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THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
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N A T I O N

Cong-SP deal ‘not yet over’
Mulayam to meet Sonia soon
New Delhi, March 5
A day after the Congress sidestepped the Samajwadi Party by declaring 24 candidates from Uttar Pradesh for the forthcoming polls, the ‘now on-now gone’ element of the much-touted alliance remained very much at play today.

AGP denies joining NDA
Says pact limited to seat-sharing only
New Delhi, March 5
Soon after the BJP declared today that the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) has joined the NDA and announced a seat-sharing pact between them in Assam, the regional party’s chief denied joining the alliance saying the relationship is confined to sharing of seats only.
(From left): Janata Dal (U) president Sharad Yadav, BJP leader LK Advani, BJP president Rajnath Singh and Assam Gana Parishad chief Chandramohan Patowary during a press conference in New Delhi (From left): Janata Dal (U) president Sharad Yadav, BJP leader LK Advani, BJP president Rajnath Singh and Assam Gana Parishad chief Chandramohan Patowary during a press conference in New Delhi on Thursday. A Tribune photograph



EARLIER STORIES



Advani plays safe, says Jinnah issue settled
New Delhi, March 5
If there is anything the BJP’s Prime Minister-in-waiting Lal Krishna Advani does not want to face on the eve of the Lok Sabha elections, it is his controversial reference to Mohammad Ali Jinnah - the creator of Pakistan. Advani had, four years ago, described Jinnah as “a secular man.”

Left and Cong can’t coexist, says BJP
New Delhi, March 5
The BJP today said the Congress and Left can never coexist, given their antithetical ideologies. “The past alliance between the Congress and the Communists was surprising,” BJP’s prime ministerial candidate L.K. Advani today said in Parliament during a media orientation programme.

Sena-BJP agree on seat sharing
Mumbai, March 5
The Shiv Sena and the Bharatiya Janata Party have decided to contest the forthcoming Lok Sabha by sticking to their old formula where the national party gets a larger share of the seats in Parliament.

Venkatesh joins BJP                               
Bangalore, March 5
Dismissed member of the National Commission for Women (NCW) Nirmala Venkatesh today joined the BJP in Bangalore. She was admitted into the party by BJP’s Karnataka Unit Mahila Morcha general secretary Mangala Sridhar.

Former member of the National Commission for Women Nirmala Venkatesh gestures after joining the BJP in Bangalore on Thursday. — PTI

Sanjay seeks SC nod to contest
New Delhi, March 5
Actor Sanjay Dutt, sentenced to six years in jail for illegal possession of arms, today approached the Supreme Court seeking a stay on the conviction to enable him to contest the 15th Lok Sabha election and serve the people.

Former member of the National Commission for Women Nirmala Venkatesh gestures after joining the BJP in Bangalore

PMK to decide on alliance soon
Chennai, March 5
Expressing dissent over the Centre’s handling of the Sri Lankan conflict, leader of the PMK, a constituent of the Union Cabinet, said his party would decide about its continuance in the UPA, at its general council meeting is to be convened within a few days.

Poll Symbol
Notice to EC on Chiru’s plea
Hyderabad, March 5
The Andhra Pradesh High Court today issued a notice to the Election Commission (EC) in connection with a fresh appeal by actor-turned-politician Chiranjeevi’s Praja Rajyam Party, seeking allotment of common poll symbol for its candidates contesting the next month’s elections.

EC receives several complaints
Lucknow, March 5
The visiting EC team has received several complaints regarding the misuse of government machinery and bureaucrats too close to the ruling party, but the EC would make their independent enquiry before taking any action stated CEC N Gopalaswami.

Praja Rajyam Party chief Chiranjeevi with Sikhs in Hyderabad
Praja Rajyam Party chief Chiranjeevi with Sikhs in Hyderabad on Thursday. — PTI

Tax Inspectors
Punjab gets 6 weeks to issue appointment letters
New Delhi, March 5
The Supreme Court today directed the Punjab government to appoint within six weeks all candidates who had cleared the written test and interview in 1999 for the post of inspectors in the Excise and Taxation Department and had challenged the state’s refusal to take them.

