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N A T I O N

50 pc vote in Phase III
Sikkim registers highest turnout of 65pc
New Delhi, April 30
Amid all the talk of a fractured mandate, nearly 50 per cent of the voters exercised their franchise in the third phase of the Lok Sabha elections in 107 constituencies spread over nine states and two union territories today. NDA’s prime ministerial candidate LK Advani and his wife Kamla show their marked fingers after casting their votes in Shahpur, Ahmedabad.
NDA’s prime ministerial candidate LK Advani and his wife Kamla show their marked fingers after casting their votes in Shahpur, Ahmedabad. — PTI


Shah Rukh Khan arrives with wife Gauri


Aamir Khan
Only 10 pc vote in Lalgarh
Stars, industrialists turn up
Voters brave the heat in MP
Voters boycott polling in 42 booths
Dakshina Kannada leads the way
Voting lowest in Lucknow
Shah Rukh Khan arrives with wife Gauri and Aamir Khan (right) to cast their votes at a polling centre in Mumbai on Thursday. — AFP, Reuters



EARLIER STORIES

A medical officer (right) gestures as he asks air travellers to fill up health questionnaires upon arrival at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi on Thursday.
A medical officer (right) gestures as he asks air travellers to fill up health questionnaires upon arrival at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi on Thursday. The World Health Organisation said India had not reported any swine flu case and the country was prepared to handle a possible outbreak. — AFP

Now, Rajnath Singh’s disclaimer
Party wasn’t consulted about Modi as PM

New Delhi, April 30
BJP president Rajnath Singh says the party was not consulted before its leaders like Arun Shourie declared that Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi could be a prime ministerial candidate in the next elections.

Cong hopes Karat’s reservation on PM will ‘melt down’
New Delhi, April 30
The Congress is hopeful that CPM chief Prakash Karat’s reservation on supporting Manmohan Singh for the prime ministership will soon “melt down” and the Left parties will eventually support Singh’s candidature by the time the Lok Sabha elections are over.

PF Scam
SC gives free hand to CBI
New Delhi, April 30
The Supreme Court (SC) today gave a free hand to the CBI to probe the PF scam allegedly involving judges of High Courts and District Courts and other staff.

Andhra HC clears ‘memo’ hurdle for ACB
Hyderabad, April 30
In a significant order, the Andhra Pradesh High Court has allowed the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) to proceed against corrupt IAS and IPS officials without prior permission from the state government.

Ensure political parties keep poll promises: PIL in SC
New Delhi, April 30
A public interest litigation (PIL) filed in the Supreme Court has urged the court to ensure that political parties implement their poll promises after coming to power.

Set up panel to solve water scarcity: SC
New Delhi, April 30
The Supreme Court has directed the Centre to set up an experts committee within two months to address “on a war footing” the problem of water shortage across the country which is persisting despite the fact that India has been a pioneer of scientific development.

AAI staff defers nation-wide protest
New Delhi, April 30
The Airports Authority of India employees today deferred their proposed nation-wide agitation from midnight following a “favourable” order from the Delhi High Court on their demands, a top union leader said.

Probe into TN train mishap
Coimbatore, April 30
CB-CID wing of the Tamil Nadu police today formed five special teams to investigate into the mysterious train mishap, which took place at Vyasarpadi Jeeva Railway Station in Chennai.

Sukhoi crashes, 1 pilot dead
Jaisalmer, April 30
A sophisticated Indian Air Force Sukhoi-30 MKI fighter aircraft today crashed near here, killing one of the two pilots. This is the first time that a Sukhoi-30 MKI, a frontline fighter plane, has crashed.





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50 pc vote in Phase III
Sikkim registers highest turnout of 65pc
Ashok Tuteja
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 30
Amid all the talk of a fractured mandate, nearly 50 per cent of the voters exercised their franchise in the third phase of the Lok Sabha elections in 107 constituencies spread over nine states and two union territories today.

