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THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
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N A T I O N

Presidential Poll
AIADMK springs a surprise
Jaya abstains, but her legislators vote
Chennai, July 19
In what can be described as a balancing act, All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam supremo Jayaram Jayalalithaa tried to abide by the United National People’s Alliance decision to abstain from voting in the presidential poll today as well as please the National Democratic Alliance as almost all her party MLAs voted for Bhairon Singh Shekhawat.

Left, Cong vote for Patil
Kolkata, July 19
All MLAs and MPs from the ruling Left Front and the Congress in West Bengal cast their votes in favour of Pratibha Patil. While Trinamool Congress MLAs and MPs did not vote, the lone suspended Trinamool MLA, Sadhan Pande, however, defied the party decision and exercised voted in favour of Patil, which he himself disclosed to media persons at the Assembly.

Probe against Pratibha
Speaker rejects NDA plea
New Delhi, July 19
Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee has turned down the NDA’s plea to refer to Parliament’s Privileges or Ethics committee media reports claiming that UPA-Left presidential candidate Pratibha Patil had sanctioned Rs 36 lakh to a family-run trust from her MPLAD funds as a Lok Sabha member.





EARLIER STORIES


V-P poll: Karat meets Sonia, PM
New Delhi, July 19
The search for the vice-presidential candidate has picked up momentum with CPM general secretary Prakash Karat meeting Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh this evening. Karat and Sitaram Yechury met the Congress leaders to apprise them of the Left’s stand that the VP candidate need not have a political background.

NDA to contest
No name decided yet
New Delhi, July 19
The National Democratic Alliance today resolved to contest the next month’s vice-presidential poll irrespective of the outcome of the presidential election. The NDA leaders, who met at former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s residence this evening, however, could not arrive at one name, who would be the opposition alliance candidate for the vice-presidential election on August 10.

Rally at Tirumala lands Cong in unholy mess
Hyderabad, July 19
A political rally by the Youth Congress activists at the holy shrine of Tirumala has triggered a controversy in Andhra Pradesh, pushing the Congress government in a bind. Despite there being a ban on political activity at the popular hill shrine, hundreds of Youth Congress workers took out a massive procession in open-top jeeps, burst crackers and raised slogans, ostensibly to celebrate the appointment of P Venkatesh as the Youth Congress president of Chittoor district.

BJP denies Blair’s room was bugged
New Delhi, July 19
The Bharatiya Janata Party on Thursday denied that the hotel suite of the then British Prime Minister Tony Blair was bugged when he visited India in 2001, as alleged by Blair’s press secretary Alastair Campbell in a recently published book.

Building collapse toll 28
Mumbai, July 19
The death toll in the partial collapse of a six-storey building in a northwestern suburb here rose to 28 today even as many were still feared trapped in the debris with hopes of finding any survivors diminishing.
In video (56k)

Rescue workers look for survivors as they stand atop debris at the site of a building collapse in Mumbai on Thursday. — Reuters photo

Rescue workers look for survivors as they stand atop debris at the site of a building collapse in Mumbai

Landslide claims 7 lives in Guwahati 
Guwahati, July 19
A landslide triggered by heavy rains in the wee hour claimed seven lives, including that of three of a family at Ganeshnagar hill locality in the state’s capital city today. Those killed included four females, including a nine-year-old girl.

Army kills 2 ultras
Guwahati, July 19
The Army gunned down two hardcore cadres of the proscribed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) following a brief exchange of fire at Kailashpur Simaluguri village under the Pengeri police station of Tinsukia district in Upper Assam late last night.

No letup in violence at Singur
Kolkata, July 19
Singur flared up again today when police burst around 150 rounds of tear gas shells on the agitating farmers who had reportedly damaged the boundary wall and watchtowers of the Tata Motors’ upcoming car factory.

Aussies seek details of Haneef’s bank accounts
New Delhi, July 19
Australia has sought details of bank transactions, telephone calls and the reason for taking a one-way air ticket from the family of Mohammed Haneef who has been charged in that country with “recklessly” supporting a terror group.

