THE man who has to bear the cross of belling RJD supremo Laloo Yadav in his own sanctum sanctorum for the second time in a span of less than two years has had to cancel his hectic schedule, thanks to 48 hours of deluge. Meet Sharad Yadav, a key player in Madhepura’s battle of the ballot.
Despite the uncertainty of the weather, he has, however, focused on certain things — the intrinsic importance of the poll in the Madhepura to the socio-politics of Bihar, for one, and his own role in it. His conversation is smattered liberally with references to BP Mandal, Acharya Kripalani, Jaiprakash Narain and Karpoori Thakur to drive home his own pedigreed socialist credentials as much as that of Madhepura.
Along with the impending results of three other party colleagues in the current elections — Ram Vilas Paswan in Hajipur, Nitish Kumar in Barh and George Fernandes in Nalanda — the election in Madhepura holds the key to the very direction that the socio-politics of the state will take in the aftermath.
Not surprisingly, the campaign count-down to the polling day here has been described firmly by rival Laloo Yadav as a “war and not a battle”. The poll in the nodal and extremely sensitive seat, undoubtedly, is a do-or-die battle for both Yadavs, once friends and compatriots in the socialist struggle and Sharad Yadav is stingingly aware that he cannot afford to lose the war.
The intensity of the rivalry this time was indicated to some extent when Ram Lakhan Singh Yadav — in pre-Laloo Yadav times the tallest leader of the community and a man who has reason to wield his own axe against the RJD chief — campaigned for Sharad Yadav here although he is with the Bihar Jan Congress.
The JD(U) chief is banking heavily on his familiarity with the electorate to veto any charge that on account of his party’s alliance to the BJP, the minorities (who, at close to 70,000 voters, are part of Laloo Yadav’s MY vote-base) will not shun him. Some evidence of the split in this community was apparent in Birki on September 24, when Laloo Yadav was ferried to a rally organised by minority voters for the JD(U) man. The RJD supremo had to bear the ignominy of being booed out although he referred, having realised his mistake, to Sharad Yadav as his `mentor.’ While that is a plus point, Sharad Yadav needs a sizeable split in the community voters on October 3.
Yadavs, the other pillar of the MY votebank, form a stupendous four lakh out of the close to 10 lakh electorate in the constituency, a serious cause for worry to the JD(U) leader and he desperately needs to orchestrate a significant split here too.
The Ram Lakhan card is expected to help sharpen the divisions in the community as the Nitish Kumar card is expected to rake in the 1.5 lakh non-Yadav OBC votes into his kitty. Holding up its end, the BJP is expected to help with the two-lakh odd Rajput and Brahmin votes.
Desperate to add the cutting edge to his campaign this time, Sharad Yadav has made some structural changes to his 1998 exercise by trying to shake off the impression that he is only capable of wooing the `intellectuals’ even among his own community.
Apart from pointedly raking up the development issue to trounce Laloo Yadav, Sharad Yadav has taken the battle to the hub of the caste question. “Caste is an issue of importance only in marriages, not in elections,” he stresses adding,
“I tell them a person’s vote is as sacrosanct as a daughter’s honour. It is to be used as a weapon against unemployment, poverty, illiteracy.”
But the JD (U) chief has some crucial overt and covert factors working against him in his do-or- die battle against the RJD supremo, for whom the stakes are far higher. For one, five of the six assembly seats here are with the RJD and only Alamnagar with the JD(U). Three of the RJD men are also ministers in the state cabinet. In 1998, the JD did well in only two assembly seats, Alamnagar and Udha Kishanganj and that is a performance that Sharad Yadav will have to bend over backwards to improve.
Sonbarsa MLA and minister for tourism, Ashok Kumar Singh, who secured a 50,000 winning margin over Sharad Yadav in 1988, is likely to rake in the Rajput votes for Laloo Yadav by the bushelfuls.
To boot, the RJD chief has strategically replaced the sitting MP in nextdoor Saharsa, Anup Lal Yadav, with a new man from Sonbarsa Raj (which falls in Saharsa district), Suryanarayan Yadav. This move is expected to shore up the Yadav clan votes and seal it against any significant poaching at both ends, given that the RJD chief can ill afford to lose the seat next-door to the JD(U)’s Dineshchandra Yadav.
The covert factor in this key seat, as in several others in any election in Bihar, is that of violence or the three Ms: `money, musclemen and mafia’. Repoll was ordered in more than a hundred booths in the RJD-ruled assembly seats in Madhepura in 1998. As if that were not enough, the state finance minister is charged with terrorising the voters in Saharsa by openly associating himself with noted criminal from the region, Pappu Dev, a Bhumihar.