According to reports received by the Election Commission here, the polling was by and large peaceful.

Political fortunes of 1,567 candidates, including Congress president Sonia Gandhi, BJP prime ministerial nominee LK Advani, former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda and Janata Dal (U) president Sharad Yadav, were decided in the crucial round of the voting.

At the end of the third phase, the polling has been completed in 372 seats.

Briefing mediapersons here this evening, Deputy Election Commissioner R. Balakrishnan said Sikkim registered the highest turnout of 65 per cent, followed by West Bengal where 64 per cent voting was registered in the 14 constituencies. Karnataka registered 57 per cent voting while an estimated 43-45 per cent of the electorate exercised its franchise in Maharashtra. The polling was largely confined to Mumbai and the adjacent constituencies in Maharashtra.

In Uttar Pradesh, nearly 45 per cent of voters cast ballots, which was almost incident-free. Other states and union territories involved in the third round of the voting recorded a polling percentage of: Gujarat-49-50, Bihar-48, Sikkim-65, Dadra and Nagar Haveli-60 and Daman & Diu 49-50.

Balakrishnan said the Anantnag constituency in Jammu and Kashmir recorded a satisfactory 30 per cent voting, despite a call for the boycott of the elections given by separatist groups.

Balakrishnan said the EC had ordered re-polling for 145 polling stations in Bihar, which will be held on May 5 and 9. The EC had made elaborate arrangements to ensure the smooth conduct of the voting exercise, particularly in Naxal-affected constituencies of West Bengal. Polling personnel were provided adequate security.

Poll pundits, meanwhile, maintained that the elections would throw up a hung Lok Sabha and that it would be a close race between the Congress and the BJP to emerge as the single largest group. They maintained that it would once again be a coalition that would come to power.

However, the Congress and the BJP claimed that they would get the numbers to form the next government.

Only 10 pc vote in Lalgarh
64%

Kolkata: In the first phase of the elections in West Bengal today, the polling in 14 seats in six north Bengal districts and three others - Purulia, Bankura and West Midnapore in south Bengal, passed off peacefully, excepting an incident of landmine blast by the Maoists at Purulia in which two CRPF jawans were injured.

According to state’s Chief Electoral Officer Debasish Sen on an average, the voters’ turn out was about 64 per cent. But at Lalgarh, the turnout was as low as 10 per cent. At Ghatal, CPI leader Gurudas DasGupta was locked in the fight against former justice Nure Alam Chowdhury of Trnamool Congress, while at Bankura, the CPM eight -time elected MP Basudeb Acharyya was fighting against the Congress stalwart Subrata Mukherjee, a former Kolkata Mayor.

CPM leader Shyamal Chakraborty also alleged that the polling was not free and fair in Darjeeling and at several places in Raiganj, North Malda, Purulia and west Midnapore. .

But the CEO said he did not receive any recommendation for re-polling in any constituency from the EC officials.

Stars, industrialists turn up
45%

Mumbai: Polling in the third and final phase of polling for the Lok Sabha elections in Maharashtra was largely peaceful. In all elections were held for 10 seats in Mumbai and Thane cities. The remaining 38 seats in the state were covered in the initial two phases of polling.

According to preliminary information released by the Election Commission nearly 45 per cent of voters exercised their franchise at the end of voting at 5 pm. Polling began on a sluggish note in the morning with less than 10 per cent turnout being recorded till 11in the morning.

Across the city, film stars, industrialists and celebrities turned up to vote as part of a campaign to encourage more people to turn up at polling stations.

Among the early voters included industrialist Anil Ambani, banker Chanda Kochchar, SEBI chief CB Bhave and HDFC chairman Deepak Parekh.

Meanwhile, police said minor incidents of violence have been recorded in different parts of Mumbai and Thane that went to the polls.