Real-life Munnabhais held, let off
Patna, March 5
Altogether 42 MBBS students, including three girls of two different private medical colleges in Bihar, were taken into custody by the police from an examination centre at Purnea while they were playing real-life “Munnabhais” to clear their exams on Wednesday.





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Cong-SP deal ‘not yet over’
Mulayam to meet Sonia soon

Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 5
A day after the Congress sidestepped the Samajwadi Party by declaring 24 candidates from Uttar Pradesh for the forthcoming polls, the ‘now on-now gone’ element of the much-touted alliance remained very much at play today.

Despite the Congress naming SP rebels Raj Babbar and Beni Prasad Verma as its nominees from the state, both the parties said they were “optimistic” about the alliance. Digvijay Singh, the AICC general secretary and party in charge of Uttar Pradesh, clarified that the deal was “very much on”. Singh was rebuffing senior Congress leader Satyabrata Chaturvedi who had said earlier today: “Thank God, the unholy alliance is off.” “The alliance was never over,” Singh said.

The latest on the alliance front is that SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav would soon meet UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi to fix the contours of the deal. Only today, UP Congress head Rita Bahuguna spoke to Yadav in Lucknow, mirroring rays of hope for the deal, which SP insiders describe as a “necessity”, not an option”.

“We won’t let this alliance break at any cost. It is a question of national interest,” said Mohan Singh, senior SP leader. For his part, Mulayam Singh had yesterday reacted sharply to Congress’ list and said he would go it alone if the Congress did not finalise the alliance soon.

Within the SP, meanwhile, there may be heartburn that the Congress has named SP rebels and other candidates it did not want - like Noor Bano from Rampur (as against SP’s Jayaprada) and Salman Khurshid from Farrukhabad.

“We had agreed to give the Congress 17 seats. They had been insisting on 25 from the beginning. They have also asked us for friendly fights on certain seats. Though we said there is nothing like friendly fights, we might eventually agree to the proposal. Which seats will be contested is difficult to say right now,” SP sources said.

In the midst of this, SP general secretary Amar Singh is ailing and is in a hospital in Mumbai. Back in the capital, SP leaders say the alliance was a must for the Congress. “If they don’t go with us, they will be reduced to five seats. If they go with us, the BJP will be reduced to five,” they claim.

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AGP denies joining NDA
Says pact limited to seat-sharing only

New Delhi, March 5
Soon after the BJP declared today that the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) has joined the NDA and announced a seat-sharing pact between them in Assam, the regional party’s chief denied joining the alliance saying the relationship is confined to sharing of seats only.

Earlier, BJP leader L K Advani, flanked by AGP chief Chandra Mohan Patowary and NDA chairman Sharad Yadav, said, “We have not been able to convert the polity into a two-party system but have ended the single party rule of four decades.

The AGP’s joining the NDA would go a long way in stopping further fragmentation of our polity.” Patowary, however, denied that the regional party has joined the NDA and termed the pact as mere seat sharing arrangement.

“We are not part of NDA. But we will fight elections together to defeat UPA. It is only a seat sharing arrangement with BJP,” he said.

Patowary also made it clear that both the parties would have separate manifestos.

According to the pact, the BJP will field eight candidates in Guwahati, Nagaon, Mangaldoi, Silchar, Karimganj, Jorhat, Dhubri and Diphu constituencies while the regional party will contest in six seats - Dibrugarh, Lakhimpur, Tezpur, Kaliabor, Barpeta and Kokrajhar.

Patowary prompted BJP President Rajnath Singh to say that though the saffron would be the major partner for the Lok Sabha elections, the AGP would be the “senior partner” for the assembly polls to be held in 2011.

When asked if the AGP had formally joined the NDA, Singh said, “Of course...they are now part of NDA”.

The AGP had joined hands with the BJP before the 2001 Assembly elections in Assam but parted ways after a defeat in the hands of the Congress. “We believe that the NDA can usher in a change, as Assam’s problems have been long ignored by the Congress and UPA. We hope that there will be an end to Congress as we want to see L K Advani as our next Prime Minister,” Patowary said.

