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Doda issue rocks RS
New Delhi, May 15
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) today described the recent killings in Doda and Udhampur in Jammu and Kashmir as “genocide and ethnic cleansing” and criticised the “attitudes” of the state chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad and Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil on a matter of such serious concern.

Achuthanandan to be Kerala CM 
Thiruvananthapuram, May 15
Veteran Communist V.S. Achuthanandan (82) will be the next Chief Minister of Kerala, the CPM said. — UNI
In video (28k, 56k)

Sonia Gandhi takes oath
New Delhi, May 15

Amidst thumping of desks, Congress President Sonia Gandhi today took oath as Lok Sabha member. She had quit in the wake of the office-of-profit controversy and won the byelection from Rae Bareli constituency by a record margin of over four lakh votes.
In video (28k, 56k)
Priyanka, daughter of Congress Party President Sonia Gandhi, with husband Robert Vadra leaves Parliament House after attending the oath-taking ceremony of her mother in New Delhi on Monday.
Priyanka, daughter of Congress Party President Sonia Gandhi, with husband Robert Vadra leaves Parliament House after attending the oath-taking ceremony of her mother in New Delhi on Monday.
— Tribune photo by Mukesh Aggarwal








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Sonia skirts comments on reservation
New Delhi, May 15
While the UPA Government is grappling with the snowballing controversy over the proposed quotas for OBCs in elite educational institutions, Congress President Sonia Gandhi maintained a studied silence on this burning issue when she addressed the first Congress Parliamentary Party meeting today after her thumping victory in the recent byelection.

Minorities front against roll back in quota
New Delhi, May 15
The All-India Minorities Front has suggested that the government take help of defence doctors to ensure that health services are not paralysed due to the ongoing anti-reservation agitation.

BJP tries balancing act on quota issue
New Delhi, May 15
Trapped between its traditional following among the upper castes and its local backward leadership, the BJP today did a balancing act, saying that although it was not against reservation, it wanted merit and economic backwardness to be taken into account.

Quota here to stay: CPM
New Delhi, May 15
In a fine balancing act, the CPM today said while the demand for increasing the number of seats in highly specialised courses could be considered by the government, ‘‘the caste based reservation is here to stay’’.

Dogra’s diplomatic passport revoked
New Delhi, May 15
The Ministry of External Affairs has revoked the diplomatic passport of Mr Harish Kumar Dogra, nearly a month after withdrawing his accreditation as Indian High Commissioner to New Zealand.

Arms haul in Maharashtra
Mumbai, May 15
In the third such operation in about a week, the Anti-Terrorist Squad of the Mumbai police on Sunday night recovered a cache of arms including, 12 kg of RDX explosive at Malegaon near Nashik city.

10 killed in Bihar panchayat poll
Patna, May 15
At least 10 persons were killed and 27 injured in the first phase of the statewide panchayat polls which began today amid tight security.

SIT questions Munshi in Jessica case
New Delhi, May 15
Actor Shayan Munshi was today questioned by the special investigation team of the Delhi Police probing the destruction of evidence in the Jessica Lal murder case.

Student bodies ask parties to clarify stand
New Delhi, May 15
A conglomerate of student bodies here has demanded that political parties clarify their individual stand on the issue of reservation — as proposed by Union HRD Minister Arjun Singh.

SC holds regular sittings during vacation
New Delhi, May 15
Doing away with the British legacy of long summer vacation and taking President A P J Abdul Kalam’s advice seriously, the Supreme Court for the made a new beginning this year by holding regular sittings of two special Benches to dispose of old cases during the two-month-long summer vacation starting from today.

Marxists show strength of CPM cadre
The Marxists have created history. They have retained power in West Bengal for the seventh successive time since 1977.

HC for declaring Vikas Gill PO
New Delhi, May 15
Expressing concern over the failure of the Delhi Police to produce one of the accused in the Jessica Lal murder case after the admission of its appeal, the Delhi High Court today asked the prosecution to initiate proceedings for declaring Vikas Gill a proclaimed offender.

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Doda issue rocks RS
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 15
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) today described the recent killings in Doda and Udhampur in Jammu and Kashmir as “genocide and ethnic cleansing” and criticised the “attitudes” of the state chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad and Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil on a matter of such serious concern.

“What we are witnessing in Jammu and Kashmir is a combination of four-fold factors—genocide, ethnic cleansing, acts of terror and, more importantly, the attitudes of the state Chief Minister and the Home Minister,” Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Jaswant Singh said during the Question Hour.

