SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI



THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
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N A T I O N

Chidambaram, Pranab not keen on Home, MEA
New Delhi, May 19
Even as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi are engaged in hectic parleys on the formation of the next government, P. Chidambaram and Pranab


P. Chidambaram    Pranab Mukherjee

Mukherjee have told them that they are not keen on taking up the home and external affairs portfolios, respectively.

CPM’s first confession
Third alternative didn’t work
New Delhi, May 19
A defensive CPM finally took the confession path today, with the party admitting that the Third Front was not such a great idea after all.

Advani as Leader of Opposition
Sections of BJP resentful
New Delhi, May 19
Immediately after BJP President Rajnath Singh announced here yesterday that LK Advani would continue to be the Leader of Opposition in Parliament, an SMS started doing the rounds in BJP circles saying how the party had shown “impotence” and “lack of courage” by choosing Advani to lead the party and wondered how the RSS acquiesced in.





EARLIER STORIES

Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi along with party MPs Sachin Pilot (centre) and Naveen Jindal at the Congress Parliamentary Party meeting at the Parliament House in New Delhi on Tuesday.
Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi along with party MPs Sachin Pilot (centre) and Naveen Jindal at the Congress Parliamentary Party meeting at the Parliament House in New Delhi on Tuesday. — PTI

Sena boss severs ties with Raj
Mumbai, May 19
Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray in a statement released here said he was breaking all ties with nephew Raj Thackeray who broke away to form the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena. The senior Thackeray’s tirade followed the impressive showing of the MNS in the recent Lok Sabha elections, which damaged the Shiv Sena in 10 of the 12 seats it contested.

Agni-II missile test-fired
Balasore (Orissa), May 19
India today successfully test-fired its nuclear-capable ‘Agni-II’ missile with a strike range of upto 3,000 km from a launch pad off Orissa’s coast.

Former UN diplomat and newly elected Congress MP Shashi Tharoor with Priya Dutt after attending the Congress Parliamentary Party meeting in New Delhi on Tuesday.
Former UN diplomat and newly elected Congress MP Shashi Tharoor with Priya Dutt after attending the Congress Parliamentary Party meeting in New Delhi on Tuesday. Tribune photo: 
Mukesh Aggarwal
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi with family members and party leaders at Tamil Nadu House in New Delhi on Tuesday.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi with family members and party leaders at Tamil Nadu House in New Delhi on Tuesday. Karunanidhi is in Delhi to meet the Prime Minister and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi. Tribune photo: Manas Ranjan Bhui

10 killed, 8 hurt in Assam violence
Guwahati, May 19
Ten persons, including six militants, were killed and eight others were injured in separate incidents of violence that rocked twin hill districts of Karbi Anglong and North Cachar Hill of Assam today.

Four women shot dead in Assam
Guwahati, May 19
In a bizzare incident, unidentified gunmen killed four persons, all females, in the residence of a councillor of the local civic body, including three family members and a home tutor at Diphu in Karbi Anglong hill district of Assam this evening, sending a shock wave throughout the state.

India preparing Rs 500-cr rehab package for Lanka
New Delhi, May 19
Even as television channels flashed pictures of LTTE chief V Prabhakaran’s body, India announced that it was preparing another package of Rs 500 crore for rehabilitation of the innocent people displaced by the conflict in Sri Lanka.

Prabhakaran alive and safe: TN leaders
Chennai, May 19
Denying that Tiger chief Velupillai Prabhakaran had been killed by the Sri Lankan army, the leaders of the Sri Lankan Tamils Protection Movement, said "media reports on Prabhakaran are not true. He is safe and still with his people, in his land".


DMK allies deny LTTE chief's death

Navy commissions INS Airavat
Visakhapatnam, May 19
Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Sureesh Mehta today commissioned the Navy’s sixth Landing Ship Tank (Large), Airavat, into the naval fleet at the Eastern Naval Commands, IN Jetty here.

EC gives itself nine out of 10
New Delhi, May 19
The Election Commission today gave itself nine out of 10 for the manner in which it conducted the Lok Sabha polls and defended the controversial advisory to BJP to reconsider the candidature of Varun Gandhi after his "hate" speech.

