SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI


THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE
TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
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N A T I O N

Women’s Reservation Bill
Just lip service, no political will

New Delhi, March 7
Even though political parties give lip service to the Women’s Reservation Bill, the lack of “will” has resulted in the fair sex not getting their rights which is necessary for an inclusive democracy. This was revealed at a panel discussion on ‘Election 2009 and Beyond: Women’s Agenda’ organised by Indian Women’s Press Corps here on the eve of the International Women’s Day.

Firm Stand
Fearless Karnataka flays moral policing

Bangalore, March 7
Volunteers of Fearless Karnataka, an umbrella organisation of various local women right groups, today urged the Karnataka Director General of Police to stop harassing women who may like to file an FIR with the police to record assault or molestation cases.

SC to environmentalist
Knock HC doors to save Nainital

New Delhi, March 7
The Supreme Court has asked an environmentalist to approach the Uttarakhand High Court to stop large-scale illegal constructions and felling of trees in Nainital to preserve the beauty of the town and the main lake by strictly implementing an earlier order of the apex court.

Advani NDA’s poster boy
New Delhi, March 7
This poll season, the BJP spin doctors have an important task at hand. The “India Shining” campaign managers are busy rolling out “Advani Shining” images. Enter any cyberspace and you have the party’s prime ministerial face beckoning you from all quarters, virtually beating ace actors with his increasing presence in the web world.


Nepalese women operate sewing machines during a training camp organised on the eve of International Women’s Day in Ahmedabad
Nepalese women operate sewing machines during a training camp organised on the eve of International Women’s Day in Ahmedabad on Saturday. — AFP



EARLIER STORIES

Actor Shahrukh Khan addresses the India Today Conclave — 2009 in New Delhi
Actor Shahrukh Khan addresses the India Today Conclave — 2009 in New Delhi on Saturday. — PTI

Spectacle for  star gazers
New Delhi, March 7
A spectacular phenomenon awaits star gazers tomorrow when Jovian planet Saturn will be in opposition to the Sun. An object is at opposition when the Sun is on one side of the Earth and the object is directly on the opposite side, director of Science Popularisation Association of Communicators and Educators (SPACE) CB Devgun told PTI. The result is that the object is fully illuminated by the Sun and appears disk-like, he said. The planet will be visible to the naked eyes, though a telescope will be helpful.

Cong seeks winnable seats from Mamata
New Delhi, March 7
After a shaky relationship with the Samajwadi Party, all is not well between the Congress and its latest ally Trinamool Congress as well. The Congress, struggling to formulate the nuances of its alliance with the Trinamool, has now decided to make its demand of getting “good and winnable” seats in its kitty in writing.

End infighting, Advani tells Jharkhand BJP
Ranchi, March 7
A worried BJP leader LK Advani on Saturday asked leaders of his party in Jharkhand to set aside their differences and gear up for the Lok Sabha election.

Code Violation
Jharkhand BJP chief booked

Jamshedpur, March 7
An FIR has been lodged against the Jharkhand unit president of the BJP, Raghuwar Das, and 11 other party activists for allegedly violating the model code of conduct by pasting posters and banners before a public meeting of BJP's prime ministerial candidate LK Advani here last evening, the police said today.

Alliance with SP may survive: Cong
Lucknow, March 7
While Samajwadi Party general secretary Amar Singh has claimed that the obituary of the SP-Congress alliance in the state has already been written, the Congress is still optimistic that it may survive.

EC to rope in actors to motivate voters
Patna, March 7
The Election Commission has decided to engage popular Bollywood stars in its campaign for motivating the electorate to exercise their right to franchise.

Cops booked for kidnapping, extortion in MP
Bhopal, March 7
The Madhya Pradesh police has registered case against two police officials and six others on charges of “kidnapping and extortion”.

Bickering strains Sena-BJP ties
Mumbai, March 7
The announcement of the electoral tie-up between the Shiv Sena and the Bharatiya Janata Party has been delayed as leaders of both outfits are busy trading allegations and counter-allegations and putting up last-minute demands. Though it was almost decided earlier this week that the BJP would contest 26 Lok Sabha seats and the Shiv Sena would battle it out in 22 of the 48 seats in Maharashtra, the two parties are in a tussle over the Kalyan Lok Sabha seat on the Mumbai outskirts.