Mr Singh said a total of 36 persons were killed in terrorist attacks at Doda and Udhampur on April 29 and 30 and again at Doda on May 13.

Expressing serious concern over the terrorist incidents in Jammu and Kashmir in recent times, Mr Singh, who was allowed to raise the issue following suspension of the Question Hour, said when the BJP undertook a dharna against the killings in Doda, it was attacked by grenades.

Amid repeated interruptions from the Treasury Benches, the BJP leader said he had never treated the Question Hour in a casual manner. “But the enormity of the Doda killings warrants that the Question Hour be suspended and the matter

discussed in the House.”

Launching a scathing attack on the Congress members who tried to interrupt him, he said, the ruling party members were “perhaps disinclined to stand up and condemn the incident.”

This remark evoked louder protests from the Congress members, who continued to raise objections to the suspension of Question Hour.

In between, Rajya Sabha chairperson Bhairon Singh Shekhawat turned down the Congress’ demand to raise a point of order. “I have not given a ruling on the Opposition's demand to suspend the Question Hour. I only want the members to listen to the speech of the Leader of the Opposition and then take a decision.”

The repeated pleas of the Chair to allow Mr Singh to finish his speech fell on deaf ears, forcing the Chairperson to adjourn the House till noon.

As soon as the House reassembled, Leader of the Opposition demanded a discussion on the issue in the presence of either Prime Minister Manmohan Singh or Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee or Home Minister Shivraj Patil.

“There was blatant dereliction of duty by both the Centre and the state and the Prime Minister or Home or Defence Minister should be present in the House during discussion as it was a matter of grave importance,” he said.

This sparked a procedural wrangle with Deputy Chairperson K. Rahman Khan quoting rules that he can only direct the government for the presence of a Cabinet Minister and certainly not a particular minister during such a discussion.

With Opposition members unrelenting, Mr Khan adjourned the House till 1 pm and when the House reassembled again, Opposition members persisted with their demand and resorted to slogan shouting. The Chair again adjourned the House till 2:30 pm.

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Sonia Gandhi takes oath
Nitish quits Lok Sabha
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 15
Amidst thumping of desks, Congress President Sonia Gandhi today took oath as Lok Sabha member. She had quit in the wake of the office-of-profit controversy and won the byelection from Rae Bareli constituency by a record margin of over four lakh votes.

Ms Gandhi, wearing a navy blue striped saree with maroon border, took oath in Hindi as her daughter Priyanka Vadra and son in law Robert Vadra looked on from the visitors’ gallery.

After taking oath she sat in the same seat in the front row that had been allotted to her as NAC Chairperson, which was of Cabinet rank.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Leader of the House Pranab Mukherjee and top Cabinet Ministers were present in the House.

Her son Rahul Gandhi, who was her campaign manager in the byelection, was also present in the House along with several young MPs.

After taking oath Ms Gandhi was greeted by Leader of the Opposition L. K Advani and BJP Leader V.K Malhotra and other members in the opposition benches.

Meanwhile, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar today resigned from his Lok Sabha seat.

He met Speaker Somnath Chatterjee in his Parliament House office and submitted his resignation letter.

The Speaker is understood to have accepted Mr Nitish Kumar’s resignation with immediate effect.

After becoming the Chief Minister in November, Mr Nitish Kumar was elected to the Bihar Legislative Council last month.

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Sonia skirts comments on reservation
Anita Katyal
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 15
While the UPA Government is grappling with the snowballing controversy over the proposed quotas for OBCs in elite educational institutions, Congress President Sonia Gandhi maintained a studied silence on this burning issue when she addressed the first Congress Parliamentary Party (CPP) meeting today after her thumping victory in the recent byelection.

This in sharp contrast to her opening speech at the AICC plenary session in Hyderabad where she touted the passage of the Bill on reservations for OBCs as one of achievements of the UPA Government and a measure of its commitment to social justice.

Addressing the plenary in January, Mrs. Gandhi had said: “Just a few weeks ago, as a demonstration of our unflinching commitment to social justice, the 104th Constitutional Amendment Bill was passed to provide for reservations for SCs, SIs and OBCs in all private educational institutions.” She had gone on to add that this would expand opportunities for students belonging to weaker sections in higher and professional education.

She, however, sidestepped the issue today just when anti-reservation protests are spreading across the country and the government is trying hard to find a compromise solution which will enable it to meet its constitutional obligations without creating any confrontation between the pro and anti-groups.