Mayawati sacks 150 civic body chiefs
Lucknow, May 19
Venting her ire on her own party people BSP chief Mayawati has secured the resignations of approximately 150 heads and members of various state commissions and corporations (all political appointees).

Bloggers blame BJP for defeat; praise Cong strategies
New Delhi, May 19
Take it or leave it, the online community of free-flowing blogs, twitters, chat sites and websites, used these days across the globe, are the new message mantras. In the aftermath of the stunning win by the Congress, the online message is loud and clear for the BJP - Change tactics and re-connect to the ground. At the same time, Congress strategies are being praised.

Fan marries to celebrate filmstar’s LS poll win
Suri (WB), May 19
It was a promise kept. A die-hard fan of Tollywood actress Satabdi Roy got married without dowry as a part of bet to celebrate the first time MP’s victory from Birbhum constituency here.





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Chidambaram, Pranab not keen on Home, MEA
Anita Katyal
Our Political Correspondent

New Delhi, May 19
Even as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi are engaged in hectic parleys on the formation of the next government, P. Chidambaram and Pranab Mukherjee have told them that they are not keen on taking up the home and external affairs portfolios, respectively. Both are interested in the finance ministry.

Chidambaram had publicly admitted that he had been reluctant to move to the home ministry last year, when he replaced Shivraj Patil after 26/11 Mumbai terrorist attack. Similarly, Pranab Mukherjee was also reluctant to shift from defence to the external affairs ministry, after Natwar Singh was divested of this responsibility.

Sources said Pranab Mukherjee is learnt to have told Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi that he did not wish to continue as external affairs minister, as it involved a lot of travel and he was too old for it. He would prefer the finance ministry that was given to him when Manmohan Singh underwent a bypass surgery earlier this year. Mukherjee had presented the interim budget in February. For Mukherjee, it was a homecoming of sorts, as he was returning to this ministry after a gap of 25 years.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, however, is keen on inducting the outgoing deputy chairman of Planning Commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia as finance minister on the plea that he has the necessary expertise to steer the country through the ongoing economic crisis.

It is also being argued that the UPA needs an experienced leader like Mukherjee to handle the external affairs ministry at a time when the country’s neighbouring countries are in a state of turmoil. Similarly, the precarious internal security situation is being cited to persuade Chidambaram to continue as home minister.

The external affairs ministry, on the other hand, has a number of claimants. Kamal Nath is citing his seniority a successful stint at the commerce ministry for this plum portfolio. Kapil Sibal, Anand Sharma and Salman Khursheed, are also in contention. All three are lawyers and are not particularly fond of each other.

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CPM’s first confession
Third alternative didn’t work
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 19
A defensive CPM finally took the confession path today, with the party admitting that the Third Front was not such a great idea after all.

Under tremendous pressure from within to concede that certain obvious electoral miscalculations were made, the all-powerful Politburo, as an afterthought, today said that the non-Congress, non-BJP alliances forged in some states on the election eve were “not seen by people as a credible and viable alternative at the national level.”

The fact remains that certain units of the party (read West Bengal) had demanded a more comprehensive debate around the necessity of hastily dumping the Congress for forces that have, in the past, done business with the BJP, which the Left considers communal.

The matter was debated yesterday at the Politburo meet, forcing the party to admit today, although, sheepishly, that the secular alternative theory eventually backfired.

Not yet ready to fix individual responsibilities for CPM’s embarrassing defeat in West Bengal and Kerala, where it lost 25 sitting seats and 0.33 per cent vote share, the party today blamed “national and state-specific factors for its poor performance.”

It finally put the onus on state committees to come up with reasons for losses which the party’s central committee will later discuss to take corrective steps.

In every way then, the delayed Politburo statement befittingly mirrored the spirit of camaraderie within the CPM, which will eventually have to take some view on the accusations of narcissism being leveled on its top leadership.

As of now, the party is not ready for serious stocktaking, as was clear from the way it blamed more external than internal factors for its poor faring. Interestingly, the CPM said the Congress reaped the harvest of social legislations the Left got passed.

“What stood the Congress in good stead were some of the measures adopted by the UPA like NREGA, Forest Tribal Act and other social welfare measures which were pushed through under Left pressure,” a condescending Politburo statement read, further attributing party’s losses on Congress’ gains on account of the shift of secular and minority vote away from the BJP.

