Monday, March 30, 2009

Madani hits back at IUML

28 March 2009

Thiruvananthapuram: Making a scathing attack on Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), Peoples' Democratic Party (PDP) Chairman Abdul Nazir Madani Saturday alleged whenever the IUML shared power with the Congress, there were communal riots in Kerala.

Claiming the PDP was formed for ensuring social justice and had not indulged in any communal clashes, he told reporters here the IUML was spreading communalism and riots to cover up their administrative failure in the state.

Madani alleged the IUML was still continuing the same communal policy when it was formed during the period of partition of India in 1945, except changing its name.

Stating ever since its formation, his party was engaged in working for the benefit of Dalits and other downtrodden sections of the people, he said not even a single PDP worker had been arrested for communal clashes in the state.

Madani alleged it was because of IUML's fear of losing their traditional Muslim votes, they were making false and baseless allegations against his party.

On allegations of IUML State General Secretary P.K. Kunhalikutty that PDP was spreading communalism in the state, he said the IUML had no right to make such statements as its workers removed the national flag and hoisted party flag at Karipur Airport a few years ago.

Claiming he had never propagated or encouraged terrorism through his speeches or actions, he said he had expressed some statements against quite a few persons because of his emotions after the Babri Masjid was demolished.

Rejecting the media reports about his involvement with the Kashmir militant groups, he denied he ever met any such person or gave assistance to such people.

Church pushes for battle against CPM in Kerala

New Delhi: The Roman Catholic church in Kerala is asking Christians not to vote for atheists - a reference to the state's ruling Marxists - in the general elections, saying they are trying to destroy faith.

While the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), which leads the Left government in the state, says the allegations are unfair and that it has always tried to protect minorities, the church is far from convinced.

The Kerala Catholic Bishop Council (KCBC) has prepared a pastoral letter, which will be read out during mass on Sunday, urging the laity not to vote for those preaching atheism and indulging in violence in the April 16 Lok Sabha elections in the state.

"The Marxist government is questioning the very existence of the church itself. They propagate atheism," said Philip Njaralakattu, a key member in Kerala's Inter-Church Council and top priest in the Palai diocese.

"They are hatching a conspiracy against the church. They see the church as a stumbling block to setting up permanent Marxist rule in the state. Their aim is to divide the church."

Thomas Issac, the Kerala finance minister and CPI-M central committee member, rejected the church's allegations and said the party and the government were willing to discuss and sort out the issues.

"We are not going to interfere in the affairs of the church. There are issues. We are ready to discuss the issues and sort them out. We will wait till the church comes to that point," Issac told IANS on telephone from Alappuzha.

This is not the first time the church has upped the ante against the Marxists.

Kerala's first government, led by Communist leader E.M.S. Namboodiripad, was dismissed in 1959 by the central government following protests of the Nair Service Society (NSS) and the Roman Catholic church, two fronts known for their anti-Marxist stand.

The EMS government's decision to introduce the Education Bill had provoked these two influential communities to launch what they called "a liberation struggle".

While Issac said the present circumstances were not a situation for "a second liberation struggle" in the state, Njaralakkattu did not dismiss the possibility.

"People are upset over the policies and programmes of the Marxist government. They are preparing ground for a second liberation struggle," said Njaralakattu.

The Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI) also said the church in Kerala is united in its fight against forces propagating atheism and using violence.

"We are clearly united against any organisation teaching atheism and the use of violence for political and social purposes," said Rev Babu Joseph, CBCI spokesman.

"Political parties and organisations should not impede the right to religious freedom, which is a fundamental right," he said.

The CPI-M central leadership is unhappy over the church's allegations, saying the Left had always tried to protect the rights of minority communites, including Christians.

CPI-M politburo member Brinda Karat said: "I think it is unfortunate. Any citizen may vote or not vote, it is his right. The CPI-M, not only in parliament but also outside, has been fighting for protecting the rights of minorities.

"It is an integral part of the CPI-M (agenda) that full protection should be ensured to minorities from the vicious attacks of communal forces," Karat told IANS.

Pious Malekkandathil, an associate professor of history at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), said relations between the church and the CPI-M had historically not been smooth.

"The church thinks it is considered a class enemy by the Marxists," said Pious.

"Relations between the church and the Communists have not been smooth since the party's formation. Later the strained relations became smooth. That was during the time of (then) Kerala chief minister E.K. Nayanar.

"But the entire scenario changed after the demise of Nayanar, who was a very liberal leader. The new generation leadership failed to understand the church. Their policies and programmes provoked the church."

CPM a threat to democracy, says a new book

26 March 2009

- Kochi: As the Lok Sabha poll campaign gathers steam in the Left-ruled Kerala, a top Church official has described the CPI-M as a 'threat' to democracy and warned that India will suffer the same fate as China under Mao Zedong. "The Marxist party will use all kinds of tactics to strengthen itself in places where it is in power. That they will do throughout India once they get to power at the Centre, will be no different from Mao or Stalin," says Cardinal Mar Varkey Vithayathil in his book 'Straight From Heart'.

The influential Cardinal, known for his critical views even on the church establishment, says, "The Marxist fundamentalism is a greater threat than the religious fundamentalism of the BJP...The Navy, the Army and the Air Force will come under their complete control. We can reasonably expect that what happened in China under Mao will happen in India under their rule." "Where is the logic of democracy if they are convinced atheists? But if they are atheists against their conscience and belief, then they are not true to themselves...Convinced atheists cannot be democratic. Democracy is based on respect for the individual and on the rule 'of the people, by the people, for the people'," Vithayathil, who is also the Major Archbishop of the Syro Malabar church, says.

The first Communist government of Kerala, Vithayathil says, was dismissed because they took recourse to some Marxist techniques like rule by party cadre when they came to power. "But even now, it is the party that rules in Kerala and not the government," the Cardinal says.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Pastoral letter to be read out on Sunday

Express News 27 Mar 2009
KOCHI: The Kerala Catholic Bishops Conference(KCBC), which asked the members of the Church to use all opportunities to campaign against the CPM in the Lok Sabha elections, said the joint pastoral letter issued as a prelude to the election would be read out during the Holy Mass this Sunday.

The bishops had urged the Church members not to vote for parties and individuals who advocate atheism. The pastoral letter is undersigned by KCBC president and Verapoly Archbishop Daniel Acharuparambil, Syro-Malabar Church head Varkey Cardinal Vithayathil and Syro Malankara Church head Baselios Cleemis Catholicose.

Archbishop Joseph Powathil, at the meeting of the Vigilance Commission at the Pastoral Orientation Centre here on Thursday, said Christians have been abused and tortured like never before under the LDF Government rule.

The laity should come forward and explain to society the stand of the Church.

Vigilance Commission chairman Bishop Stanly Roman said the Communist party has a different approach to Christians in Kerala.

“In other states, the situation is different.

We can mould leaders within our community to secure the future of the next generation," he said.

The meeting observed that KCBC had the moral responsibility to explain anti-minority and anti-Church policies to society.

How thin a line between Church and State?

Catholic churchgoers in Kerala will soon receive, in addition to the communion, an appeal to not vote for atheists.

The Kerala Catholic Bishops Council has issued a pastoral letter to be read out in Catholic churches from Sunday, urging parishioners to vote for those who uphold secularism and fight terrorism, according to a report in the Indian Express paper.

The church is also keen that people vote for politicians who will fight against euthanasia and abortion, a direct response to the Left-ruled state’s law reforms commission, which favours legalising euthanasia and floating a public trust to run church properties.

The communists have long been at loggerheads with the Catholic church on matters related to religion and education, including how church-run educational institutions — mostly profitable — should be run.

Kerala’s Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil, head of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India, an association of Catholic bishops, went one step further, reportedly calling the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party the “lesser evil” to the state’s Marxists.

Critics of the church say it has no business meddling in affairs of the state — or telling people whom they should vote for — and that the issue is really about money and diverting attention from its own troubles.

Supporters of the church — and the outspoken cardinal — say Christians in India are under attack and it is only fair that the church look out for itself and its people.

No doubt, the rhetoric — and not just from the Catholics — will rise in the runup to the election. But will the outcome settle the debate on the line between the Church and the state?

Kerala tourism to tap new markets

27 Mar 2009, ET Bureau

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Kerala tourism, which benefits significantly from foreign tourists from the UK and Germany, is exploring the possibility of markets like Sweden and Russia.

Towards this end, the state tourism brand marked its debut participation at the Moscow International Travel and Tourism exhibition earlier this month. Kerala tourism secretary V Venu said Russia was a market with strong potential for growth and that MITT provided another platform to address a new market.

He said 2009 would be tough year for the tourism sector and the state could not be complacent, adding that it was vital for Kerala tourism to continue to build relationships with customers and develop new ones to ensure that the brand was top-of-the-mind once confidence returned.

Recent statistics show ayurveda to be growing in popularity among Russians. Over 9,700 Russians are estimated to have visited Kerala last year, for a 47% growth over 2007.

Kerala tourism officials who attended the Scandinavian trade fair TUR, said Sweden also held good prospects for Kerala tourism, with specific Swedish interest being seen in the state’s ayurveda and beach holidays. In 2008, over 20,000 Swedish arrivals were recorded in Kerala, signifying a 100% growth in arrivals over the previous year.

Malabar tourism holds its breath as drought deepens

2 Mar 2009, ET Bureau

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Building `Brand Malabar’ has been an ongoing engagement of Kerala tourism, but the drought conditions raging in the northern part of the state is giving those efforts a knock down.

Drought conditions and a number of bushfires have led to forest officials closing the Wayanad wildlife sanctuary for a month, thereby dampening plans of tour operators who have made trekking packages for the area.

The closure of the sanctuary is hurting tourism players on both sides of the Wayanad border, in Kerala and Karnataka, and tour operators are not happy about the development.

“All of Malabar is an emerging destination and the state budget had given special attention to development of infrastructure in the area. A lot of properties are coming up around Wayanad, Bekal, Neeleswaram and Kannur.