Mrs Gandhi did make a pointed reference to matters like spiralling prices of essential commodities, wheat imports and the condition of the farm sector, which have been agitating Congress members. There is an overwhelming feeling in the party that the UPA Government has not been delivering on its pro-poor programmes and could cost them dearly in electoral terms. The party is particularly worried over the increase in prices of essential commodities and the government’s decision to import 35 lakh tonnes of wheat at a higher price than being paid to the domestic farmers.

Obviously aware of this undercurrent, Mrs Gandhi pointed out that the wheat situation needs to be monitored. “While we must ensure that there are sufficient buffer stocks, the interests of wheat growers must be protected from the impact of any large-scale imports,” she said. Continuing in the same vein, the Congress President also urged the government to implement the recommendations of the National Commission on Farmers “with a sense of urgency.”

Referring to the recent assembly elections, Mrs. Gandhi expressed satisfaction with the party’s performance in Assam, Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry but admitted that the West Bengal results “have been very disappointing” while the government’s performance in Kerala had “obviously fallen short of people’s expectations.” However, she urged party MPs to redouble their efforts to ensure good results in the next round of assembly elections to be held in Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Uttaranchal.

Congratulating Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the completion of two years of the UPA Government, Mrs Gandhi requested him to prepare a report on the government’s achievements in each state to enable the party organisation to be better informed and equipped to propagate these contributions. Referring to the National Rural Employment Guarantee Bill, which is the UPA Government’s flagship programme, Mrs Gandhi said the party would be organising a convention of district and pradesh heads on May 26 to review the party’s role in the implementation of this programme and how it could take political mileage from it in non-Congress states.

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Minorities front against roll back in quota
Tripti Nath
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 15
The All-India Minorities Front has suggested that the government take help of defence doctors to ensure that health services are not paralysed due to the ongoing anti-reservation agitation.

In a letter to Union Health Minister Dr Ambhumani Ramadoss, the front has said that the government should “seek help from Defence doctors to come to the rescue of the public.”

The front has conveyed to the government the readiness of doctors belonging to Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Other Backward Classes and the minority community to volunteer service in government run hospitals, if called upon to do so.

The National President of the front, Mr S.M. Asif told TNS here on Tuesday that he has sought the intervention of the UPA Chairperson and Congress President Sonia Gandhi, Railway Minister Lalu Yadav and Convenor of the Parliamentary Forum of OBC MPs V. Hanumanta Rao, to ensure that there is no roll back of the proposal to give 27 per cent reservation to OBCs in elite educational institiutions.

Mr Asif said a roll back will not be tolerated at any cost. He said that he impressed upon the Congress President the fact that 80 per cent of the total Muslim population in the country is on the OBC list.

The front has also requested the Police Commissioner of Delhi, K.K. Paul to remove anti- reservation protestors from hospitals and surrounding areas.

In a letter faxed to the Police Commissioner on Tuesday, the front National President said that the police should also ensure disconnection of illegal and unauthorised electricity connections at agitators camps.

It has also asked the police not to requisition water tankers from any government agency at the agitation spot as this would amount to abetting contempt of the Supreme Court order.

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Quota here to stay: CPM
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 15
In a fine balancing act, the CPM today said while the demand for increasing the number of seats in highly specialised courses could be considered by the government, ‘‘the caste based reservation is here to stay’’.

“We cannot deny reservations to the weaker sections as the country has been experiencing casteism for thousands of years. Steps have to be taken to uplift these sections. All political parties have agreed to go by the Constitution and its provisions in this regard,” party leader Mohd. Salim told reporters here.

Supporting the students’ concerns he said steps could be taken to increase the number of seats and the government could consider this and other options to meet these genuine concerns.

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Dogra’s diplomatic passport revoked
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 15
The Ministry of External Affairs has revoked the diplomatic passport of Mr Harish Kumar Dogra, nearly a month after withdrawing his accreditation as Indian High Commissioner to New Zealand.

Mr Dogra will have to apply for an ordinary passport which he is entitled to. His wife, Neeta, already has an ordinary passport which has not been revoked.

The Dogra family is believed to have applied for normal visa and has a grace period of forty days to stay in New Zealand, beginning from May 4 when their ten-day stay permit expired.

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Arms haul in Maharashtra
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, May 15
In the third such operation in about a week, the Anti-Terrorist Squad of the Mumbai police on Sunday night recovered a cache of arms including, 12 kg of RDX explosive at Malegaon near Nashik city.

