SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI



THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
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N A T I O N

HC jolt to Maya on police recruits
Rejects govt’s plea against earlier verdict
Lucknow, March 4
After an electoral reverse in the Bhadohi bypoll, the Mayawati government today suffered another setback when the Allahabad High Court rejected her government’s appeal challenging an earlier single-Bench order setting aside the termination of over 18,000 police personnel appointed during Mulayam Singh Yadav’s regime.

Ordnance Scam
CBI asks MoD to take action
Chandigarh, March 4
Finding lapses in the procurement of equipment worth crores done locally by Army units based in Ambala, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has asked the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to initiate appropriate action in accordance with its policies against those involved.

New version of BrahMos test-fired again
New Delhi, March 4
Less than six weeks after a new software that had been developed to fine-tune the supersonic BrahMos missile failed, India today test-fired a land-attack version using the new software. “The specified and defined target of about 5 metres by 7 metres was hit and videographed also,”officials said here this evening.




EARLIER STORIES

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is back in action. PM resumes work
New Delhi, March 4
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is back in action. Five weeks after he underwent a coronary bypass surgery, Manmohan Singh made his public appearance today when he met visiting Benin President Boni Yayi at his 7, Race Course Road residence here.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is back in action. Five weeks after he underwent a coronary bypass surgery, the PM made his public appearance on Wednesday when he met Benin President Boni Yayi at his 7, Race Course Road residence in New Delhi. Tribune photo: Mukesh Aggarwal

Wheat Procurement
Every grain will be lifted: Pawar
New Delhi, March 4
With the forthcoming wheat harvest and its subsequent procurement, having the potential to sway elections in the rural areas of Punjab, Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar today assured Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal that every grain of wheat would be lifted from the Punjab Mandis during the season.

Boxer Mary Kom with Major-General Shakti Gurung during a recruitment rally at Koirengei, Imphal East, on Wednesday.
Boxer Mary Kom with Major-General Shakti Gurung during a recruitment rally at Koirengei, Imphal East, on Wednesday. — PTI

Tejas trial underway
Bangalore, March 4
Tejas, the lightweight multirole jet fighter developed by India, has hit the target bang on in the first test sortie itself.

Inquiry against scribes condemned
New Delhi, March 4
The Editors Guild of India has condemned the move of the Kerala government’s Health Minister and some officials to launch a vigilance inquiry against journalists of Malayala Manorama, who had done public service by exposing the corrupt practice in purchase of drugs by the Medical Services Corporation.

SC stays HC order on cops involved in encounters
New Delhi, March 4
The Supreme Court today stayed an Andhra Pradesh High Court verdict that had held police officials involved in encounter or self-defence killings did not enjoy immunity from prosecution under the Criminal Procedure Code. A Bench, headed by Chief Justice KG Balakrishnan, also issued notices on a petition filed by Andhra Pradesh Police Officers Association, challenging the February 6, 2009 judgment by the full Bench of the HC.

CISF sub-inspectors of 32nd batch during their passing-out parade at the National Industrial Security Academy in Hyderabad on Wednesday.
CISF sub-inspectors of 32nd batch during their passing-out parade at the National Industrial Security Academy in Hyderabad on Wednesday. — PTI

First knowledge portal for visually impaired
New Delhi, March 4
The world of 44 million visually impaired is about to change, with the launch of India’s first knowledge portal which answers all question a low-vision person wants to ask.

BJP to chalk out TN poll strategy on March 12
Chennai, March 4
Left without a major partner in Tamil Nadu, the State BJP unit will chalk out its poll strategy at its executive committee meeting on March 12, state party president L Ganesan today said.

BJP-AGP meet called off
New Delhi: The BJP had to call off at the last minute a formal announcement of the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) joining the NDA over what sources described disagreement over seat sharing and alignment issues between the two parties.

Uncertainty over Third Front’s fate
New Delhi, March 4
Former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda may be going gung ho about the Third front, preparing for a massive rally in Tumkur, some distance from Bangalore on March 12, but the Left which has initiated the process is stepping testily in these untested waters.

Assam: Cong names six candidates
Guwahati, March 4
The ruling Congress in Assam has so far finalised candidates for six Lok Sabha constituencies while names of aspirants in respect of rest of the constituencies are being screened before sending those to the central election committee of the AICC.