Closing sanctuaries for such a long period would not help the industry, and whatever problems facing the sanctuaries should be addressed up front”, E M Najeeb, chairman of the Kerala chapter of the Indian Association of Tour Operators told ET.

According to Viji John, managing partner of Misty Woods in Coorg, the closure of the sanctuary affects both states because Wayanad is a key component of most of the tourism packages offered around the Kerala-Karanataka border.

“Most of the popular packages string destinations like Wayanad, Muthanga, Coorg, Bandipur, Mudumalai and Mysore and to lose one of the destinations would be a dampener for tourists who have bought the package in advance”, says Mr John.

According to him, the forests on the Kerala side of the border are greener at the moment, leading to animal migration from Karnataka into Kerala.

Eldo Paul, manager of the Hiliya Resort near Sultan Battery said the closure of the sanctuary would not have too much of an impact on tourism, considering that this is off-season in the area.

Despite the global slowdown, foreign tourists to Kerala had gone up to 5.99 lakh in 2008, from 5.15 lakh the previous year.

'Total for You' accused surrenders; arrested

26 March 2009

Thiruvananthapuram: S. Chandramati, the third accused in the 'Total for You' fraud case, surrendered at Nedumengadu police station, Thursday. She was arrested and has been taken to the Crime branch Office at Jawahar Nagar. Her bail plea was rejected by Supreme Court Wednesday.

She was indicted by crime branch in 'Total for You' case in which Sabarinath is the key accused, in September last year.

Probe against Madani still on: VS

27 March 2009
Thiruvananthapuram: Hesitating to give a ''clean chit'' to People's Democratic Party (PDP) Chairman Abdul Nasser Madani, Kerala Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan Wednesday made it clear that probe against him was going on. Replying to questions after his weekly Cabinet briefing, he said more investigation was necessary to reach a conclusion in the wake of media reports about Madani's terror links. ''The media reports in this regard cannot be approved or rejected,'' he added.

There are reports that one Mani, who had helped Madani in the Coimbatore jail and later converted to Islam, had worked in the textile shop run by Mrs Madani, he said and added that should be investigated.

Achuthanandan said the anti-terrorist squad, constituted especially to probe the terrorist links of Keralites in the wake of Kashmir incident, was continuing its work and more details in this regard could be collected only after questioning the people arrested by Karnataka police.

Though Madani was arrested and lodged in Coimbatore jail in connection with the blast in Coimbatore targeting BJP leader L.K. Advani, he was later acquitted in the case. However, it was the duty of the PDP to convince the people that they had abandoned their fundamental approach and now working for secularism.

Condemning PDP working chairman Poonthura Siraj's statements against RSP All India Secretary T.J. Chandachoodan, he said ''Mr Siraj should not make such remarks against the leader of a National Party. ''Since the PDP had a ''bad past'', the party should take efforts to convince the people that they had changed its fundamental stand,'' he said and added, ''Mr Madani had to prove himself that he had given up the fundamental approach after he was acquitted from the Coimbatore blast case. "

BJP demands Kodiyeri's resignation

25 March 2009

Kozhikode: The BJP in Kerala Wednesday demanded the resignation of Kerala Home Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishan in the wake of High Court observation that law and order in the state was in shambles.

Speaking at a 'Meet-the-Leader' programme organised by the Calicut Press Club here, BJP state unit Secretary M.T. Ramesh charged that Balakrishan has no moral right to continue in office ''as law and order situation has deteriorated during his tenure.''

While disposing bail applications of three people arrested in connection withattempt to murder Abdul Rahim alias K.M.R. Guru case, Justice V. Ramkumar also said women were scared of walking even along busy highways and streets because erotic adventurers and chain snatchers operated there with impunity.

On the chances of the BJP winning the April 16 Lok Sabha elections in Kerala, he said the party expected a better performance in all the 20 seats in the state.
He accused both the CPM-led ruling Left Democratic Front and the Congress-led opposition United Democratic Front in the state for joining hands with communal forces ahead of the elections.

The LDF was in league with the PDP party and UDF with National Democratic Front, a Kerala based Muslim outfit, to meet their nefarious agenda, he alleged.

But both the fronts would come together to oppose the BJP as they did after the 2004 general elections, he added.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Pinarayi shares dias with Madhani

21 March 2009
Thiruvananthapuram: Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan Saturday shared the dias in Kerala's Malapuram district with a new-found ally: People's Democratic Party (PDP) chief Abdul Nasir Madhani, whom the Left considered a pariah not too long ago.

Vijayan and Maudany campaigned in Kuttipuram for the ruling Left Democratic Front supported independent candidate Hussain Randathany, who is contesting the Ponanni Lok Sabha seat.

In 1998, then chief minister E.K. Nayanar had listed as one his government's achievements the arrest of Madhani for his alleged involvement in serial bomb blasts in Coimbatore in October 1996 targeting Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader L.K. Advani.

Madhani was subsequently acquitted and released from jail in 2007.

"We are looking into what his stand is today and hence there is no point in keeping people like Maudany and Raman Pillai (a former state BJP president) outside. Those who are raising this now are those who feel jittery (about the alliance)," Vijayan said Saturday.

Meanwhile, Communist Party of India (CPI) general secretary A.B. Bardhan, speaking to reporters in Delhi, described Madhani's party as "communal".

Reacting to this, Madhani told a TV channel in Kerala the PDP would not withdraw support to the Left government in the state just because of the statement.

"Our credentials are not based on certificates issued by any party. Even the present CPI ministers here in Kerala have publicly said that one of the reasons for their victory in the 2006 polls was on account of the votes of my party's supporters," Maudany added.

NCP to contest in four: Murali

KOZHIKODE: Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) State president K.Muraleedharan has said that the candidates and the constituencies from which the party is contesting will be declared at its meeting here on Sunday.

Participating in a Meet-the-Leader programme organised by the Calicut Press Club here on Saturday, Mr.Muraleedharan said that the party would contest in four constituencies in the State. The national leadership of the party wanted him to contest.

Asked whether he would contest from Kozhikode or Wayanad, he said that both were his favourites and a decision would be announced after tomorrow's meeting. To a query, he said that Vadakara did not figure on the list of constituencies the party was contesting.

'As the national leadership wants the party to contest concentrating on a few constituencies, the party has decided to contest in four constituencies. It will help those who openly seek its support in the rest of the constituencies provided they also back it in the seats the party is contesting.' Asked whether the party will tie-up with the Janata Dal(S), he said that a decision would be taken after the latter's meeting to be held here on Sunday.

According to him, the LDF and the UDF are neither friends nor enemies as far as the NCP is concerned. The next government at the Centre will be an UPA government with Left support.

He said he would not call the PDP a communal party. 'We had sought its support earlier. But the attitude that a party ceases to be a communal party if it is aligned with the CPI(M) is wrong. Also, terming the IUML a communal party is unfortunate,' he said.

LTTE threat to Kerala airports; security tightened

Thiruvananthapuram (PTI): Security was on Friday stepped up in all the three international airports in Kerala following an alert about LTTE threat to the key installations, police sources said here.

The Air India security office here received the alert message from its Mumbai office, they said.

The CISF, incharge of airport security, has stepped up vigil at the airports in Thiruvananthapuram, Nedumbassery (Kochi) and Karippur (Kozhikode).

A report from Kochi said the airport director asked all security personnel and police to tighten security further, airport sources said.

A special meeting was conducted by the CISF Commandant Rajiv Panth to evaluate the security measures.

Jai Hind head to contest opposite Tharoor

21 March 2009

Thiruvananthapuram: Vijayan Thomas, the chairman of the Congress-owned television channel in Kerala, has said he would contest as an independent candidate from the key Thiruvananthapuram constituency from where the party has fielded former UN undersecretary general Shashi Tharoor.

Posters of Thomas, chairman of Jai Hind TV, have been put up across the constituency announcing his candidature. Party sources say he had been assured a seat when he had invested in the channel.

Though Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) president Ramesh Chennithala and other party leaders Friday said there would be only one party candidate, Thomas told reporters that he would contest.

"Strong action will be taken against those who speak against the high command's decision," Ramesh said.

"There will be no rebel Congress candidate at all (in Thiruvananthapuram)," said P.P. Thankachan, convenor of the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF).

Party sources said Tharoor visited Thomas to request him to withdraw his candidature.

The channel, which was launched nearly two years ago, is a joint venture between two companies - Bharath Broadcasting Network (BBN) and Jai Hind Communications (JHC) - and the Congress is the third partner.

Thomas, a Dubai-based businessman, invested heavily in Jai Hind TV channel as he said he was under the impression that he would get a party ticket for the Lok Sabha seat.

"The state Congress leaders had assured the seat to Thomas," a Congress leader said on condition of anonymity.

But when the list of candidates was finalised, Thomas was not even among the probables. He then went ahead and printed posters announcing his candidature, the sources said.

Tharoor was named the Congress candidate for the Thiruvananthapuram seat late Thursday. His main challenge is from Left Democratic Front (LDF) candidate Ramachandran Nair, a Communist Party of India (CPI) leader.

Another opponent is Bahujan Samaj Party's Neelalohithadasan Nadar, who as a Congress candidate in 1980 trounced CPI leader M.N. Govindan Nair.

Sreekumaran Thamby's director son found dead

21 March 2009

Hyderabad: Film director Raj Aditya was Saturday found dead in a city hotel, sending shock waves in the Telugu film industry. The police said it appeared to be a case of suicide.

The body of Aditya, 38, was found hanging from a ceiling fan in a hotel room in Secunderabad.

He is believed to have taken the extreme step Friday night. The cause of the suicide is not known.

"Mallee Malle", a film directed by Aditya and starring newcomers Skandha and Kalyani in the lead roles, was released Saturday. He had written the story and screenplay for the film.

He began his career in Telugu films by directing "Ishtam", produced by Usha Kiran Movies. He shot into fame with the direction of another Telugu film "Pourudu" starring Sumanth and Kajal.

Aditya, whose real name is Rajakumaran Thambi, was the son of Malayalam film producer and director Sreekumaran Thambi. Born in Kerala, Aditya grew up in Chennai and worked under director Priyadarshan for four years.