“The BJP has been rejected as it could not offer anything beyond its communal agenda combined with rightwing economic policies which the people had already spurned in 2004. The rabid communal rhetoric of the likes of Varun Gandhi and Narendra Modi dominated its election campaign,” said the party, blaming its poor show on other factors, except the one that mattered most-party divide on policy issues.

For the most part, today’s Politburo statement focuses more on the positions of Congress and BJP and the reasons behind them than on the CPM’s own faring.

“The Congress has won 61 more seats than 2004 and gained 2 per cent in vote share. The BJP has suffered a comprehensive defeat, come down by 22 seats and by 3 per cent vote share.

Thus the loss suffered by the BJP vote share has more or less gone to the Congress,” the communiqué says, not failing to remind the people that the two principal political parties together polled less than 48 per cent of the total votes, less than 2004 elections.

The statement ends on a self-congratulatory note, courtesy Tripura, the only red bastion left in India.

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Advani as Leader of Opposition
Sections of BJP resentful
Faraz Ahmad
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 19
Immediately after BJP President Rajnath Singh announced here yesterday that LK Advani would continue to be the Leader of Opposition in Parliament, an SMS started doing the rounds in BJP circles saying how the party had shown “impotence” and “lack of courage” by choosing Advani to lead the party and wondered how the RSS acquiesced in.

It read, “If the leaders and workers of the BJP are not impotent and eunuchs, then how the man responsible for such a humiliating defeat was again asked to lead the party and the opposition? How is RSS permitting suicide? Will the BJP be shut down after its current leader? Congress is ruled by a family but BJP by an individual. Ram help BJP and the slaves in BJP.”

Though no names have been mentioned, this is obviously aimed at Advani and is surely coming from Advani baiters.

It also demonstrated that notwithstanding Rajnath Singh and the RSS, there is considerable resentment in sections of the BJP leadership over continuation of Advani as Leader of Opposition.

Of course the ostensible reason extended by the party insiders is that there was no consensus among the Gen Next leaders over anyone and therefore the only way out till such a consensus was arrived, was to ask Advani to continue.

Murli Manohar Joshi had thrown his hat in the ring on Sunday. Then there is Jaswant Singh, Yashwant Sinha, Sushma Swaraj and even Rajnath Singh who are all elected to the Lok Sabha this time and are legitimate claimants to the post. But party insiders say that Sushma Swaraj is best suited to lead the team. She is young, articulate and being a woman is widely acceptable.

But simultaneously it is also well known that other leaders like Arun Jaitely, Rajnath Singh and Venkaiah Naidu fear Sushma’s growing charisma and will not want her to inherit Advani’s mantle for fear of becoming irrelevant.

Three RSS leaders, Suresh Soni, Suresh Joshi aka Bhaiyaji Joshi and Madan Das Devi who met Advani at his residence last Sunday, did urge him to step down. But he suggested a complete revamp including the party president. Since a new party president is due to be elected by January next, Sangh leaders agreed to wait that much more. Sangh sources claimed they were working for complete revamp of the party.

Notwithstanding all these claims, the process of cleansing has started in the BJP. Yesterday Uttarakhand Chief Minister BC Khanduri came to the capital owning moral responsibility and offering to step down. The party high command has reportedly agreed with him and advised him to resign and hand over the baton to his predecessor Bhagat Singh Koshiyari, who had queered the pitch for Khanduri.

Advani baiters are also alleging that the announcement on Saturday of Advani deciding to quit was also a charade. According them, sensing the pressure on Advani expected in the parliamentary board meeting, his confidants came with this pre-emptive announcement to forestall any possibility of any other leader suggesting this. They recalled how Narendra Modi had played the same trick in the Goa national executive over Gujarat anti-Muslim violence when the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee wanted him to quit.

These sources pointed out that when Advani supposedly decided not to recontest for Leader of Opposition position, there was no senior BJP leader party present with him, not even Rajnath.

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Sena boss severs ties with Raj
Shiv Kumar
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, May 19
Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray in a statement released here said he was breaking all ties with nephew Raj Thackeray who broke away to form the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena. The senior Thackeray’s tirade followed the impressive showing of the MNS in the recent Lok Sabha elections, which damaged the Shiv Sena in 10 of the 12 seats it contested.