A similar charge is levelled against the RJD leaders in Madhepura. Not surprisingly, Bhumihar hotel owner Ashok Sharma, tellingly echoing other uppercaste voters in Madhepura, says emphatically, “If its a fair election process, Sharad Yadav stands a chance of winning. Not otherwise.”
There are indications, though, of the underlying tensions among the JD(U) fraternity when Sharad Yadav refers to Dalit leader Ram Vilas Paswan as a relative junior in the socialist VIP roll-call in the state. Mushahars outnumber Dussauds among the 1.5 lakh Dalit voters in the constituency. This has underlined the note of worry for Sharad Yadav since the former, even in the 1998 elections, were seen as Laloo Yadav loyalists who voted largely under the direction of the powerful Yadavs except where the presence of the Left and the ultra-Left was prominent.
Krishna govt shifts focus from IT to farmers – Banglore
IN A sharp deviation from its overemphasis on IT during its first year in office, the S M Krishna ministry has sought to refocus its attention to farmers with a promise to come out with new initiatives for the welfare and well-being of farmers and their families in the state’s forthcoming budget.
Making use of the opportunity of the customary governor’s address to the joint session of state legislature, the Krishna ministry has tried to reach out the farmers by addressing their concerns on the sudden crash in prices of various agicultural commodities and the post-WTO uncertainties.
In tune with the Congress party’s recent attempts to woo the farming community, the government has also urged the Centre to bring a white paper on various issues pertaining to agriculture and convene a national development council meeting to enable the chief ministers to discuss and help formulate a comprehensive farm policy with emphasis on marketing agricutlural produce.
Karnataka governor V S Rama Devi, in her 31-page address to the state legislature, narrated the steps taken by the Krishna ministry to help the growers of maize, ragi, bajra, jowar and jowar by launching massive procurementss under the market intervention scheme following sudden fall in prices due to suplus production on account of a good khariff crop. She also voiced concern over the dumping of several commodities in the country at cheap rates and consequently harming domestic growers.
Pointing out that the state government has identified several areas for urgent action in the postWTO scenario pertaining to agriculture, she wanted the Centre to take steps to raise import duty on agricultural commodities to provide a levelplaying field to farmers introduction of automatic trigger mechanism in adjusting import duties in tune with international prices of agricultural commodities, formulation of adequate and appropriate subsidy strategy and put international trade in concurrent list to provide consutation with state governments in WTO policy formulation.
The governor said Karnataka’s ambitious target of producing 100.08 lakh tonnes of foodgrains, 17.62 lakh tonnes of oilseeds, 10.03 lakh bales of cotton and 315 lakh tonnes of tobacco.
The other measures pertaining to agriculture listed by the governor are: setting up of raitha mitra kendras or farmers contact centres in all the 745 hoblis to provide inforamtion and advice on matters relating to inputs, agricultural prices etc; establishment of a modern horticulture farm at a cost of Rs 150 crore at Kannamangala off Bangalore and state-of-the-art tissue culture laboratory at Hulimavu near Bangalore besides distribution of Kisan credit cards to all farmers.
The government will also be coming out with a comprehensive health and population policy shortly. Also on the anvil is a governance strategy and action plan as part of the plans to promote good governance.
‘Verma got good CRs when Manmohan was FM’ – Times Now India Report
UNION finance minister Yashwant Sinha on Thursday revealed that it was during the five years of Manmohan Singh’s stewardship of the finance ministry that the arrested chairman of the CBEC, B P Verma was awarded glowing confidential reports on his performance without a single reference to his corrupt antecedents.
Rounding up a debate in Rajya Sabha on corruption by excise and customs officials, Sinha promised to “wage a war against corruption without mercy against wrong-doers. We are acting decisively and severely.”
However, the government, already under attack on the tehelka issue, found itself the recurrent target once against of administrative and moral laxity in the face of corruption in public life.
The finance minister’s telling blow to the opposition charge of corruption was delivered to the retreating back of Manmohan Singh who led the walkout after the Rajya Sabha debate on the subject on Thursday.
Singh had earlier reacted to the finance minister’s reply by saying that as finance minister in the 1990s he had refused to let Verma become a member of the Board of Customs, but the BJP government had gone ahead with it, disregarding his record of corruption.
“I entirely endorse the finance minister observations that we must work together to root out corruption from our administration. But when he talked about it he did not mention about the effective mechanism in this regard”.