Chiranjeevi’s party not to contest on NCP symbol
Hyderabad, March 7
Actor-turned-politician Chiranjeevi today ruled out the possibility of his party contesting the coming elections on the borrowed symbol of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), headed by Sharad Pawar.

Gold-plating project for Tirumala shrine 
Hyderabad, March 7
On the lines of the famous Golden Temple of Amritsar, the hill shrine at Tirumala in Andhra Pradesh would also acquire a glittering look with the ambitious gold plating project set to take off soon.

Come clean on ties with Cong, BJP tells Left
Thiruvananthapuram, March 7
Senior BJP leader Venkaiah Naidu today dared the Left parties to come out with a categorical statement that they would not have any post-poll tie-up with the Congress instead of trying to "fool" the people by "duplicity." "The Left leaders say they are fighting the Congress and BJP on an equal footing. But I am sure they are going to support the Congress after the elections. If they are to be believed, they should come out with a clear statement on what their post-election stand is going to be," Naidu told reporters here.

4 militants gunned down in Manipur
Imphal, March 7
Four Muslim separatists were killed in a gun battle with security forces on the outskirts of Manipur's capital Imphal early Saturday, officials said.

MLAs assault Assembly official in Assam
Guwahati, March 7
Employees of the Assam Assembly today laid siege to the office of the Bodo People’s Front (BPF) legislature party within the state Assembly building after two of the BPF legislators manhandled an official of the Assembly secretariat.

Two Dalits hacked to death in Tamil Nadu
Sankarankoil (TN), March 7
As many as two Dalits were hacked to death by unidentified assailants following a dispute apparently over offering worship in the local Muppidathy Ammam temple in Tirunelveli district.







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Women’s Reservation Bill
Just lip service, no political will

New Delhi, March 7
Even though political parties give lip service to the Women’s Reservation Bill, the lack of “will” has resulted in the fair sex not getting their rights which is necessary for an inclusive democracy. This was revealed at a panel discussion on ‘Election 2009 and Beyond: Women’s Agenda’ organised by Indian Women’s Press Corps here on the eve of the International Women’s Day.

Veteran BJP leader Najma Heptullah said even two decades after the Bill was first introduced in Parliament, it was facing blockades as the political parties though outwardly supporting it lack the will to get it passed. When the BJP, the Congress and the Left parties were supporting the Bill, why it has not yet been passed, she wondered. She called upon women to launch a concerted fight to get the Bill passed.

According to Heptullah, the speech of the first woman President of the country reflected that the UPA government’s policy for women was not getting much priority. India has the maximum number of political parties led by women, including the Congress, AIADMK, BSP and the Trinamool Congress, but when it came to representation of women - be it within the party or in Parliament - they were not having better record. She lamented that the Women Reservation Bill, which was introduced in the Rajya Sabha recently, was sent to the Standing Committee that did not submit its report.

CPI leader D Raja said the Left parties were totally in support of the Bil but they want systematic change to empower women and not remain confined to symbolic changes. He said both NDA and the UPA governments had chance to pass the Women Reservation Bill, but they missed several opportunities.

Stressing the need for more and more educated women to come in politics, Raja said the CPI had opposed the CrPC Amendment Act as it diluted some of the provisions that favoured women. Pointing out that women were still facing social obscurantism and right wing extremism as shown by the Mangalore pub attack, he said women must work for their rights.

The CPI was trying to give more and more representation to women, youth and Dalits into the party that would ultimately reflect in candidates, he said.

Hannan Moolah of the CPM said both UPA and the NDA tried to get a consensus on the Reservation Bill but did not pass it in Parliament that indicated their doubtful intentions.

Many political parties were indirectly opposing the Bill, he pointed out and urged women to refuse to vote to any political party unless they promise to pass the Bill in the first session of Parliament.

Suman Krishankant of Mahila Dakshta Samiti said getting equal representation in Parliament and state legislatures was the right of women and they should not beg for it. If the political parties refuse to give them ticket, they should fight it as Independents. — UNI

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Firm Stand
Fearless Karnataka flays moral policing
Shubhadeep Choudhury
Tribune News Service

Bangalore, March 7
Volunteers of Fearless Karnataka, an umbrella organisation of various local women right groups, today urged the Karnataka Director General of Police to stop harassing women who may like to file an FIR with the police to record assault or molestation cases. A large number of activists, a majority of them women, had gathered at the DGP’s office here today to protest against the ongoing “moral policing” by thugs directed at curbing the freedom of women.