Seat Sharing
Cong, NCP reach some consensus in M’rashtra
New Delhi/Nagpur, March 4
After four rounds of negotiations, the Congress and the NCP have agreed to contest on 40-41 Lok Sabha seats in Maharashtra while a decision on remaining eight seats will be taken soon, leaders of the two parties announced today.

Nitish takes a potshot at Cong’s ‘Jai Ho’
Patna, March 4
With the announcement of the battle of the ballot for the 15th Lok Sabha, a war of words has ensued between the political parties as well.

Caste politics dominates Bihar polls
Patna, March 4
The caste factor still seems to outweigh all other considerations, even the “star value”, in Bihar politics. Otherwise cine star and former Union Minister Shatrughan Sinha would not have been so eager to secure the BJP ticket from the newly carved Patna Saheb Lok Sabha constituency.

7 MLAs join Maya camp
Lucknow, March 4
Seven legislators today quit their respective parties and assembly seats to join the Bahujan Samaj Party ahead of the polls. For several months these MLAs and MLCs were hobnobbing with the ruling party and even sitting on the treasury benches, making their joining the BSP a foregone conclusion.

Maya urges party workers to focus on victory
Lucknow, March 4
BSP supremo and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati on Monday urged her party workers to campaign hard as if she were personally contesting from each of the 80 seats from the state.

Lucknow ill-fated for film stars: Tandon
Lucknow, March 4
BJP candidate from Lucknow Lalji Tandon today declared that the city had a unique character and was hardly enamoured of film stars or moneybags. He is pitted against SP nominee Sanjay Dutt and BSP’s Akhilesh Das during the forthcoming Lok Sabha poll.

Bal Thackeray out of ICU
Mumbai, March 4
Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray has been moved out of the intensive care unit (ICU) at Lilavati Hospital here where he is undergoing treatment.

Kolkata Group workshop highlights social goals
Kolkata, March 4
The Seventh Kolkata Group Workshop, chaired by Professor Amartya Sen, was held in Kolkata recently. The theme this year was “Economic Progress and Social Values”. Over 30 participants - policy leaders, social scientists, scholars, activists and development experts, met under the sponsorship of the Pratichi Trust and Harvard’s Global Equity Initiative.





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HC jolt to Maya on police recruits
Rejects govt’s plea against earlier verdict
Shahira Naim
Tribune News Service

Lucknow, March 4
After an electoral reverse in the Bhadohi bypoll, the Mayawati government today suffered another setback when the Allahabad High Court rejected her government’s appeal challenging an earlier single-Bench order setting aside the termination of over 18,000 police personnel appointed during Mulayam Singh Yadav’s regime.

Turning down the special appeal by the state government, a Division Bench comprising Justices Janardan Sahai and Rakesh Sharma said, “We confirm the judgement of the single-judge Bench.” A jubilant Samajwadi party spokesperson Rajendra Chadhury demanded the resignation of the Mayawati government on moral ground.

“She had cancelled the appointment in sheer vengeance to undo the good work of the SP government. The court has put a stop to her autocratic ways,” said Chadhury.

As the news of the rejection of the appeal became public it was celebration time for the thousands of dismissed constables standing outside the court. They cheerfully embraced each other and smeared gulal (colour) celebrating the festival of colours well in advance. Not only sweets were distributed and exchanged but also slogans like ‘High Court zindabad’ and ‘Mayawati murdabad’ were heard.

A vaguely worded Home Department press statement tried to misrepresent the significance of the development. It spoke of Justice Janardhan Sahai having passed an order giving the state government the right to distinguish between the irregular and regular appointments. It also stated that the Justice Rakesh Sharma would write his order separately.

Causing major embarrassment to the BSP government, a single-judge HC Bench in December 2008 had set aside the annulment of appointments of more than 18,000 police personnel made during the previous Samajwadi Party government.

The single judge had observed that in the inquiry conducted to look into the alleged irregularities that had taken place in the recruitment process, no effort was made to separate “the good candidates from the tainted ones”.

One of the first decisions of the newly elected BSP government in May 2007 was to cancel the entire recruitment process on grounds of alleged irregularities. By then approximately 1800 police personnel had not only finished their training but had also taken up their assignments in different parts of the state.

