SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI


THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
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N A T I O N

BJP stunned over UP poll results
Sushma Swaraj New Delhi, May 11
There was a stunning silence at the BJP's central office here as the UP Assembly election results decimated the saffron party.


"We failed to feel the pulse of people." — Sushma Swaraj

BJP defeat cheers Left
New Delhi, May 11
The joy of seeing Bharatiya Janata Party lose in Uttar Pradesh was enough for the Left parties to swallow their own dismal show in the 403-member UP Assembly. Having failed to open their account in the state, the Communists probably forgot the task assigned to its leaders at the 18th party Congress in 2005.

Ludhiana City Centre
Partial stay on Delhi HC order
New Delhi, May 11
The Supreme Court today took exception to the Delhi High Court taking cognisance of the Ludhiana City Centre scam case, which essentially was outside its jurisdiction, and stayed the operation of its order partially.

Mandate to sit in Oppn, says Cong
New Delhi, May 11
Unable to improve its performance in the UP Assembly polls, which gave a clear verdict to the Bahujan Samaj Party, the Congress today indicated it would play the role of a constructive opposition in the state assembly.

Priyanka proves mettle in Rae Bareli, Amethi
New Delhi, May 11
Priyanka Vadra certainly impressed them all in Rae Bareli and Amethi, the two Parliamentary constituencies in UP where the Congress has performed well in the elections.

‘Defeat of Mulayam’s corporate samajwad’
Patna, May 11
Calling the fall of Mulayam Singh Yadav in Uttar Pradesh as the defeat of the “corporate samajwad” propagated by him, the CPI-ML today said the situation was similar to the one in Bihar in 2005 when the people there had rejected Lalu Prasad Yadav.Talking to media persons here today, CPI-ML general secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya said the people of UP had voted decisively against the ‘corporate socialism’ of Yadav.


Irom Sharmila Chanu comes out after being produced in Patiala house court in New Delhi on Friday.
Irom Sharmila Chanu comes out after being produced in Patiala house court in New Delhi on Friday. The 35-year-old is an iconic figure in Manipur's politics. She completes six years of fasting in November in what is perhaps the longest such political protest ever recorded. Sharmila is demanding the repeal of the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act which gives sweeping powers to the Army in the state. — PTI


EARLIER STORIES




Thousands witness 1857 uprising re-enactment
New Delhi, May 11
Thousands of youth, top leaders and other VIPs today watched the re-enactment of the historic events that led to the 1857 uprising against the British rule at a function at Red Fort here.

It was held to commemorate the 150 years of the first war of Independence. The celebrations, held under tight security, were attended by President A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, vice-president Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee and union ministers, including Arjun Singh and Mani Shankar Aiyar.

Artists from Punjab take part in a ceremony marking India's first war of independence at the Red Fort in New Delhi on Friday. — Tribune photo by Mukesh Aggarwal.

Artists from Punjab take part in a ceremony marking India's first war of independence at the Red Fort in New Delhi.

Festivities: Houses adjourned
New Delhi, May 11
Keeping in view the celebrations organised to mark the 150th anniversary of the First War of Independence, both the Houses of the Parliament were adjourned today.

Arrested IPS officers get security
Ahmedabad, May 11
In view of threat perceptions to their lives, three IPS officers arrested in connection with the killing of Sohrabuddin Sheikh in a fake encounter have been provided security and kept in segregated cells at the Sabarmati Central Jail here.

India to launch heavy satellite in 2009
Bangalore, May 11
India is set to launch heavy satellites from its own soil and achieve total self-reliance in the launch-vehicle technology with the GSLV Mark III launch platform scheduled to launch a 4-tonne satellite in 2009.

Viraat completes 20 years in Navy
Mumbai, May 10
India’s only aircraft carrier at the moment, INS Viraat, completes two decades of service in the Indian Navy on Saturday.

Human trafficking case
AGP mum over its MP’s ‘link’
Guwahati, May 11
The Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) has been stunned into silence over media reports that at least one of its two Lok Sabha MPs may have been involved in the human trafficking scandal that came to light following the arrest of the BJP MP Babubhai Katara.

ULFA for Army withdrawal
Guwahati, May 11
The proscribed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) has demanded withdrawal of the Indian Army from the state for protection of human rights of innocent civilians.

CPM wants allies to keep to the script
Kolkata, May 11
The CPI (M) leadership has shown resentment against the allies’ handling of the Nandigram problems. Party secretary Biman Bose, who is also the Left Front chairman, accused the CPI, RSP and the Forward Bloc (FB) of taking decisions that were contrary to what had been decided during the Front meeting.