“More than 70 attacks on women in the name of moral policing have been reported from all over Karnataka in the last six months for supposed violations of the moral code. There have been attacks on a dance school and on girls and boys from different religions who “dare” to go out together, according to a memorandum drawn up by the activists.

The memorandum, addressed to the DGP, mentioned the dates and locations of three incidents of attacks on women that took place in Bangalore city last month. In one incident on February 17 two men damaged a woman’s car in the afternoon and chased her with a stone forcing her to take refuge in a friend’s house. In another incident on February 24, a woman was attacked and abused by four men for wearing a pair of jeans.

Four days later, a woman journalist was attacked by two motorcycle-borne men at 10:30 at night. The victims of all three incidents were present at the demonstration. 

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SC to environmentalist
Knock HC doors to save Nainital
R Sedhuraman
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, March 7
The Supreme Court has asked an environmentalist to approach the Uttarakhand High Court to stop large-scale illegal constructions and felling of trees in Nainital to preserve the beauty of the town and the main lake by strictly implementing an earlier order of the apex court.

In an order passed earlier this week, a Bench headed by Chief Justice KG Balakrishnan gave the advice to Dr Ajay Singh Rawat, who had moved the court maintaining that the state government had "perhaps forgotten" the SC directions issued on March 9, 1995.

If such an application was filed before the HC, the HC "shall decide the same in accordance with law and in the light of this Court's judgment dated 9th March, 1995, passed in Writ Petition No. 694 of 1993," the Bench said, while disposing of Rawat's interlocutory application. The Bench, which included Justices P Sathasivam and JM Panchal, passed the order on March 3.

The apex court's order came after senior counsel Vivek Singh Attri, appearing for the petitioner, said multi-storeyed group housing societies and commercial complexes were coming up in the town with official connivance. Trees were also being cut in a big way in utter violation of the SC order and the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980.

The Bench said the petitioner would be at liberty to name necessary parties as respondents in the HC proceedings. When the apex court passed the order in 1995 in the TN Godavarman versus Union of India case, Nainital was part of Uttar Pradesh and the town has since gone to Uttarakhand, carved out of UP.

Maintaining that the compliance with the SC order "at this stage is negligible," the petitioner had sought a direction to the state for filing a status report on the implementation of the directions through a court-appointed Commissioner.

Under the seven-point apex court order, the state is responsible for preventing sewage water and horse dung from entering the lake. "Multi-storeyed group housing and commercial complexes have to be banned in the town area of Nainital. Building of small residential houses on flat areas could, however, be permitted."

The court had also asked the state to make illegal felling of trees a cognisable offence and restrict vehicular traffic on the Mall. Further, the fragile nature of Ballia Ravine should be taken care of. The cracks in the revetment of Ballia Nala should be repaired urgently.

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Advani NDA’s poster boy
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 7
This poll season, the BJP spin doctors have an important task at hand. The “India Shining” campaign managers are busy rolling out “Advani Shining” images. Enter any cyberspace and you have the party’s prime ministerial face beckoning you from all quarters, virtually beating ace actors with his increasing presence in the web world.

Visit any Indian or foreign website, especially media-related, and you have the NDA’s poster boy peering at you expectantly for votes. The stakes are high for Advani, who recently launched his personal portal on the lines of US President Barack Obama. But a specific portion of the website pertaining to Jinnah has raised many brows. Many feel, Advani should not have touched the topic at all.

The controversial entries are also not so pleasing for the RSS, which is yet to forget Advani’s praises for Jinnah’s “secular” role in his book. If that was less, Advani’s generous references to Jinnah have now found their way into his website. The BJP leader has dedicated an entire chapter to Jinnah under the caption, “Historical Pakistan Yatra”, which revives the “not-so-happy-memories” within the Sangh Parivar and secular circles. The entry says - “On June 4, 2005, Advani visited the mausoleum of Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, in Karachi. This was his first engagement upon arrival in Karachi, which is his birthplace. Advani inscribed a message in the visitors’ book at the Jinnah mausoleum: “There are many people who leave a permanent imprint on history. But there are very few who actually create history. Quaid-e-Azam Mohammed Ali Jinnah was one such rare individual.”