Mumbai blasts
3 more get death
Mumbai, July 19
Judge Pramod Kode of the TADA court today sentenced the three persons, Asghar Muqadam, Shoaib Ghansar and Shahanawaz Quereshi. sghar Muqadam, the accountant of prime accused Tiger Memon and Quereshi were found guilty of parking a van packed with RDX at Plaza Cinema at Dadar in central Mumbai.

Capt Megha’s death
Antony wants speedy probe
New Delhi, July 19
Defence minister A.K. Antony has sought a speedy police inquiry into the alleged suicide of woman Army officer Capt Megha Razdan earlier this month. Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of an international seminar and exhibition on naval armament here today.

Navy's monitoring station
Mumbai, July 19
The Navy's first monitoring station overseas at Madagascar has gone live, according to sources. The monitoring station, which aims to further India's aims to grow its influence in the Indian Ocean rim, comprises radar and surveillance equipment, which would help the country's naval fleet protect its maritime interests.

Kamal Haasan to play Bush in Tamil film
Chennai, July 19
He is constantly looking for something new and challenging. The latest on superstar Kamal Haasan is that he will play the role of US President George W. Bush in his forthcoming Tamil film Dasavataram.

Actress torched by lover
Ahmedabad, July 19
A budding Gujarati actress is battling for her life, after sustaining severe burn injuries when she was allegedly set ablaze by her lover, the police said today. Mansi Marwadi suffered 95 per cent burns after her live-in partner allegedly Ishwar torched her on Tuesday.

Passport hiccups keep Monica in jail
Hyderabad, July 19
The special court for CBI cases today refused to release Monica Bedi on bail, granted by the Supreme Court, as she failed to submit her original passport to the court.

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Presidential Poll
AIADMK springs a surprise
Jaya abstains, but her legislators vote
Arup Chanda
Tribune News Service

Chennai, July 19
In what can be described as a balancing act, All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) supremo Jayaram Jayalalithaa tried to abide by the United National People’s Alliance (UNPA) decision to abstain from voting in the presidential poll today as well as please the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) as almost all her party MLAs voted for Bhairon Singh Shekhawat.

However, surprisingly Jayalalithaa herself did not cast her vote as she had “to go out of Chennai on some urgent business”, according to AIADMK sources. But then, after returning here she issued a statement squarely blaming the Election Commission for the “extreme confusion” created by its note on July 17 on the issue of abstaining in the presidential poll and added that her party MPs and MLAs discussed the issue among themselves and decided to vote, which she came to know only in the afternoon.

Her statement is a virtual admission that in her absence, AIADMK MPs and MLAs lack total political or constitutional perception as she said that they were unable to comprehend the ramifications of the Election Commission’s “wholly avoidable note”.

She said the UNPA had earlier announced its decision to abstain from voting and she had planned to convene a meeting of her party MPs and legislators yesterday to issue necessary instructions and directions in this regard.

However, she stated that the EC suddenly came out with a press note on July 17 which “created a lot of unnecessary confusion in the minds of all concerned.”

She said that she was busy consulting legal and constitutional experts on the issue. Jayalalithaa further alleged, “The EC’s note created unnecessary fear and panic in their minds. There was no one to explain the correct position to them since convening of any meeting was forbidden and would be misinterpreted as issuance of a whip.”

“This turn of events has occurred only because of the extreme confusion generated by EC’s unwarranted and unnecessary note issued in the late evening on July 17 and not due to any other reason,” she said justifying the voting by her party’s elected representatives.

According to the sources, what angered Jayalalithaa was first the unilateral decision and announcement by Samajwadi Party general secretary Amar Singh that their MP from Saharanpur would be the UNPA’s nominee for the post of vice-president and second an interview of CPM general secretary Prakash Karat wherein he mentioned about a “third alternative” and that the SP and the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) were in touch with him.

Jayalalithaa felt that such moves by UNPA partners behind her back amounted to treachery.