50 years in politics
PM, Sonia felicitate Karunanidhi
Chennai, May 11
While a sad Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Muthuvel Karunanidhi got a reprieve for a few hours this evening as celebrations marked his golden jubilee in legislative politics and all, including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi, heaped praises on him, his grandnephew and union minister for IT and telecommunications Dayanidhi Maran was conspicuously absent at both the functions.


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BJP stunned over UP poll results
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 11
There was a stunning silence at the BJP's central office here as the UP Assembly election results decimated the saffron party.

The office at 11, Ashok Road, which would have been full with supporters, sympathisers, leaders and party officials, wore a deserted look as the Uttar Pradesh results sent the BJP crashing out of the race for power in the home state of its President Rajnath Singh.

Except for senior leader Kalraj Mishra, no other prominent politician of the party visited its central office as late as noon.

Rather, they criss crossed from one TV channel to another to defend the party saying that they failed to project the BJP as an alternative to the Samajwadi Party early enough.

The voters did not find the BJP -- which had won 88 seats in the 2002 assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh -- an alternative to the SP of outgoing Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav.

The people identified the BSP as an alternative to the Mulayam Singh Yadav government, senior BJP leader Sushma Swaraj said.

Swaraj, whose party launched a high-pitched Hindutva campaign much ahead of the UP elections, denied that this issue was the BJP's poll plank in the state.

Hindutva was never an election issue. It is a way of life. How can a way of life ever be an election issue? she remarked.

“We could not feel the pulse of the people,” she admitted.

Party spokesman Ravi Smasher Prasad said: "We had campaigned for the defeat of (outgoing Chief Minister) Mulayam Singh Yadav. There were two alternatives. People chose Mayawati as the alternative."

Another spokesman Prakash Javadekar parroted the same logic saying that "we wanted to throw out Mulayam. It was a triangular fight. The people threw out Mulayam and chose BSP."

The party leaders are at loss to understand the outcome as the party had left no stone unturned to improve its position of 88 seats in 2002 Assembly election results.

Since Uttar Pradesh is the home state of the BJP President, the results mean a lot as Singh had roped in the Rashtriya Swyamsevak Sangh in a big way. At every state, RSS functionaries had been involved in the campaign and saffron Pracharaks were pressed in for mobilising the voters.

RSS along with the VHP was successful in persuading former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Uma Bharti to withdraw her party-Bharatiya Janshakti Party- candidates to withdraw from the fray in the favour of the BJP.

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BJP defeat cheers Left
R. Suryamurthy
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 11
The joy of seeing Bharatiya Janata Party lose in Uttar Pradesh was enough for the Left parties to swallow their own dismal show in the 403-member UP Assembly. Having failed to open their account in the state, the Communists probably forgot the task assigned to its leaders at the 18th party Congress in 2005.

While giving rein to Prakash Karat as the general secretary, he was given an important task of expanding the party's base in the Hindi heartland.

However, according CPM Polit Bureau member Sitaram Yechury, “The best part of the UP result was the defeat of BJP, which got much less than it had held in the last Assembly and even less than anticipated.”

He said the electorate in UP had given a resounding defeat to the communal platform led by the BJP, despite its Hindutva campaign and issuing of the controversial CD.

The CPM, CPI, Forward Bloc and RSP had fought the UP polls individually. While the Forward Bloc and the CPM had a soft stand towards the Samajwadi Party, the CPI had opposed it and joined hands with the former prime minister-led Jan Morcha.

However, the CPM’s failure to make a foray into the Hindi heartland, where the Communist parties were once a major political force, did not disappoint them. Rather, the thumping victory of BSP has left the CPM something to cheer about.

“We hope the BSP will strengthen the secular forces and support a secular candidate for the president polls,” Yechury said.

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Mandate to sit in Oppn, says Cong
Prashant Sood
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 11
Unable to improve its performance in the UP Assembly polls, which gave a clear verdict to the Bahujan Samaj Party, the Congress today indicated it would play the role of a constructive opposition in the state assembly.

Disappointed by the results, which failed to shore up the party’s fortunes despite hectic campaigning by party MP Rahul Gandhi and other senior leaders, the party derived satisfaction from the defeat of the Samajwadi Party and poor performance of the BJP.