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Ordnance Scam
CBI asks MoD to take action
Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 4
Finding lapses in the procurement of equipment worth crores done locally by Army units based in Ambala, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has asked the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to initiate appropriate action in accordance with its policies against those involved.

Investigation by the CBI into alleged irregularities in the purchase of ordnance stores has revealed gross overpricing of items, formation of a cartel by various suppliers and negligence on the part of some officers. Motor vehicle spare parts, clothing and accessories and other items of general use were involved.

“We had sent the report on our findings along with our recommendations to the MoD a few days ago,” Superintendent of Police (CBI), Mahesh Aggarwal said. Last year, the CBI had conducted raids at two ordnance units in Ambala after it received complaints of irregularities. The records for the past three years were examined. Each unit had a purchase budget of about Rs 1 crore annually.

CBI sources said their recommendations included placing a ban on the Army carrying out business with about half-a-dozen local contractors who figure in the investigations, besides initiating a departmental action against the officers involved.

Scrutiny of documents and other evidence revealed that some of the items were purchased from local vendors at rates three to four times higher than the prevailing market rates, CBI officers said.

For instance, there was wide variance in the prices mentioned against the index number of motor vehicle parts in catalogues available with authorised dealers and the prices mentioned in quotations and bills.

In many instances, the brand names of companies were not mentioned on the bills and the prices of items procured were higher than that of branded products, or locally made products were shown as branded items on files, a CBI officer said. Further, non-standardisation of certain items of clothing, accessories and general stores left scope for misappropriation.

The CBI also found indications of impersonation or some local suppliers and contractors forming a cartel and working in unison. This was borne out by the facts that several quotations received from supposedly different vendors for particular contracts were made out in the same handwriting.

A few months ago, the CBI had indicted two Army officers, including a Colonel of an Army transport company at Ambala and three civilian contractors for alleged irregularities in hiring vehicles for military use.

Investigations by the CBI revealed that Army authorities passed false and highly inflated bills submitted by the private firms, causing a loss of lakhs to the state.

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New version of BrahMos test-fired again
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 4
Less than six weeks after a new software that had been developed to fine-tune the supersonic BrahMos missile failed, India today test-fired a land-attack version using the new software. “The specified and defined target of about 5 metres by 7 metres was hit and videographed also,”officials said here this evening.

The test was conducted by the BrahMos Aerospace in Rajasthan and watched by a team of senior army personnel. The Army team, led by a Lieutenant General-rank official, is expected to reveal its findings latter.

The new software is to guide a missile to its specified target. Otherwise, the missile jointly developed by India and Russia is highly successful. Today’s test was conducted to upgrade its ability.

Normally, a missile picks out the biggest possible target among a cluster of targets; for example, a biggest building in the target zone. The new software will enable the missile to home in targets that may not be the biggest among the cluster but are very important. This will help in multi-target environment and when the specific target is identified before the launch. This is the first-ever attempt made by any country in the world to enable the missile in this manner.

So far the missile, a 290-kg weapon having a speed of 2.8 times of sound, has been inducted into the Navy and the Army. Officials said the tests were not routine, it was a very sophisticated development. Since the weapon has already been inducted the test was to fine-tune the nuclear capable missile to hit specific and defined targets.

This upgrade will enhance the capabilities of the missile in the land-attack configuration. The missile takes its name from the Brahmaputra and Moskva rivers.

This complicated mission called for an advanced algorithm and intelligence embedded in the missile. Since cruise missiles fly at low altitudes, they have the ability to evade enemy radars and air-defence systems.

The supersonic anti-ship versions have already been inducted into the Indian Navy. An air launched version is being developed and is intended to be fitted onto the Indian Air Force’s Sukhoi-30 MKI fighters.

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PM resumes work
Ashok Tuteja
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 4
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is back in action. Five weeks after he underwent a coronary bypass surgery, Manmohan Singh made his public appearance today when he met visiting Benin President Boni Yayi at his 7, Race Course Road residence here.

Before going into talks, Manmohan shook hands with the visiting dignitary and posed for photographers. In the company of Manmohan, the Benin President, whose visit would have perhaps gone unnoticed had it not been the Prime Minister’s first engagement after the heart surgery, also enjoyed every moment of the media attention in India.