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Left, Cong vote for Patil

Kolkata, July 19
All MLAs and MPs from the ruling Left Front and the Congress in West Bengal cast their votes in favour of Pratibha Patil. While Trinamool Congress MLAs and MPs did not vote, the lone suspended Trinamool MLA, Sadhan Pande, however, defied the party decision and exercised voted in favour of Patil, which he himself disclosed to media persons at the Assembly.

Trinamool leader Partha Partha Chatteree said all party MLAs were present at the Assembly today but except Pande none participated in the voting as per their party decision last evening. He said they boycotted the election as they had demanded another term for Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam and not party agreed to this. — TNS

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Probe against Pratibha
Speaker rejects NDA plea
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 19
Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee has turned down the NDA’s plea to refer to Parliament’s Privileges or Ethics committee media reports claiming that UPA-Left presidential candidate Pratibha Patil had sanctioned Rs 36 lakh to a family-run trust from her MPLAD funds as a Lok Sabha member.

The rejection was justified on the grounds that Privileges and Ethics committees deal with cases relating to sitting MPs, which Pratibha is not.

In a memorandum on July 7, the NDA also referred to news reports that the Maharashtra government leased a 25,000 sq-ft plot to the Vidya Bharati Shikshan Sanstha, set up by Pratibha’s husband Devisingh Shekhawat, this year and Amaravati authorities permitted it to build a sports complex from that amount.

Patil’s tenure as MP (Lok Sabha) ended in 1996. How can unutilised funds under MPLAD be used 11 years after the expiry of her tenure as MP? the NDA asked.

It said MPs were required to honour MPLAD scheme rules that no funding was permissible to societies and trusts if the recommending lawmakers or any of their family members are part of their managing committee.

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V-P poll: Karat meets Sonia, PM
R. Suryamurthy
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 19
The search for the vice-presidential (VP) candidate has picked up momentum with CPM general secretary Prakash Karat meeting Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh this evening.

Karat and Sitaram Yechury met the Congress leaders to apprise them of the Left’s stand that the VP candidate need not have a political background.

The Left has a shortlist which includes Haryana Governor A.R. Kidwai, Mushirul Hasan, V-C of Jamia Millia, and Sayyed Hamid, V-C of Hamdard University and a former diplomat. Party sources pointed out that the Congress leadership hinted on Lok Sabha speaker Somnath Chatterjee to be considered for the post.

Left parties are not too eager to spare Chatterjee from the speaker’s post as the vacancy in the Lower House would be claimed by the Congress and the Communist would not gain much by shifting the speaker to Upper House.

It is learnt that the Congress leadership is likely to discuss the Left’s proposal and convey its considered view tomorrow.

Leaders of the four Left parties met in the Capital today to exchange their views on the VP candidate.

Talking to mediapersons after the meeting, CPI general secretary A.B. Bardhan said, “We discussed some names. We plan to meet the UPA and allies tomorrow.”

After today’s meeting, Bardhan said the Left leaders agreed that the VP nominee need not belong to a political party, but must be aware of the functioning of the political situation in the country and the functioning in the role of chairperson of the Rajya Sabha.

Meanwhile, the UNPA VP candidate Rasheed Masood is expected to file his nomination papers here tomorrow.

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NDA to contest
No name decided yet
Satish Misra
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 19
The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) today resolved to contest the next month’s vice-presidential poll irrespective of the outcome of the presidential election.

The NDA leaders, who met at former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s residence this evening, however, could not arrive at one name, who would be the opposition alliance candidate for the vice-presidential election on August 10.

BJP leader Sushma Swaraj told newspersons after the meeting that Vajpayee and NDA convenor George Fernandes would discuss with alliance partners the choices for the opposition alliance’s vice-presidential nominee.

The NDA would meet on July 22 to name its nominee, who would file the nomination the next day, she said.

The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) is said to be reluctant to propose the name of Deputy Speaker of the Lok Sabha Charanjit Singh Atwal, who has shown interest to contest, sources pointed out. Other name, which is in circulation, is of former Deputy Chairperson Najma Heptullah who appears to be the front-runner but the NDA leadership is keen to know the name of the UPA candidate.