Advani further mentions Jinnah’s address to the constituent assembly of Pakistan on August 11, 1947 as a “classic, forceful espousal of a secular state in which every citizen would be free to practice his own religion”… With Jinnah still alive in Advani’s world, the latter’s recent assertions that the matter stands settled appear weak. The BJP, for its part, is wary of the issue, and is even treading the “Advani shining path” with caution, given Advani’s disapproval of the “India Shining slogan” for the 2004 LS polls. 

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Spectacle for  star gazers

New Delhi, March 7
A spectacular phenomenon awaits star gazers tomorrow when Jovian planet Saturn will be in opposition to the Sun. An object is at opposition when the Sun is on one side of the Earth and the object is directly on the opposite side, director of Science Popularisation Association of Communicators and Educators (SPACE) CB Devgun told PTI. The result is that the object is fully illuminated by the Sun and appears disk-like, he said. The planet will be visible to the naked eyes, though a telescope will be helpful.

Saturn will appear as a more bright disk with the ring system quite visible and distinct tomorrow when it is at opposition. The opposition will be clearly visible at 1:24 am on March 9 in Leo constellation.

To locate Saturn, stargazers should look for the brightest object in the eastern skies one hour after sunset and one can find a glowing Saturn on the horizon. It is best to view Saturn when it is highest in the sky so there will be less atmospheric dust and turbulence. — PTI 

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Cong seeks winnable seats from Mamata
Vibha Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 7
After a shaky relationship with the Samajwadi Party, all is not well between the Congress and its latest ally Trinamool Congress as well. The Congress, struggling to formulate the nuances of its alliance with the Trinamool, has now decided to make its demand of getting “good and winnable” seats in its kitty in writing.

Party sources say that general secretary in charge of West Bengal K. Keshava Rao has written to the Trinamool, saying that the Congress would not settle for anything less than three good seats, which include Birbhum and Krishnanagar constituencies, following a high-level meeting with Congress President Sonia Gandhi and senior leader Pranab Mukherjee. In Kolkota, while Mamata has been making the right noises that she was waiting for the Congress' reply on seat adjustment, she has also been leaking out the names of her candidates.

According to the informal arrangement between the two parties, it had been decided that the Congress would contest on 14 seats and Trinamool on the remaining 28 out of the 42 seats in the state. The Congress, which has six sitting MPs from Behrampore, Jangipore, Murshidabad, Malda, Darjeeling and Raiganj, had demanded at least two or three such constituencies from the remaining eight seats that would have a good winning capability.

Instead Mamata, whose party managed to get just one seat in the last general election, is interested in parting with only those seats that are known to be Left strongholds and from where Left candidates have won with huge margins in the past. In fact she wants to keep the 17 seats in and around Kolkota for the Trinamool.

The two parties may have decided to come together for these elections to throw a combined challenge to the Left but the past experiences between them have been far from pleasant. In fact a section of the Congress leadership was not in favour of going with the Trinamool, as Mamata had proved to be an unreliable partner in the past. 

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End infighting, Advani tells Jharkhand BJP

Ranchi, March 7
A worried BJP leader LK Advani on Saturday asked leaders of his party in Jharkhand to set aside their differences and gear up for the Lok Sabha election.

In a closed-door meeting with party leaders in Jamshedpur, Advani voiced unhappiness over reports of infighting in the party and statements issued to the media by local leaders, a party insider said.

The meeting was attended by dissidents, those cleared to fight the elections and state party president Raghubar Das.

Of the 14 Lok Sabha seats in Jharkhand, the BJP plans to contest 11. Many legislators are reportedly unhappy with the choice of candidates.

Dissension came to the fore on Thursday when a BJP worker, Vishnukant Jha, was beaten and stripped by members of a rival group at Jasidih railway station.

BJP legislators and workers are reported to have ganged up against five candidates: Nishikant Dubey (Godda), former chief minister Arjun Munda (Jamshedpur), PN Singh (Dhanbad), Ravindra Pandey (Giridih) and Sudarsan Bhagat (Lohardagga).

In Lohardagga, Jamshedpur and Dhanbad, the party has changed the earlier candidates.

In Jamshedpur, BJP legislator Dinesh Sarangi had fought the 2007 Lok Sabha byelection and lost. He threatened to quit the party after being denied the ticket this year.

When Arjun Munda reached Jamshedpur three days ago, no legislator welcomed him.

Three legislators - Raj Paliwar, Ashok Kumar and Tala Marandi - are unhappy over the candidate picked for the Godda seat. In Giridih too, legislators are opposed to the party candidate.