Late in the evening, the PM also had a meeting with Home Minister P Chidambaram at which he was briefed on the overall security situation in the country, particularly against the backdrop of several disturbing developments in Pakistan and yesterday’s terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore. Doctors attending on Manmohan said the Prime Minister should be soon in a position to return to his routine official work.

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Wheat Procurement
Every grain will be lifted: Pawar
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 4
With the forthcoming wheat harvest and its subsequent procurement, having the potential to sway elections in the rural areas of Punjab, Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar today assured Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal that every grain of wheat would be lifted from the Punjab Mandis during the season.

The assurance came after Badal met Pawar at the latter’s office at Krishi Bhawan here this afternoon, Punjab officials said here this evening.

Badal had called on the Union Agriculture Minister as the state was heading towards the record bumper yield of wheat this season. The Punjab is likely to exceed its target of contributing 117-lakh metric tonne of wheat to the Central pool.

Badal also pointed out that the state had already a stock overflow amounting to 50-lakh metric tonne of wheat procured by the state procuring agencies last year.

He sought Pawar’s personal intervention for urgent and speedy movement of wheat stock from Punjab to ease out storage pressure in view of the fresh arrival of wheat in the forthcoming procurement season.

Pawar reportedly assured Badal that lifting the already stoked wheat was in national interest and it would be done.

Pawar also assured the Chief Minister that adequate supply of gunny bags would be made available to the state to ensure smooth lifting of the wheat.

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Tejas trial underway
Shubhadeep Choudhury
Tribune News Service

Bangalore, March 4
Tejas, the lightweight multirole jet fighter developed by India, has hit the target bang on in the first test sortie itself.

Originally known as the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) - a designation which continues in popular usage - the second phase of weapon testing on Tejas is currently underway at an Air Force base in the north-western sector. The focus of the current phase of testing is safe separation and accuracy of weapon delivery. The results from the tests would validate aerodynamic interference data as well as weapon release algorithms in different modes of release. The trials are planned to be held for two weeks.

A composite test team consisting of specialists from the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA), IAF, HAL, Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE) and other agencies, are present at the trial location where the flight test is being conducted by the National Flight Test Centre.

Arrangements have been made for directly linking the trial location with the base telemetry station at Bangalore through INSAT and also through a secluded fibre optic channel. With the help of this system, experts sitting in Bangalore are able to monitor in real-time the activities and vital parameters of the aircraft as the trial goes on some thousands of kilometers away.

Accurate upper air data for the trial is being gathered at the trial location using GPS Radiosonde supplied by the ISRO.

Limited series production of Tejas - which is expected to get full operational clearance (FOC) from the IAF sometime next year - commenced in 2007. A tandem seating trainer variant of the aircraft is also said to be ready, while a naval variant capable of operating from the Indian Navy’s aircraft carriers is also being developed.

The IAF is said to have a requirement for 200 single-seat and 20 two-seat trainers, while the Indian Navy may order up to 40 single-seaters to replace its existing fleet Sea Harriers. The delta wing design aircraft powered by a single engine was officially named “Tejas” in 2003.

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Inquiry against scribes condemned
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 4
The Editors Guild of India has condemned the move of the Kerala government’s Health Minister and some officials to launch a vigilance inquiry against journalists of Malayala Manorama, who had done public service by exposing the corrupt practice in purchase of drugs by the Medical Services Corporation.

The Guild is shocked that the corporation and the Health Department have thought of launching a vigilance inquiry against the journalists - which is a criminal proceeding - instead of launching one against the officers and staff who are responsible for the acts of corruption.

The Guild notes that the Kerala government in its latest budget had announced a cash reward for journalists, who expose corruption, and also that the Chief Minister of Kerala had declared on the floor of the assembly that his government would not take action against journalists who expose corruption. But the move of the Health Department runs contrary to these commitments made to the legislature, the public and the media.

The Guild feels that the contemplated vigilance inquiry is an attempt to gag the press, and it has demanded that the Kerala government should withdraw the inquiry move immediately. On behalf of the Guild, president Rajdeep Sardesai and secretary-general KS Sachidananda Murthy issued the statement.

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SC stays HC order on cops involved in encounters
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, March 4
The Supreme Court today stayed an Andhra Pradesh High Court verdict that had held police officials involved in encounter or self-defence killings did not enjoy immunity from prosecution under the Criminal Procedure Code. A Bench, headed by Chief Justice KG Balakrishnan, also issued notices on a petition filed by Andhra Pradesh Police Officers Association, challenging the February 6, 2009 judgment by the full Bench of the HC.