Voters brave the heat in MP
50%

Bhopal: Braving the searing heat, around 50 per cent of the electorate in 16 Lok Sabha constituencies of Madhya Pradesh exercised their mandate today in the second and final phase of voting in the state.

The Bundelkhand, Malwa and Chambal regions of the state voted today. Despite the Mercury hovering around 45 °C in most parts of the state, the voter turnout was more than expected. Little more than 2 crore voters were entitled to elect their representatives from among the 231 candidates in the fray in today’s polling. Barring some sporadic incidents of violence in the Chambal region, the day passed off peacefully.

Among the key personalities who were in the fray in the second phase included Union ministers of state Jyotiraditya Scindia and Kantilal Bhuria, state BJP president Narendra Tomar , Sumitra Mahajan and Satyanarain Jatia. There were reports of exchange of fire between rival political groups from the Morena constituency, while in the Bhind constituency; at least a dozen EVMs were smashed by unruly mobs that forcibly entered the polling booths.

Voters boycott polling in 42 booths
48%

Patna: The third phase of polling in Bihar for the 11 Lok Sabha constituencies today passed off without any major incident. However, some stray incidents of skirmishes were reported from a few polling booths. The police had to use batons at a few places and also open fire at five places to scare away the miscreants, who wanted to vitiate the poll process.

The over all percentage of polling went up a bit higher to 48 per cent. The voters also boycotted polling on altogether 42 booths in different constituencies for different reasons like lack of development and change of polling station etc.

The polling could not take place on eight booths in Munger as no one turned up fearing the Naxal threat to boycott the polls.

Addressing mediapersons after conclusion of the polling today, Principal Secretary (Home) Afzal Amanullah and DGP , DNGautam said 221persons were taken into preventive custody by the police across the 11 constituencies spread into 16 districts.

Dakshina Kannada leads the way
57%

Bangalore: About 57 per cent of the 1.55 crore electorate exercised their franchise in the second and final phase of voting in 11 constituencies of Karnataka, which passed off peacefully today.

Poll fortunes of 156 candidates, including former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda of JD(S) in Hassan, BY Raghavendra, son of Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa, who had taken on former Chief Minister S Bangarappa in Shimoga and state unit BJP president DV Sadananda Gowda from Udupi-Chikmagalur was sealed in EVMs today.

It was learnt that Dakshina Kannada topped the polling percentage in this phase with over 62 per cent, while Haveri was at the bottom at around 40 per cent.

More than 52,000 security personnel were deployed to ensure free and fair voting in Mandya, Mysore, Chamarajnagar, Davangere, Udupi-Chikmagalur, Shimoga, Hassan, Dakshina Kannada, Dharwad, Bagalkot and Haveri constituencies.

Voters in the Naxal-affected areas defied boycott call and cast their votes.

Voting lowest in Lucknow
44%

Lucknow: Rising mercury resulted in low, approximately 44 per cent overall voting for the 15 seats of the third phase polls in the state. In six districts however, voters boycotted polls demanding implementation of development schemes.

According to Chief Electoral Officer AK Bishnoi, no violence was reported from anywhere. Lucknow registered the lowest - 35 per cent - polling. Neighboring Sitapur and Jhansi in Bundelkhand saw the highest turnout at 51 per cent.

Interestingly, in six of the 16 districts where polling was held today a section of voters’ boycotted the polls citing local development issues confirmed Bishnoi.

These districts are Hardoi, Fatehpur, Mohanlalganj area of Lucknow, Hamirpur, Akbarpur and Jhansi.

In Rae Bareli where Congress president Sonia Gandhi is seeking re-election the polling percentage was 46.

Inputs: Subhrangshu Gupta (Kolkata), Shiv Kumar(Mumbai),Amrish Herdenia (Bhopal),Sanjay Singh (Patna), Shubhadeep Choudhary (Bangalore) and Shahira Naim (Lucknow).