With the BSP set to play a crucial role in the forthcoming polls to the office of President, both Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi congratulated BSP chief Mayawati over her victory.

Congress spokesman Abhishek Singhvi said the party was conscious that the mandate was for it to sit in the opposition.

“We welcome the verdict of people of UP. The verdict is against misrule and anti-party policies of the SP government. We are also happy to note that people have rejected a communal party like the BJP,” he said.

Asked if the party leaders, who extensively campaigned in UP, should own responsibility for its performance, Singhvi sidetracked the issue, saying the Congress was a cohesive party. “We take full responsibility as an all-India party,” he said.

Citing the strength of the Congress in the outgoing assembly, which was reduced to 16 following defections, Singhvi said the party had improved its tally. “This is not to say that we are happy. We are certainly disappointed and would strive to improve.”

Answering queries related to Rahul Gandhi, he said that the MP led from the front and had made it clear that he was in UP for a long haul. “The party has to reinvent its rainbow of support. Every attempt will be made to keep up the momentum (of campaign). We will emerge victorious in the near future,” Singhvi said.

On the question of the party getting better results in the seats where Priyanka Vadra campaigned compared to those visited by Rahul Gandhi, Singhvi said the “conclusions were misplaced.”

He termed as “hypothetical” questions about the Congress extending outside support to Mayawati and said there was little possibility of the party making a suo moto declaration of support.

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Priyanka proves mettle in Rae Bareli, Amethi

New Delhi, May 11
Priyanka Vadra certainly impressed them all in Rae Bareli and Amethi, the two Parliamentary constituencies in UP where the Congress has performed well in the elections.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi's daughter had toured during these constituencies extensively and these have reaped the only benefits for the party.

Party leaders are now quietly comparing Priyanka's success in Rae Bareli and Amethi to the poor show of the party elsewhere in the state, where her MP brother Rahul Gandhi had campaigned extensively.

In Sonia Gandhi's constituency Rae Bareli, where Priyanka focussed her energies, the Congress has won four of the five seats. Likewise, three of Amethi's five Assembly segments have gone to the Congress. Priyanka had extensively toured Amethi, from where Rahul is an MP.

Despite Rahul's road shows - which had drawn good crowds - the Congress turned out to be one of the poorest performers in the results counted on Friday. It has fallen from its existing 25 (2002) to less than 20, and even the vote share has come down.

The third young Gandhi, Varun Gandhi, also scored some hits for his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Bareilly and Pilibhit area where the party won seven seats of the 10 it contested. Varun, whose mother Maneka Gandhi is an MP from Pilibhit, had campaigned extensively in the area.

Though most leaders refused to compare Priyanka and Rahul on record, they privately admitted that the differences were glaring. “While Rahul struggled to feel at home during the election campaign in UP, it was easy for Priyanka. She exudes confidence like that of her grandmother (late prime minister Indira Gandhi),” said a Congress leader, believed to be close to the family. — IANS

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‘Defeat of Mulayam’s corporate samajwad’
Tribune News Service

Patna, May 11
Calling the fall of Mulayam Singh Yadav in Uttar Pradesh as the defeat of the “corporate samajwad” propagated by him, the CPI-ML today said the situation was similar to the one in Bihar in 2005 when the people there had rejected Lalu Prasad Yadav.

Talking to media persons here today, CPI-ML general secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya said the people of UP had voted decisively against the ‘corporate socialism’ of Yadav.

Calling Mayawati’s victory as the biggest-ever dalit assertion in the memorable past, CPI-ML said it would closely observe whether she would now be able to deliver as promised to the dalits.

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Ludhiana City Centre
Partial stay on Delhi HC order
S. S. Negi
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, May 11
The Supreme Court today took exception to the Delhi High Court taking cognisance of the Ludhiana City Centre scam case, which essentially was outside its jurisdiction, and stayed the operation of its order partially.

The Delhi High Court, while entertaining the petitions of capital-based company Today Homes and Infrastructure, its subsidiary Today Hotels and one of their top executives, had restrained the Punjab Vigilance Bureau (VB) from arresting the company officials named co-accused in the FIR along with former Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and others.

A Bench of justices S. B. Sinha and Markandey Katju issued notices to the two companies and their vice-president Viney Subikhi on three sets of appeals by the Punjab government against the High Court’s twin orders passed on March 28 and April 3. It stayed the operation of the same to the extent that the direction regarding no coercive action against the accused, including the search of their premises, would be rendered inoperative.

