SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI



THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
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N A T I O N

LS polls to cost more than US presidential election
New Delhi, March 1
At a staggering Rs 10,000 crore, the Lok Sabha polls this summer would cost more than what Barack Obama and others spent in the US presidential race. According to information available with the US Federal Election Commission, Obama and other candidates collectively spent close to $1.8 billion (nearly Rs 8,000 crore) in the 2007-08 presidential elections.

Assembly Polls
Trinamool wrests Bishnupur from CPM
Kolkata, March 1
Trinamool Congress candidate Madan Mitra won a landslide victory with a margin of 30,395 votes at the Bishnupur West Assembly by-election by defeating his rival Ishkander Hossain of the CPM.

Melee in Sonia meet
Cong office set ablaze by Dalit group
Hyderabad, March 1
In a major embarrassment to the Congress government ahead of the elections, an agitation by a Dalit organisation, seeking proportional reservation for Scheduled Caste (SC) groups, has turned violent resulting in the death of one of its activists.



EARLIER STORIES



BJP fails to bowl over Anil Kumble
Bangalore, March 1
The Lok Sabha elections are yet to be announced but the UPA-led Congress has already scored over its NDA counterpart BJP in at least one aspect. While the Congress has successfully bagged a former Indian cricketer, the BJP has met with failure in pursuing a similar objective.
Members of the Youth for Equality protest against corruption in New Delhi
Members of the Youth for Equality protest against corruption in New Delhi on Sunday. A Tribune photograph

Poll Alliance
Deve Gowda rejects Cong’s overture
Bangalore, March 1
Janata Dal (Secular) supremo and former Prime Minister Deve Gowda has put off a Congress overture for an electoral alliance in Karnataka for the Lok Sabha elections.

Symbol trouble for Chiranjeevi
Hyderabad, March 1
Facing a maiden electoral test, matinee idol of Telugu cinema Chiranjeevi is caught in a “symbolic” dilemma.

BSP loses Bhadohi seat
Lucknow, March 1
In an embarrassing setback to the ruling Bahujan Samaj Party, it lost the (scheduled caste) Bhadohi Vidhan Sabha by-election to the arch rival Samajwadi Party by a margin of 5,020 votes.

BJP to govt
Don’t impose tax on secret donations
New Delhi, March 1
Former BJP president M Venkaiah Naidu heading the Rajya Sabha committee on petitions has asked the government not to impose any tax on secret donations to charitable organisations.

UPA Flagship Programme
Bharat Nirman may miss target
New Delhi, March 1
Just months away from the elections and the UPA government’s own flagship programme Bharat Nirman is unlikely to meet the target.

DMK likely to concede more seats to Cong
Chennai, March 1
The ruling DMK in Tamil Nadu is likely to concede more seats to the Congress than the previous Parliament election since the bargaining power of the latter has gone up following a open invitation by AIADMK supremo Jayalalithaa.

China capable of destroying foreign space systems: US
New Delhi, March 1
US is worried about China pursuing a long-term programme to develop a capability to disrupt and damage critical foreign space systems. This is a worrying factor for India too as it is attempting to reach out to new frontiers in space, like the Moon.

ISI behind BDR mutiny?
New Delhi, March 1
As people in Dhaka see mass graves, its now becoming clear that Wednesday’s revolt by the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) was not merely for pay and allowances but part of a larger conspiracy to overthrow the pro-India Sheikh Hasina government.


Army soldiers in green uniform scan Bangladesh border guard (centre) as they report back at their headquarters in Dhaka on Sunday. — PTI
Army soldiers in green uniform scan Bangladesh border guard (centre) as they report back at their headquarters in Dhaka

Sea Route Row
FBI, MI-6 ridicule Pak navy chief’s claim
New Delhi, March 1
Top Indian and foreign counter-terrorism and intelligence experts, who joined hands to probe into the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, are surprised over the Pakistani naval chief Oman Bashir’s claim on Friday that the lone surviving gunman Ajmal Amir Iman Kasab and his associates “did not use the sea route” to reach the country’s financial capital.

Maoists blow up rail track in Bihar
Jamui/Munger, March 1
Banned CPI (Maoist) rebels blasted rail track in Bihar’s Jamui district and torched a portion of Ratanpur station in adjoining Munger early today during a bandh called by them disrupting train services on the Patna-Howrah main line.

Murder Case
BSP MP, son booked for threatening victim’s father
Faizabad, March 1
BSP MP Mitrasen Yadav and his jailed legislator son, facing murder and kidnapping charges in the killing of a Dalit student, have been booked for allegedly threatening the victim's father and other family members.

Security personnel arrive at Vidhan Sabha after a hoax bomb call in Lucknow
Security personnel arrive at Vidhan Sabha after a hoax bomb call in Lucknow on Sunday. — PTI

1 killed in jail clash
Ahmedabad, March 1
A prisoner was killed and two injured in a clash among inmates of Gujarat’s Sabarmati Central jail here today.

US museum to exhibit Sonabai’s art
New Delhi, March 1
The remarkable story of Sonabai Rajawar, a self-taught artisan from Chattisgarh whose years in forced isolation resulted in an unique art form, is now being exhibited in the United States.

Pranab: Pak must dismantle terror hubs
Kolkata, March 1
Keeping up the pressure on Pakistan to stop terrorist activities originating from its soil, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee today said Islamabad would have to cooperate fully to bring to justice those responsible for the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack.

