and Paswan since they have helped in running the UPA government for its full five-year term,” Bihar Pradesh Congress Committee (BPCC) president Anil Sharma told reporters here today.

Incidentally, Lalu had earlier in the day declared his party’s intention to field its candidates against the Congress in three seats held by it in the state.

Denying allegations that the party was fielding borrowed candidates from other parties, Sharma said barring five names in the list of 22 candidates announced so far, the Congress had fielded its own candidates in all remaining 17 seats. The party is yet to announce candidates for the remaining 15 seats. — PTI

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Code violation by Nitish?
Delegates power of transfers to CS
Tribune News Service

Patna, March 22
While reacting to the Election Commission’s query about the Bihar police chief and his deputy (ADG) visiting Chief Minister’s house on the occasion of Holi, Nitish Kumar said he should not be told about following the model code of conduct by anybody as he followed it “religiously and 24x7”.

What the Bihar Chief Minister meant by saying he followed the code of conduct “religiously” was anybody’s guess. But the very next day, Nitish got the Rules of Executive Business amended and delegated power of transfers and postings of government officials to the Chief Secretary (CS).

Henceforth, the Chief Secretary of Bihar RJM Pillai and not the Chief Minister will have the final authority in matters of transfer and posting of officers of all ranks. Perhaps, Bihar is the only state to have taken such a step by amending the Rules of Executive Business and adding new provisions 32(A).

The Chief Secretary has already started exercising the powers given to him recently. Acting at the behest of the Election Commission, he has already transferred the District Magistrates of Darbhanga and Saran (Chhapra), SP of Darbhanga and so on. The files pertaining to transfer and posting of IAS and IPS officers or the state Civil Service and state Police Service are not being sent to the Chief Minister for his approval any more. It has also become convenient for the EC to communicate and coordinate with the Chief Secretary directly or through its Chief Electoral Officer.

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Jaya slams Lankan move on Kachchativu

Chennai, March 22
AIADMK leader Jayalalithaa today flayed the Sri Lankan government’s move to declare Kachchativu, an islet ceded to it by India in 1974, as a ‘sacred area’, saying it belonged to India and demanded its retrieval.

Kachchativu, situated in the Palk Straits between Sri Lanka and India, has been in the limelight in recent past as fishermen from Tamil Nadu at times are allegedly attacked by the Sri Lankan Navy, causing casualties which has led to protests by political parties in Tamil Nadu.

In a release here, Jayalalithaa recalled the statement of Sri Lankan Minister of Urban Development and Sacred Area Development, Dinesh Gunawardena on the island government's proposal on March 20 and said: “I strongly condemn it.” “Kachchativu Island is to be announced as a sacred area by the government,” Gunawardena had told Sri Lankan Parliament.

His reply came in response to a query on the Indian Supreme Court issuing notice to the Centre on January 5 on a petition by Jayalalithaa seeking declaring as null and void India ceding Kachchativu to Lanka more than three decades ago on the ground that it was done without Parliament's approval. Jayalalithaa also flayed Centre and the Tamil Nadu government for “remaining silent” on Sri Lanka's latest proposal. Kachachativu was ceded to Lanka in 1974 when DMK was ruling in Tamil Nadu, she said alleging that fishermen suffered due to it as they were not allowed to fish in the area. — PTI

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Bangladesh bars ‘war criminals’ from travelling
Ashfaq Wares Khan Writes From Dhaka

The Bangladesh government has imposed a bar on ‘suspected war criminals’ from travelling abroad, according to Law Minister Shafiq Ahmed.

Ahmed told reporters on Sunday, “War crime trials have not kicked off, but are in the process…that’s why the government has ordered some people not to leave the country.”

The Law Minister did not disclose a list of names of the war criminals.

This comes a month after Jamaat-e Islami deputy leader and former minister Ali Ahsan Mujahid was prevented from leaving the country reportedly under suspicion of committing war crimes during the country’s Liberation War in 1971.

The government, which swept to power three months ago, has promised to hold a War Crimes Trial to try individuals associated with war crimes and crimes against humanity in 1971. The Jamaat top brass are part of the large group alleged to have committed the war crimes. Pakistan sent a special emissary last month to Dhaka who suggested Dhaka should hold off such a trial.

Meanwhile, a Rajshahi court gave life sentences to 7 members of the banned militant Jamaatul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) for countrywide bomb attacks on August 17, 2005.

The seven life convicts are: Tariqul Islam, Shafiullah Tarique, Abu Isa, Hasan Ali, Jahangir Alam, Arif, alias Alal and Enamul Haque Moni.