Patowary highlighted that Assam, which is surrounded by foreign countries is fast becoming a transit point for “jehadis” and “extremists” and becoming a threat to the sovereignty of the country. Advani said the NDA had been “successful” in breaking the four-decade long rule of a single party (Congress) and establishing a “bipolar polity”. — PTI

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Advani plays safe, says Jinnah issue settled
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 5
If there is anything the BJP’s Prime Minister-in-waiting Lal Krishna Advani does not want to face on the eve of the Lok Sabha elections, it is his controversial reference to Mohammad Ali Jinnah - the creator of Pakistan. Advani had, four years ago, described Jinnah as “a secular man.”

While the BJP leader is no longer interested in talking about the Father of Pakistan, some non-saffron political parties are planning to make Jinnah an issue in the forthcoming polls.

Advani had on his Pakistan visit in June 2005 showered fulsome praises on Jinnah.

When the matter was raised with Advani, who was in Parliament for a function today, the latter appeared guarded. Asked if he would clarify his position on Jinnah now that he was projecting himself to lead India, which was divided on Jinnah’s insistence, Advani said, “I think the matter stands settled.”

“What I had said about Jinnah was based on quotes from Jinnah’s speech made in the Pakistan Assembly. There is no confusion on this,” he added, when reminded that many people, especially those in Punjab, had not forgotten the pangs of Partition and were confused about Advani’s opinion of Jinnah.
The matter may still occupy the RSS mind scape but Advani believes otherwise. Earlier in 2005, the saffron outfit had asked Advani to immediately retract his statement on Jinnah. The issue had snowballed into a controversy, with Advani resigning from his post in the party.

The stalemate was eventually resolved, with the BJP accepting the significance of Advani’s Pakistan visit but also rejecting the two-nation theory championed by Jinnah, who “led a communal agitation to achieve his goal of Pakistan, which devoured thousands.” Advani had then maintained he had not said or done anything from which to retract.

Four years later, he seems to be sticking to his stand. He had in fact quoted Jinnah’s speech, which said Pakistan was for all people. But when asked what Jinnah or any other leader for that matter would have said from a public platform except what was politically correct, Advani was silent.

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Left and Cong can’t coexist, says BJP
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 5
The BJP today said the Congress and Left can never coexist, given their antithetical ideologies. “The past alliance between the Congress and the Communists was surprising,” BJP’s prime ministerial candidate L.K. Advani today said in Parliament during a media orientation programme .

He wondered how the Congress-communist coalition worked under Manmohan Singh, whose ideas on economic reforms were dialectically opposite to those of the Left. “Anti-BJPism is the only thing common to these parties,” he said, adding the UPA would have been better off had it resigned on the nuke deal issue and sought a fresh mandate.

Also slamming the Congress for “undermining the importance of regional parties by asking the cadres to seek votes on the basis of its standing as a national party”, the BJP today said there was no neglecting the significance of regional parties in this era of coalition politics which is here to stay. UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi had in the CPP general body meeting in February had called upon the party to keep the focus national. “These are national elections. But our campaign strategy must emphasise that the forthcoming polls are for electing a national government…”, she had said.

Advani, however, chose to laud the role of regional parties, saying he had reservations only to casteist parties. “Regional parties work for the development at the local level. Let us not forget it was a regional party, the TDP headed by NTR, that eventually dislodged Congress from Andhra Pradesh,” Advani said, adding that the BJP would insist on consensus with the allies on the issue of Ram temple.

“We would prefer a consensus to legislation,” Advani said, when he was asked as to how the BJP would reconcile differences to core issues with the allies. In 1998 too, NDA allies had disagreed with three major issues close to BJP’s heart: the uniform civil code, repeal of Article 370 and the Ram temple.

Ten years down the line, the BJP is faced with the same challenge of recolciliation, with Advani maintaining that the party would do its best to evolve a comprehensive Common Minimum Programme (CMP). “Earlier too we had incorporated in the CMP the issue of minimum nuclear deterrence after the allies agreed upon it. We will take everyone along this time too,” he said, predicting a bi-polar coalition scenario in the future too.

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Sena-BJP agree on seat sharing
Shiv Kumar
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, March 5
The Shiv Sena and the Bharatiya Janata Party have decided to contest the forthcoming Lok Sabha by sticking to their old formula where the national party gets a larger share of the seats in Parliament.