Aditya, who acted as a child artist in some Malayalam films, also worked as an assistant to several eminent directors in Bollywood before launching his career as a director in Telugu films.

'Nuns are forced to wash, cook meals'

21 March 2009

Kochi: Nuns in the church are being discriminated against and treated shoddily by priests who force them to wash clothes and cook meals, a cardinal has claimed. The candid admissions by Cardinal Mar Varkey Vithayathil, who is also the Major Archbishop of the Syro Malabar church, has been made in a book titled, 'Straight from the Heart', released recently. "There have always been complaints that religious women are used as task force by parish priests. They just bear up the ill treatment, fearing the priests may not say Mass for them or fulfil their spiritual needs if they protested. These things are happening in a number of places," Vithyathail says.

Religious women very often depend on bishops for land and money to start a convent. They feel they have to deal with priests and bishops with the utmost reverence, almost like slaves. "A big complaint of our nuns is that the diocesan priests are treating them like servants, making them wash their clothes, prepare their food, wash the churches etc. and that too without getting paid. These are all unjust ways of treating women religious," he says.
The cardinal's insight into the lives of nuns in church comes close on the heels of a book by Sister Jasme, which created a storm in church circles. Jasme had alleged sexual abuse, corruption and power struggles in the 'dark. The book is a collection of interviews given by the cardinal to Father Paul Thelekat, church spokesman, over a seven day period while Vithyathil was undergoing treatment. Vithyathail says that priests should know that the Church teaches equal dignity of man and woman and to act accordingly. "Women are not to be used by the Parish priest, they must be respected and loved", the 81 year-old cardinal says.

At a Catholic Bishop Council of India (CBCI) meeting in Jameshedpur, there was a suggestion that women must get 50 per cent representation in the Church organisations. To start with, they must get 35 per cent. "But that may take some time, because we are fighting against a culture of male domination." The spirit of obedience to the bishops was on the wane and there is always a thirst for more comforts by diocesan priests, he said. On the many scandals surrounding the church, particularly the Sister Abhaya case, in which two priests and a nun have been arrested by the CBI in connection with the mysterious death of the nun 16 years ago in a convent in Kottayam, the Cardinal says "we very much want the legitimate state authority to investigate and take steps to punish the guilty. The Church does not want to protect anybody guilty."

On allegations that bishops and priests are trying to cover up things, the cardinal said "we should resist the temptation of covering up certain things to protect our good name and some individuals. But in the case of Abhaya case, I believe the Church is not trying to cover up anything or protect anybody."

Abdul Nasser Madhani Acquittal - Why is the Left celebrating?

Posted on August 1st, 2007 by yossarin in All News

Madhani would carry out his political functions sticking to the principles of secularism and democracy - V S Achuthanandan, Chief Minister, Kerala

Abdul Nasser Madhani, who was the accused number 14 in the February 14, 1998 serial blasts in the city, was released on bail, after he was exonerated from all the five charges against him, including criminal conspiracy to trigger the blasts, by the Session Court (Bomb Blast Cases) today. On his future plans, particularly in the political field after returning to Kerala, he said it would be decided at an appropriate time. Madhani is also likely to meet Kerala Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan. Unhappy with the acquittal of PDP chairman, Abdul Nasser Madani, in the 1998 Coimbatore blasts case, the Opposition BJP today demanded that an appeal be filed against the verdict on the “biggest terror attack in south India.” Senior BJP leader L K Advani, the then Union Home Minister, escaped only because his flight was late. The Kerala government has welcomed Madhani’s acquittal. Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan said that the Left Front’s stand on Madhani will depend on his position on various issues.

”Our government tried to provide him medical help while in jail. Following our intervention he was provided minimum relief. His release was very important considering his deteriorating health condition,” said V S Achuthanandan, Chief Minister, Kerala.

The PTI also quotes the Kerala Chief Minister

Madhani would carry out his political functions sticking to the principles of secularism and democracy.

The latter quote by the Kerala has Offstumped intrigued enough to pose the question why is the Left keen to get Madhani’s good side. According to the PTI it is not just the Left but also the Congress.

“We happily welcome his acquittal in the case. The UDF had always tried to help him when he was in jail for over nine years as an undertrial,” KPCC President Ramesh Chennithala

Some hints into the love for Madhani can be found in this tid-bit reported by NDTV.

Madhani’s party, the PDP, has pockets of influence in southern Kerala quite crucial in the state’s bi-polar politics. The CPI(M) benefited from the PDP in the 2006 assembly elections and the UDF in 2001.

But first some historical perspective. On September 28th, 1998, PTI reported on the filing of chargesheets in the 1998 Coimbatore serial blasts case after 8 months of investigation by the CB-CID’s special investigation team (SIT). The Chargesheet named 166 persons and was 800 pages long. Heading the list of 166 persons arraigned by the police, was S.A. Basha, President of the banned fundamentalist outfit Al-Umma. Its Vice-President Tajudeen, his absconding colleague Mohammed Ansari and chief of People’s Democratic Party, Kerala, Abdul Nazar Madhani, were named second, third and fourth accused respectively. The charge against Madani according to the PTI report was

Tajudeen made several trips to Kerala and procured high grade explosives for the small box-bombs from accused Madani, who supplied them through another accused Raju, alias Army Raju (a deserter from the Assam Rifles), it said.

It is kind of strange that Madani should have all charges quashed when a Muslim friendly DMK ruled Tamil Nadu and a LDF ruled Kerala saw enough of a case to chargesheet Madani back in 1998 after 8 months of investigation. Surely one cannot argue there was a vast right wing hindutva conspiracy to nail Madani, so what then prompted his inclusion in the chargesheet in the first place.

If the Left’s praise of Madani is curious enough its hypocrisy is galling.

On April 22 2001, the CPM mouthpiece People’s Democracy criticized the UDF’s dalliance with Madani.

They also earnestly want to be in company with the PDP of Abdul Nazar Madani who is in jail for the last three years for his alleged involvement in the Al-Umma conspiracy that led to the Coimbatore riots. Madani is desperately trying to get released from prison, and for this he requires the BJP’s help to persuade the DMK government of Tamil Nadu to release him. Here the UDF’s role is to pimp between the PDP and the BJP, to forge an indirect understanding by which PDP votes are polled for BJP candidates and Madani is released from prison.

The gutter language apart, the CPM seems to be unambiguous about Madani’s role in the blasts.

On May 20, 2001, the CPM mouthpiece had even more interesting things to say.

The Congress record in Kerala was no better insofar as fighting the forces of communalism is concerned. Here, as is well known, the Congress is in the leadership of the United Democratic Front that includes the Muslim League as well as several caste-based parties. But the Congress did not remain content with this only. It went to the extent of having an open understanding with the BJP as well as with the Muslim fundamentalist People’s Democratic Party (PDP). As reported by the media, some of the Congressmen even went to the Coimbatore Jail to seek support from the PDP leader Madani who is lodged there on the charge of his involvement in the Coimbatore bomb blasts.

Note how Madani goes from being muslim fundamentalist in 2001 to secular and democratic in 2007.

While in November 2001 the CPM mouthpiece calls Madani the leader of a terrorist organization, In December 2001, the CPM mouthpiece makes the argument that existing laws were adeuqate to contain terrorism and as proof point for its argument it cites the Madani case.

Much has been written about the existing laws being sufficient to meet the terrorist challenges. A former Chief Justice and two Judges of the Supreme Court in the National Human Rights Commission have said that POTO provisions are “substantially taken care of under the existing laws”. This can be seen by the fact that PDP leader Madani, prime accused in the Coimbatore blasts of 1998, continues to remain in detention till date. Similarly, SIMI was banned by this very government recently.

So as far as the CPM was concerned Madani was not just a Muslim Fundamentalist but a Terrorist.

The Hindu carried an excellent chronicle on the rise of Madani in Kerala. Till as recently as 2004 it was only the UDF and Congress that were hobnobbing with Madani. In 2004 then Kerala CM Oomen Chandy even offered to visit Madani in jail on a visit to Tamil Nadu owing to pressure from the PDP.

The degree of Muslim radicalization in support of Madani becomes evident in a Jan 2003 report by the PTI

a youth has been questioned in connection with the recovery of an electronic timer device and gelatine sticks from an STD booth near the Coimbatore Press club

Police said the youth was also being questioned in connection with the receipt of fax messages by some newspaper offices in Coimbatore.
The messages stated: “We have done it. If Tamil Nadu police repeat torturing PDP leader Abdul Nasser Madani and his family, we will repeat it - ISS- Kerala”.

As recently as 2005 the Supreme Court rejected Madani’s bail plea after a similar rejection by the Madras High Court. So how did Madani manage a clean chit, it is baffling.

But the 2006 elections in Kerala change everything with media reports of the Left turning Green in Kerala’s Muslim Heartland of Malabar. In March 2006 the Kerala Assembly passes a resolution calling for Madani’s release. News media outlets from Hindustan Times to Times of India roundly criticize the move calling it “using a terrorist” for vote bank politics. By March 31st Madani returns the LDF’s favor by announcing from Jail that his party the PDP would support the LDF in the upcoming polls. The change of heart is attributed to secret talks Mr. T.K. Hamza, CPI(M) MP, had with Madani in jail. The dividends to the Left in Kerala come in the assembly polls that saw the Muslim vote overwhelmingly favoring the LDF over the UDF.

So what reasons did the court give for acquitting Madani ?

“lack of sufficient evidence”

Of the 166 accused in the blasts that killed 58 people, special judge K Uthirapathy acquitted eight, including the Kerala-based People’s Democratic Party chairman Abdul Nazar Madani. All the acquitted were from Kerala. If this was strange enough, the Economic Times today carries a story

The government proscribed the Al Ummah and the Jihad Committee within three hours of the incident. Investigators had unearthed a link between the Al Ummah and Pakistan’s ISI, with PDP leader from Kerala, Abdul Nasser Madani, acting as bridge.