The judge also fined them Taka 20,000 each or two more years rigorous imprisonment on failure of payment.

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BSP candidate alleges loot to escape party fee
Tribune News Service

Bhopal, March 22
A BSP Lok Sabha candidate from Madhya Pradesh cooked up a story of being relieved of Rs 25 lakh in cash by dacoits to avoid paying the amount to his party in return for the nomination. At least that is what the police say. The BSP, of course, has denied the cash-for-ticket allegation.

Gayadeen Ahirwar, BSP candidate from the Tikamgarh Lok Sabha constituency in Madhya Pradesh, had complained to the police that on March 20 he was waylaid by motorcycle borne dacoits when he was coming to Bhopal. The dacoits took away Rs 25 lakh that he was carrying. The incident, he said, took place at Kharbhai ghati, a desolated stretch on the highway in the Raisen district.

The police swung into action immediately on receiving the news. However, interrogation of the driver of Ahirwar’s jeep revealed holes in the dacoity story. On subsequent questioning, the wannabe MP broke down and admitted that he had cooked up the story to avoid paying the Rs 25 lakh levy that was imposed on him by the BSP. “I was asked to pay the amount to the state BSP president and since I neither wanted to pay the money and nor wanted my nomination cancelled, I concocted the story,” he told the police.

A case of filing a false FIR has been registered against Ahirwar. Already, several cases of loot, attempt to murder and arson are registered against him.

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EC names AK Mohanty as new DGP

Hyderabad, March 22
AK Mohanty, a 1975 batch IPS officer, will be the new Director-General of Police for Andhra Pradesh, the Election Commission (EC) notified a day before the nominations open for the elections of 42 Lok Sabha and 294 candidates for the state Assembly, sources said here today.

Mohanty will replace SS Yadav, who was asked to quit by the EC for his controversial utterance in violation of the poll code.

The commission had overlooked the complaint against him by the All-India Majlis-E-Iteehadi Musleemen (AIMIM) president Asaduddin Owaisi, MP, specifically targeting him for his alleged “anti-muslim bias”.

The state government, which was asked by the commission to submit a three-member panel for the replacement of Yadav, had forwarded a five-member panel, including two IPS officier of the DGP rank currently on central deputation --- an apparent option for the commission to review the seniority list of the DGP ranked officers in the state. However, it chose Mohanty going by his impeccable service record to oversee the second-phase elections in Andhra Pradesh on April 16 and April 23. — UNI

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Raja Bhaiyya hurt in chopper crash

Pratapgarh, March 22
Raghuraj Pratap Singh aka Raja Bhaiyya today had a narrow escape as a helicopter with him and two others on board crashed into Chausa river here, police sources said. The independent MLA from Kunda Assembly seat and the two other persons received injuries in the crash and were rushed to the nearby hospital. Their condition is stated to be stable now.

The incident occurred about 15 kms away from Beti area under Hansigawan police station this evening when the chopper crashed into Chausa river due to some technical snag that developed while landing on the national highway, they said. Probably, the MLA himself was flying the helicopter, they said.

The three, including Raja Bhaiya, were rushed to Virendra hospital in Allahabad, where their condition was stated to be stable. — PTI

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No decision on Varun’s reply yet

New Delhi, March 22
For the second day today, the Election Commission (EC) discussed the reply sent by BJP Pilibhit candidate Varun Gandhi on his alleged anti-Muslim speeches, which sparked off wide spread criticism.

EC sources, however, said there was no decision taken on the issue.

While Varun in his reply to the EC’s notice had claimed that the CD, containing his alleged hate-speech, was doctored, Chief Election Commissioner N. Gopalaswami had gone on record stating that the onus was on Varun to prove that the tape was doctored.

In its reply, the BJP distanced itself from his hate speeches and told the EC that his remarks did not represent views of the party.

It, however, asked the poll panel to check the genuineness of the CD containing the comments. — PTI

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Army on expedition to explore Lakshadweep

Agatti, March 22
Highlighting man’s insatiable thirst for exploring uncharted territory, the Army today launched a first-of-its-kind expedition here to test both skills of personnel in amphibious warfare and showcase their concern for ecology.

The multi-faceted expedition at this picturesque island in Lakshadweep by the Army’s Bison Division, an amphibious warfare formation, would provide opportunity to its personnel to try out para-rafting, scuba-diving and para-motoring, apart from highlighting the concern of environmentalists on ecological degradation.