The BJP has high hopes of bagging many seats in Jharkhand although it won only one in 2004. In 1999, the BJP won 12 seats.

The lone BJP Lok Sabha MP of 2004, Babulal Marandi, quit the party in 2006 and resigned from the Lok Sabha. He later won the Koderma seat as an independent candidate. Former External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha will contest from Hazaribagh. Sinha lost in 2004.

Asked about the infighting in the party, state unit president Raghubar Das told IANS: "Everything has been sorted out." — IANS

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Code Violation
Jharkhand BJP chief booked

Jamshedpur, March 7
An FIR has been lodged against the Jharkhand unit president of the BJP, Raghuwar Das, and 11 other party activists for allegedly violating the model code of conduct by pasting posters and banners before a public meeting of BJP's prime ministerial candidate LK Advani here last evening, the police said today.

The FIR was lodged at the Bistupur police station yesterday on the statement of magistrate Ayodhya Singh.

The police said Das and some other party activists also protested the removal of the posters and banners which were removed as the model code of conduct had come into force since the annoucement of the Lok Sabha poll schedule on March 2, and no fresh permission was sought for sticking the posters or raising the banners. — UNI

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Alliance with SP may survive: Cong
Shahira Naim
Tribune News Service

Lucknow, March 7
While Samajwadi Party general secretary Amar Singh has claimed that the obituary of the SP-Congress alliance in the state has already been written, the Congress is still optimistic that it may survive.

Expressing hope that talks may well sort out the clearly intangible alliance, AICC general secretary and in charge of Uttar Pradesh Digvijay Singh, however, made it clear that if the need arose, his party was also ready to contest on all the 80 seats on its own.

Singh described their “different perspectives” on the notion of a ‘friendly fight’ in some of the constituencies as the main bone of contention. The Congress was clear that the alliance was possible only if the SP agreed to such a contest on 7-8 seats. The SP was completely uncompromising to the idea.

The Congress had offered a ‘friendly fight’ on the seats like Pratapgarh, Padrauna, Rampur, Farukhabad, Gonda, Fatehpur Sikri and Barabanki. Much to the displeasure of the SP, the Congress has gone ahead and announced its candidates on these seats.

“We are still prepared to talk but not through the media,” Singh said refusing to comment on statements being made by Amar Singh. “As regards the alliance, the Congress would wait for some more time before calling it a day. We are ready to contest on all seats if the situation arises,” he said.

Asked which parties would pay the price for the failure of talks to put an alliance in place, the Congress leader retorted: “It depends on the perception. However, there is no blame game from the Congress side.”

Giving yet another indication that talks were clearly over, SP president Mulayam Singh Yadav today announced the name of sitting MP from Etawah Raghuraj Singh Shakya as the candidate from Fatehpur Sikri against Congress candidate Raj Babbar. Till now the SP had not announced a candidate from there.

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EC to rope in actors to motivate voters
Sanjay Singh
Tribune News Service

Patna, March 7
The Election Commission has decided to engage popular Bollywood stars in its campaign for motivating the electorate to exercise their right to franchise.

Chief Election Commissioner N Gopalswami gave this information to reporters at a press conference here last evening. However, the CEC did not reveal the names of the stars the EC had shorlisted for this purpose.

The CEC, accompanied by the other two ECs - Navin Chawla and SY Quraishi - is here on a two-day visit to review the poll preparedness in Bihar. The CEC said some political parties had expressed their apprehension about convict-turned-politicians. They maintained that these politicians were now at large, out on bail, flexing their muscles to terrorise voters - particularly those belonging to the weaker sections.

The EC assured that such elements would be under strict vigil till the election process is completed.

The opposition in Bihar had also demanded from the EC not to deploy the Special Auxiliary Police (SAP) comprising of ex-servicemen appointed by the state government on contract basis.

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Cops booked for kidnapping, extortion in MP
Tribune News Service

Bhopal, March 7
The Madhya Pradesh police has registered case against two police officials and six others on charges of “kidnapping and extortion”.

The police officials had kidnapped an undertrial, a jail-escapee, and threatened his mother that he would be killed unless they were paid Rs 10 lakh in cash.

Umar Ali, who was in judicial custody of Bhopal Central jail on charges of rape, had escaped from the jail on March 3. When the fugitive reached Dewas, about 140 kms from Bhopal, he was caught by a police team led by Mohinder Kanwar, SDO (police), Sonkatch tehsil of the district, and Pramod Sharma, in-charge of Sonkatch police station.