Offstumped Bottomline: The acquittal of Madani in the Coimbatore Blast Case is highly suspect and is bound to be subject to intense public scrutiny. The shameful turnaround by the Left in the run up to the 2006 Kerala Assembly polls exposes its hypocrisy and doublespeak. Madani went from being a Muslim Fundamentalist and Terrorist to a Secular Democrat. If his continued detention was first hailed by the Left as effectiveness of existing laws to curb terrorism, it is now decried as a human rights violation.

While the Madani acquittal is headed for legal challenges the CPI-M stands exposed.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Janata Dal (S) storms off LDF meet, may leave bloc

19 Mar 2009, ET Bureau

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The disgruntlement within the ruling Left Democratic Front in Kerala became more palpable today with the Janata Dal (Secular) members walking out of the LDF meeting here on Thursday after the CPM made clear that JD(S) would not get the Kozhikode seat to contest.

That has opened a range of possibilities that could weaken the Left bloc, including the JD(S)'s likelihood of contesting from the Kozhikode seat on its own, besides the speculation that the JD(S) may see a full-fledged divide in its own ranks over the issue of backing the Left bloc in the national context of a Third Front.

JD(S) representatives K Krishnan Kutty and Varghese George walked out of the LDF meet here this afternoon following the clarification that JD(S) would not get the Kozhikode seat. The party representatives said the CPM's decision to deny the Kozhikode seat to the party was "unjust" and one that would "weaken the Left coalition".

It is learnt that when the CPM announced its decision to field its candidate at Kozhikode, other parties in the coalition kept mum even as JD(S) protested. JD(S) leaders said the decision to deprive the party of the Kozhikode seat was nothing short of political betrayal, considering that the JD(S) had been part of the Left coalition from its formation.

The Janata Dal (S) will now decide on their next course of action at the party's state council meeting on March 22. The two vital decisions the party will have to take that day are about continuing in the Left coalition and about contesting in the Kozhikode and other seats.

The opposition Congress-led United Democratic Front in Kerala, which is hoping to put up a much better performance this time as against the single seat it won through the Indian Union Muslim League in 2004, is expected to benefit substantially from the tumult with the Left bloc.

Kerala to witness several key contests

Thiruvananthapuram (PTI): Battle lines have been clearly drawn with the two fronts led by CPI-M and Congress releasing their list of candidates for the Lok Sabha polls in Kerala which is poised to witness key contests in most seats.

A most keenly-watched contest will be in the prestigious Thiruvananthapuram where the Congress, heading the United Democratic Front, has fielded former Under Secretary General of United Nations, Shashi Tharoor, to wrest the constituency from the CPI, a CPI-M-led LDF constituent.

The state capital is likely to witness a three-way race with the BJP seriously considering fielding former Union minister O Rajagopal.

Prominent contestants include Indian Union Muslim League's national president and Union Minister, E Ahamed, in Malappuram, where he is taking on CPI-M's sitting MP T K Hamsa. Malappuram is the only constituency where sitting MPs are locking horns.

The list of Congress announced last night had several surprises with the contestants including three sitting MLAs, but contrary to what the party had promised, youth and women did not receive sufficient representation.

Kerala has 20 Lok Sabha constituencies.

Ticket for ‘outsider’ Tharoor


Thiruvananthapuram, March 19: Hours before the Congress tonight announced it would field Shashi Tharoor from Thiruvananthapuram, he gave away his candidature by driving to the house of party veteran K. Karunakaran.

Turned out in a juba, white mundu and tricolour shawl, Tharoor, who has spent much of his life outside India, looked every inch a Malayali.

Television cameras that followed the former UN official beamed a warm Tharoor-Karunakaran handshake. Speculation was abuzz that he had been cleared to contest from the Kerala capital. The confirmation from the party came at night.

As Tharoor emerged from Karunakaran’s house, reporters shot off a couple of questions in English. He replied in straight, modest Malayalam.

It would have been risky to imitate his illustrious predecessor, the late V.K. Krishna Menon, who won from Thiruvananthapuram in 1971. Menon’s Malayalam was poor, so he spoke less of it and made up with witticisms in English. But his reputation as an orator, especially his 13-hour marathon speech in the UN, was too fresh in the minds of voters for them to bother about his Malayalam.

Tharoor starts off with the image of an outsider — his familiarity with the land of his parents is through brief vacations spent in Palakkad — though he has tried hard to be seen and heard after losing the election for UN secretary-general election and buying a house in the city.

His principal rival, P. Ramachandran Nair of the CPI, is from North Parur in Ernakulam district. Nair is an advocate. If the BJP fields former minister . Rajagopal, who polled 200,000-plus votes last time, it will cut into Tharoor’s votes.

Shashi Tharoor meets Karunakaran

Express News Service 20 Mar 2009
TTHIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Former UN Under-Secretary General Shashi Tharoor, who is being considered by the Congress for contesting from the Thiruvananthapuram Lok Sabha constituency, visited veteran Congress leader K Karunakaran on Thursday to seek the latter’s blessings.

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Tharoor said that Karunakaran had sent many Congress candidates successfully from Thiruvananthapuram.

Hence, it was necessary to seek his blessings. Regarding the acceptance of his candidature by the Congress circles in the district, he said: “There may be many aspirants for the seat. But once the candidature is announced, everyone will be united. This time the Congress is very particular that it should win the Thiruvananthapuram seat.” When asked about the protest over his candidature here and the burning of his effigy, he said: “Youngsters will do such things. Our aim is to win. For that I will do my part and the rest would be given by the party workers

JD(S)-CPI(M) ties worsen, leaders walk out of LDF meet

Press Trust of India March 19, 2009

With the CPI-M refusing to budge on the Kozhikode Lok Sabha seat, JD(S) in Kerala today walked out of the LDF state committee meet, rasing a question mark over its continuance in the ruling front.

After withdrawal of its lone minister from the state cabinet, JD(S) representatives attended the LDF meeting today to make a final appeal to the CPI-M to restore Kozhikode seat held by it, which the senior partner had taken away from the ally for contesting.

Walking out of the meeting, JD(S) national general secretary Dr Verghese George came down heavily on the CPI(M)'s stand and said his party's state council meet on March 22 would decide on the future course of action.

He said the Left's space in Kerala was not an exclusive preserve of the CPI(M), but the JD(S), with its socialist traditions, had also contributed greatly for evolving it as a prominent political stream in the state.

The JD(S) had last week recalled its minister Mathew T Thomas from the Achuthanandan cabinet after the CPI-M informed that party it was taking over the Kozhikode seat, which was won by senior JD(S) leader M P Veerendrakumar.

IT companies in Kerala face heat of slowdown

19 March 2009
Thiruvananthapuram: The global economic slowdown has taken its toll on the IT companies in Kerala, with some cutting salaries, while some others have already having informed stakeholders that they have no option but to cut operating costs.

The IT sector in the state has reached an annual turnover of around Rs.1,500 crore (Rs.15 billion/$300 million), providing direct employment to 60,000 people, of which close to 30,000 are employed at the various Technopark campus here and Infopark campus at Kochi.

Speaking to IANS, Sunil Gupta, chief executive of the New Jersey headquartered Collabera Enterprise Solution said companies had now started looking at various options for cost-cutting and started implementing them as well.

"We are not cutting salaries but maintaining status quo on increments. We are assessing the performance of our employees," said Gupta, who was the founder president of the G-Tech group of Technopark companies here.

"Earlier we were giving a flat 17-20 percent hike. But now, due to the slowdown, we will go in for performance-based evaluation."

Executives in some other firms in the state capital said their companies were adopting a more direct model, with salary cuts ranging from 15-20 percent.

"We have been told that our salary will be cut and that portion would be kept aside. The situation will be reviewed every three months. If the management sees some improvement, a portion of that salary will be given back to the employees," said an executive.

M. Vasudevan, a top official of Technopark, said that IT firms were also cutting costs, but there was no drastic action similar to what was happening in other IT parks in the country.

"Yes, salaries are being cut or status quo is being maintained. Employees have realised that there is no other option. They know that when the good times come back, they would be compensated," said Vasudevan.

The slowdown has also affected suppliers of computers and peripherals on rentals. "An animation company at Technopark asked us to take back 20 high-end computers, which we had given on monthly rental. One of their projects got cancelled," said an official.

The Kerala government has decided to chip in to help the companies in various Technopark and Infopark campuses. It has decided to defer payment of a part of the rent due from these companies in the next fiscal.

Third Front parties will flock BJP: Vayalar Ravi

19 March 2009

New Delhi: The "so-called secular forces" associated with the Left parties in the name of Third Front will "definitely go back" to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) group after the Lok Sabha polls, warned senior Congress leader and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi.

"Mayawati's BSP (Bahujan Samaj Party), Naveen Patnaik's BJD (Biju Janata Dal), Deve Gowda's Janata Dal (JD-S), Jayalalitha's AIADMK....check the record of the parties associated with the Left. All of them have worked with the BJP in the past. Then what is the guarantee that these so-called secular parties would not go with the BJP after the elections?" Ravi asked.

"They are all the same people who were associated with the BJP in the past. Definitely they will go back to the BJP," the 72-year-old politician, who is also Overseas Indian Affairs Minister, told IANS in an interview here.

Terming the Left parties' ambition to form an alternative to the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government as an "opportunistic move", Ravi said: "They cannot form an alliance as all are divided. It is a thin crowd and more than three persons are aspiring to become prime minister. How can such a group offer leadership to the country? It is a myth."

"The Third Front is not a new idea. It is a failed experiment. The Communists tried to form an alternative to the Congress in 1967 and 1971. But they failed," said Ravi, who entered politics by fighting the Communists in his high school days in his home state, Kerala.

Ravi was founder-president of the Kerala Students Union (KSU), the students' wing of the Congress party in the state.

He lashed out at the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), accusing it of "creating the ground for the rise of communal and reactionary forces" in the country.

"In 1977, the CPI-M joined the Jana Sangh to form the first non-Congress government. They helped groom the reactionary forces and leaders like Atal Bihari Vajpayee and L.K. Advani. They were made ministers in the Janata Party government supported by the Marxists," Ravi said.