Senior Counsel Harish Salve, appearing for the petitioners, contended denial of protection to police personnel would impede measures to curb terrorism, Naxalism and other serious crimes. The HC ruling had come on a petition by the AP Civil Liberties Committee (APCLC) which had prayed for such an order in the light of reports of fake encounters.

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First knowledge portal for visually impaired
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 4
The world of 44 million visually impaired is about to change, with the launch of India’s first knowledge portal which answers all question a low-vision person wants to ask.

Laced with information on over 100 eye-conditions, education facilities, services and job markets for the blind, the portal - www.eyeway.org - seeks to fill the gaps in the sector of disability studies.

Of the 2,500 registered schools India has for all the categories of disabled persons, there are only about 253 schools for the blind. The numbers to be catered are a whopping 440 lakh; over 70 per cent of these are in rural India, where the concentration of institutes for the blind is negligible.

The portal reaches out to these largely neglected categories, especially those who suffer irreversible blindness due to medical conditions that develop later in life. The man behind the portal - George Abraham - himself suffers from blindness due to optical atrophy - a congenital condition.

As CEO of the Score Foundation, which designed the website, Abraham refers rather humbly to his team’s mighty effort: “We want to tell the visually impaired that there is a world beyond blindness. The problem is with the mind, not with the eyes.”

The portal has a multi-sensorial approach to education and offers the users all information on the knowledge sources available for them. It tells a blind mobile phone recharge shop-owner where to get the software that would enable him to transfer balance from his cell phone to that of the customers; it informs a graduate sitting for exams where to seek his legal right of an extra 20 minutes per hour to write the exam.

The foundation just helped Gautam Baruah of Guwahati to become the first visually impaired person in India to transfer balance to his customer’s cell phone by himself. He was until now asking his wife for help. “This sense of independence is what we seek to deliver,” Abraham says. He will soon launch the website in Hindi and other regional languages.

To use the portal, people would require a screen-reading software to operate the computer and access the website. The software can be downloaded from internet and is also available in the market for Rs 50,000 - a prohibitive cost for the simple reason that the manufacture of this site is not indigenous.

“There are sites where users can download the software,” says Abraham, who describes the portal as “a knowledge takeaway that works through the web, radio, help desk, talking books and mobile training.”

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BJP to chalk out TN poll strategy on March 12
Tribune News Service

Chennai, March 4
Left without a major partner in Tamil Nadu, the State BJP unit will chalk out its poll strategy at its executive committee meeting on March 12, state party president L Ganesan today said.

He said the committee would discuss on the possibilities of number of constituencies in which the BJP would be contesting, poll alliances and the list of candidates for the forthcoming elections.

Ganesan accused the Centre of failing on all fronts and said the development works initiated during the BJP rule had been severely affected.

Indicating that the Sri Lankan Tamils issue would be a major poll plank for the party in Tamil Nadu, Ganesan said his party would solve the plight of Sri Lankan Tamils within six months of coming to power at the Centre.

The BJP would also focus on price rise of essential commodities and Mumbai terror attacks in its election manifesto. Ganesan said his party’s Prime Ministerial candidate L K Advani would start the election campaign at Nagercoil on March 7.

At the moment, the situation in Tamil Nadu is fluid, with actor Vijaykanth’s DMDK and the PMK yet to make up their minds on poll alliances.

BJP-AGP meet called off

New Delhi: The BJP had to call off at the last minute a formal announcement of the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) joining the NDA over what sources described disagreement over seat sharing and alignment issues between the two parties.

Formally, the BJP leaders claimed that a joint press conference had to be called off due to the demise of a close relative of a BJP leader from Assam. But BJP sources confided: “The AGP leaders raised some questions after which instead of holding the joint press conference sat for an hour to discuss all issues.”

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Uncertainty over Third Front’s fate
Faraz Ahmad
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 4
Former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda may be going gung ho about the Third front, preparing for a massive rally in Tumkur, some distance from Bangalore on March 12, but the Left which has initiated the process is stepping testily in these untested waters.