According to party sources here, the final deal on seat sharing was cleared by BJP leader Gopinath Munde and Shiv Sena leader Manohar Joshi. While the BJP will contest 26 seats, the Sena will battle it out on 22 seats across the state. Both parties are giving finishing touches to the exact number of seats to be contested since the shape of nearly all constituencies in the state have been altered in the delimitation exercise.

Party sources said the process was completed today with the Shiv Sena bagging the Mumbai South and Yavatmal-Washim seats while the BJP gets the Kalyan and Jalgaon seats. Both parties will put out their final list of seats by this weekend, leaders of the two outfits said.

Even while the talks were progressing, BJP leader Nitin Gadkari sounded a sour note when he asked Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray to clarify on his support for a Marathi person for the post of the Prime Minister. “The Shiv Sena should clearly say if it is supporting a Marathi person for the post of Prime Minister. Earlier, they had clearly said that the Shiv Sena would back L K Advani for the post of PM,” Gadkari told reporters here.

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Venkatesh joins BJP
Tribune News Service

Bangalore, March 5
Dismissed member of the National Commission for Women (NCW) Nirmala Venkatesh today joined the BJP in Bangalore.

She was admitted into the party by BJP’s Karnataka Unit Mahila Morcha general secretary Mangala Sridhar.

No top state BJP leader was present when she joined the party at its office.

Venkatesh offered to campaign for the BJP in the coming Lok Sabha elections. She said she would expose the Congress and added that she was also ready to contest the elections if she was given a ticket.

Venkatesh was removed from the NCW after her submission of a report to the Union government after probing the attack on girls at a pub in Mangalore.

Venkatesh was formerly a member of the Karnataka Legislative Council. She resigned from the Congress following her dismissal from the NCW and participated at a Karnataka government-sponsored programme on terrorism here, which was attended among others by BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate LK Advani.

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Sanjay seeks SC nod to contest
R Sedhuraman
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, March 5
Actor Sanjay Dutt, sentenced to six years in jail for illegal possession of arms, today approached the Supreme Court seeking a stay on the conviction to enable him to contest the 15th Lok Sabha election and serve the people.

In his petition, Dutt, who has challenged his conviction and obtained bail from the apex court, cited as example the court's permission to cricketer-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu to contest the Amritsar LS seat despite a three-year sentence in a road rage case.

The petition, filed through counsel Hari Shankar, also mentioned his conduct during the trial by a TADA court and the political background of his family as valid grounds for grant of stay on the conviction and sentence. Further, he was convicted under the Arms Act, not under TADA, since repealed, it has been pointed out. Dutt recently joined the Samajwadi Party of Mulayam Singh Yadav following an announcement that he would be its candidate for the Lucknow constituency.

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PMK to decide on alliance soon
Tribune News Service

Chennai, March 5
Expressing dissent over the Centre’s handling of the Sri Lankan conflict, leader of the PMK, a constituent of the Union Cabinet, said his party would decide about its continuance in the UPA, at its general council meeting is to be convened within a few days.

A week after flaying Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee’s approach on the Sri Lankan Tamils issue, Ramadoss hit out at Home Minister P Chidambaram alleging that he had no concern for the island Tamils. “The Union Minister has immediately condemned the terrorist attacks on Sri Lankan cricketers and issued many statements. But, he is not showing similar interest in the genocide of Tamils in Sri Lanka”, he told reporters at Tuticorin, the native district of 26-year-old Muthukumar, who was the first to commit self-immolation demanding ceasefire in Sri Lanka.

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Poll Symbol
Notice to EC on Chiru’s plea
Suresh Dharur
Tribune News Service

Hyderabad, March 5
The Andhra Pradesh High Court today issued a notice to the Election Commission (EC) in connection with a fresh appeal by actor-turned-politician Chiranjeevi’s Praja Rajyam Party, seeking allotment of common poll symbol for its candidates contesting the next month’s elections.

Admitting the PRP’s petition, the court issued the notice and asked the poll panel to file its counter before March 16, when the matter would come up for hearing.

After the EC rejected its request for a common symbol, the fledgling party moved the high court again, seeking relief.