In his reckoning the Congress party was the only party ready to fight communal forces.

"In the 1984 elections, Rajiv Gandhi led the charge and reduced the BJP's number to two. But the reactionary forces tried to malign Rajiv with false allegations. The Communists again joined them to form the non-Congress government led by V.P. Singh."

He also accused the BJP of dividing Indian society.

"Advani's Rath Yatra and the demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya divided Indian society," Ravi said.

He claimed that the policies and schemes introduced by the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, like the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) and Bharat Nirman would help it win people's support in the elections.

"The UPA government is the only and the best government in the history of India which placed the country among the six developed nations," Ravi said.

"We are very proud, we have a prime minister who is well respected all over the world. His policies and programmes saved the country from an economic crisis."

"In the time of difficulties, especially during the time of terror attacks, the diplomatic efforts by the government cornered Pakistan," he said.

Tharoor gets Congress ticket, calls it a 'challenge'

20 March 2009

Thiruvananthapuram: Former UN under-secretary general Shashi Tharoor was Thursday named the Congress candidate for the key Thiruvananthapuram Lok Sabha seat, and he said he would "take this as a challenge".

"First of all, I take this as a challenge and now since there are only four weeks left, I have to work hard. I will be meeting as many people as possible," Tharoor told a TV channel here soon after the Congress released its list of candidates for the state in New Delhi.

One of the politicians Tharoor is pitted against is Ramachandran Nair, the current Thiruvananthapuram district secretary of the Communist Party of India (CPI) and the candidate of the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF).

Another formidable opponent is Neelalohithadasan Nadar, who as a Congress candidate in 1980 trounced CPI leader M.N. Govindan Nair. Nadar this time is contesting as the candidate of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP).

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is yet to name its candidate.

Tharoor earlier Thursday visited Congress leader K. Karunakaran and sought his support and blessings. He is set to formally launch his campaign at the district party headquarters here Friday.

Tharoor began his career in 1978 when he joined the staff of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Geneva. He has authored five non-fiction books as well as works like the "The Great Indian Novel".

Tharoor was among the 16 candidates the Congress named Thursday from Kerala. The candidate for Vadakara seat would be announced later. The party is not contesting from three constituencies in the state.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Vajpayee Leads N.D.A for a Full term

Vote TF to power, WB communists urge electorate

West Bengal's ruling Left Front leaders Monday urged the electorate to help vote the communist-led Third Front to power during the Lok Sabha polls.

"I appeal to the people of our state to cast their votes in favour of the Left Front in the coming general elections so that we could form our government at the centre with support of the newly-formed Third Front," state Front chairman Biman Bose told a political gathering here.

He said: "We want to win in all 42 seats from West Bengal so that we can strengthen the arms of the third alternative at the centre."

The state Left Front had called a workers' conference here at the Salt Lake stadium to boost the morale of the party cadres before the coming April-May elections.

Criticising the seat-adjustment between the Congress and the state's main opposition Trinamool Congress, West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said: "The opposition forces have thrown a challenge before the Left Front and they are trying to malign its image by false campaigning. We've to defeat them."

"We've no scope to go back. We've to advance with our political ideology. Though we know it will not be possible overnight," he said.

CPI-M patriarch Jyoti Basu, who was not present on the occasion due to his ill health, urged his party workers to drum up support for the third front in a recorded video message.

"It will be a very important election this year. We've to provide support to such a government which will work for the common people of India," Basu told a party conference in the video speech.

Urging his party activists to strengthen the foundation of the Third Front, he said the Left parties had supported the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) in the 14th Lok Sabha just to stop the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) from coming into power.

"We supported them on the basis of some common minimum programmes. But, the UPA has cheated the common people," he said.

"This time, we have to strengthen the third force. And for that, people of the state (West Bengal) will have to elect the Left Front candidates in the coming elections. Now the onus is on you," Basu said.

Supporting the third alternative, other LF leaders - Communsit Party of India (CPI) state secretary Manju Kumar Majumdar, Forward Bloc (FB) secretary Ashok Ghosh and Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) leader Debabrata Bandhopadhyay - also exhorted the workers to carry the message of the third froce across the state.

"The alternative of the Left Front in West Bengal is the Left Front itself. There will be no political alternative here," Majumdar said.

"We've to create a new record this time by electing the Left Front candidates in all 42 Lok Sabha seats from West Bengal," he said

No chances of joining Third Front: Amar Singh

New Delhi: Samajwadi Party leader Amar Singh Monday ruled out the possibility of his party joining the Third Front, saying he saw no hope as long as Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) general secreatry Prakash Karat was at its helm.

Amar Singh said Karat denied him an appointment to "discuss my personal issue" recently only because of his proximity with the Congress.

"If comrade Harkishan Singh Surjeet had been the general secretary of the CPI-M, there would have some hope (of his party joining the Third Front)," Amar Singh told reporters.

He was asked if there was a possibility of the Samajwadi Party joining the Third Front, if the Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) left the grouping

JD(S) Minister quits Kerala Cabinet

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Kerala Transport Minister Mathew T. Thomas, the Janata Dal (Secular) representative in the Left Democratic Front (LDF) Cabinet, resigned on Monday following denial of the Kozhikode Lok Sabha seat to the party.

He told reporters that the happenings in Kerala did not augur well for the efforts to form a Third Front at the national level.

Mr. Thomas sent in his resignation to Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan around 8 p.m. on the direction of party State president M.P. Veerendra Kumar.

Shortly before submitting his resignation, he told The Hindu that he was abiding by the party leadership’s direction.

‘Politically indefensible’

He signed his resignation letter seconds after Mr. Veerendra Kumar announced at a news conference in Kozhikode that he had asked Mr. Thomas to put in his papers. Coming down heavily on the CPI(M) decision not to give the JD(S) the Kozhikode constituency, currently being represented by him in Parliament, Mr. Veerendra Kumar said the CPI(M) decision was ‘politically indefensible’ and against all norms of political morality.

In person

Mr. Thomas, widely respected for his efforts to lift the Kerala State Transport Corporation (KSRTC) out of the red, drove down to the Chief Minister’s official residence and handed over his resignation letter to Mr. Achuthanandan in the presence of Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister M. Vijayakumar even as Mr. Veerendra Kumar’s news conference was in progress in Kozhikode.

Mr. Veerendra Kumar said the CPI(M) decision was formally communicated to him by party State secretary Pinarayi Vijayan.

Kerala minister quits in fresh row with CPM

17 Mar 2009,

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Unhappy with a dominating CPM choosing Lok Sabha candidates for the Left Democratic Front on its own, the Janata Dal (S) nominee in the Kerala government resigned on Monday plunging the coalition into a fresh crisis.

Mathew T Thomas, the minister for road transport, met chief minister V S Achuthanandan and handed over his resignation. Later, he told reporters that he was only obeying the command of his party.

The H D Deve Gowda-led JD (Secular) is unhappy with the CPM for unequivocally conveying that the Kozhikode seat, curently held by JD(S), cannot be given to the party again.

JD(S) state president M P Veerendra Kumar, the sitting MP from Kozhikode, quickly called a news conference. "The CPM's unilateral decision to take away the seats of allies is not politically justifiable and lacks morality,'' Kumar said.

CPM is said to have shortlisted a youth leader of the party for Kozhikode and told JD(S) that it could take Wayanad instead.

JD(S) MLA M K Premnath warned that the party would go ahead with tougher measures if the seat is not returned. The JD (S) has five MLAs in the 141-member Kerala assembly.

Talks between CPI and CPM to resolve the standoff over the Ponnani seat reached nowhere with CPM still rooting for Hussain Randathani, an independent supported by radical cleric-turned-politician Abdul Nasser Madani. The talks will continue on Tuesday, sources said.

LS poll campaign yet to start in Kerala

Thiruvananthapuram (PTI): With barely a month left for Lok Sabha polls in Kerala, both the ruling CPI(M)-led LDF and Congress-spearheaded UDF opposition, are yet to start election campaign in the state following issues related to seat-sharing and selection of candidates.

The stand-off between the CPI(M) and the CPI over the Ponnani Lok Sabha seat has forced the Left front to postpone election conventions in all the 20 constituencies, scheduled to start last week.

According to the Left front sources, Central leadership of both the CPI(M) and the CPI have been apprised of the matter and a solution is expected by Monday.

The CPI has been insisting on Ponnai seat but CPI(M) argued that it was agreed at the LDF seat sharing meeting that a 'common independent' candidate would be put up this time from the constituency, a CPI seat, to defeat the IUML which had been winning it over the years.

The CPI move to field film director Kamal, as an alternative candidate to both CPI(M) supported Prof Hussian Randhathani and CPI identified candidate A P Kunhamu, has also failed.

Mr. Kamal has refused to enter the fray unless, Randhathani, who had started campaigning in Ponnai as an independent candidate, with facit support of CPI(M) withdrew from the polls.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Comrades end kerala fight

14 Mar 2009 , ET Bureau

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The crisis in Kerala’s Left Democratic Front over the Ponnani seat blew over on Friday night, following the intervention of the CPM central leadership. After a day of high drama, the candidates suggested by CPI and CPM were out of the frame and the meeting of LDF co-ordination panel will select a new Left nominee.

CPI, which went off the collective rocker on Friday morning, threatened to field candidates in seats being contested by CPM. Alleging attempts to snatch its seat, CPI charged CPM with flouting coalition norms. “Without our support, CPM cannot win a single seat in Kerala,” CPI state secretary Veliyam Bharghavan claimed at a press conference in

CPM state unit secretary Pinarayi Vijayan, who spoke to reporters later in the day, sent out a ‘get real’ message to CPI. Recalling CPI’s performance track record since the 1965 election, Mr Vijayan said CPI could not achieve much when it fought alone. “In 1965, CPI candidates lost its deposit in 54 constituencies. Even V R Krishna Iyer had to face the humiliation of losing deposit in the Thalassery seat, as he contested as a CPI candidate.