And though the Third front became a compulsion of the Communists since they withdrew support to the UPA government last July, there is still a lot of diffidence in the Left over how far this would eventually work.

At present, this Third front comprises of the four Left parties, Deve Gowda’s JD-S, TDP, TRS and Jayalalitha’s AIADMK and some long-distance relationship with UP Chief Minister Mayawati’s BSP.

And each of them have their own compulsions of coming together as well as post-poll plans independent of each other. Therefore, even before the Third front is formally launched on March 12 there is uncertainty over its future.

Some of them, including the JD-S and Jayalalitha have been in discreet contact with the Congress. As for Mayawati, BJP leaders are privately putting much store by her in the post-poll scenario.

Similarly, the TRS is another party which has off and on flirted with the BJP and may have no hesitation of teaming up with the BJP in the name of creating Telangana state, their single point agenda.

At the moment, TDP leader N Chandrababu Naidu is vehemently denying any possibility of realigning with the BJP/NDA. But if he were to choose between supporting a Congress-led UPA or a BJP-led NDA, he can still swing to the BJP/NDA side, said a confident BJP leader, talking about the post-poll scenario.

Consequently, even before entering the ring the Third front partners appeared rather uncertain and hesitant. Deve Gowda said about Mayawati, who will not be attending the rally, “She has her own views on seat sharing. She wants to contest all the UP seats. She wants to go it alone in all the states.”

His only consolation is that “All in the Third front have our own respective strength in our states, be it Karnataka, or Andhra Pradesh or Tamil Nadu,” he said.

Two days after the announcement of the election schedule, the CPI sounded even more diffident about his new found friends and this Third front. CPI national secretary D Raja said about the Third front, “It is emerging. It is shaping.”

When reminded about the past association of leaders like Jayalalitha and Mayawati with the BJP, a defensive Raja said, “If we go by the past record we cannot go with anybody. What is the past record of the Congress party or for that matter of the TDP or even JD-S?” 

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Assam: Cong names six candidates
Bijay Sankar Bora
Tribune News Service

Guwahati, March 4
The ruling Congress in Assam has so far finalised candidates for six Lok Sabha constituencies while names of aspirants in respect of rest of the constituencies are being screened before sending those to the central election committee of the AICC.

Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi said the ruling party would contest from 13 Lok Sabha constituencies out of the total 14 leaving one seat for its ally, Bodo People’s Front (BPF).

“Party candidates for six parliamentary constituencies - Dibrugarh, Jorhat, Kaliabor, Autonomous Districts (Diphu), Silchar and Karimganj, have been finalised given that there was only one aspirant for each of these constituencies,” he said.

Senior party leader from tea tribe community, Paban Singh Ghatowar, will contest from Dibrugarh, union minister of state for fertiliser and chemicals, Bijoy Krishna Handique from Jorhat, Union Minister for Heavy Industries Santosh Mohan Deb from Silchar and sitting party MPs Dip Gogoi, Biren Singh Ingti and Lalitmohan Sukla Baidya will contest from Kaliabor, Diphu and Karimganj constituencies, respectively.

Gogoi said there were about 30 aspirants for party nomination to contest from the rest of parliamentary constituencies in the state. The state party’s election committee would forward a pruned list of aspirants to the AICC’s election committee for final selection of candidates.

Many women and youth leaders of the party have sought party tickets to contest election from the state this year.

Meanwhile, the Opposition Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) and the BJP which have agreed to contest the elections jointly against the Congress are still confabulating to finalise the names of nominees.

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Seat Sharing
Cong, NCP reach some consensus in M’rashtra

New Delhi/Nagpur, March 4
After four rounds of negotiations, the Congress and the NCP have agreed to contest on 40-41 Lok Sabha seats in Maharashtra while a decision on remaining eight seats will be taken soon, leaders of the two parties announced today.

The two parties agreed on seat-sharing for 41 of the 48 Lok Sabha constituencies in Maharashtra, state’s Congress chief Manikrao Thakre said in Delhi today.

“We have reached the formula for sharing 40 seats and all RPI factions and the Samajwadi Party will be adjusted in a few seats besides finalising other seats,” senior NCP leader and Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel told reporters in Nagpur. Sources in the Congress-NCP alliance said the two parties have agreed to contest 19 seats each out of the 40-41 and the a decision on remaining seats would be taken in a day or two.