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Rally at Tirumala lands Cong in unholy mess
Ramesh Kandula
Tribune News Service

Hyderabad, July 19
A political rally by the Youth Congress activists at the holy shrine of Tirumala has triggered a controversy in Andhra Pradesh, pushing the Congress government in a bind.

Despite there being a ban on political activity at the popular hill shrine, hundreds of Youth Congress workers took out a massive procession in open-top jeeps, burst crackers and raised slogans, ostensibly to celebrate the appointment of P Venkatesh as the Youth Congress president of Chittoor district.

The incident, which occurred yesterday, evoked a wide sense of outrage as it amounted to brazen violation of the temple rules and undermined the serenity and sanctity of the area.

The Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD), which manages the affairs of the country’s richest shrine, ordered police action, leading to the arrest of Venkatesh and his followers.

The issue rocked the Assembly today with the opposition TDP members attacking the Congress for hurting religious sentiments of the people. Raising slogans, the TDP members stormed the well of the House and stalled the proceedings, prompting Speaker K R Suresh Reddy to adjourn the House twice in quick succession.

Legislative affairs minister K Rosaiah said the government had taken a serious view of the incident and the offenders had been arrested. Asserting that there would be no compromise on preserving the sanctity of Tirumala, he said stringent action would be taken against violators.

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BJP denies Blair’s room was bugged

New Delhi, July 19
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Thursday denied that the hotel suite of the then British Prime Minister Tony Blair was bugged when he visited India in 2001, as alleged by Blair’s press secretary Alastair Campbell in a recently published book.

“No such thing was done. It’s a false accusation,” Prakash Javadekar, spokesperson of the BJP - whose party then led the ruling National Democratic Alliance, told IANS.

‘The Blair Years: The Alastair Campbell Diaries’, published by Hutchinson and released early this month, records a diary entry by Campbell saying that two bugs were found in the bedroom of the hotel marked for Blair.

“Then at the hotel our security service guys had found two bugs in TB’s bedroom and said they would not be able to move them without drilling the wall, so TB (Tony Blair) used a different room,” said a diary entry dated October 5, 2001.

In yet another diary entry, Campbell, the key spin doctor, close ally and Blair confidant, claims that the then Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee literally forced Blair to come to India as he thought “if TB went to Pakistan without visiting India, it would be a real disaster for him”.

“He was normally so quiet and soft spoken but there was both panic and a bit of anger in his voice,” says Campbell. He then quotes Blair as saying that “having listened to (Vajpayee), there was no way we could do one without the other”. — IANS

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Building collapse toll 28

Mumbai, July 19 
The death toll in the partial collapse of a six-storey building in a northwestern suburb here rose to 28 today even as many were still feared trapped in the debris with hopes of finding any survivors diminishing.

The deceased include 10 men, 13 women and five children, the police said. Seventeen people were pulled out of the debris and admitted to Bhagwati Hospital.

“Many are feared to be still trapped but there is still no definite number and rescue efforts could take up to two days,” fire brigade officials said. However, with every passing hour, it is very difficult for the trapped persons to survive, they added. Mumbai Mayor Shubha Raul had last evening said that over 60 persons could be trapped.

One wing of the 20-year-old Laxmi Chhaya building at the Babhai Naka in suburban Borivali collapsed last evening and rescue workers have managed to clear only part of the debris.

The civic body suspected the collapse occurred due to major structural changes carried out by a jewellery shop on the ground floor.

CM Vilasrao Deshmukh had ordered a magisterial probe into the incident and his deputy R R Patil had assured compensation for the victims. — PTI

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Landslide claims 7 lives in Guwahati 
Bijay Sankar Bora
Tribune News Service

Guwahati, July 19
A landslide triggered by heavy rains in the wee hour claimed seven lives, including that of three of a family at Ganeshnagar hill locality in the state’s capital city today. Those killed included four females, including a nine-year-old girl.

Assam Police chief public relations officer Bhaben Bez informed that all seven bodies were retrieved from under the debris of a house that was crushed under the pressure of the sliding landmass after over 12-hour long rescue operation supervised by additional deputy commissioner C.K. Bhuyan and senior city police officials.