But, on the request of a battery of senior advocates, Harish Salve, Shanti Bhushan and Mukul Rohtagi, who have been fielded by the company, the court said till next hearing on May 15, the VB would not arrest any of the company officials.

Today Homes and Today Hotels and Subikhi, who had filed the petitions in the High Court, were directed to submit their replies by May 15.

Senior advocate K. K. Venugopal, former additional solicitor-general K. K. Sud and Punjab’s additional advocate-general K. K. Khurna, fielded by the state government, sought quashing of the Delhi High Court orders on the ground that they were passed without jurisdiction as any petition in the matter only could be filed in the Punjab and Haryana High Court because the FIR was registered in Ludhiana.

The Punjab government alleged that justice Reva Khetrapal had “wrongly” taken cognisance of the petitions of Today Homes and Today Hotels and restrained the bureau for three months from taking any further steps permitted under the law against their officials named in the FIR.

The five company officials, who have been benefited by the High Court’s restraint order, include Subhiki general manager Sunil Sharma, director Gulshan Kumar Gambhir. Two of their officials, Amit Sardhana and Kamal Verma were already in judicial custody, the Punjab government said.

The Punjab Government alleged that for invoking the Delhi High Court’s jurisdiction, the company officials had filed a “frivolous complaint” on March 26 with the SHO of Connaught Place in the matter without any basis.

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Thousands witness 1857 uprising re-enactment
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 11
Thousands of youth, top leaders and other VIPs today watched the re-enactment of the historic events that led to the 1857 uprising against the British rule at a function at Red Fort here. It was held to commemorate the 150 years of the first war of Independence.

The celebrations, held under tight security, were attended by President A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, vice-president Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee and union ministers, including Arjun Singh and Mani Shankar Aiyar.

The President, who spoke in Hindi, asked the youth to work towards making the country a developed nation before 2020. “I wish when our Prime Minister will address the nation on August 15, 2020, it would be an address by a leader not of a developing nation, but of a developed, strong and prosperous nation”, he said.

“We have identified five areas where the country has expertise to provide for a time-bound action. The areas are: Agriculture and food processing, education and health care information and communication technology basic services like power, transport and providing urban amenities in rural areas and self-sufficiency in defence technology”, he said.

Dr Manmohan Singh, who spoke in Hindi, observed that the fight for freedom had united people from different religions and speaking different languages. It was a fight for freedom and to make one’s own destiny, he said.

The Prime Minister said India’s strength and destiny lay in its ideals of unity in diversity and asked the youth to work for making the country prosperous.

Dismissing the attempts to project the uprising as only a mutiny of sepoys, Sonia said it was the first war of Independence. While the sepoys were in the vanguard, the people were behind them, she said, adding that the uprising showed the unity of India from time immemorial.

The fort complex was teeming with thousands of youth who marched 60 km from Meerut to Delhi to participate in the mega cultural event, involving over 2,000 artistes.

The Jang-e-Azadi 1857 march, which was flagged off from Meerut on May 7, reached here yesterday. The colourfully dressed youth, hailing from various states, were mobilised by the Nehru Yuvak Kendra here.

However, the absence of NDA chairperson Atal Bihari Vajpayee added a jarring note to the celebrations. It lends credence to the BJP’s allegation that the show had been “monopolised” by the ruling Congress.

The event began with the “sangram and azadi' featuring the country’s unity in diversity, its vivid colours, traditions and heritage.

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Festivities: Houses adjourned
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 11
Keeping in view the celebrations organised to mark the 150th anniversary of the First War of Independence, both the Houses of the Parliament were adjourned today.

The day also saw an end to the row kicked up over Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit’s comments on the influx of people to the national capital from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.

As soon as Lok Sabha assembled, CPM member Basudeb Acharia and JD (U)'s Devendra Prasad Yadav urged Speaker Somnath Chatterjee to adjourn the house as a mark of respect to the martyrs of the 1857 War of Independence. BJP’s V K Malhotra and members of other parties supported them. This was followed by the adjournment of the House till Monday.

In Rajya Sabha, Chairman Bhairon Singh Shekhawat said he had received requests of adjournment so that the members could participate in the celebrations today. Cutting across party lines, the members supported this and the House was adjourned for the day.

Earlier, the remarks of the Delhi CM, which had caused turmoil in Lok Sabha yesterday, came in for reference in the House, which was informed that she had tendered a public apology.

Parliamentary affairs minister P R Dasmunsi informed the House that Dikshit had publicly apologised for her remarks and suggested that the matter be closed.