The NCP, a coalition partner of Congress-led UPA and the Democratic Front governments at the Centre and Maharashtra, respectively, has staked claim to three out of 10 seats in the Vidarbha region, including that of Bhandara.

NCP chief Sharad Pawar will contest from Madha adjacent to his pocket-borough Baramati.

Patel’s wife Varsha Ben (Tai) is likely to contest from Bhandara once represented by her husband and father-in-law late Manoharbhai Patel. The NCP, which contested 21 Lok Sabha seats in Maharashtra during 2004 polls, is insisting that it should be alloted at least 24 seats out of the total 48 seats.

However, Congress leaders, including Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan and former Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh have reiterated that the same seat-sharing formula as in 2004 would continue.

Pawar is expected to hold talks with Ahmed Patel, political secretary to AICC chief Sonia Gandhi, and senior Congress leader AK Antony on seat-sharing. — PTI

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Nitish takes a potshot at Cong’s ‘Jai Ho’
Sanjay Singh
Tribune News Service

Patna, March 4
With the announcement of the battle of the ballot for the 15th Lok Sabha, a war of words has ensued between the political parties as well.

The RJD chief Lalu Prasad has coined a new terminology for the BJP. It is “Bharat Jalao Party” (Burn India Party), Lalu remarked at his first election meeting at North Bihar’s Muzaffarpur town yesterday.

Today, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said the Congress’ plan to make the Oscars-winning song of AR Rahman ‘Jai Ho’ as the party’s theme song in the coming polls would prove to be “Chhai Ho” (get destroyed) for the UPA.

Explaining it further, Nitish said, “The way the feel-good notion played a big role in destroying the BJP-led NDA’s ambitions in 2004 polls, the Slumdog Millionaire song — Jai Ho - will obliterate the Congress’ hopes.”

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Caste politics dominates Bihar polls
Sanjay Singh
Tribune News Service

Patna, March 4
The caste factor still seems to outweigh all other considerations, even the “star value”, in Bihar politics. Otherwise cine star and former Union Minister Shatrughan Sinha would not have been so eager to secure the BJP ticket from the newly carved Patna Saheb Lok Sabha constituency.

The Delimitation Commission has created this constituency, which is predominated by the Kayasthas. Both the NDA and the UPA are expected to field candidates from this caste for the new seat. Shotgun claims to have been already promised the support of the NDA for this constituency by BJP stalwarts like LK Advani and Rajnath Singh.

The critics of Sinha in the BJP recall that during his long association with the BJP (since 1980), he never ever appeared so eager to contest the Lok Sabha polls from Bihar. He was elected to the Rajya Sabha for two terms from this state.

If his critics are to be believed he was always reluctant to contest elections in Bihar reportedly because there was no such seat like Madhepura, which is the bastion of the Yadavs, Nalanda for the Kurmis, Kishanganj for the Muslims and Begusarai for Bhumihars and so on.

Now when there is a constituency for the Kayasths caste, all probable contenders for the seat are also from the same caste.

Apparently, in view of the importance of Kayasthas on this prestigious seat, RJD chief and Railway Minister Lalu Prasad recently got the statue of India’s first President Dr Rajendra Prasad at the Rajendra Nagar Railway station installed that falls under this Lok Sabha constituency to woo voters of this caste.

It was learnt that the Railways had to amend their rules for installing this statue on the station premises.

Even top leaders like Lalu Prasad and Nitish Kumar rely upon seats like Madhepura and Nalanda, which is dominated by their respective caste.

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7 MLAs join Maya camp
Tribune News Service

Lucknow, March 4
Seven legislators today quit their respective parties and assembly seats to join the Bahujan Samaj Party ahead of the polls. For several months these MLAs and MLCs were hobnobbing with the ruling party and even sitting on the treasury benches, making their joining the BSP a foregone conclusion. New entrants into the Mayawati’s camp are: SP MLAs Gauri Shanker (Malihabad ) and Dhani Ram Verma (Auraiya), Rashtriya Lok Dal MLA Kadir Rana (Morana) and BJP MLA Rajiv Trehan from Moradabad (west).

Members of the Upper House who resigned today include BJP’s Ghanshyam, SP’s Ganesh Shanker Pandey, RLD’s Surendra Singh Nagar. Speaker Sukhdeo Rajbhar received their resignations and accepted them with immediate effect.