It could manage three seats in the assembly because of our support. CPM was the biggest party in the then assembly,” Mr Vijayan said. The CPM leader also asked CPI not to be ‘too sanctimonious’. He said the Kerala electorate was familiar with CPI’s role during the Emergency.

The CPM leader then went on to rubbish the claim that his party was snatching the Ponnani seat from CPI and said Hussain Randathani was picked up by CPI. “I have never seen or heard about Randathani. His candidature was suggested by CPI’s K E Ismail. I have come to know from newspapers that they have changed their opinion on Randathani after he refused to be part of CPI parliamentary party in the event of a victory,” Mr Vijayan said.

Mr Vijayan also sought to puncture CPI’s campaign that CPM was feuding with allies on behalf of PDP and Abdul Nasser Madani. “The candidature of Randathani has nothing to do with PDP,” he said. The CPM leader said LDF had been losing Ponnani and efforts were being made by the party to put up a candidate who had chances of winning the seat by defeating UDF.

CPI has been pitching for A P Kunhamu’s candidature from Ponnani with an eye to befriend hard-line Islamic voters. Mr Kunhamu, a fellow traveller of the Muslim outfit NDF, has been writing articles in Jamait-e-Islami controlled newspaper Tejass, defending Muslim terror groups in various parts of the world.

The compromise worked out by the central leadership is only small consolation for CPI. The March 16 meeting is certain to pick up a neutral candidate. CPI’s chief concern was about the candidate becoming part of its parliamentary group after the polls. CPM is yet to complete negotiations with JD(S) for the Kozhikode seat. Mr M P Veerendra Kumar is insisting on contesting this seat. But this is unacceptable to CPM.

Meanwhile, CPM named 13 of its candidates on Friday. Its list includes six MPs—party’s deputy leader in Lok Sabha P Karunakaran, P Sathi Devi (Vadakara), T K Hamza (Malappuram), K Suresh Kurup (Kottayam), K S Manoj (Alappuzha) and P Rajendran (Kollam). In selecting new faces, the party has relied on its youth wing.

LDF heading for a Split

The symptoms of a meltdown in Kerala

13 Mar 2009, ET Bureau

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The symptoms of a meltdown in Kerala’ ruling Left Democratic Front that surfaced on Thursday, worsened into a full-blown recession today with the CPI leadership eye-balling coalition big-brother CPM and daring it to take the Ponnani seat away from the party.

The two communist parties that rarely bring their disagreements out into the open, today dumped tradition and held back-to-back press conferences, virtually taunting each other to take up their respective threats.

A furious CPI state secretary Veliyam Bhargavan went to the extent of saying that the “CPM never learns a lesson”, and predicting that “the CPM will not win a single seat without CPI support”.

As if those words were not caustic enough, Mr Bhargavan added, “We will lose our three seats, and they (CPM) will lose all their seats”, appearing to take pleasure in the possibility of the CPM’s utter downfall in the forthcoming polls.

Mr Bhargavan said if the Ponnani seat were not to be given to the CPI, the party would field its own candidates in all the constituencies in the state barring the two constituencies where the Kerala Congress (J) and the Janata Dal (Secular) are contesting.

Asked if that meant the end of the Left Democratic Front coalition in the state, Mr Bhargavan snapped, “What else does it mean, then? If the CPM is insisting that all parties obey their diktat, where is the concept of a coalition?”

Later, CPM state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan clarified that the CPI had indeed been given four seats to contest, adding that the understanding in the LDF was that a mutually acceptable Left-backed independent would be fielded in Ponnani.

Hussein Randathani, who has the overt backing of the CPM has already begun campaigning in Ponnani, while the CPI has chosen A P Kunhamu, who has a bank trade union background, as its candidate for Ponnani. How the two communist parties sort out the issue of the Ponnani candidacy could well decide the outcome across all constituencies, say political observers.

Meanwhile, the Janata Dal (Secular), which is demanding the Kozhikode seat, may also follow the CPI example and stand firm on its demand. The CPI leadership’s allegation that the CPM was snatching the seats of coalition partners may embolden Janata Dal, too, to stick to its demand for the Kozhikode seat.

The CPI state executive is scheduled to meet on March 16, when a final decision is expected on the party’s continuance in the LDF. Observers here expect negotiations to continue between the CPM and the CPI over the next two days to amicably solve the Ponnani issue before March 16.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Ousted CPI-M MP Abdullakutty decides to join Congress

New Delhi Ousted Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) MP A.P. Abdullakutty Thursday said he would campaign for the Congress in the coming general elections and join the party soon.

Abdullakutty, sacked from the CPI-M last week on charges of violating party discipline while under suspension, met Defence Minister and Congress leader A.K. Antony here and said he would campaign for the victory of the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) in Kerala.

'I will work with Antony, I will work with the Congress party and I will work with the UDF,' he said. 'I will not contest Lok Sabha polls this time,' Abdullakutty told IANS.

Abdullakutty said matters regarding the Congress membership would be discussed with the state leadership.

'I will join the Congress. Matters regarding the party membership and organisational position would be discussed with the party leadership.'

Before meeting Antony, Abdullakutty had Wednesday discussed his future plan with state Congress leaders, including Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) president Ramesh Chennithala and Leader of Opposition Oommen Chandy.

Abdullakutty, who was the minority mascot of the CPI-M in Kerala, was suspended from the party for praising Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi's skill in inviting more investment to Gujarat.

He continued to make remarks critical of the CPI-M while under suspension. On March 7, the Kannur district committee of the party ousted the two-time MP for refusing to accept party discipline.

BJP worker killed in Kannur

12 March 2009
Kannur A BJP worker was hacked to death by a group of masked men at Kurichikara under Panur Police limits in Kannur district of Kerala Thursday evening. Police identified the deceased as Vijayan (35).

The killing was suspected to be in apparent retaliation to yesterday's killing of a CPM activists in the district.

Tension prevailed in the areas as eight CPM activists were injured when country made bombs were hurled at a funeral procession carrying the body of a CPM sympathiser who was murdered yesterday at Elakode near Panur in this district.

The funeral procession was on the way to Kunnoth Paramabu, when suspected RSS activists hurled five country made bombs at the vehicles.

Police said seven CPM activists were admitted to Thalassery Coooperative Hospital and one to Thalassery General Hospital.

The assailants also hurled country made bombs at the police party at Puthur Madapuram near Panur, but no causalities were reported.

However, Kannur Superintendent of Police S. Sreejith fired two rounds in the air and used four grenades to disperse the mob in the evening.

In another incident, CPM activists ransacked BJP office at Panur.

On Wednesday night, suspected CPM activists attacked houses of eight BJP sympathisers at Kunnoth Parambu while BJP sympathisers attacked one house of CPM sympathiser.

Seat sharing LDF fails to reach agreement

Thiruvananthapuram: A meeting of the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF)in Kerala to decide a seat sharing formula for the Lok Sabha elections ended here Thursday without an agreement.

Assistant secretary of the Communist Party of India (CPI) K.E. Ismail said the party will make its decision clear at 4 p.m.

"We have nothing to say now, you please come at 4 p.m for our press conference," said Ismail here.

In the 2004 elections, the Communist Party of India-Marxist(CPI-M) contested 14 seats, the CPI four and the Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) and the Kerala Congress (Joseph) contested one seat each. The Revolutionary Socialist Party, the Congress-S and the Nationalist Congress Party are also members of the ruling front.

For the past two weeks, the LDF constituents have held many rounds of talks to come to a seat sharing agreement.

According to sources, CPI-M is keen to contest Kozhikode seat in lieu of Wayanad seat. But JD-S has been contesting from Kozhikode since 1980 and does not want to give it up.

The CPI is also not keen to give up Ponnani seat which it has been contesting for years

Abdullakutty to campaign for Congress

12 March 2009
New Delhi: Ousted Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) MP A.P. Abdullakutty Thursday said he would campaign for the Congress in the coming general elections and join the party soon.

Abdullakutty, sacked from the CPI-M last week on charges of violating party discipline while under suspension, met Defence Minister and Congress leader A.K. Antony here and said he would campaign for the victory of the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) in Kerala.

"I will work with Antony, I will work with the Congress party and I will work with the UDF," he said. "I will not contest Lok Sabha polls this time," Abdullakutty told IANS.

Abdullakutty said matters regarding the Congress membership would be discussed with the state leadership.

"I will join the Congress. Matters regarding the party membership and organisational position would be discussed with the party leadership."

Before meeting Antony, Abdullakutty had Wednesday discussed his future plan with state Congress leaders, including Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) president Ramesh Chennithala and Leader of Opposition Oommen Chandy.

Abdullakutty, who was the minority mascot of the CPI-M in Kerala, was suspended from the party for praising Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi's skill in inviting more investment to Gujarat.

He continued to make remarks critical of the CPI-M while under suspension. On March 7, the Kannur district committee of the party ousted the two-time MP for refusing to accept party discipline.

Rcom launches India's fastest wireless internet service

Press Trust Of India
Mumbai, March 12, 2009

Telecom major Reliance Communications on Thursday launched what the company said would be the fastest internet service in the country till date.

The company said the new service called Reliance Netconnect Broadband Plus offers huge potential and would help increase the broadband penetration in the country manifold.

Speaking to reporters, Mahesh Prasad, President, Reliance Communications said the new service will be available in 35 cities which covers 80 to 85 per cent potential of broadband users in the country.

The subscribers, to avail of the service, will need to buy a device costing Rs 3500 and select a tariff plan which varies from monthly charges of Rs 299 going upto Rs 1750 . The service will be available from the next week.

Prasad said the company's existing service Netconnect has a subscriber base of 10 lakh and they could consider upgrade their subscription to the new service.

Prasad said the company has upgraded the software in its network for launching the new service which can offer downlink speed of upto 3.1 Mbps and a separate uplink speed of upto 1.8 Mbps offering 30 per cent higher downlink rate in comparison to any other wireless broad band offering.

The new service is best suited for video streaming, video surveillance, rich media content and superior internet browsing, a company press note said.