The dead were identified as Govinda Deka (42), his wife Minati Deka (35) and daughter Bhonita Deka (17), and Dhrubajit Deka (20), Sankar Deka (13), Juri Deka (9) and Pranita Deka (30).

A city police official quoting neighbours informed that there were four guests at the Govinda Deka’s rented house last night. The house that crumbled under the pressure of landslip belonged to one Swapan Roy.

The police informed that given the location of the house at the hilltop, it must have been an illegal construction in violation of the house building norms and codes of the city development authority. Further investigation was on into it.

A large number of people from the economically backward strata have blatantly encroached upon forest areas on different hillocks in and around the city that is fast running out of space due to rapidly increasing population.

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Army kills 2 ultras
Tribune News Service

Guwahati, July 19
The Army gunned down two hardcore cadres of the proscribed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) following a brief exchange of fire at Kailashpur Simaluguri village under the Pengeri police station of Tinsukia district in Upper Assam late last night.

According to an Army source the slain militants were identified as Palash Rajbongshi and Bhaskar Baruah. Both the ultras were holding rank of a corporal in the 28th Battalion of the ULFA, active in eastern Assam areas.

Meanwhile, an alert message has been sent out to all district police chiefs from the police headquarter here in view of the ULFA’s ‘swahid divas’ (martyrs’ day) on July 27.

In view of the increasing threat from the banned ULFA, Assam government has decided to procure bulletproof cars for five of its cabinet ministers. As on date only the Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi has been provided with bulletproof cars.

An official source said one more bullet proof car will be provided to the state Governor, Lt Gen (Retd) A.K. Singh, who often moves all over the state on official visits.

Meanwhile, BSF personnel have been deployed at all entry and exit points to and from Guwahati city to gear up against the ULFA that has been triggering frequent blasts of late.

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No letup in violence at Singur
Subhrangshu Gupta
Tribune News Service

Kolkata, July 19
Singur flared up again today when police burst around 150 rounds of tear gas shells on the agitating farmers who had reportedly damaged the boundary wall and watchtowers of the Tata Motors’ upcoming car factory.

The police reportedly fired a few rounds, which left five Kishi Bachaoo Committee supporters injured, something that the Singur SDO denied. The police resorted to firing after locals attacked them with bombs, swords, lathis, brickbats and other weapons. Some 20 people, including a child and two policemen, were reportedly injured in the clashes.

Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee claimed it was an attempt by the landless farmers to get back their farms that were forcibly acquired for the Tata Motors. Singur MLA Rabindralal Bhattacharjee of the TMC reiterated that their agitation for re-capturing the acquired land would continue.

However, the CPI (M) alleged that the Naxalites, a few anti-socials and some other vested interests were involved in today’s attack. State home secretary Prasad Ranjan Roy said the police had been told to step up vigilance to protect the plant.

State industries minister Nirupam Sen regretted that such attempts were being made at a time when the construction work at the plant was progressing smoothly. He said the low-priced small cars would be in the market around the middle of next year and the work at the plant was progressing accordingly.

Violence also erupted in the afternoon near a market at Nandigram when farmers and the CPI (M) members clashed over holding a meeting of the forthcoming election of the Haldia Municipality. The police had to intervene to disperse off the two warring groups.

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Aussies seek details of Haneef’s bank accounts

New Delhi, July 19
Australia has sought details of bank transactions, telephone calls and the reason for taking a one-way air ticket from the family of Mohammed Haneef who has been charged in that country with “recklessly” supporting a terror group.

The Australian Attorney General has sought, among other things, details of the accounts held by Haneef in the Bangalore-based branches of UTI Bank and State Bank of India, the sources said.

This, they said, was required to ascertain whether Haneef had been receiving funds from some overseas organisations.

A set of questionaire has been sent by Australian government for Haneef’s wife Firdous and his brother Shoaib which seeks information about schooling, college, family structure, birth of a child and whether his wife had under gone a caesaren operation.