Police said here the arms which included five AK-47 rifles, 50 hand grenades, 10 magazines and more than 1,000 cartridges were seized from a shop following a tip-off from militants arrested a few days earlier. A doctor named Sharif Mohammed Shabbir Ahmed, 28, was arrested today, the police said.

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BJP tries balancing act on quota issue
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 15
Trapped between its traditional following among the upper castes and its local backward leadership, the BJP today did a balancing act, saying that although it was not against reservation, it wanted merit and economic backwardness to be taken into account.

It would vociferously raise in Parliament tomorrow the police atrocities against protesting medical students, BJP parliamentary party spokesman V.K. Malhotra said here.

The party, which has been seeking to strike a delicate balance on the issue ever since the protests broke out, has given a notice in the Lok Sabha for raising the issue of lathicharge against medical students in Mumbai during zero hour tomorrow, Mr Malhotra said.

Holding the UPA government responsible for the student violence, he said “let the government make its stand clear”.

The brutal atrocities against the students do not behove any civilised society, the BJP spokesman said.

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10 killed in Bihar panchayat poll
Tribune News Service

Patna, May 15
At least 10 persons were killed and 27 injured in the first phase of the statewide panchayat polls which began today amid tight security.

While the 10-phase polls got off to a peaceful start in the morning, the violence mounted with reports of firing, clashes and snatching of ballots as the day advanced.

The violence in the first phase of panchayat polls was in sharp contrast to the unprecedented peaceful assembly elections in the history of Bihar held in four phases just six months back in October-November under the strict vigil of the Election Commission with just three deaths.

Even though the state Election Department tried to replicate the model of staggered polling of the Election Commission to ensure effective movement of paramilitary forces by keeping a gap of two days between each phase of panchayat polls, it failed to check the violence at the end of the day.

The state Home Secretary, Mr Afzal Amanullah, told the media that four persons were killed in violent clashes in Nawada district alone, followed by three in Chapra and one each in Vaishali, Samastipur and Gaya.

There were reports of violence in other districts, including Bhagalpur, and Jehanabad injuring about 27 persons.

According to Mr Amanullah, the first phase of polling was conducted in 62 blocks of 38 districts with 55,000 candidates in the fray. About 12,000 booths were identified as “sensitive” in the first phase and additional forces deployed to ensure a peaceful poll.

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SIT questions Munshi in Jessica case
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 15
Actor Shayan Munshi was today questioned by the special investigation team (SIT) of the Delhi Police probing the destruction of evidence in the Jessica Lal murder case.

Munshi, who was caught at the Kolkata Airport on Saturday while trying to leave the country, arrived here late last night after the Delhi Police directed him to join the investigation.

The SIT sleuths have sought an explanation from Munshi for leaving the country despite having a look-out circular issued against him.

Before appearing for questioning, Munshi told reporters that neither was he aware of any look-out circular issued against him nor was he informed by the Delhi Police about the same.

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Student bodies ask parties to clarify stand
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 15
A conglomerate of student bodies here has demanded that political parties clarify their individual stand on the issue of reservation — as proposed by Union HRD Minister Arjun Singh.

Student bodies of medical colleges, Delhi University (DU), Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), Jamia Millia and Delhi IIT, under the banner of ‘Anti-Reservation Youth Brigade of Delhi’, at a meeting last evening demanded that Congress president Sonia Gandhi, BJP leader L.K. Advani and CPM leader Prakash Karat explain their position on the reservation issue.

This, they said, would help the student community to chalk out their strategies, vis-a-vis political parties. Stating that agitation in universities would soon start to enlighten others on the new reservation policy, the ‘gathering’ which assembled at Ridge Park in North Campus area of Delhi University decided to burn effigies of political leaders who failed to clarify their stand on the issue.

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SC holds regular sittings during vacation
S S Negi
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, May 15
Doing away with the British legacy of long summer vacation and taking President A P J Abdul Kalam’s advice seriously, the Supreme Court for the made a new beginning this year by holding regular sittings of two special Benches to dispose of old cases during the two-month-long summer vacation starting from today.

So far the practice was that during the summer vacation, only a vacation Bench used to hold court on selective days in a week to hear urgent cases needing immediate attention.

Earlier this year the President had advised the judiciary at a seminar here in the presence of Chief Justice of India (CJI) Y.K Sabharwal to work overtime to deal with the pending cases.