Instead of arresting the escapee, the duo telephoned his mother in Bhopal and asked her to fork out Rs 10 lakh for the safe release of her son. When she agreed, she was directed to come with the money to a hotel in Sehore.

Umar’s mother, then, informed the Bhopal police and a team of cops in the mufti accompanied her. As soon as the money changed hands, the policemen pounced on the kidnappers but were shocked to know that they were senior officials of their own department. The team was told by Kanwar and Sharma they were conducting an “under-cover operation” against drug peddlers and the “kidnapping” was a drama enacted as a part of the operation.

However, subsequent enquiries revealed that their claim was hollow and finally a case was registered against them on Thursday. They are yet to be arrested. 

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Bickering strains Sena-BJP ties
Shiv Kumar
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, March 7
The announcement of the electoral tie-up between the Shiv Sena and the Bharatiya Janata Party has been delayed as leaders of both outfits are busy trading allegations and counter-allegations and putting up last-minute demands. Though it was almost decided earlier this week that the BJP would contest 26 Lok Sabha seats and the Shiv Sena would battle it out in 22 of the 48 seats in Maharashtra, the two parties are in a tussle over the Kalyan Lok Sabha seat on the Mumbai outskirts.

Though seen as a stronghold of Sena, the BJP has been eyeing the segment, much to the chagrin of the former. Adding to the heated negotiations is the Sena’s open flirting with the Nationalist Congress Party. Bal Thackeray’s endorsement of Pawar as a possible candidate for the post of Prime Minister hasn’t gone down well with the BJP.

Nitin Gadkari, the Maharashtra president of the BJP who had criticised Sanjay Raut, the Sena Rajya Sabha MP for endorsing Pawar, has now demanded that Thackeray should unequivocally back LK Advani for the PM post. Raut is the editor of party mouthpiece Saamna and is seen as the voice of Bal Thackeray. “The Shiv Sena’s support for a Marathi person for the post of PM is creating confusion among the cadres,” Gadkari told reporters on Friday.

BJP leaders who were suspicious of the Sena, feel the Thackerays must have made a secret deal with the NCP to back each others candidates and put their respective national allies at a disadvantage. Rather than apologising to the BJP, the Sena today demanded that the national party should make the compromises. Thackeray in an editorial in Saamna said the BJP should show a greater spirit of accommodation. “We are not eyeing the prime ministership.

Those who have set their sights on top posts, should show a greater spirit of accommodation," the editorial quoting Thackeray said. The Shiv Sena supremo is in hospital and Raut is widely believed to have penned the editorial.

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Chiranjeevi’s party not to contest on NCP symbol
Suresh Dharur
Tribune News Service

Hyderabad, March 7
Actor-turned-politician Chiranjeevi today ruled out the possibility of his party contesting the coming elections on the borrowed symbol of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), headed by Sharad Pawar.

The media reports earlier suggested that the actor’s fledgling Praja Rajyam Party (PRP) was contemplating borrowing the NCP symbol of “Clock” in the wake of the Election Commission rejecting its request for the allotment of a common poll symbol.

“There is no question of contesting on a borrowed symbol,” Chiranjeevi told reporters during his road show in Adilabad district.

Though the party had initially thought of exploring such a possibility, it had decided against it keeping in view the legal and political complications that might arise from such an arrangement, he said.

In case the party goes ahead with the borrowed symbol, its victorious candidates will technically belong to the party from which the symbol was borrowed and PRP may face an identity problem.

The poll panel had ruled that the amended provisions governing the election symbols did not permit allotment of a common symbol for PRP as it did not meet the mandatory requirements.

According to 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 6 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.

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Gold-plating project for Tirumala shrine 
Suresh Dharur
Tribune News Service

Hyderabad, March 7
On the lines of the famous Golden Temple of Amritsar, the hill shrine at Tirumala in Andhra Pradesh would also acquire a glittering look with the ambitious gold plating project set to take off soon.

The ambitious project is estimated to cost a whopping Rs 1,000 crore as nearly 100 tonne of pure gold would be required. The Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD), an autonomous body managing the affairs of the country’s richest temple, has constituted a three-member expert committee to negotiate with the companies that had participated in the bid for the execution of the multi-crore project. The interiors of the sanctum sanctorum of the abode of Lord Venkateswara would get gold plating.