The Australian request for the information was contained in a Letter Rogatory which was received through the Ministry of External Affairs and passed on to the CBI. The investigating agency in turn passed it on to Karnataka police for follow-up action, official sources said here. — PTI

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Treat Haneef fairly: Pranab

New Delhi: External affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee today told Australian minister for foreign affairs and trade Alexander Downer that Dr Mohammed Haneef should be treated “fairly and justly” under Australian law. Muklherjee conveyed to Downer the “concern” of the Indian government and people in the Haneef case in a telephonic conversation. The call was initiated at the request of the Australian side, the ministry of external affairs said. — TNS

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Mumbai blasts
3 more get death
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, July 19
Judge Pramod Kode of the TADA court today sentenced the three persons, Asghar Muqadam, Shoaib Ghansar and Shahanawaz Quereshi.

Asghar Muqadam, the accountant of prime accused Tiger Memon and Quereshi were found guilty of parking a van packed with RDX at Plaza Cinema at Dadar in central Mumbai. Ten people, including employees of the landmark theatre founded by the legendary filmmaker V Shantaram, died in the blasts.

The second person sentenced to hang today was Ghansar, a cousin of Muqadam, who parked a scooter rigged with a bomb at Zaveri Bazar. Seventeen persons died and more than 50 others were injured in the blasts there. Three persons were sentenced to death yesterday.

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Capt Megha’s death
Antony wants speedy probe

New Delhi, July 19
Defence minister A.K. Antony has sought a speedy police inquiry into the alleged suicide of woman Army officer Capt Megha Razdan earlier this month.

Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of an international seminar and exhibition on naval armament here today, the defence minister said, “We have asked the Jammu and Kashmir government to speed up their independent inquiry into Capt Razdan’s death.”

The minister said the officer’s family did not share the belief that she committed suicide. Saying he shared the family’s grief, Antony said the parents of Capt Razdan had met me and they did not think their daughter committed suicide. — TNS

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Navy's monitoring station
Shiv Kumar
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, July 19
The Navy's first monitoring station overseas at Madagascar has gone live, according to sources.

The monitoring station, which aims to further India's aims to grow its influence in the Indian Ocean rim, comprises radar and surveillance equipment, which would help the country's naval fleet protect its maritime interests.

The monitoring station has already been linked to the Indian Navy's facilities at Kochi and Mumbai by satellite.

Experts say the monitoring station has defence element, as it will also gather intelligence information on foreign navies active in the region.

Officials say the monitoring station will initially target piracy in the South China seas. The region particularly the Gulf of Malacca is notorious for piracy and organised gangs of pirates target ships.

This is part of India's strategy to have a naval presence from the Straits of Malacca to the Straits of Hormuz.

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Kamal Haasan to play Bush in Tamil film

Chennai, July 19
He is constantly looking for something new and challenging. The latest on superstar Kamal Haasan is that he will play the role of US President George W. Bush in his forthcoming Tamil film Dasavataram.

The four-time National Film Award winning actor has been studying Bush's speech, gait and mannerisms with the help of compact discs and computer graphics for two weeks. And that is not all - he will play nine more roles in the same film. Make-up artists from the US and Britain are helping him to get the right look for the roles.

A replica of the White House was erected here to bring the authentic look during the shooting and the total cost of the set is estimated to be Rs.5 million. — IANS

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Actress torched by lover

Ahmedabad, July 19
A budding Gujarati actress is battling for her life, after sustaining severe burn injuries when she was allegedly set ablaze by her lover, the police said today.

Mansi Marwadi suffered 95 per cent burns after her live-in partner allegedly Ishwar torched her on Tuesday. According to a complaint filed by Mansi’s father Dhanji, Ishwar used to abuse her physically and mentally.

Mansi has appeared in some Gujarati movies and done cameos in music videos. No arrest has been made so far. — PTI

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Passport hiccups keep Monica in jail

Hyderabad, July 19
The special court for CBI cases today refused to release Monica Bedi on bail, granted by the Supreme Court, as she failed to submit her original passport to the court.

Monica’s counsel Pradeep Kumar told mediapersons here that “Monica has lost her original passport. We will seek clarification from the Supreme Court on its bail order.” — UNI

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