PIL seeks to restore right to property as fundamental right
New Delhi, March 1
The Supreme Court has issued notice to the Centre on a PIL that seeks restoration of people’s fundamental right to property in order to protect small landowners from corporate entities who are allowed to acquire land for setting up SEZs and other purposes in the guise of public interest.

Property Tax
SC: Buyer of sick firm need not clear arrears
New Delhi, March 1
The Supreme Court has ruled that buyers of sick companies are not liable to clear property tax arrears or other dues to civic bodies such as municipalities.

2 held with 20 kg charas
Ahmedabad, March 1
Two persons were arrested today while they were trying to smuggle 20 kg charas from near Ratanpur outpost in Sabarkantha district by the Gujarat Narcotic Control Bureau, the police said.

Tripura girl is Indian Idol 1V
Mumbai, March 1
Tripura’s Sourabhee Debbraman, who has created ripples with her soulful rendition of popular numbers, tonight bagged the ‘Indian Idol crown’ in the popular music TV reality show’s fourth edition and only the first girl to win the contest.

Report on HC clash in a week: Panel
Chennai, March 1
The one-man commission appointed by the Supreme Court to inquire into the violence on the Madras High Court campus on February 19 today said he would submit his report within the stipulated time frame of one week.

Vajpayee returns home
New Delhi, March 1
Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was today discharged from AIIMS as doctors declared him fit to go home after 26 days of stay at the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), family sources said.





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LS polls to cost more than US presidential election

New Delhi, March 1
At a staggering Rs 10,000 crore, the Lok Sabha polls this summer would cost more than what Barack Obama and others spent in the US presidential race.

According to information available with the US Federal Election Commission, Obama and other candidates collectively spent close to $1.8 billion (nearly Rs 8,000 crore) in the 2007-08 presidential elections.

A survey conducted by Centre for Media Studies (CMS) back home pegs the estimated amount to be spent on the Lok Sabha elections, which would determine the next government in the country, at about Rs 10,000 crore ($2 billion).

This does not include the cost of holding Assembly polls in states like Andhra Pradesh and Orissa.

While the cost of US elections was spread over a year, India would see the massive spending in a matter of months. The estimated Rs 10,000 crore cost for the Lok Sabha elections includes about one-fourth or Rs 2,500 crore being spent through “unofficial money” or the cash to be paid to voters by the candidates, the CMS survey says. The latest presidential elections in the US has been billed as the most expensive ever, with cost doubling from the previous elections held in 2004.

Similarly, the cost of general elections in India, according to CMS, is also set to more than double this year from about Rs 4,500 crore in last Lok Sabha polls and would be the highest in the history of the country.

While th US figures are higher than the $2 billion estimated by CMS to be spent during the Indian elections, the polls here would still be expensive in rupee terms.

As the US dollar was considerably weaker against the Indian currency during 2007-08, the $2.4 billion spent on the US presidential elections, which got over on November 4, would have translated into a little below Rs 10,000 crore.

This was the first time when the cost of the US elections surpassed $1 billion-mark, while in India it was above this level even in the last Lok Sabha elections in 2004.

However, the rate of surge in election costs is almost similar in both the countries. The 2004 Lok Sabha elections had cost the country Rs 4,500 crore against about Rs 3,200 crore in 1998 and Rs 2,100-2,200 crores in the 1996 Lok Sabha elections.

The US elections cost about $880 million in 2004, while it was about $525 million in 2000 - the two polls won by George Bush. The 1996 elections, won by Bill Clinton, had cost about $425 million, while about $330 million was spent on the 1992 elections, also won by him. — PTI

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Assembly Polls
Trinamool wrests Bishnupur from CPM
Subhrangshu Gupta
Tribune News Service

Kolkata, March 1
Trinamool Congress candidate Madan Mitra won a landslide victory with a margin of 30,395 votes at the Bishnupur West Assembly by-election by defeating his rival Ishkander Hossain of the CPM.

The seat belonged to CPM MLA Rathin Sarker but his untimely demise necessitated holding of the by-election that was held on February 26. The results were declared today.

The Congress had withdrawn their candidate at the last moment in favour of the Trinamool Congress as a reciprocal gesture that had been shown to the Congress during the Lok Sabha by-election in Malda.

The by-election at Malda was held following the death of Ghani Khan Chowdhury. His brother Abu Hasnat Khan Chowdhury (Dalu) had won with the support of the Trinamool Congress.

The massive victory of the TMC candidate at Bishnupur today brightened the prospect of the unity move of both parties in the forthcoming Lok Sabha polls.

Though the larger sections of both parties demanded that they should fight jointly against the CPM in the coming elections, a small number of Congressmen led by Manash Bhuiya and Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi’s wife Deepa Dasmunshi expressed their dissent note against the unity move.

But AICC observer for West Bengal Keshav Row and acting WBPCC (l) president Pranab Mukherjee met party leaders in Kolkata today. After the meeting they said the decision in this regards would be taken by Sonia Gandhi and the AICC.

After their victory, Trinamool supremo Mamata Banerjee also declined to make any comment on the objection notes of Bhuiya and Dasmunshi but was hopeful that there would an electoral alliance between the TMC and the Congress. She also hoped that that they would defeat the CPM in the upcoming elections, making an end to the prolonged misrule of the CPM-led front government in the state.