Bids have come in from different places for the execution of the scheme, christened as ‘Ananda Nilayam Anantha Swarnamayam’, TTD executive officer KV Ramanachary said. As far as possible, the TTD would be trying to complete the project with the help of the gold and cash received as donations from the general public without dipping its fingers into the gold reserves.

“We will take the financial support of donors from all over the country and abroad to implement this mega plan,” TTD chairman DK Adikesavulu Naidu said. Utmost care would be taken to preserve the rare lithographic treasure available on the walls of the ‘Prakaram’, he said.

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Come clean on ties with Cong, BJP tells Left

Thiruvananthapuram, March 7
Senior BJP leader Venkaiah Naidu today dared the Left parties to come out with a categorical statement that they would not have any post-poll tie-up with the Congress instead of trying to "fool" the people by "duplicity." "The Left leaders say they are fighting the Congress and BJP on an equal footing. But I am sure they are going to support the Congress after the elections. If they are to be believed, they should come out with a clear statement on what their post-election stand is going to be," Naidu told reporters here.

He said the BJP would be encashing the “all-round frustration and disenchantment” of the people generated by the “failure” of the Congress-led UPA government on all fronts. "All sections of people, be it farmers, the common man or the youth, have been let down by the government. It had miserably failed to tackle terrorism," he said. — PTI

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4 militants gunned down in Manipur

Imphal, March 7
Four Muslim separatists were killed in a gun battle with security forces on the outskirts of Manipur's capital Imphal early Saturday, officials said.

A police spokesman said a joint team of police commandos and paramilitary Assam Rifles troopers led a gun battle with a group of militants belonging to the outlawed People's United Liberation Front (PULF) near Irilbung village, about 15 km east of Imphal.

“Based on specific inputs that a group of militants was taking shelter at a thickly forested area, security forces led an operation in which four PULF rebels were gunned down,” a police official told IANS, requesting not to be named.

The official said the militants opened fire on the security team and the rebels were killed in the retaliatory fire.“Two AK 56 rifles, several hand grenades and a few rocket-propelled grenades were recovered from the dead militants,” the official added.

The PULF is a rebel group formed by radical Islamists in Manipur in 1993 to fight for the cause of Muslims in the state bordering Myanmar.

There are about 200,000 Muslims in Manipur, a state of 2.3 million people. There are some 19-odd militant groups active in Manipur with demands ranging from secession to greater autonomy.

A number of militant groups have bases in Myanmar with Manipur sharing an unfenced border with the country ruled by the military junta. — IANS

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MLAs assault Assembly official in Assam
Bijay Sankar Bora
Tribune News Service

Guwahati, March 7
Employees of the Assam Assembly today laid siege to the office of the Bodo People’s Front (BPF) legislature party within the state Assembly building after two of the BPF legislators manhandled an official of the Assembly secretariat.

BPF legislators, Maneswar Brahma and Maheswar Bodo, physically abused Under Secretary Jyoti Prasad Baruah (56) after the official accidentally bumped on one of the legislators in the corridor of the Assembly building.

The highhanded action of the two MLAs infuriated Assembly secretariat employees who immediately laid siege to the BPF legislature party office, leading to chaos on the premises.

Senior police officials on duty in the Assembly complex tried hard to pacify the agitated employees who shouted slogans against the two BPF legislators. Assembly secretary Gauranga Lal Das said employees of the Assembly were pacified later after the intervention of the Speaker Tanka Bahadur Rai.

The two BPF MLAs later said, “It was a minor incident that the media tried to blow out of proportion as if we had committed a heinous crime. The matter was settled after we compromised with the official.”

The BPF is a political party of the Bodo tribe. The party was formed mainly by former militants of the now disbanded Bodo Liberation Tiger (BLT) after signing of the Bodo Peace Accord with the government of India in the year 2005. The party is the only ally in the Congress-led coalition government in the state.

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Two Dalits hacked to death in Tamil Nadu

Sankarankoil (TN), March 7
As many as two Dalits were hacked to death by unidentified assailants following a dispute apparently over offering worship in the local Muppidathy Ammam temple in Tirunelveli district.

The group hacked one K Paramasivan (27) when he was going to his village late last night, the police said today.

E Easwaran, (55), another Dalit, who was coming in a motorcycle with one Suresh, was also found hacked to death. Suresh managed to escape from the scene. The dispute over offering worship in the temple, belonging to Konar community, started last year, officials said. — PTI 

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