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Now, Rajnath Singh’s disclaimer
Party wasn’t consulted about Modi as PM
Neerja Chowdhury

New Delhi, April 30
BJP president Rajnath Singh says the party was not consulted before its leaders like Arun Shourie declared that Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi could be a prime ministerial candidate in the next elections.

Rajnath Singh, whose constituency Ghaziabad on the outskirts of Delhi goes to the polls May 7, said categorically that there was no question of such a decision having been taken.

“Sawal hi nahin hota. Yeh kya bacchon ka khel hai? Aise hi keh rahen hain (There is no question. Is this child's play? These people are talking just like that),” Rajnath Singh told IANS.

Shourie had spoken of Modi as the next prime ministerial candidate after L.K. Advani. His view was subsequently endorsed by other senior leaders like Arun Jaitley, Ravi Shankar Prasad and M. Venkaiah Naidu.

But Rajnath Singh, who was speaking to this correspondent at his campaign headquarters in Ghaziabad, asserted: "Advaniji hain. Aur aagey bhi rahenge(Advaniji remains the party's prime ministerial choice and will continue to be so in the future).”

But Rajnath Singh said this was not the way to make decisions. "BJP desh ki bari party hai (The BJP is a big party)."

Ironically, it is the acolytes of Advani who have projected Modi as a "future" prime minister bang in the middle of an election campaign when Advani is the party's present candidate. And it is Rajnath Singh, considered Advani's bete noire, who is standing up for him.

Experts say the idea of the Shourie salvo was to further consolidate Gujarat behind Modi. They say the idea of projecting Modi as Advani's successor was to play on Gujarati pride and convert the electoral battle into a Modi versus Congress one.

An increase of MPs in the BJP kitty, they argue, would after all help Advani.

This time Modi has resorted to "social engineering" in Gujarat and fielded OBC candidates, but in many places the powerful and dominant Patel community which had been with the BJP has started to move away, partly in a show of unhappiness with the marginalisation of former chief minister Kesubhai Patel.

That the projection of Modi as the BJP's future prime ministerial candidate could lead to weakening of Advani's authority and may have also been aimed at preventing Rajnath Singh from positioning himself as the number two after the elections is a side story. — IANS

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Cong hopes Karat’s reservation on PM will ‘melt down’
Vibha Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 30
The Congress is hopeful that CPM chief Prakash Karat’s reservation on supporting Manmohan Singh for the prime ministership will soon “melt down” and the Left parties will eventually support Singh’s candidature by the time the Lok Sabha elections are over.

And not just this, the grand old party is also quite sure that there will be a UPA-led government at the Centre and the question of it supporting a “secular Third Front” government will just not arise. “There will be a confluence of secular forces, led by the Congress,” asserts senior party leader M Verrappa Moily.

But so far as the Congress and the Left in particular are concerned, there already appears to be some serious backroom politics in play. While Moily refused to comment whether back-channel discussions on the Left giving support to the Congress-led UPA government were on, the senior party functionary did say that: “He (Karat) has some reservations on the PM…They will soon melt down,” also asserting that as far as the Congress was concerned its position on Manmohan as the prime ministerial candidate remained non-negotiable.

Party insiders admit that it would only be natural for any political party to follow a strategy in the given circumstances. “The party is preparing itself for all eventualities. There is no dearth of top strategists in the organisation to deal with different permutations and combinations which will emerge after May 16,” they explain.

As the Congress strategists work on different post-poll alliance prospects, the Left is the foremost on their mind and the reason, party sources say, is simple. They feel that the Left walking out of the UPA, following the Indo-US civilian nuclear deal would have happened even if the deal had not taken place.

The Congress is quite confident that the Left’ support to the Congress is the only logical way that the confluence of secular votes can take place in the post-poll scenario. “We have travelled a long distance from the time the nuclear deal was finalised. They (Left) have also realised the importance of the deal and diluted their stand...They know it is in the interest of the country,” Moily says, completely ruling out the possibility of the grand old party supporting a “secular Third Front combination”.