Only on Monday, Bal Thackeray in a write-up in Saamna chided the Marathi-speaking people of Mumbai, Thane and Nashik for turning their backs on the Shiv Sena despite it having pitched their cause for more than 40 years. In his shrill write up, probably penned by his lieutenants because of his ill-health, Thackeray likened his nephew to Suryaji Pisal, a traitor in Maratha history who secretly allowed Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb’s troops to enter the Raigad fort captured earlier by Shivaji.

The Marathi traitors, Thackeray wrote, opened the doors to anti-Marathi parties like the Congress and the NCP in the six seats in Mumbai and Thane.

In his statement released late Monday and published in Saamna today, Thackeray accused his nephew of betraying the Marathi people. “The enemy of the Marathi people is also my enemy regardless of blood relations,” Thackeray said.

The MNS, which drew more than a lakh votes in each of the 12 Lok Sabha constituencies it contested directly contributed to the victory of the Congress-NCP alliance in 10 seats.

Raj Thackeray has now announced his intention to contest all 288 assembly seats in the September assembly elections.

The elder Thackeray”s statement came hours after senior Shiv Sena leader Manohar Joshi told reporters that uncle and nephew were in touch despite falling out politically. Joshi also expressed fond hopes that the Thackerays would unite for the assembly elections and thus avoid the Marathi votes from splitting.

However Joshi’s comments drew much flak from Bal Thackeray and his son Uddhav. Since then Joshi is keeping a low profile.

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Agni-II missile test-fired

Balasore (Orissa), May 19
India today successfully test-fired its nuclear-capable ‘Agni-II’ missile with a strike range of upto 3,000 km from a launch pad off Orissa’s coast.

The test of the indigenously built Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile missile was carried out from a mobile launcher at about 10.06 am from launch pad-4 of Integrated Test Range at Wheelers Island near Dhamra, about 80 km from here, defence sources said.

It was a user trial conducted by the army and scientists from Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) were present to provide the necessary logistical support, the sources said.

The trial of the missile was successful and the scientists would conduct a detailed analysis. — PTI

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10 killed, 8 hurt in Assam violence
Bijay Sankar Bora
Tribune News Service

Guwahati, May 19
Ten persons, including six militants, were killed and eight others were injured in separate incidents of violence that rocked twin hill districts of Karbi Anglong and North Cachar Hill of Assam today.

In a major crackdown on the camp of the outlawed National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB), the Red Horn Division of the Army gunned down at least six cadres of the outfit inside Doboka reserve forest in Karbi Anglong hill district in the wee hours today.

Army spokesman Col Rajesh Kalia said huge quantity of arms and ammunition were also recovered from the site of encounter. The Army, along with the Border Security Force (BSF), launched an intensive operation against NDFB and other tribal militants operating in the hill district.

Unidentified miscreants set fire to at least 10 houses at Chotomanglo village inhabited by Zeme Naga tribe under the Mahur police station in the strife-torn North Cachar Hill district early this morning. No one was injured in the incident as villagers had fled. However, in retaliation, suspected Naga rebels shot dead four persons belonging to Dimasa tribe at Nriambungalow at around 10.30 am when they were travelling in a vehicle from Maibong to Haflong, according to a senior official.

The killings of Dimasa tribesmen sparked a violent public protest at Mahur where a mob of tribal women ransacked the Mahur police station, accusing Binod Saikia, officer in charge, of masterminding the strife in the area. The OC was not in the police station at the time of the attack.

In another incident, suspected militants, belonging to Dima Halam Daogah (Jewel Garlosa) or Black Widow outfit, fired upon a goods train near lower Haflong railway station at 3 pm today, injuring eight persons, including five railway employees, two BSP personnel and one special police officer (SPO). The train was travelling from Lumding in central Assam to Silchar in south Assam.

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Four women shot dead in Assam
Tribune News Service

Guwahati, May 19
In a bizzare incident, unidentified gunmen killed four persons, all females, in the residence of a councillor of the local civic body, including three family members and a home tutor at Diphu in Karbi Anglong hill district of Assam this evening, sending a shock wave throughout the state.