Meanwhile, Mukherjee said they had been continuing the unity move with the TMC but the decision and selection of the party candidates would be decided by the AlCC on March 17.

He refused to make any further comment about the progress of their unity talks but stressed that the CPM was bound to get defeats if they were united against them.

TMC sources said Mamata was ready to allot six winning seats in North Bengal and six more seats from other areas to the Congress. The remaining 30 seats would be shared with other anti-left secular parties. She also assured two seats to the suspended Congress MLAs - Somen Mitra and Sudip Bandopadhyya.

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Melee in Sonia meet
Cong office set ablaze by Dalit group
Suresh Dharur
Tribune News Service

Hyderabad, March 1
In a major embarrassment to the Congress government ahead of the elections, an agitation by a Dalit organisation, seeking proportional reservation for Scheduled Caste (SC) groups, has turned violent resulting in the death of one of its activists.

The members of the Madiga Reservation Porata Samiti (MRPS), a Dalit outfit fighting for classification of SCs for the purpose of reservation, stormed into the state Congress headquarters here yesterday, went on a rampage and set the office and furniture on fire.

In the melee, four MRPS workers and two other staff members suffered burn injuries. One of them - identified as Surender Madiga - succumbed to burn injuries at a private hospital today, triggering violent protests by the Dalit organisation.

As the condition of the three other MRPS activists remained critical, the Dalit fury threatened to snowball into a political showdown as its members took to streets across the state and attacked public properties.

A large number of MRPS supporters gathered at the hospital, where the body of Surender was kept, and raised slogans against the government.

MRPS president M. Krishna Madiga said CM YS Rajasekhar Reddy should own responsibility for the incident.

City Police Commissioner B. Prasada Rao said an officer of the Special Protection Police and two staffers had also suffered burn injuries while trying to douse the fire and prevent the agitators from reaching upper floors.

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BJP fails to bowl over Anil Kumble
Shubhadeep Choudhury
Tribune News Service

Bangalore, March 1
The Lok Sabha elections are yet to be announced but the UPA-led Congress has already scored over its NDA counterpart BJP in at least one aspect. While the Congress has successfully bagged a former Indian cricketer, the BJP has met with failure in pursuing a similar objective.

Former Indian captain Mohammed Azharuddin, who retains his charisma in spite of the match-fixing controversy, has recently joined the Congress and is slated to contest from his hometown Hyderabad. However, Anil Kumble, the Karnataka leg spinner who was wooed by the BJP, has decided against fighting the elections on the ticket of the saffron party.

Kumble’s answer was a resounding “no” when this reporter today asked him if he had any plans to join politics. “My best wishes to him”, he said referring to his former colleague Azharuddin. “I am not contemplating any such thing”, the former Indian test captain said.

Though the BJP did not officially admit to making a formal offer to Kumble, it was constantly sending feelers to the cricketer to don the saffron robe and contest from a seat in Bangalore city. After delimitation of constituencies, the number of Lok Sabha seats in the city had gone up to three from two. Apart from Bangalore North and South parliamentary constituencies, Bangalore Central has been created.

The BJP has been on the lookout for winning candidates in Bangalore North and Bangalore Central seats. The Bangalore North MP HT Sangliana, a former DGP, had won on a BJP ticket but ditched the party at the time of the trust-vote in the Lok Sabha on the Indo-US nuclear deal and later joined the Congress. He also lost his Lok Sabha membership for defying the party whip.

The BJP will now have to find a suitable candidate to field from the Bangalore North seat. The leg spinner today made it clear that rather than throwing his weight behind political causes, he would spend his time backing “politically correct” causes.

The cricketer, who released a “Comprehensive Guide for Employment of People with Disability” at a Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) function at a five-star hotel here, rued the establishment’s insensitivity to people with disability.

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Poll Alliance
Deve Gowda rejects Cong’s overture
Shubhadeep Choudhury
Tribune News Service

Bangalore, March 1
Janata Dal (Secular) supremo and former Prime Minister Deve Gowda has put off a Congress overture for an electoral alliance in Karnataka for the Lok Sabha elections.

Ghulam Nabi Azad, the newly appointed general secretary of Congress, who has been given the charge of Karnataka among other states, came here yesterday for a two-day visit to take stock of party affairs in the state. Gowda was contacted by Congress leaders in the presence of Azad from a resort where the Congress leader was staying.

However, the former Prime Minister ducked the offer. He reportedly mentioned his ongoing negotiations with the Third Front parties and said he would have to first consult his partners before taking any decision on tie up with the Congress.

In the byelections held in the state in December, the Congress drew a nil while JD(S) bagged three seats against five won by the ruling BJP. The results were a pointer that the Congress would do well if it could prevent a split in the non-BJP votes by having an electoral understanding with the JD(S). The two opposition parties also cooperated with each for fighting elections for seats in the legislative council. However, for the Lok Sabha polls, the JD(S) leader is keen on fighting as a Third Front constituent rather being an ally of the Congress.

Interestingly, while Deve Gowda is not interested in having electoral understanding with the Congress, his son and former Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy wants to fight the polls in alliance with the Congress. He met top Congress leaders in Delhi sometime back and talked to them about possible electoral tie-ups. Azad, during his visit to the state, also held consultations with state Congress leaders and district-level leaders regarding selection of party candidates for the Lok Sabha polls.

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Symbol trouble for Chiranjeevi
Suresh Dharur
Tribune News Service

Hyderabad, March 1
Facing a maiden electoral test, matinee idol of Telugu cinema Chiranjeevi is caught in a “symbolic” dilemma.