“The question is of the stability at the Centre. We have tried (giving support to a Third Front-like combination) earlier. But a government should have internal stability as well. The country cannot afford any more such experiments because a similar experiment in 1996, led to the BJP coming to power in 1998,” Moily added.

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PF Scam
SC gives free hand to CBI
R Sedhuraman
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, April 30
The Supreme Court (SC) today gave a free hand to the CBI to probe the PF scam allegedly involving judges of High Courts and District Courts and other staff.

“There is no need for any direction to the CBI on the modalities of the inquiry,” a three-member Bench headed by Justice Arijit Pasayat said in its order.

The Bench, which also included Justices VS Sirpurkar and GS Singhvi, asked the government to provide additional manpower to the Central Forensic Science Laboratory (CFSL) to expedite work relating to verification of the handwritings in over 4,400 documents.

The direction came in the light of submissions made by Solicitor General GE Vahanvati, who submitted another status report prepared by the CBI, that CFSL had, so far, verified the handwritings of only 40 receipts and was expected to complete work on 1,300 receipts by the middle of next month. At this rate, the lab would take seven more months to finish the task, it said.

Arguing for the PIL petitioners, senior counsel Shanti Bhushan and Anil Diwan pressed for apex court monitoring the progress of the investigation as was being done in the case of 2002 Gujarat riots as people had lost faith in the CBI.

The Bench, however, observed that things were moving and as such there was no need for monitoring at this stage. The case would come up for hearing again in the third week of August.

Monitoring may not be required even later as the charges would be referred to the Chief Justice anyway for obtaining his sanction to proceed against the judges suspected to be involved in the scam, Justice Pasayat felt.

Justice Sirpurkar said at one time, there was a doubt whether an inquiry would take place at all. Now the inquiry was on which showed that no one was above law. But how the inquiry was done was not the problem of the apex court. Monitoring would require guidance and giving directions for inquiry against specific individuals “which we cannot do”.

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Andhra HC clears ‘memo’ hurdle for ACB
Tribune News Service

Hyderabad, April 30
In a significant order, the Andhra Pradesh High Court has allowed the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) to proceed against corrupt IAS and IPS officials without prior permission from the state government.

As per the present practice, the ACB needs to obtain prior permission from the government for any action against top officials.

A Division Bench of the high court, comprising Chief Justice Anil Ramesh Dave and Justice Ramesh Ranganadhan, has set aside a government order that makes it mandatory for the ACB to take permission from the Chief Minister before initiating any action against officers of the IAS and IPS cadre and heads of department equivalent to the Central services cadre.

The order came on the basis of a public interest litigation filed on behalf of candidates who had appeared for the excise constable test but did not get jobs.

With the court’s decision, the ACB will now be able to register complaints, organise raids, lay traps and inquire against any IAS and IPS officer without seeking permission from the Chief Minister.

Giving details of the case, petitioners’ counsel RV Krishnaiah said that in 1994 a group of candidates who had appeared for a test for excise constable posts alleged that though they were selected, they were denied jobs because of extraneous considerations other than merit.

They accused senior bureaucrats of the IAS and IPS cadre of indulging in corruption.

The petitioners contended that unless remedial measures were taken up at the top level, corruption at the lower level could never be curbed.

The PIL also stated that the government order, making it mandatory for the ACB to take prior permission before initiating action against the IAS and IPS cadre, had become an obstacle in the way of the agency.

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Ensure political parties keep poll promises: PIL in SC
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, April 30
A public interest litigation (PIL) filed in the Supreme Court has urged the court to ensure that political parties implement their poll promises after coming to power.

Citing several instances, the petition said the UPA government had failed to implement many of the promises in its common minimum programme. These included one-third reservation for women in Parliament and state assemblies, setting up of lok pal and rooting out corruption.