Sources informed that the two unidentified gunmen barged into the residence of municipal councillor Apu Das at Ward number 3 in the hill town and opened indiscriminate fire, killing the councillor’s wife Manju Das, daughter Momi Das (15), cousin Juri Das (7) and home tutor Soma Roy.

The police is yet to ascertain the identity of the assailants, who escaped after committing the crime.

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India preparing Rs 500-cr rehab package for Lanka
Ashok Tuteja
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 19
Even as television channels flashed pictures of LTTE chief V Prabhakaran’s body, India announced that it was preparing another package of Rs 500 crore for rehabilitation of the innocent people displaced by the conflict in Sri Lanka.

Talking to reporters here, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee said the implementation of the package would be discussed by special envoys of India with the Sri Lankan government when they visit Colombo shortly. Indications are that National Security Adviser M K Narayanan and foreign secretary Shiv Shankar Menon will soon visit Colombo as the Prime Minister’s emissaries.

Mukherjee said he had a telephonic conversation with Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse yesterday during which he emphasised the need for a political solution to the ethnic crisis in the island nation to fulfil the aspirations of ethnic minorities, including the Tamils. “We are repeatedly suggesting that there should be a political solution, which includes devolution of power, participation in the elections and having full rights of the citizens of Sri Lanka restored.’’ This must, of course, be done while maintaining the territorial integrity of Sri Lanka and upholding its Constitution.

The minister said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had already offered Rs 100 crore for rehabilitation, of which Rs 45 crore had been utilised. The Tamil Nadu government had also offered Rs 25 crore for the people affected by the conflict in Sri Lanka.

The Sri Lankan issue also is understood to have figured during Manmohan Singh’s meeting with Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi.

Meanwhile, highly placed sources said India was considering seeking from Sri Lanka details on the killing of Prabhakaran since he was wanted in this country in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case. They said the forensic evidence of the killing was necessary since the case could not be closed until a confirmation was available.

India had on several occasions sought extradition of Prabhakaran from Sri Lanka to stand trial in the case but Colombo never made any promise to New Delhi to accede to the request.

“Whenever we sought Prabhakaran’s extradition, we were told by the Sri Lankans that ‘yes’ we will extradite him but only after we eliminate him,’’ a senior Indian official said.

While the TV channels were showing the corpse of Prabhakaran, the Sri Lankan authorities were unable to satisfactorily explain the circumstances in which he was killed and where exactly his body was found.

In fact, a website, ‘tamilnet.com’, espousing the cause of Sri Lankan Tamils, rejected Colombo’s claim about the killing of Prabhakaran. The LTTE chief was alive and safe and would continue to lead the quest for dignity for the Tamil people, it said.

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Prabhakaran alive and safe: TN leaders
N Ravikumar
Tribune News Service

Chennai, May 19
Denying that Tiger chief Velupillai Prabhakaran had been killed by the Sri Lankan army, the leaders of the Sri Lankan Tamils Protection Movement, said "media reports on Prabhakaran are not true. He is safe and still with his people, in his land".

The Sri Lankan government was claiming that the war had ended with the intention of preventing the entry of human rights representatives from the UN at a time, when the island navy was trying to annihilate more than a lakh Tamils trapped in the war zone, P Nedumaran, co-ordinator of the movement, comprising the MDMK, CPI and PMK said.

He said more than 25,000 people, injured in the attacks by the Sri Lankan army, had died due to lack of medical treatment and more than 20,000 people injured people, were fighting for their lives, without treatment.

The island government was not allowing UN aid agencies and the international media into the war zone and the government's claims could not be accepted, he said. He announced that a rally would be held on May 21, appealing to the UN, US and Britain to intervene in the conflict to save the people being killed by the island army. Nedumaran invited the AIADMK to participate in the rally.

Earlier, Nedumaran, held had a meeting with the other leaders of the organisation, MDMK leader Vaiko, CPI State secretary D Pandian and PMK leader S Ramadoss, regarding the latest situation in Sri Lanka.