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Arrested IPS officers get security

Ahmedabad, May 11
In view of threat perceptions to their lives, three IPS officers arrested in connection with the killing of Sohrabuddin Sheikh in a fake encounter have been provided security and kept in segregated cells at the Sabarmati Central Jail here.

The three suspended officers --DIG D.G Vanzara,SP Rajkumar Pandian of the state intelligence wing and SP Dineshkumar M.N of Rajasthan -- were sent to judicial custody till May 25 after the expiry of their 15-day police custody with the CID (Crime).

They were arrested on April 24. — PTI

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India to launch heavy satellite in 2009
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Bangalore, May 11
India is set to launch heavy satellites from its own soil and achieve total self-reliance in the launch-vehicle technology with the GSLV Mark III launch platform scheduled to launch a 4-tonne satellite in 2009.

Disclosing this here today, ISRO chairman G. Madhavan Nair said the GSLV Mark III launch vehicle would allow the country to launch its INSAT-4 series of satellites from home soil itself.

Speaking about the development of the launch vehicle, which has been on since two years, Nair said the very heavy cryogenic engine that had to be used in the new launch vehicle had been fully qualified.

“It has undergone the short-duration stage test and will put to the long-duration stage test shortly”. The indigenous cryogenic stage will replace the present Russian supplied stage. Besides, ISRO has also completed wind tunnel tests, updated the vehicle configuration and is in the advance stage of establishment of propellant plant, assembly and integration of the vehicle.

The engine itself uses a large solid booster with a 200-tonne propellant and will have 20 tonne of thrust compared to 7.5 tonne of thrust available in present launch vehicles.

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Viraat completes 20 years in Navy
Shiv Kumar
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, May 10
India’s only aircraft carrier at the moment, INS Viraat, completes two decades of service in the Indian Navy on Saturday.

The ship was originally commissioned in the British Royal Navy as HMS Hermes in 1959. Among the many highlights of her career in the service of the British include action in the war against Argentina over Falkland Islands.

Earlier in her career, Britain’s Prince Charles cut his teeth as a young naval officer on board this ship. When India bought the ship at a bargain price in the mid-eighties, the British expected the ship (now renamed INS Viraat) to stay afloat for just a decade.

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Human trafficking case
AGP mum over its MP’s ‘link’
Tribune News Service

Guwahati, May 11
The Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) has been stunned into silence over media reports that at least one of its two Lok Sabha MPs may have been involved in the human trafficking scandal that came to light following the arrest of the BJP MP Babubhai Katara.

According to media reports, the Lok Sabha secretariat has passed complaints received against at least 40 sitting MPs from the general public to investigating agencies in connection with the scandal.

These MPs are alleged to have used passports of their wives in human trafficking. While AGP MP Sarbananda Sonowal is a very senior politician in the state, Dr Arun Sharma is a bachelor.

Sonowal said over the phone from New Delhi, “I have travelled abroad in the capacity of an MP only on three occasions so far and every time I was a part of the delegation led by the speaker Somnath Chatterjee. I am yet to undertake a private visit abroad.”

He also said that he has not been contacted by the Lok Sabha secretariat or any other investigating agency so far.

Dr Sharma couldn’t be contacted for his comments.

When contacted AGP spokesman Apurba Kumar Bhattacharrya said the party was totally in the dark over media reports and he was not in a position to comment on them.

According to the complaint received by the Lok Sabha secretariat, about 130 past and present MPs were allegedly involved in the human trafficking scandal and of them 40 of them are sitting MPs.

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ULFA for Army withdrawal
Bijay Sankar Bora
Tribune News Service

Guwahati, May 11
The proscribed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) has demanded withdrawal of the Indian Army from the state for protection of human rights of innocent civilians.

In a statement e-mailed to the media here this evening, ULFA chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa stated that the killing of ‘innocent youth’ Budheswar Moran by the Army in the wee hours of May 6 last at Laopatty village near Doom Dooma in Tinsukia district was another example of ‘atrocities perpetrated on the innocent people’ by the Army in the name of anti-insurgency operations.

The ULFA leader termed the probes ordered into the killing by the state government and the Army as an ‘eyewash’. He also pooh-poohed the government’s declaration of granting Rs 3 lakh as ex-gratia to Moran’s family.

Alleging that there were instances in the state when Army officials involved in atrocities were promoted, the ULFA leader demanded its complete withdrawal.