With the Election Commission rejecting a common symbol for his fledgling Praja Rajyam Party on the ground that the six-month-old outfit does not meet the required criteria, the actor is mulling various options, including fielding his party’s candidates on the poll symbol of any other recognised national party.

With elections less than two months away, Chiranjeevi is virtually racing against time to sort out the symbol issue. If PRP fails in its efforts to get a common symbol to fight the April-May elections, it will be a virtual nightmare for its candidates as each one of them will have to choose from the available free symbols to contest the elections.

The actor found support from an unexpected corner with the Nationalist Congress Party, headed by Sharad Pawar, offering its “clock” symbol to PRP to enable the fledgling party to contest the elections on a common symbol. However, there are still doubts over whether the PRP will be qualified for being recognised as a regional party by the Election Commission if it contests the coming Assembly elections on the borrowed NCP symbol.

“This will be an alternative plan for us. In the meantime, we are making all possible efforts to convince the poll panel to allot us a common symbol as there were such precedents in the past,” Chiranjeevi, whose road shows across Andhra Pradesh have been evoking tremendous public response, said. Though the EC had last month rejected the PRP’s plea for common symbol, the state High Court had, on February 5, directed the poll panel to reconsider its decision.

Admitting a writ petition by the PRP, the Court set aside the poll panel’s earlier order. The EC’s order was based on the ground that under the Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) (Amendment) Order, 2005, only “recognised” political parties are eligible for a permanent election symbol while “registered” parties like the PRP will have to choose from the available “free symbols”.

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BSP loses Bhadohi seat
Tribune News Service

Lucknow, March 1
In an embarrassing setback to the ruling Bahujan Samaj Party, it lost the (scheduled caste) Bhadohi Vidhan Sabha by-election to the arch rival Samajwadi Party by a margin of 5,020 votes.

An elated SP state president Shivpal Singh Yadav described the reverse suffered by Mayawati in a reserved constituency as a mandate against the BSP government’s anti-Dalit and anti-people policies.

In the by-election held on February 26, SP’s Madhubala Pasi defeated her nearest ruling BSP nominee Amar Singh Saroj by 5,020 votes. BJP candidate Deendayal Sonkar got 14,258 votes while Congress candidate Suresh Gautam forfeited his deposit by getting 2,275 votes.

SP leaders believe that this sudden bonus has substantially improved the party’s bargaining position during the pre-Lok Sabha seat sharing discussion with the Congress scheduled to be held in New Delhi on Sunday. While the SP has won the bypoll, the Congress had not even succeeded in saving its deposit. SP leader Ahmad Hasan said his party’s victory in Bhadohi had conclusively proved that the “so-called Kalyan factor was a non-issue”. He added: “Urban Bhadohi is predominantly Muslim involved in the carpet industry. They have backed our party like never before tilting the results in our favour”.

However, in a press release state BSP president Swami Pradad Maurya said the defeat of BSP candidate in Bhadohi Amar Singh Saroj was the result of a family feud. “By winning the Bhadohi by-election the SP should not be over joyous, as it would cost the party dearly,” he added.

The SP candidate polled 60,507 votes while the BSP nominee received 55,487 votes. Altogether 16 candidates were in the fray. With these results, strength of the SP in the Vidhan Sabha has gone up to 95. The BSP, however, has 217 members in the 403- member Vidhan Parishad.

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BJP to govt
Don’t impose tax on secret donations
Faraz Ahmad
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 1
Former BJP president M Venkaiah Naidu heading the Rajya Sabha committee on petitions has asked the government not to impose any tax on secret donations to charitable organisations.

Naidu presented his committee’s report to the Chairman Rajya Sabha on February 26, the last day of the Budget session of Parliament.

His recommendations came in response to a petition made by Jainacharya Vijay Ratnasundersuri, camping at 92, Gujarat Vihar, Vikas Marg, Delhi.

Presenting the Union Budget in 2006-07, the then Finance Minister P Chidambram had imposed a 30 per cent tax on secret donations which charitable organisations and trusts received from anonymous persons or organisations, causing a big furore among those running gowshalas, yoga centres, orphanages and other philanthropic activities.

So far under the law, charitable institutions and organisations were exempt from paying any tax if they claimed in their income tax returns that they have received secret donations. In effect the government has attempted to force these organisations to divulge their source of funds.

The BJP enjoys maximum support of some well-known sants and babas who head many such trusts. Many of them have openly campaigned for the BJP, mostly in Gujarat. These include Murari Bapu, Asaramji Bapu, Sudhanshu Maharaj and even Baba Ramdev.

The Naidu committee recommendations come in this background.

He said, “The committee has noticed that people donate for noble causes without divulging their names, irrespective of the source of the donations and it therefore cannot be concluded that every anonymous donation is from unaccounted source. It is also quite likely that people may donate from their regular income and yet not disclose their identity.”

Naidu even recommended government funding of these charitable trusts and organisations. He said, “The committee is of the view that it is the primary duty of the government to support such organisations, if not directly, at least indirectly. Taxing such proceeds as anonymous donation at the highest marginal rate is not justified.”

He also dismissed the revenue department plea for imposing the tax saying, “The committee observed that the justification offered by the department of revenue for taxing anonymous donations to wholly charitable organisations is a judgemental hypothesis”.