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Maya urges party workers to focus on victory
Tribune News Service

Lucknow, March 4
BSP supremo and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati on Monday urged her party workers to campaign hard as if she were personally contesting from each of the 80 seats from the state.

Appearing to be far ahead of her competitors in her preparation for the general elections, she described the polls as a matter of prestige. “If we make concentrated efforts, our slogan ‘UP hui hamari hai, ab Delhi ki bari hai’ (UP is ours, now it is the turn of Delhi), will turn into a reality,” she declared.

Addressing a national convention of her party workers at the newly constructed 12 Mall Avenue party office, Mayawati asked them to sink their differences and redouble their efforts to ensure maximum representation in Parliament.

Setting the agenda for her party’s government if it comes to power, the BSP chief said she would frame economic policies for the improvement of all sections of society and introduce quota in the private sector for SC, STs and OBCs as well as economically weaker sections of the upper castes.

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Lucknow ill-fated for film stars: Tandon
Tribune News Service

Lucknow, March 4
BJP candidate from Lucknow Lalji Tandon today declared that the city had a unique character and was hardly enamoured of film stars or moneybags. He is pitted against SP nominee Sanjay Dutt and BSP’s Akhilesh Das during the forthcoming Lok Sabha poll.

“Muzaffar Ali and Raj Babbar are examples of film stars who failed to make it to the Lok Sabha from Lucknow despite being well-known personalities in their own right,” BJP nominee Tandon told reporters.

He said for him ‘jan bal’ (peoples’ support) would be the guiding line unlike ‘bahu bal’ (muscle power) and ‘dhan bal’ (money power) being demonstrated by his rivals.

According to him, voters of Lucknow are politically mature and always vote for the larger interest of the city that is home to all sections of society.

Admitting that about 30 per cent Muslims resides in the city, Tandon said he was not unusually worried by this as Muslim brethren have always chosen their representatives judiciously and never played into the hands of vested interests that exploit them for political gains and leave them in the lurch later.

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Bal Thackeray out of ICU
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, March 4
Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray has been moved out of the intensive care unit (ICU) at Lilavati Hospital here where he is undergoing treatment.

According to a hospital communique, the Shiv Sena supremo has been shifted to a special room. The health of the ageing leader has shown improvement and doctors hope to discharge him in the next few days. The hospital authorities had also allowed Thackeray to meet friends and relatives as his condition was improving, officials said.

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Kolkata Group workshop highlights social goals
Tribune News Service

Kolkata, March 4
The Seventh Kolkata Group Workshop, chaired by Professor Amartya Sen, was held in Kolkata recently. The theme this year was “Economic Progress and Social Values”. Over 30 participants - policy leaders, social scientists, scholars, activists and development experts, met under the sponsorship of the Pratichi Trust and Harvard’s Global Equity Initiative.

The meeting underscored the importance of social values in guiding policy priorities and programme implementation for poor, especially during this period of financial crisis, and the slowing down of economic growth in India. Discussions focused on employment guarantee, private markets and social goals, discrimination and inequalities among Dalit households, women and social progress.

In its concluding session, the Kolkata Group welcomed the extension of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) to cover the whole country, as a means of providing livelihood security to poor and socially disadvantaged families. Of the 39 million NREGA workers, a majority belong to Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe families and close to 50 per cent are women.

On the basis of available information, the Kolkata Group considers that NREGA is an effective tool of redistribution for the poor. The Act serves other important purposes, including the revival of Panchayati Raj Institutions, empowerment of disadvantaged groups and creation of productive assets. Early reports indicate that NREGA has already led to substantial achievements.

Those who attended the workshop included among others Amartya Sen, Abhay Bang, Abhijit Sen, AK Shiva Kumar, AJ Philip, Albina du Boisrouvray, Amiya Bagchi, Antara Dev Sen, Asim Dasgupta, Jasodhara Bagchi, Kumar Rana, Lincoln Chen, Madhura Swaminathan, Nachiket Mor, Poonam Muttreja, Pratik Kanjilal, R Gopalakrishnan, Rajni Bakshi, Rehman Sobhan, Rohini Nilekani, Sabina Alkire, Sharmila Tagore, Surjya Kanta Mishra, Syeda Hameed and VK Ramachandran.

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