Based on an earlier petition, the court had directed the EC to reconsider its decision not to allot a common symbol for six-month-old party. However, the commission stuck to its decision and conveyed to the PRP early this week that the amended rules pertaining to symbols did not permit allotment of a common symbol.

As per the rules, a political outfit will be recognised as a state-level party and allotted a common symbol for its candidates only if it has secured at least six per cent of the total votes polled in the state and won a minimum of two Assembly seats.

However, the PRP, floated by the matinee idol of Telugu cinema in August last year, is yet to face elections.

Under the provisions of the Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) (Amendment) Order 2005, a political party, which has not contested any election is not entitled for a common symbol.

As per the existing electoral rules, the PRP is only a registered party but not a recognised party. If it fails to break the logjam over the symbol issue, it will be a virtual nightmare for its candidates contesting the next month’s elections as each one of them will have to choose from the available free symbols.

The EC’s order had triggered panic in the actor’s camp as the absence of a common symbol could prove disastrous for the party, which is hoping to capture power in the state on the twin planks of change and social justice.

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EC receives several complaints
Tribune News Service

Lucknow, March 5
The visiting EC team has received several complaints regarding the misuse of government machinery and bureaucrats too close to the ruling party, but the EC would make their independent enquiry before taking any action stated CEC N Gopalaswami.

Addressing a press conference at the conclusion of the two--day visit to the state along with the ECs Navin Chawla and S.Y. Quraishi said that the issues raised by the political parties mainly relating to the violation of the model code of conduct. “They have been assured that things will fall into place in a day or two”, said Gopalaswami.

Today the EC team had a day long review meeting with the district magistrates, SPs, DIGs and Commissioners where all poll related preparations were examined.

The political parties had also requested for central forces as far as possible and minimum use of the state police.

He said as the coverage of the photo identity card was still not 100 percent in the state the political parties have demanded the acceptance of other documents for identity proof. “We would consider this demand when the time comes”, said the CEC.

Responding to a question regarding the BSP candidate in Sultanpur opening displaying arms during an election procession the CEC assured he would look into the complaint.

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Tax Inspectors
Punjab gets 6 weeks to issue appointment letters
R Sedhuraman
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, March 5
The Supreme Court today directed the Punjab government to appoint within six weeks all candidates who had cleared the written test and interview in 1999 for the post of inspectors in the Excise and Taxation Department and had challenged the state’s refusal to take them.

A Bench of Justices Lokeshwar Singh Panta and B Sudershan Reddy issued the order after counsel for both sides agreed that the model code of conduct, in force because of the April 16-May 13 Lok Sabha elections, would not come in the way of their appointments.

Incidentally, it was the poll code that had stalled their appointments in December 2001 and even after the assembly elections they were not taken as the Amarinder Singh government that came to power imposed a ban on all fresh recruitments, citing financial crunch and the need for austerity as reasons.

Today, the apex court also set aside the Punjab and Haryana High Court verdict that had accepted the government’s stand and refused to entertain the successful candidates who had approached the HC.

In its order, the SC Bench observed there was no dispute on the fact that the state government had revived the frozen posts of inspectors by its February 10, 2006 order. In view of this, all candidates who were successful in the tests and interviews and had approached the court through the main petition of Sunita Rani and others and subsequently through intervening applications, should be issued appointment letters within six weeks from today.

Punjab’s standing counsel Ajay Pal sought eight weeks for their appointments in view of the additional workload due to the elections, while P S Patwalia, who appeared for the petitioners, said this should be done in four weeks. However, the court decided to give six weeks time.

Pal said the government would treat it as “Holi gift” to the petitioners, to which the court said the petitioners’ were getting only what was due to them for long. Later, state government officials clarified that all those successful candidates, including those who had been placed on the waitlist in 2001, would be taken as the vacancies had gone up to about 160 now, from about 60 that existed when the recruitment exercise was undertaken.

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Real-life Munnabhais held, let off

Patna, March 5
Altogether 42 MBBS students, including three girls of two different private medical colleges in Bihar, were taken into custody by the police from an examination centre at Purnea while they were playing real-life “Munnabhais” to clear their exams on Wednesday. The cops seized 48 cellphones from their possession which revealed that they were getting answers to the questions asked in the exams through SMS. However, they were all granted bail after paying a fine. — TNS

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