Note: The previous experinece in this regard was not encouraging.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Ponnin Soochi -Oru Ponnani Story

EC: change in date of Kerala polls likely

12 Mar 2009,

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The Election Commission on Wednesday said it would consider the request from some quarters to postpone the parliamentary polls in Kerala by a week, in view of the ‘Vishu’ festival falling on April 14.

Speaking to reporters after holding talks with various political parties, Chief Election Commissioner N Gopalaswamy said the issue would be discussed at EC meeting on Monday. The BJP and CPI are the main parties which asked for a postponement. The polls are scheduled to be held in Kerala on April 16.

The CEC said complaints regarding deletion of names of persons from voters’ list would be looked into. District collectors had been asked to enquire into the matter. He also said Karnataka and Tamil Nadu had been directed to check duplicate voting in areas bordering Kerala. Micro-observers would be posted in sensitive and hyper-sensitive booths across Kerala, he said.

CPI, BJP want polls in Kerala postponed

Press Trust Of India March 12, 2009

CPI, BJP and the NCP today demanded postponement of Lok Sabha elections in Kerala, slated for April 16, at least by a week as the festival of Vishu and the Holy Week of Christians come just before the polls.

This demand was put forward by the various party delegations that had separately called on the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) N Gopalaswami, who is in the state capital to review preparations for the poll preparations. The two major parties in the state, CPI-M and the Congress, however, did not make this demand.

CPI-M delegates, after meeting the CEC, told reporters that the party did not want the change in polling schedule as the poll date was decided considering various aspects.

While Vishu, the most important Hindu festival after Onam, falls on April 14, the Holy Week for Christians starts on April 9 and culminates with Easter on April 12.

The parties pressing for the postponement of voting said poll preparations could be affected as the week that immediately precedes the voting had a cluster of holidays.

Gopalaswami would meet District Collectors, Chief Secretary, DGP and other senior civil and police officials to assess the arrangements for the elections.

Hotel Leelaventure promoters pledge 20.87 pc stake

12 Feb 2009, PTI

MUMBAI: Hotel Leelaventure on Thursday said that its two promoters have pledged 7.88 crore shares representing 20.87 per cent stake in the company.

In a disclosure to the Bombay Stock Exchange, Hotel Leelaventure said its two promoters - Leela Lace Holdings and Leela Scottish Lace - have pledged 7.88 crore shares.

Leela Lace Holdings has pledged 6.02 crore shares, whereas Leela Scottish Lace pledged the remaining 1.86 crore shares, the company said.

Meanwhile, in a separate filing to the BSE, the hotel chain firm said it has bought back 1 per cent euro foreign currency convertible bonds worth 8.25 euro (nearly Rs 51.76 crore).

Shares of Hotel Leelaventure today closed at Rs 19.70, up 2.34 per cent on the BSE.

Premium hotels slash tariffs by 15% more

12 Mar 2009, ET Bureau

MUMBAI: Premium hotel chains across the country have cut prices by another 15% to lure customers as the global credit crunch continues. This is the second price cut by five star hotel chains in nearly four months. They reduced room rates in December-January.

After the recent cuts, room rates at five-star hotels in India are around 30% to 35% lower than what they were a year ago. In Delhi, average room rates (ARR) have come down to Rs 10,000-Rs 12,000 from Rs 16,000 to Rs 18,000. In Mumbai, room tariffs are down to Rs 7,500-Rs 9,000 from Rs 10,000 to Rs 12,000. Budget hotels will also reduce room rates by 8-10%. Room tariffs in budget hotels vary from Rs 3,000 to Rs 8,000.

“We are only going to see room rates softening to more realistic levels in the future,” said Manav Thadani, managing director, HVS, a hotel consultancy firm.

Hotel companies like Leela, Oberoi, Mariott, Hyaat, ITC and Lemon Tree are understood to be offering special packages, discounts and daily room rates to tackle the drop in occupancy, which is currently at 65-70% against last year’s 85%.

With the peak season coming to an end in March, and the beginning of lean season starting from April to September, hotel companies are worried that margins will be under pressure this year. There are signs that hotels are locked in a fierce price war, industry officials said.

”With the advent of the lean season, there will be a few special packages that the hotels will offer to sustain occupancy during weekends and public holidays,” Devendra Bharma, executive vice-president, Oberoi Hotels & Resorts, Mumbai said.

The hotel industry has been witnessing a slowdown since November last year, with leisure and corporate travel taking a major hit post the Mumbai terror attacks. However, resort destinations like Kerala, Jaipur and Goa are bucking the trend.

“We hope that post the elections, economy will be stable, tourist inflow will pick up and the outlook will become positive for hotel companies,” said Leela VC & MD Vivek Nair. Hotels are getting fiercely price competitive. With rack rates becoming obsolete, hotel chains are currently following web rates. “We have started daily room rates based on the projected occupancy in a particular period,” said Mr Nair.

In addition, an oversupply in several cites like Pune, Hyderabad and Bangalore has affected room rates and occupancies, said Patu Keswani, managing director, Lemon Tree. Experts feel another reason for fall in room rates is India Inc’s cost cutting moves.

Cong divided on fielding MP Abdulla Kutty

Kannur: Efforts are on in the Congress-led United Democratic Front camp in Kerala to field expelled CPI-M MP A P Abdulla Kutty in the Kannur constituency, even as a section of the Congress is lukewarm to the move.

Two-time MP Abdulla Kutty, who faced the axe for his remarks praising Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, had expressed keenness last week to associate with like-minded mainstream party stating he had technically ceased to be a member of CPI-M, which promptly expelled him the very next day.

While reports suggested that he could be a possible UDF nominee, Abdulla Kutty has remained non-committal saying he was yet to make up his mind.

The Congress camp led by local MLA and KPCC General Secretary K Sudhakaran is quite keen on fielding Abdulla Kutty as the UDF nominee in Kannur, considered as a CPI-M bastion, and is holding talks with the party state leadership.

"We are holding talks with KPCC and UDF leadership though Abdulla Kutty has not formally expressed his willingness to contest from Kannur for the third time," Sudhakaran told PTI. However, the Kannur District Congress Committee is against the move, saying the front would not derive any advantage.

"There is no reason why Kutty should be made UDF nominee when there are many capable leaders to take on the LDF," DCC President P Ramakrishnan said.

CD not promoted by us: Kerala CM

11 March 2009
Thiruvananthapuram: With Christian bodies and opposition parties in Kerala mounting protests over a short film, allegedly portraying the church in bad light, Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan Wednesday refuted allegations that the CD was promoted by the State Education department.

The CD had not been shown to students anywhere in the state and the allegation that it was promoted by the Education Department was untrue, Achuthanandan told reporters here after a cabinet meeting.

The teacher, A.P. Sasidharan, who was found guilty of lapses, had been suspended, he said, adding, action would also be taken against other officials responsible for it (lapses). Education Minister M A Baby had said on Monday that the film was not meant as a study aid and that it had made its way mistakenly into a CD while downloading.

He had said Education and Home departments would probe how the CD was distributed to a group of teachers in Thrissur district during their cluster meeting recently without proper verification or prior permission from authorities.

A teacher was suspended for allegedly distributing the CD. The Catholic Church in Kerala had come out strongly against the film titled the 'Wound' which it said was to 'malign' the Church.

HC withdraws from Abhaya case

11 March 2009

Kochi: The Kerala High Court has withdrawn from the primary responsibilities of the Abhaya murder case. The case will be heard by the Ernakulam Chief Judicial Magistrate Court from Thursday onwards, said Justice K Balakrishnan Nair.

The Division Bench of the High Court will not oversee the development of the case every 3 months. The court took this decision while hearing the petition of Abhaya's father Thomas and Jomon Puthurpurakkal.

Earlier Justice K Basanth had withdrawn from the primary responsibilities of the case and following this justice Balakrishnan Nair took over the case.

Thousands throng Attukal pongala fest

Thursday, March 12, 2009
Thiruvananthapuram: The Attukal Pongala mahotsavam began with much religious fervour on Tuesday at the Attukal Bhagawathy Temple. Devotees from all walks of life thronged the temple complex to offer pongala to the deity.

The pongala will be blessed by the chief priest of the temple by around 2.30 pm. An aircraft will shower rose petals over the devotees.

Spirals of smoke rose from hundreds of firewood stoves here Tuesday as an estimated three million women devotees from Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu converged on the path to the Attukal Bhagavathi temple and cooked rice offerings for the goddess.

The offering is made on the penultimate day of the 10-day-long Attukal Pongala festival, which is often referred to as the equivalent of the Sabarimala pilgrimage for women.

Attukal Bhagavathi is believed to be an incarnation of Kannaki, the central character of the Tamil epic 'Silappathikaaram'.

'This time the number of devotees has crossed three million. The women are seated on roads. This year several more roads have been occupied compared to last year,' Sreekumaran Nair, the temple superintendent, told IANS.

Only those women who had arrived three days ago managed to get a place to cook near the temple. About 20 sq km around the temple was choc-a-bloc with devotees.

The Guinness Book of World Records listed it as the world's largest annual gathering of women in 1997, when 1.5 million devotees converged here on Feb 23.

'We have posted 2,000 policemen and 500 women constables besides 15 deputy superintendents of police and three superintendents. We have put up close circuit cameras at all important points,' Commissioner of Police Ravada Chandrasekhar told reporters.

Miss World Parvathy Omanakuttan said this was the second she was offering pongala.

'Last time I won the Miss India crown and became the Miss World runner up after I cam here. Amma is really powerful and one really experiences a feeling of satisfaction after doing this pongala. I am really happy I am here,' said Omanakuttan.

Women devotees arrived here with bricks, firewood, rice, jaggery and coconut to cook the rice offering. They lit their stoves after the chief priest lit the main stove in the compound at about 10.30 a.m.

According to legend, Kannaki destroyed Madurai in Tamil Nadu after the king of Madurai wrongfully imposed the death penalty on her husband. After that, Kannaki travelled to Kerala, where she rested for a while at Attukal and women are said to have cooked pongala to appease her.

Like every year, film actresses also turned up at the temple to prepare the pongala offering.

