Friday, January 31, 2003, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Shourie warns telecom players
Fulfil commitments or face penalties
Tribune News Service

Arun Shourie meets with senior officials of the Information Technology and Communications Ministries
Arun Shourie meets with senior officials of the Information Technology and Communications Ministries after  taking charge as the Union Minister of Communication and Information Technology in New Delhi on Thursday.
— PTI photo

New Delhi, January 30
Less than 24 hours after taking charge as the new Communications and IT Minister, Mr Arun Shourie today sent a strong note of caution to telecom players and warned of strong punitive measures in the event of non-fulfilment of commitments agreed upon earlier.

“No commitment should be written off whatsoever. Any non-fulfilment of commitment will attract severe penalties,” Mr Shourie told newspersons.

“If these commitments, whether it is village telephony or Universal Service Obligations, are not executed the party concerned will have to give a candid explanation to people and Parliament”, he added. He assured them that the government was committed to provide a “transparent mechanism” and would act as a perfect enabler.

Mr Shourie, who also holds charge of the Ministry of Disinvestment, said the government would take all steps to ensure free flow of technology to the sector.

“India has a large room for everyone...No steps should be taken to block technology. All decisions will be taken in a transparent manner as it is happening in the Disinvestment Ministry,” he said.

The minister indicated the possibility of allowing more service providers to enhance competition, but did not elaborate on the matter. At the same time he said predatory pricing strategies would not be allowed under any circumstance.

On the issue of privatisation of BSNL and MTNL, Mr Shourie said he had called for the figures on incremental shares from both companies. He also asked the PSUs to identify the problems afflicting their functioning and the solutions within the next two days.

“But no restrictions should be imposed which will arrest the march of technology or give any unfair advantage to any particular player, be it PSU or private,” Shourie added.

Regarding the new tariff revisions announced by TRAI recently, he said that Indians should learn to pay for every service. 


Mahajan appointed General Secretary
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 30
Mr Pramod Mahajan, who quit the Vajpayee government yesterday, was today appointed BJP General Secretary and its official spokesman.

Announcing his appointment, Party President M Venkaiah Naidu told newspersons that Mr Mahajan would also be Secretary of the Parliamentary Board and the Central Election Committee and in charge of the media.

He said Uma Bharti had been appointed Chairman of the Campaign and Election Management Committee of Madhya Pradesh and would lead the campaign during the Assembly elections slated by the year-end in the state.

President of Madhya Pradesh unit of the party Kailash Joshi would not be changed, Mr Naidu said. He said the services of Union Minister Arun Jaitley would be utilised during the Assembly poll in Himachal Pradesh which he had been looking after for quite sometime.

Further reorganisation of the party would also be undertaken, Mr Naidu said. Earlier, Mr Mahajan assumed charge as party General Secretary, a job he had held before joining the Union Cabinet four years ago.

Mr Mahajan arrived at the party headquarters along with Mr Naidu and was greeted by other party General Secretaries Rajnath Singh, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi besides several party leaders and workers. In a brief comment Mr Naidu said Mr Mahajan’s entry would strengthen the party during the time when the party had to face elections in several state Assemblies this year and the Lok Sabha in 2004.


Reshuffle aimed at next poll
Satish Misra
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 30
Extensive changes in the party and the government conducted yesterday is primarily aimed at the next Lok Sabha elections when the BJP is hoping to cross the magic figure of 272.

The message of the exercise is loud and clear. The BJP would leave no stone unturned to emerge with clear majority at the next Lok Sabha elections.

So positive signals to the industry and economic world have been sent by bringing back Mr Arun Jaitley from the party to the government and entrusting additional responsibility of Communications and Information Technology along with the portfolio of Disinvestment to him.

At the same time Mr Jaitley has been given the responsibility of Law and Justice along with the Commerce portfolio and it has been done with a specific purpose of keeping the balance in the Law Ministry.

Another interesting aspect of giving the dual charge of Law and Commerce to Mr Jaitley is also to gain an upper hand at the crucial WTO negotiations, where the developing world is locked in a tough battle. Mr Jaitley, with his knowledge of law and a sharp insight into the economics of trade, would prove to be an asset for the Vajpayee government.

The reshuffle has also been conducted for keeping the image of the Vajpayee government “clean” in the next 16 months till the General Election. The changes in the BJP organisation have been undertaken for the Assembly elections in Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh later this year and in Maharashtra and other states next year.

At the same time the inclusion of a staunch advocate of Hindutva, Mr Dilip Singh Judeo in the Council of Ministers along with Ms Bhavnaben Chikalia has been done not only to please the Rashtriya Swyamsevak Sangh, but should leave no one in doubt that the BJP would enter the election fray with aggressive “communal” agenda.

Mr Sangh Priya Gautam, who has been the Dalit face of the party for over a decade now, has been brought into the government for two objectives. First, to send a signal that loyalty to the party pays and secondly, to please the Dalit constituency.

Giving independent charge of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to former Minister of State of Law and Justice Ravi Shankar Prasad is a move to provide dynamism to the ministry. Mr Prasad, incidentally, has been very successful in the Ministry of Coal, where he handled the job with professionalism, which impressed both Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee and Mr Advani.

Sending of heavyweight Minister of Communication and Information Technology and Parliamentary Affairs Pramod Mahajan to the party is not only to add value to the organisation with his communication skills and his approach of “realpolitik” but also to silence the Sangh Parivar’s criticism of his nexus with some big industrialists and “others”.

However, the dropping of veteran K. Jana Krishnamurthi from the Cabinet may evoke some consternation in the loyal party circles but the party high command knows fully well that time is a great healer.

The Deputy Prime Minister after this exercise has emerged as the de facto power centre in the party and the government.

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