Senior counsel Ravi Kant Chadha, appearing for petitioner Tarun Rathi from Mumbai, sought an urgent hearing from a Bench headed by Chief Justice KG Balakrishnan. The Bench posted the matter for preliminary hearing on May 8.

All political parties should be directed to file an “undertaking affidavit” with the Election Commission, stating that they were bound by promises made in their manifestos. The Comptroller and Auditor General should certify the promises made by the parties, the petition said.

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Set up panel to solve water scarcity: SC
R Sedhuraman
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, April 30
The Supreme Court has directed the Centre to set up an experts committee within two months to address “on a war footing” the problem of water shortage across the country which is persisting despite the fact that India has been a pioneer of scientific development.

“In our opinion there is no dearth of eminent scientists in the field who can solve this problem, but they have not been organised and brought together…to do their patriotic and sacred duty,” a Bench comprising Justices Markandey Katju and HL Dattu observed in an order passed on Tuesday.

The committee, headed by the Science and Technology Secretary, would have as members the Water Management Secretary and scientists specialised in the field of solving water shortage problems. It would take help from scientists abroad.

The court would monitor the functioning of the committee that would submit a status report every second month to the Bench.

In states like Punjab, farmers were having a hard time finding ground water for their crops, while people in cities like Delhi were not getting water supply not even for half an hour, the Bench observed.

“Rivers in India are drying up, ground water is being rapidly depleted and canals are polluted. The Yamuna in Delhi looks like a black drain. Several perennial rivers like the Ganga and Brahmaputra are rapidly becoming seasonal.”

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AAI staff defers nation-wide protest

New Delhi, April 30
The Airports Authority of India employees today deferred their proposed nation-wide agitation from midnight following a “favourable” order from the Delhi High Court on their demands, a top union leader said.

“Keeping in view the high court as well as the ongoing general elections, we have decided to defer our proposed industrial action from midnight,” general secretary of the Airports Authority Employees’ Union MK Ghoshal said. Earlier, the union had threatened to go on an indefinite strike alleging the management was “transferring” staffers from Delhi and Mumbai airports.

Of the about 4,000 AAI employees at Delhi and Mumbai, around 3,000 have declined to join the GMR-led Delhi International Airport Limited and the GVK-led Mumbai International Airport Limited, which are operating the airports after they were privatised in 2006, as job security was not guaranteed to them by the private operators.

About 1,000 employees at these airports have either taken voluntary retirement or accepted transfer. Alleging that the management was “forcing” the employees of Delhi and Mumbai airports to accept voluntary retirement or face transfer as both airports were privatised, the union members have been staging a sit-in at the AAI headquarters here and across the nation for the past one week. — PTI

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Probe into TN train mishap
N Ravikumar
Tribune News Service

Coimbatore, April 30
CB-CID wing of the Tamil Nadu police today formed five special teams to investigate into the mysterious train mishap, which took place at Vyasarpadi Jeeva Railway Station in Chennai.

The teams, headed by CB-CID SP Arun and DSP Shajahan, began its probe on all possible angles, including that of sabotage. An Electric Multiple Unit (EMU) commandeered by “unauthorised” persons rammed into a goods train yesterday.

Commenting on the probe, CB-CID ADGP Archana Ramasundaram said, “It is too early to comment on the cause of the accident. If it is a mischief or a sabotage, it cannot be said now, but we are probing all angles since we are keeping our options open”.

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Sukhoi crashes, 1 pilot dead

Jaisalmer, April 30
A sophisticated Indian Air Force Sukhoi-30 MKI fighter aircraft today crashed near here, killing one of the two pilots. This is the first time that a Sukhoi-30 MKI, a frontline fighter plane, has crashed.

The incident occurred at around 10.20 am near Rajmathai village, about 70 kms from here, when the plane, the squadron of which is based in Pune, was on a routine exercise, Defence PRO Lt. Col. NN Joshi said. — PTI

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