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UPA Flagship Programme
Bharat Nirman may miss target
Bhagyashree Pande
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 1
Just months away from the elections and the UPA government’s own flagship programme Bharat Nirman is unlikely to meet the target.

Out of the six programmes that were launched under the scheme Bharat Nirman in 2005, only housing and rural telephony are likely to meet the targets.

Irrigation, which was targeted for a 10 m hectare between 2005-09, had achieved a target of only 56 per cent. The Congress-ruled states Andhra Pradesh, which had set a target of 1566.49 thousand hectares has achieved only 583 thousand hectares. Another Congress ruled state Maharashtra was given a target of 821.81 thousand hectares but has achieved 338 thousand hectares in the past four years.

UPA ally Tamil Nadu is the only exception in terms of achievement in irrigation, out of a target of 23.55 thousand hectare, it has achieved 224 thousand hectare. UPA ally Left, which rules West Bengal has shown a dismal performance of the targeted 699 thousand hectares, of which only 15 thousand hectares has been achieved.

The government is also unlikely to meet the targets of providing electricity to 125,000 villages and connecting 23 million households living below poverty line (BPL) with electricity under the Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran yojana under the Bharat Nirman programme.

While the execution of Bharat Nirman is done by respective nodal ministries, such as rural development, power, telecommunications, water resources it is monitored by the Planning Commission and also by the Prime Minister’s office. Most of the reason of tardy progress of the scheme has been attributed to convergence problem and lack of ownership issues in deliverance of the finances, Gyana Ranjan Panda of the Center for Budget and Governance Accountability (CBGA) said. For instance, in drinking water scheme the implementation is at the district Panchayati Raj level, Rural Development Ministry and in some cases the Public Health and Engineering Department.

Thus there is no clarity as to who is to implement what and when it comes to finding out the real results it becomes unclear, Gyana explained. As per the Budget documents, which show the targets and the achievements, it is highly unlikely that targets can be met by the March 31, 2009.

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DMK likely to concede more seats to Cong
N Ravikumar
Tribune News Service

Chennai, March 1
The ruling DMK in Tamil Nadu is likely to concede more seats to the Congress than the previous Parliament election since the bargaining power of the latter has gone up following a open invitation by AIADMK supremo Jayalalithaa.

The meeting of AICC general secretary Ghulam Nabi Azad with DMK chief M Karunanidhi at his residence tomorrow will be more than a “courtesy call”, Congress leaders said. Besides inquiring about the Chief Minister’s health after his discharge from the hospital today, Azad, who is also the observer for Tamil Nadu affairs, will have a preliminary discussion on alliance with the DMK for the forthcoming elections, they said.

In the last Parliament elections, Congress was allotted only 10 seats, lesser than the 12 seats allocated by the AIADMK in 1999. Till the 1996 general elections, the party used to share two-third seats with the AIADMK, while leaving a major chunk of Assembly seats to the regional party.

Though, the party’s vote share had come down to 8 per cent in the last Assembly elections, it could hope to garner more seats from the DMK this time, since Karunanidhi and Jayalalithaa are vying with each other for an alliance with the Congress.

The DMK’s had already shown its desperation to retain the Congress by booking film director Seeman under NSA for a speech in support of the LTTE. The state government had also imprisoned MDMK leader Vaiko, who held a black flag demonstration against Pranab Mukherjee at Tuticorin yesterday. These measures will also create a cordial atmosphere for negotiations between the DMK and Congress.

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China capable of destroying foreign space systems: US
Man Mohan
Our Roving Editor

New Delhi, March 1
US is worried about China pursuing a long-term programme to develop a capability to disrupt and damage critical foreign space systems. This is a worrying factor for India too as it is attempting to reach out to new frontiers in space, like the Moon.

Warning India about China’s broadening national security interests, Washington said China’s nuclear capabilities would increase over the next 10 years with an aim to modernise its strategic forces.

This is the assessment of American intelligence community on whose behalf the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Dennis C Blair submitted a 46-page statement global threat perception to American House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, on Wednesday night. The Tribune has a copy of this document.

“Counter space systems, including anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons, rank among China’s highest military priorities,” Blair said.

“China’s national security interests are broadening and this will likely lead China to attempt to develop at least a limited naval power projection capability extending beyond the South China Sea. This already has been reflected in Beijing’s decision in December to participate in anti-piracy operations off the coast of Somalia,” he said.

With an aim to show its global presence, Blair said the Chinese leaders might decide to contribute combat forces to UN’s peacekeeping operations.

As far as India is concerned, the National Intelligence chief said New Delhi would be concerned about China during the coming decade because of Beijing’s political and economic power and its ability to project military force regionally, but Indian leaders would strive to avoid confrontation with China.

In its “Rising Asia” chapter, he said as terrorism and proliferation threats persisted across the “arc of instability”, East and South Asia were poised to become the long-term power centres of the world.

“China and India are restoring the positions they held in the 18th century when China produced approximately 30 per cent and India 15 per cent of the world’s wealth. These two countries are likely to surpass the GDP of all other economies, except the US and Japan, by 2025, although the current financial crisis may somewhat slow the momentum,” Blair commented.

Japan and “tiger” economies like South Korea and Taiwan, as well as the rising giants China and India, pointed to the “rise of Asia”as a defining characteristic of the 21st century, the document claimed.