He also called upon the people to continue with their agitation in this regard.

It may be mentioned that the Army has admitted to possible lapses in the ‘encounter’ killing of Budheswar Moran and has ordered an impartial probe into it. The state government too has instituted a commissioner-level inquiry into the killing that has sparked mass protests in eastern Assam districts of Tinsukia, Dibrugarh and Sivasagar.

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CPM wants allies to keep to the script
Subhrangshu Gupta
Tribune News Service

Kolkata, May 11
The CPI (M) leadership has shown resentment against the allies’ handling of the Nandigram problems. Party secretary Biman Bose, who is also the Left Front chairman, accused the CPI, RSP and the Forward Bloc (FB) of taking decisions that were contrary to what had been decided during the Front meeting.

He said neither FB leader Ashoke Ghose nor anybody else involved in the negotiations could take any decision arbitrarily against the Front's guidelines. He said it had been decided that the peace talks on Nandigram would be held and implemented first at the grassroots and then at the state level. However, he added that the three-party mini front had decided on its own that the decisions would first be taken at the state level.

Calling an urgent meeting of the Left Front on May 14 to discuss the issue and take steps accordingly, he warned that no leader, whoever he may be, would be allowed to digress from the accepted course of action.

Bose said the priority was to facilitate the safe return of the displaced people of Nandigram and Khejuri to their homes as soon as possible.

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50 years in politics
PM, Sonia felicitate Karunanidhi
Arup Chanda
Tribune News Service

Chennai, May 11
While a sad Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Muthuvel Karunanidhi got a reprieve for a few hours this evening as celebrations marked his golden jubilee in legislative politics and all, including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi, heaped praises on him, his grandnephew and union minister for IT and telecommunications Dayanidhi Maran was conspicuously absent at both the functions.

The Prime Minister described Karunanidhi as a “patriot and a nation builder” and expressed his “indebtedness for helping to form the UPA government at the Centre”.

UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi described Karunanidhi as a “powerful writer and a fiery orator” and “a passionate supporter of our policies and a strong pillar of support for the UPA government”.

Though the celebration passed with much fanfare but the absence of Karunanidhi’s blue-eyed boy till the other day, Dayanidhi Maran reminded the people about the recent rift within the Chief Minister’s family and the ruling Dravida Munnetra kazhagam (DMK).

Dayanidhi was also not present at the felicitation function at the state Assembly this morning where Karunanidhi was greeted by all state ministers and legislators belonging to the ruling Democratic Progressive Alliance (DPA).

DMK sources said after Wednesday’s tragic incident involving Dinakaran, owned by the Maran family, Dayanidhi was asked not to be present and it indicated that he had not only been sidelined by Karunanidhi but his days in the Union cabinet also seemed to be numbered.

Both Dayanidhi and his elder brother and owner of Dinakran and Sun TV network were banished by the octogenarian patriarch of Tamil Nadu politics from his sight as he basked under the admiration from veteran politicians of the country.

Instead, it was M.K. Azhagiri, Chief Minister’s elder son allegedly at whose behest the rampaging mob set fire to Dinakaran office in Madurai on Wednesday killing three men, who received undue attention and was given a red carpet welcome by the authorities. Azhagiri came here after several years as he had kept himself confined to Madurai and never visited the state capital even after Karunanidhi donned the Chief Minister’s mantle.

The felicitation function at the Island Ground here looked like a mega political event with several Union ministers - Lalu Prasad Yadav, Sharad Pawar, P. Chidambaram and Ram Vilas Paswan, former Prime Minister I.K. Gujral and general secretaries of the CPM and the CPI Prakash Karat and A.B. Bardhan, respectively, being present.

The two-day golden jubilee celebrations began with the convening of a special session of the state Assembly in which Governor Surjit Singh Barnala and leaders of various legislature parties offered felicitations to the octogenarian leader.

A smiling Barnala draped Karunanidhi with a silk shawl as is the custom in Tamil Nadu to greet important persons.

Describing Karunanidhi as a “people’s Chief Minister, who had introduced path-breaking welfare schemes, functioned as a great democratic and legislator, and had a made a mark for himself as a literary figure and orator, Barnala also highly praised his “eloquence, poetic talent, and political sagacity as well as his administrative acumen”.

Karunanidhi has never lost an election and won all the 11 elections he has contested since 1957.

However, some of his political opponents question the calculation of his legislative record of 50 years since he had resigned in 1991 as soon as he was elected and was not a MLA for five years.

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