DMK allies deny LTTE chief's death

Allies of the DMK, including the Dravidar Kazhagam, the parent organisation of the Dravidian parties denied reports on the death of LTTE chief Velupillai Prabhakaran. Leading a protest demonstration, condemning the genocide of Tamils in Sri Lanka, DK president K Veeramani said the island government had resorted to a false propaganda that Prabhakaran was killed. Since, Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapakse had killed thousands of Tamil civilians, the United Nations should take steps to try him for war crimes in the international court of justice, he demanded. Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi leader Thol Thirumavalavan, who participated in the demonstration, said there were several reports on the death of Prabhakaran in the past, which had turned out to be false. Pleading with the island government for the safety of Tamils would not be useful and the Centre should take strong measures to make Sri Lankan listen, he added.

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Navy commissions INS Airavat

Visakhapatnam, May 19
Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Sureesh Mehta today commissioned the Navy’s sixth Landing Ship Tank (Large), Airavat, into the naval fleet at the Eastern Naval Commands, IN Jetty here.

“The Navy would build 32 warships and six submarines using indigenous technology by the year 2012,” Mehta told reporters on the occasion.

Previously named as Yard 3016 in March 06, the LST was re-christened INS Airavat today. It was formally handed over to the Navy on March 30 this year at Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers Limited, Kolkata.

As a platform designed for amphibious operations against the enemy, Airavat is a further upgrade on the Magar Class (the First LST (L)) in her suite of weapons, sensors and indigenous content, the Navy has said in a release.

With a significantly enhanced weapon package, latest control systems and better habitability conditions, Airavat delivers considerable punch and amphibious capabilities to the fighting prowess of the Navy, it has said.

The ship can carry 10 Main Battle Tanks, 11 Combat Trucks and 500 Troops and has a considerable range and endurance at sea. Besides undertaking amphibious operations, the ship is a potent assault platform capable of operating both Seaking 42C and the indigenous Dhruv helicopters.

Airavat is fitted with two indigenous WM 18A rocket launchers to support successful amphibious operations.

The threat from air is dealt with through two indigenous CRN 91 Anti-Aircraft Guns auto-controlled by Optronic Sights and shoulder-launched IGLA Surface-to-Air Missiles. It also has soft-kill ability through Chaff Rockets, which can be used to clutter the sensory inputs of an incoming energy aircraft or missile, the Navy has said.

The ship is also fitted with Remote Propulsion Control, Battle Damage Control System and Automated Power Management System. These are fully integrated, microprocessor based, digital control systems for providing control and for monitoring ships machinery and systems, it has said.

Airavat also has a microprocessor based anti-roll Flume Stabilisation System and smoke curtains to impede spreading of smoke and toxic gases in case of fire on board. In addition, the ship can act as a fleet tanker through stern refueling of other naval vessels and as a hospital ship. — PTI

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EC gives itself nine out of 10

New Delhi, May 19
The Election Commission today gave itself nine out of 10 for the manner in which it conducted the Lok Sabha polls and defended the controversial advisory to BJP to reconsider the candidature of Varun Gandhi after his "hate" speech.

Expressing satisfaction over the conduct of the Lok Sabha polls in five phases and spread over a month, Election Commissioner S Y Quraishi said "I would give nine out of 10... the one I am deducting is because some voters did not turn up".

Defending the EC advisory to BJP to reconsider its decision to field Varun as its candidate from Pilibhit, he told Karan Thapar's 'India Tonight' programme on the CNBC that the electoral body could have even have given a direction to the party on the issue.

"We could have given a direction. We sent another advisory to all political parties to read the model code. Of course, the code was prepared by them. We advise them to follow it in letter and spirit," he said.

The EC's advisory had been sent after it took cognizance of the alleged "hate" speeches made by Varun in Pilibhit in March. He was booked under NSA and the order was withdrawn by the Mayawati government earlier this month following a direction from the Supreme Court.

Coming out strongly against exit and opinion polls, he said there are "manipulated" and should not be permitted. "We believe that exit polls and opinion polls are manipulated. They do influence free and fair polls and every political party opposed them," Quraishi said.

The Election Commissioner said "Bunching the elections together in naxal-affected areas was no mistake. That scheduling was a master stroke." — PTI

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Mayawati sacks 150 civic body chiefs
Shahira Naim
Tribune News Service

Lucknow, May 19
Venting her ire on her own party people BSP chief Mayawati has secured the resignations of approximately 150 heads and members of various state commissions and corporations (all political appointees).