“China is 30 years into a fundamental transformation that will take many more decades to complete. The government has been remarkably successful in guiding reform,” Blair said, observing that China had avoided the fate of other socialist countries, suffering neither economic and political collapse of the Soviet Union nor the stagnation of Cuba and North Korea.

“We judge China’s international behavior is driven by a combination of domestic priorities, primarily maintaining economic prosperity and domestic stability, and a longstanding ambition to see China play the role of a great power in East Asia and globally,” Blair said.

In his opinion, China’s greatest concerns were separatist unrest and the possibility that local protests could merge into a coordinated national movement, demanding fundamental political reforms or an end to Party rule. The March 2008 protests in Tibet highlighted this.

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ISI behind BDR mutiny?
Ashok Tuteja
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 1
As people in Dhaka see mass graves, its now becoming clear that Wednesday’s revolt by the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) was not merely for pay and allowances but part of a larger conspiracy to overthrow the pro-India Sheikh Hasina government.

Government sources here said a large section of the BDR, which is in league with Pakistan’s ISI, is not favourably disposed towards Sheikh Hasina because of her liberal and secular image and her close proximity with the Indian leadership.

The sources pointed out that the ISI network was well-entrenched in all spheres of public life in Bangladesh and the successive governments in Dhaka have failed to contain the activities of the notorious spy agency of Pakistan. “The ISI has penetrated so deep into the army, BDR and the bureaucracy that it has on quite a few occasions influenced decisions taken by Dhaka.”

The facts now emerging about the mutiny clearly point to the fact that persons and groups with established ISI links were deeply involved in the revolt by thousands of BDR men that led to the killings of nearly 70 army officers. And bodies are still being counted with many said to be still missing. It is pretty much clear that this was a previously planned cold-blooded killing spree rather than being a mutiny.

The simultaneous revolt by the BDR personnel in different parts of the country could not have been launched without proper planning and financial backing. The ISI is known to have provided funds for the anti-government agitations and movements in Bangladesh, besides providing financial assistance to various ultra groups operating in the country.

The sources also pointed out that Salauddin Qadeer Chowdhury, whose name is doing rounds in political circles in Bangladesh as being one of those behind the mutiny, has been traditionally opposed to Sheikh Hasina and her Awami League party and is close to Khaleda Zia’s Bangladesh Nationalist Party.

Chowdhury has also been pursuing the pro-Pakistani agenda in Bangladesh’s polity openly. He was also said to be closely connected with the 2004 Chittagong arms drop case.

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Sea Route Row
FBI, MI-6 ridicule Pak navy chief’s claim
Man Mohan
Our Roving Editor

New Delhi, March 1
Top Indian and foreign counter-terrorism and intelligence experts, who joined hands to probe into the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, are surprised over the Pakistani naval chief Oman Bashir’s claim on Friday that the lone surviving gunman Ajmal Amir Iman Kasab and his associates “did not use the sea route” to reach the country’s financial capital.

Valuable inputs on the attackers using the Pakistan sea route and their boats/rafts had come from the agents of America’s foreign spy agency, the CIA, and the FBI located in Islamabad.

Besides the CIA and FBI, the British foreign spy agency, MI-6, and New Scotland Yard’s counter-terrorism experts, who had also joined hands with their Indian counterparts to make independent probe into the Mumbai attacks, had reached the same conclusion about the gunmen coming through the sea route.

“We are 100 per cent convinced that the Mumbai attackers reached the city from Pakistan through the sea route,” an FBI official from the agency’s New York headquarters told The Tribune.

The CIA has warned the US administration that the Al-Qaida and its affiliates may attempt to emulate the Mumbai attacks in America or somewhere else.

Pakistan naval chief’s statement totally contradicts Interior Adviser Rehman Malik, who at a press conference on February 1, while acknowledging that a part of the Mumbai attacks conspiracy had been hatched in Pakistan, had confirmed the use of the “sea route” by the gunmen. Malik had even provided details about the use of boats by the terrorists.

A top Intelligence Bureau officer on Saturday told The Tribune “not only our own investigators, but also the best counter-terrorism experts from America and Britain had reached a joint conclusion that the Mumbai terror attackers had began their journey from a spot near Karachi, taking the sea route to reach Mumbai before the sun set.”

Two days before the chargesheet was filed in the Mumbai court on Wednesday, the FBI director Robert Mueller, while giving a gist of it to the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, clearly pointed out: “Nearly three months ago, several men in a rubber raft landed on the shores of a bustling financial capital as the sun began to set. They scattered in different directions, carrying backpacks with automatic weapons, hand grenades, and satellite phones.”

While the Mumbai police have filed a chargesheet in the Mumbai attacks, both the FBI and the CIA have not yet closed their investigations as they are still working to analyse who was really responsible, assess lessons learned, and determine if the USA may be vulnerable to a similar attack.

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Maoists blow up rail track in Bihar

Jamui/Munger, March 1
Banned CPI (Maoist) rebels blasted rail track in Bihar’s Jamui district and torched a portion of Ratanpur station in adjoining Munger early today during a bandh called by them disrupting train services on the Patna-Howrah main line.

The ultras blasted the rail track near a culvert between Jamalpur and Kiul stations in Jamui district minutes after Howrah-Motihari Mithila Express crossed the section. The blast uprooted the rail track and damaged overhead traction wires, AK Chandra, chief public relations officer of East Central Railway said.