The Bison Blue Waters Expedition, aimed at increasing the maritime awareness of the armed forces and educating the citizens, would appeal for conserving the coral reefs around the island in the Arabian Sea.

Bison Division General-Officer-Commanding Major Gen Rajesh Singh flagged off the expedition at a function in this island located 58 km north west of Kavarati. — PTI

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Raj Thackeray booked for hate speech

Nashik, March 22
The Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray was today booked on charges of violating the model code of conduct and promoting enimity between groups. The police registered a case against Raj, a day after he revived his anti-north Indian campaign at a poll rally here.

According to police officials, a case has been registered against the MNS chief at the Sarkarwada police station.

Raj has been charged under Section 153 (A) of the Indian Penal Code and Section 125 of the Representation of the People’s Act. On March 21, Raj Thackeray had accused the Maharashtrian leaders of having “no affection” for the state and urged voters to elect his party candidates to uphold the dignity of Maharashtrian people. — ANI

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Buddhadeb regrets Nano loss

Diamond Harbour (WB), March 22
As the Tata Motors prepares to launch its presitigious Nano small car in Mumbai tomorrow, West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today blamed the Trinamool Congress for the flight of what would have been his state’s dream project.

“Had not the Opposition forced Tata Motors to close down its plant at Singur, the car would have rolled out from Kolkata and not Mumbai,” Bhattacharjee said at a workers’ meet here.

Bhattacharjee regretted that the state had not only lost its prestige and investors’ confidence, but also lost at least 6,000 jobs.

Meanwhile, at a workers’ meet of the Trinamool Congress in Kolkata, party supremo Mamata Banerjee said she would ensure that the 400 acres that had been “forcefully acquired”, was returned to the people who own that land in Singur and had not given consent for acquisition. — PTI

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Maoists blow up school building, health centre

Medninagar (Jharkhand), March 22
Maoists blew up a primary school and a primary health centre in extremist-hit Palamu district while a powerful land mine was recovered after the two incidents late last night in the run up to the general elections.

The Naxalites triggered explosives to blow up the primary school and health centre constructions at Nitar under Manatu police station last night, Superintendent of Police Ravi Kant Dhan said today.

The walls of both buildings were badly damaged, while doors, furniture and other goods, including medical equipment and important documents of the health centre, were reduced to ashes, he said.

Meanwhile, in a raid on the same day, 15 kg of explosives, attached with a timer device for land mine explosion, was found underneath the Hussainabad-Alipur Road, Dhan said. — PTI

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Editors guild flays attack on Manorama office
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 22
The Editors Guild of India has condemned the last night attack on Kozhikode office of TV channel Manorama News allegedly by CPM workers.

The CPM activists allegedly smashed computers and other equipment inside the channel’s office and damaged vehicles parked in the premises. The assailants also damaged the OB van, used by the channel for transmission of news.

Demanding police protection to journalists working in the state, the Guild members said strong action should be taken against the miscreants, who had tried to browbeat the media by such a blatant attack.

Meanwhile, the Kerala police has arrested Elathur panchayat president VK Mohan Das in connection with the attack.

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BRIEFLY

WB CM escapes unhurt
KOLKATA: West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee escaped unhurt after his convoy was involved in an accident near Kadamtala while returning from election campaign in South 24-Parganas district on Sunday evening. The pilot van of his convoy hit a bus belonging to the Calcutta State Transport Corporation moving in the same direction while coming from Diamond Harbour to the city near Kadamtala, the police said. The pilot van moving at a high speed dashed into the bus, leaving two constables wounded.

Vintage cameras
CHENNAI:
Remember the vintage glass negative cameras with popping perishable bulbs featuring in the black and white World War-II Hollywood movies or the Minox lighter-cum-cameras used by the spies of the Western world in the cold war movies. Welcome to the “Camera House” of city-based Sekar, home to over 4,000 vintage well-functioning cameras, which many camera buffs call a camera museum as it provides a snapshot of the nearly two-century-old history of photography.

‘ICFAI not illegal’
NEW DELHI:
Defending allegations of being an “illegal” institute and “cheating” students, ICFAI University has submitted before the SC that it was an institute established by the state of Uttrakhand and supported by ICFAI Society, Hyderabad. A former BBA student of ICFAI, Rishabh Jain, has dragged the university to the apex court, seeking closure of all “unrecognised” constituent colleges of the university. ICFAI said its university at Dehradun had no study centre, constituent colleges, and off-campus centres outside the state and its prospectus had categorical declaration to this effect.

Source: Agencies

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