This is her first knee-jerk act of retribution after her party’s dismal performance in the Lok Sabha polls that has reduced the BSP to the third position (20 seats) in the state after the SP got 23 and the Congress 21 seats.

During the last two years, Mayawati had legislated to hugely expand the membership of various commissions from seven to often 17 and 19 members just to reward party coordinators and close associates by offering them the perk of office, despite criticism.

For example, advisor Satish Mishra’s brother was made the head of the State Pollution Control Board and his sister the head of the state’s Women Commission.

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Bloggers blame BJP for defeat; praise Cong strategies
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 19
Take it or leave it, the online community of free-flowing blogs, twitters, chat sites and websites, used these days across the globe, are the new message mantras. In the aftermath of the stunning win by the Congress, the online message is loud and clear for the BJP - Change tactics and re-connect to the ground. At the same time, Congress strategies are being praised.

With almost everybody of the under-40 generation being on the Net every day, their voice is on the cyber-street of interconnected computers. Numerous websites and blogs, some of them, claiming to be pro-BJP, are also now carrying detailed analysis.

A site “wat blog” is running an online poll to find out if a “bad online strategy” led to the BJP defeat? Another blogger blames negative impressions created by Narendra Modi and Varun Gandhi for the defeat.

A comment on the website “friends of the BJP” goes like this: “There was too much negative portrayal of the Congress and Manmohan Singh done by the BJP while there was none to match that in the media. In the end, the public perception was that the PM was an honest man.” Using words from marketing strategy, the writer goes on to say, “Unless you have a strong hook on the negative of the opponent as in Bengal, you can never win a position or marketing battle anywhere”.

“I don’t think the common man knew what the BJP stood for. Was it Hindutva, economy, price control, security or statewise issues?” opines the writer as he identifies himself as “very senior marketing professional”. He goes on to, grudgingly, praise Rahul Gandhi’s work.

The website said, “The BJP did not do particularly well in many urban areas across India”. Another comment on the site says “The results are not surprising to me at all”.

Every Muslim voted tactically to defeat the BJP. The writer calls the Left parties the pall-bearers of the Congress in the previous regime.

A writer on another blog says the quality of the BJP’s campaign was woeful. The Congress spent a huge amount of money on TV channels, which had the maximum impact. The lack of youthful faces hurts and the party needs to re-connect with the youth to wean them away from Rahul Gandhi.

Another writer says the media has always been hostile to the BJP. The party, suggests the writer, needs to invest in media channels. Another writer suggests that the BJP should boycott all TV channels while another one says the BJP should debate on national issues only.

Another writer suggests “no communal rhetoric please”. Keep the RSS and VHP out of the BJP. The RSS can play a constructive role by grooming individuals with strong nationalistic outlook and discipline and eventually giving them to the BJP. The RSS needs to modernise itself and catch the imagination of the youth, says another writer while suggesting, “Advaniji should continue to lead as opposition leader for a year, and in the process groom another, younger generation leader to take on that role”. Leaders should visit villages and focus on rural areas and not just aim at the urban elite.

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Fan marries to celebrate filmstar’s LS poll win

Suri (WB), May 19
It was a promise kept. A die-hard fan of Tollywood actress Satabdi Roy got married without dowry as a part of bet to celebrate the first time MP’s victory from Birbhum constituency here.

“I will shave my head if she loses and will get married the very next day of her win,” Seikh Kamrul, a rickshaw puller of Dakhalbati had challenged his friends in the run-up to the Lok Sabha polls.

While he was enamoured by the Trinamool Congress’ star candidate, his friends had doubted if Roy could manage to win in her first brush with politics.

As soon as the result were out in Roy’s favour, Kamrul’s friends Lalan, Makim, Kaji and other villagers reminded him of the “bet”. Kamrul agreed to marry.

His family immediately sent a word to the guardians of Sahina from neighbouring Dadpur village, whom Kamrul had seen three years ago.

The alliance had not materialised as the bride’s father, Jakir Ali, could not arrange the dowry demanded by Kamrul’s family, one of his friends said.

On Sunday evening, Kamrul’s friends went to Ali’s house and asked him if he had been able to marry off Sahina. Jakir said his fourth daughter, Sahina, was still unmarried for want of money. “I asked Sahina’s hand,” Kamrul said. — PTI

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