At least seven trains, including Sealdah-Delhi Lalquila Express, Howrah-Amritsar Punjab Mail and Patna-Howrah Janshatabdi Express, were stranded following the blast. “The rail track have been repaired and normal traffic restored on both up and down lines,” Chandra said.

The incident drew sharp criticism from Railway Minister Lalu Prasad, who slammed the state government for its alleged failure to protect railway property from attacks by Maoists.

In another incident in Munger, nearly a score of Maoist cadres beat up the station master of Ratanpur on Kiul-Bhagalpur section and set ablaze a portion of the station building. The track-changing panel and documents in the cabin of the station master were gutted in the fire, Railway sources said. The rail traffic was, however, unaffected, they said.

DIG Amit Kumar and SP Sunil Kumar have rushed to the spot to supervise combing operations to apprehend the culprits, the ADGP (Headquarters) said. — PTI

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Murder Case
BSP MP, son booked for threatening victim’s father

Faizabad, March 1
BSP MP Mitrasen Yadav and his jailed legislator son, facing murder and kidnapping charges in the killing of a Dalit student, have been booked for allegedly threatening the victim's father and other family members.

Yogender Prasad, father of the slain law student Shashi, had on Thursday filed a police complaint against Mitrasen and his son Anand Sen, a former state minister, who is lodged in Faizabad district jail, claiming that, through their close aide Jagdamba Prasad, they had threateaned to kill him if he did not withdrew his murder complaint against Anand.

Taking cognisance of Prasad's compliant, the Faizabad police last evening registered a case against Mitrasen, Anand and Jagdamba in Milkipur police station here. Faizabad SSP RKS Rathore said the police would carry out further investigation in the case.

Shashi had gone missing on October 22, 2007 after which Prasad had filed the complaint against Anand, the then minister in Mayawati government, accusing him of kidnapping and murder. After Shashi's murder, Prasad was provided with Y category security. — PTI

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1 killed in jail clash

Ahmedabad, March 1
A prisoner was killed and two injured in a clash among inmates of Gujarat’s Sabarmati Central jail here today.

The incident occurred when some of the inmates got into an altercation which resulted in a clash that left Suresh Kakadia dead and two others injured, police said, adding that the reason behind the dispute was not known.

The injured have been referred to the civil hospital for treatment.

According to doctors, one of the inmates was brought dead, while two have sustained injuries.

The jail authorities have started investigation into the matter, the police said. — PTI

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US museum to exhibit Sonabai’s art
Annie Samson

New Delhi, March 1
The remarkable story of Sonabai Rajawar, a self-taught artisan from Chattisgarh whose years in forced isolation resulted in an unique art form, is now being exhibited in the United States.

Curated by anthropologist and social scientist Stephen P Huyler, “Sona Bai: Another Way of Seeing,” would be exhibited at the Mingei International Museum in San Diego, California from July, 2009 to February, 2010.

Huyler, who has been working and travelling in India for the last 37 years comparing and contrasting the different regions of the country discovered Sonabai's work while researching for a book. “I was impressed by Sonabai's art which has an universal appeal. It is light and whimsical and does not have any traces of the darkness that is characteristic of works which have been created under difficult circumstances, Huyler told PTI while on a visit here.

Sonabai, who was married off to a much older man was forcibly confined to her windowless home and not allowed to see or speak with anybody else. In her isolation the tribal woman transformed the walls of her house with colourful art. “She used the art to convey her vison of the outside world to her infant son. Coming from a place where women wore veils, Sonabai once discovered by her community affected them to such an extent that inspired and transformed their lives and changed its economy,” says Huyler.

The anthropologist who is also working on a monograph on Sonabai has included her story in his just-released book “Delighting in Daughters,” that compiles 20 women from various facets of society. “Sonabai along with the other women had something deep within them to change the world through their efforts. These women are not looking for acclaim,” says the author.

Puhputra village in Chattisgarh from where Sonabai hails has now several artisans who earn their livelihood by following in the style of art pioneered by Sonabai who created it with no previous training says Hyler who has also extensively photographed the woman's art. — PTI

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Pranab: Pak must dismantle terror hubs

Kolkata, March 1
Keeping up the pressure on Pakistan to stop terrorist activities originating from its soil, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee today said Islamabad would have to cooperate fully to bring to justice those responsible for the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack.

"Pakistan must dismantle the infrastructure used by terrorist organisations in its territory to root out terrorism from the region," Mukherjee said while inaugurating an international conference on “Cooperative development, peace and security in south and central Asia” here today.

"Terrorism, extremism and fundamentalism are posing a serious threat in our region. The 26/11 attack is one more example of terrorism in our region," he said. It was imperative that all governments act to see terrorism rooted out, he said.

Pointing out that internal stability in the neighbouring countries was in India's interest, Mukherjee said growth and peace were related to development. The minister said physical connectivity, banking facilities and simplifying transit facilities were imperative for development of the region.

Physical connectivity of all SAARC countries and its observer countries like Myanmar were on the roadmap for increasing trade and ensuring development. — PTI

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PIL seeks to restore right to property as fundamental right
R Sedhuraman
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, March 1
The Supreme Court has issued notice to the Centre on a PIL that seeks restoration of people’s fundamental right to property in order to protect small landowners from corporate entities who are allowed to acquire land for setting up SEZs and other purposes in the guise of public interest.