Reacting sharply, Sinha said there had been nothing in writing against the suspended CBEC that would indicate that this man had corrupt antecedents.
Successive governments gave him clean chits, even labelled him ‘honest’ and ‘very good’ in his annual reports which at his level went through the office of the finance minister.
As a matter of fact between 1989 and 1996, years in which verma was as corrupt as he was when he was arrested, his CRs, which were written on Manmohan Singh’s watch as finance minister, the adjectives were thus: “honest”, “very good”, etc.
As late as 1996, Verma’s CR said “I believe him to be honest”, when the first questions had been raised in 1995.
Shocked at the activities of Verma and other top officials in the Customs department, Sinha said the CBI had intensified their investigations at airports, seaports and land borders throughout the country.
Labelling the activities of the arrested Customs officials as “absolutely indefensible”, Sinha said in his earlier statement that “the CBI had registered a case against 48 officers and 4 private persons on 30.3.2001 and conducted searches on the premises on the premises of these officer on 31.3.2001.
During raids, some cash, investments and property documents were recovered. None of the officers have been arrested by the CBI. The matter is under investigation by the CBI”, he said.
Raising the issue of the arrest of the customs commissioner at Vishakhapatnam, Sinha said the person had been absconding, but he has been apprehended as arrested.
The alleged complicity of the custom officials posted at the Indira Gandhi International Airport under the directions of their dismissed chief B.P. Verma turned into a wordy duel between the two finance ministers on either side of the floor.
Singh raised the subject of the nexus between smugglers, customs officials, middlemen and others like Afghan nationals which had national security implications, since they were apparently bringing in not only narcotics and fake currency but sensitive defence equipment as well.
He posed certain questions for yashwant Sinha — when was verma appointed CBEC chief? were there question marks about his integrity earlier? was he, as CBEC chief, in charge of budget operations, which would have serious implications since customs revenue accounts for 60 per cent of India’s budgetary earnings?
Why were the CVC objections disregarded? was the ACC aware of the CVC’s point of view? and why was no notice paid to the warnings from the Indian embassy in Tashkent?
On the subject of the Uzbek national Olga Kozireva who was caught on 28 August 2000, Manmohan Singh wondered how customs and immigration officials could gloss over her apparently 54 visits in one year to this country, or even the fact that she had been repeatedly travelling on to Karachi and Lahore, sometimes on the same day.
All In A Day / Panel formed for a recast Constitution – Bharatiya Janata Party
Disregarding the reservations expressed by President KR Narayanan, the Union cabinet today approved the formation of a multi-member national commission to review the Constitution. The government said the members will be appointed within a week.
“The proposed commission would review the Constitution within the framework of parliamentary democracy,”
Union infotech minister Pramod Mahajan said while elaborating on the terms of reference of the panel. According to the terms of reference, the commission would examine “in the light of the experience of the last 50 years, as to how best the Constitution can respond to the changing needs of efficient, smooth, effective system of governance and socio-economic developments of modern India within the framework of parliamentary democracy”.
BJP, allies sort out differences in Bihar
New Delhi: The anti-Laloo Prasad Yadav line-up led by the BJP today finally managed to iron out differences when the Bihar People’s Party (BPP), which had threatened to walk out of the alliance agreed to fight the 20 seats allotted to it. The NDA leaders, who announced the truce pact in Patna, said that the parties of the alliance will fight unitedly and according to the arrangement worked out in Delhi. “We have now agreed to the agreement and we will contest only the 20 seats earmarked for BPP,” Anand Mohan said.
Govt accepts Uma Bharati’s resignation
New Delhi: Finally accepting Union minister Uma Bharati’s resignation, who put in her papers about a month ago protesting against the alleged assault on BJP corporators during elections to the Bhopal civic body, PM Atal Behari Vajpayee forwarded it to Rashtrapati Bhavan today.
Former AG convicted in Anjana case
Bhubaneshwar: Former advocate generalof Orissa Indrajit Ray was convicted on Tuesday by a sessions court here in the sensational Anjana Mishra molestation case.
Mr Ray has been sentenced to three years rigorous imprisonment (RI) and fined Rs 5,000 under Sections 376/511 (attempt to rape) and 354 (outraging modesty) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
The former AG has however been enlarged on bail on production of a bail bond of Rs 40,000 along with two sureties.
The judgement came as a boon for the opposition as Mr Ray is widely known as a close confidante of former chief minister, JB Patnaik, who is now heading the ruling Congress party.
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