As a follow up measure, the CJI took a decision, in consultation with his senior colleague to begin with the apex court itself, that at least two special Benches should hold court on a regular basis during the vacation, which could work as an inspiration for High Courts and lower judiciary as well.

Besides, dealing with old pending cases, one of the Benches would hear urgent miscellaneous matters every Monday, as per the list of business released by the Supreme Court Registry for the special Benches.

This would mean that the apex court from this year onward would not close down as it used to in the past during the vacation and continue to function on a regular basis everyday though in a reduced strength.

As per the schedule drawn by the Registry, seven judges would sit in rotation in the two special Benches till the vacation is over on July 3.

Not only this, the Court from this year has reduced its two-month-long summer vacation by a week and would resume its normal function from July 3 instead of July 10.

The Registry would also remain open on all five working days of a week. 

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News Analysis
Marxists show strength of CPM cadre
Subhrangshu Gupta

The Marxists have created history. They have retained power in West Bengal for the seventh successive time since 1977.

Mr Jyoti Basu is naturally happy that his wish of seeing the Left Front government in power for the seventh time has been fulfilled.

The election results have virtually created a vacuum in the opposition. The Congress has finally dug its grave by allowing the CPM to dominate. Ms Mamata Banerjee will be playing a marginal role in Bengal politics with a small number of workers and supporters by her side. She has failed to gain even the minimum number of seats for retaining the opposition status in the Assembly.

In 1977, Mr Basu led the first Left Front government in the state with the support of nine different Leftist parties, including the CPI, the RSP and the Forward Bloc on the basis of a common minimum programme.

He had earlier experienced running two other separate coalition governments in Bengal, namely, the United Front government in 1967 and 1969, respectively, one headed by Mr Ajoy Mukherjee of the Bangla Congress (a breakaway group of the official Congress and another by himself). But these governments did not last long.

Since 1977, the Left Front government has been in power. Mr Basu headed the government till late 2000 before handing over the “crown” at the age of 86 to the “young” comrade, who will now be leading the seventh Left Front government at the age of 63.

In the 2006 Assembly elections, the Left Front won 235 of the 294 Assembly seats (election in one seat in North 24-parganas countermanded), while the CPM alone won 176 seats, when the pollings were held directly under the control and supervision of the Election Commission and the central para-military forces on the basis of complaints of rigging and booth-capturing in the previous elections by the opposition parties against the CPI(M).

But still there was massive victory for the Left Front, which even surprised the Left leadership, who are now finding themselves in a more comfortable position for dictating the Manmohan Singh government.

After 2001 elections, when both the Congress (I) and the Trinamool Congress fought jointly against the CPM, the Left Front government came to power by winning 199 seats (CPM alone won 143). But this time, both the parties fought against each other, making easier for the Left parties to win larger number of seats.

The Marxists’ successive victory did not come overnight. The most cadre-based organisation has about half million workers in the party, many of them whole-timers and a few lakhs of supporters and well-wishers behind it, which strengthened the party.

But after assuming power in the seventies, they started playing a different role. And soon they realised that with their limited resources and power, it was next to impossible for them to meet the people’s needs and fulfil their hopes and aspirations.

Mr Basu being in the Chief Minister’s chair, first realised the need for changing their old ideas and philosophies of Marxism in the changing political situation and accordingly, he invited private investment and foreign capitals for the state’s rapid industrial growth, which his successor has been now following avidly..

At one stage, Ms Mamata Banerjee had earned enormous mass support because of her fighting spirit and battle against the misdeeds of the ruling Left Front parties. Her popularity had been a cause of worries to the CPM leadership, which even Mr Basu once admitted. But this popularity soon faded away. Her successive wrong decisions, once joining the NDA and then again quitting the Vajpayee government on flimsy grounds and returning to the Congress fold on the eve of the 2001 Assembly polls, had been the greatest political blunders which she made.

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HC for declaring Vikas Gill PO
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, May 15
Expressing concern over the failure of the Delhi Police to produce one of the accused in the Jessica Lal murder case after the admission of its appeal, the Delhi High Court today asked the prosecution to initiate proceedings for declaring Vikas Gill a proclaimed offender (PO).

A Bench, headed by Mr Justice Manmohan Sarin, directed the standing counsel of the police to file an application to initiate proceedings for declaring Gill a proclaimed offender after he had failed to submit himself to the jurisdiction of the court.

The direction came after the police counsel Mukta Gupta told the Bench that Gill, one of the nine accused in the case, had gone missing since October 2004.

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