A Bench comprising Chief Justice KG Balakrishnan and Justice P Sathasivam asked the government on Friday to respond to the petition that has challenged the deletion of Article 19 (1) (f) from the Fundamental Rights chapter of the Constitution. The deletion was made through the Constitution (44th Amendment) Act, 1978 when Shanti Bhushan was the law minister in the Janata Party government headed by Morarji Desai.

The Amendment had also repealed Article 31 pertaining to payment of compensation in cases of compulsory acquisition. The PIL, filed by Sanjiv Kumar Agarwal, has also challenged this.

Senior counsel Harish Salve, appearing for the petitioner, said small farmers were the main victims of the change that saw the fundamental right turn into a legal right. The legal change was being misused to take away the lands of the poor and the underprivileged and hand them over to the “rich, including large corporations, building societies, foreign conglomerates and other cooperatives, for alleged public purpose and without adequate compensation”.

Small rural and urban landholders were suffering “grave injustices at the hands of the political executives” and in many cases such properties were sold to prosperous third parties, the PIL averred.

It urged the apex court to strike down the 44th Amendment, ruling that it was in violation of the basic structure of the Constitution.

“Recently, large-scale acquisitions of land belonging to peasants for alleged public purpose of setting up SEZs have led to huge public unrest and violence, as is evident from the incidents at Singur and Nandigram,” it said.

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Property Tax
SC: Buyer of sick firm need not clear arrears
R Sedhuraman
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, March 1
The Supreme Court has ruled that buyers of sick companies are not liable to clear property tax arrears or other dues to civic bodies such as municipalities.

“The seller is bound to pay all public charges due in respect of the property up to the date of sale, when a property is sold in auction,” a Bench comprising Justices SB Sinha and Asok Kumar Ganguly held in a recent judgment, setting aside the verdict of a company Judge.

The apex court Bench said the manner in which dues such as the municipal tax has been laid down in Sections 529 and 529A of the Companies Act, 1956, such arrears “do not create any encumbrance on the property”.

The judgment was regarding a case pertaining to West Bengal's Bhatpara Municipality's demand for payment of property tax arrears amounting to Rs 47.6 lakh from AI Champdany Industries Ltd.

The company had bought Wool-Combers of India Ltd in an auction.

Disposing of the appeal by the company, the court also made an observation: “Dues of the municipality would also not even otherwise come within the purview of the crown debt.

Even a crown debt could be discharged only after the secured creditors stand discharged.” Further, a municipal corporation indisputably “is not a preferential creditor”.

The Bench also explained the meaning of “encumbrance” in relation to immovable property, taking the help of several dictionaries.

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2 held with 20 kg charas

Ahmedabad, March 1
Two persons were arrested today while they were trying to smuggle 20 kg charas from near Ratanpur outpost in Sabarkantha district by the Gujarat Narcotic Control Bureau, the police said.

Yusuf Vora and Farukh Vora were caught from near Ratanpur outpost, where the duo had hidden 20 kg of charas under the CNG tank of a car in which they were travelling, they said. — PTI

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Tripura girl is Indian Idol 1V

Mumbai, March 1
Tripura’s Sourabhee Debbraman, who has created ripples with her soulful rendition of popular numbers, tonight bagged the ‘Indian Idol crown’ in the popular music TV reality show’s fourth edition and only the first girl to win the contest.

Sourabhee crooned her way to win the finals defeating Kapil Thapa of Dehradun and Torsha Sarkar of West Bengal to realise The Indian Idol dream of north-eastern India in the land of legendary Sachin Dev Burman and his son Rahul Dev Burman. “It is unbelievable that I have won,” an excited Sourabhee said, adding that she will continue to entertain people in the same spirit which has helped her win a huge fan following. Her win came less than two years after Shillong’s Amit Paul phenomenon swayed the region. The singing talent contest is aimed at determining the best-undiscovered young singer in the country’s popular reality show. — PTI

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Report on HC clash in a week: Panel

Chennai, March 1
The one-man commission appointed by the Supreme Court to inquire into the violence on the Madras High Court campus on February 19 today said he would submit his report within the stipulated time frame of one week.

Speaking to reporters here, Justice BN Srikrishna (retd) said the apex court had given the commission a week’s time to submit report and that he would submit it within the period.

Justice Sri Krishna, who commenced his inquiry yesterday, once again met representatives of the Madras High Court Advocates’ Association and the Tamil Nadu Advocates’ Association (TNAA), among others.

Home Secretary S. Malathi, Chennai Police Commissioner K. Radhakrishnan and IG (Intellegence) Jaffar Sait met him.

Madras High Court Acting Chief Justice SJ Mukhopadhaya and another Judge of the High Court Justice Prabha Sridevan also met Justice Srikrishna.

The Madras High Court Advocates Association presented ‘material evidence’ to the commission in the form of a representation, while the TNAA gave Justice Srikrishna a list of police officials, including the Police Commissioner, holding them responsible for the attack on advocates, damage to the property of the High Court and lawyers and vehicles. — PTI

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Vajpayee returns home

New Delhi, March 1
Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was today discharged from AIIMS as doctors declared him fit to go home after 26 days of stay at the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), family sources said. “It is a blessing for the BJP that he has recovered and returned home. He is alright and will be taken care of by doctors at home,” BJP leader Vijay Goel, who was present at AIIMS, said. Vajpayee’s adopted daughter Namita Bhattacharjee was besides the 84-year-old leader at the time of the discharge. The veteran leader was admitted to the hospital after complaints of chest infection on February 3. — PTI

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