'This is the 10th time I am offering pongala. I believe Amma is really powerful. One has to be here to experience the goodness,' said film and TV actress Chippy.

Malayalam superstar Suresh Gopi, who is present alongside the priests when the main stove is lit every year, said that he feels fortunate to be able to participate in the event.

Kerala government orders probe into 'controversial' CD

10 Mar 2009
Thiruvananthapuram: The Kerala government Monday ordered a probe into a controversial educational CD in which two short films upset the Christians here.
Education Minister M.A. Baby said the government has suspended Hindi teacher P.V. Sasidharan who had allegedly circulated the CD as a teaching aid for teachers to enable students learn script writing.

Baby told the reporters that the inquiry will be done by the home and education department.

He said the controversy was needless and the two short films had by mistake crept into the CD, which was distributed at a few places in Trissur district.

He said the Hindi CD titled 'Save' was never a teaching aid for the Class 7 students.

'It was prepared by a person called Vinod and he gave the CD to Sasidharan,' Baby said.

The two short films were copied accidentally into the CD and it 'was never a part of the teaching aid', he said.

'Anyway, we have decided to inquire how this happened.'

Various Christian organisations are up in arms because the two short films in the CD, they allege, portrayed Christianity in a poor light.

Father Paul Thelekat, official spokesperson of the Syro Malabar Catholic Church, said the two films were highly objectionable.

Leader of Opposition Oommen Chandy said: 'The state government should act strongly by taking appropriate action against those who have done this.'

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Saddam a comrade in Kerala

11 Mar 2009, ET Bureau

NEW DELHI: Among whatever is left of the pan-Arab Left, ageing comrades remember Saddam Hussein as the despot who single-handedly decimated the communist movement in Iraq. However, back in Kerala, a state which lives on the remittances sent back by its million-plus emigres in the Gulf countries, local communists hail Saddam Hussein as the Arab Saladdin who held out against American imperialism.

For a decade now, the Kerala Left led by the CPM — with its core base coming mostly from lower-caste Hindus — has been trying to make inroads into the Muslim-majority district of Malappuram and neighbouring Kozhikode.

At the heart of a heated debate within the Left is the Ponnani Lok Sabha constituency where Muslims make up 25% of the population, a traditional bastion of Congress ally, the Indian Union Muslim League. Emboldened by the sweeping gains that the Left made in the two northern districts in the last assembly elections, the junior partner in the Left Front, CPI, has been nurturing hopes of wringing the seat. However, the CPM, which has been cosying up to the firebrand People’s Democratic Front (PDP) leader Abdul Nasser Madani — acquitted in the Coimbatore blast case after several years in jail — wants to field an indpendent from the seat who is agreeable to the PDP.

The CPI, which is trying desperately to hold on to the seat to ensure that its vote share does not drop further, is averse to the PDP calling the shots. Mr Madani still faces around 20 cases in Kerala, which includes spreading communal hatred. The war-of-words that ensued culminated in a slanging match between the all-powerful CPM state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan and CPI state chief Veliyam Bhargavan, as widely reported in Malayalam media.

Up north, the CPM has also decided to put up its candidate in the communally-sensitive Azamgarh seat hoping to capitalise on the electorate’s perceived disillusionment with the ruling parties at the Centre and the state. In the aftermath of the Mumbai terror attack, protestors from Azamgarh shouted slogans “Azamgarh Zindabad!” and “Ulema Council Zindabad” in the heart of the Capital.

Protesting police “harassment” of Muslims, they said “we are students, not terrorists”. The Ulema Council is also likely to field a candidate in the constituency, which is seen as a terror hub after the Batla House encounter.

In Assam, where illegal immigrants from Bangladesh have a say in several seats, the CPM was trying to tie up with the Assam United Democratic Front (AUDF), which had won ten assembly seats. The party is eyeing seats in the Lok Sabha by wooing over the Muslim voters. It’s another matter that the CPM walked out of the alliance following deadlock in seat-sharing arrangement in the state. However, the CPI is still part of the NCP-AUDF-Left front in the state.

CPM’s political organisational report finalised at the recent Coimbatore Congress said more efforts needed to be made to recruit Muslims, following a drop in Muslim membership over the past seven years. While in Kerala the LDF has managed to win over a section of the American-wary Muslims by striking the right chords, in West Bengal the steady drop in the Muslim membership have given cause for concern at Alimuddin Street.

The Left had the backing of around half-a-dozen Muslim groups in Kerala, as was evident from the assembly elections of 2006. The LDF got a taste of the Muslim backing when it stole a large share of the minority vote from the Congress which had fallen from grace in the eyes of the Islamists because of the Indo-US nuclear deal. The CPM’s central leadership explained its affiliation with the minority groups by saying there was a difference between accepting support and forming an alliance with a religion-based party.

In West Bengal, where it sensed that the Muslim votebank was slipping, the CPM tried to make amends—the Taslima Nasreen episode was a clear indication.

But it was too late. The CPM felt the pain of the Muslim backlash in the panchayat polls. The Muslims had started to distance themselves disillusioned with the Left Front in the wake of the Sachar Committee report. Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya’s utterances about clearing Madrassas did further harm. What made matters worse was the state government’s land acquisition in Singur and Nandigram, in which the community was affected severely. The Muslim population is over 50% in some districts of the state, including Murshidabad and Kishanganj.

Defiant CPI to field Kunhamu in Ponnani

Wednesday,11 March 2009
Kozhikode: The CPI has proposed the name of A.P. Kunhamu, as the candidate for Ponnani openly defying the LDF decision to field Dr. Hussein Randathani as independent candidate there.

Kunhamu, a bank employee and trade union leader is a popular figure in Kozhikode and Malappuram. His candidature was decided in the CPI state council meet held Wednesday. The other CPI candidates are P. Ramachandran Nair (Thiruvananthapuram), R.S. Anil (Mavelikkara) and C.N. Jayadevan (Thrissur).

Dr. Hussein Randathani who has the blessings of PDP and the Kanthapuram faction had already started campaigning in Ponnani.

LS polls performance test of my govt: VS

Saturday,7 March 2009
Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan, who will complete three years in power this May, Wednesday said the upcoming Lok Sabha polls would be a performance test for the state government.

"It is quite natural that the performance of my government will come under the scanner during the polls. When people will compare my government with that of the previous Oommen Chandy-led Congress government they will have no problem in deciding whom to vote for," Achuthanandan told reporters here.

Kerala goes to polls April 16.

He said people will have to choose between two phases of rule of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's government.

"The first phase was when the Left supported the central government and the second phase was when we withdrew the support. This would be a good yardstick for people to decide. We are sure that the electorate in Kerala knows what to do," said Achuthanandan.

He also added that the Left is very clear that they want a secular government and one that is not led by the Congress or the Bharatiya Janata Party.

CPI grumbles, but CPM has its way in Kerala

10 Mar 2009, ET Bureau

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Aiming to retain 18 of the 20 Lok Sabha seats in Kerala it won in 2004 is a challenge in itself for Kerala’s Left Democratic Front. That challenge has been made more onerous, thanks to the discord among the LDF coalition members over seat allocation.

The dispute between the two leading parties in the LDF coalition, CPM and CPI, is out in the open, with the central leaderships of the two parties also having to help find an amicable solution out of the crisis.

The CPI is upset over the CPM move to have a Left-backed independent contest from the Ponnani seat. CPI general secretary A B Bardhan and the local leadership in Kerala have been insisting that it would be CPI which will decide on the candidate in Ponnani, but the CPM seems to be in no mood to relent.

Instead, Hussein Randathani, a candidate who apparently has the blessings of the People’s Democratic Party and the CPM has announced himself as the Left candidate in Ponnani.

To the CPI’s consternation, Randathani has already begun campaign work and his supporters have begun spreading the word about their candidate.

A final decision on the candidate in Ponnani is scheduled only on March 12, but given the ground realities, few doubt that it would be anyone other than Randathani.

Ponnani has been an Indian Union Muslim League stronghold, and it may hardly matter whether the CPI or the CPM candidate contests from there. But political observers here say that if the seat is denied to CPI, the repercussions may well be felt in other constituencies.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Gopikannan wins Guruvayur elephant race

Guruvayur: Cheered by devotees and elephant lovers, 33-year-old tusker Gopikannan won the annual elephant race held ahead of the 10-day-festival of the famous Guruvayur Sreekrishna temple Saturday.

The winner raced past four other pachyderms, entered the eastern portals and took a round of the the shrine before touching the golden flagpost.

In all 34 elephants lined up at the 'Manjulal' area about half-a-kilometre from the shrine, from which 10 were selected for the race.

People gathered on both sides of the eastern street of the temple to watch the race.

According to temple lore, there was a time when the Guruvayur temple did not even have a single elephant of its own and it used to bring tuskers from other places for festivals.

Once, the temple authorities failed to get an elephant in time.

To the surprise of everyone, a tusker came running from somewhere when the festival rituals were about to begin.

The elephant race, 'anayottam' in Malayalam, commemorates that event.

Now the temple has 65 elephants lodged in a park at Punnathur Kotta, three kms from the shrine.

CPI-M MP expelled for praising Modi

Mar 07, 2009

Press Trust of India

CPI-M MP from Kannur A P Abullakutty, who had praised Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi's development model, was expelled from the party on the charge of breach of discipline by "joining class enemies".

The action against the two-time Lok Sabha member was taken by CPI-M's Kannur district committee which accused him of repeated breach of discipline by joining the "class enemies", party sources said on Saturday.

The 44-year-old MP had embarrassed CPI-M by stating that the efforts of Modi to bring development to his state were worthy of emulation, even as he did not agree with his "anti-minority" approach.

The move came a day after the suspended Lok Sabha member said he had 'technically ceased' to be a party member as he had not renewed his membership and could decide the future step on his own.

He was suspended from the party membership for one year on January 17 after the district committee found his reply "unsatisfactory" to the explantion sought from him about his remarks praising Modi's development model.

CPI-M found that by his "anti-party" comments on Friday Abudllakutty had "forfeited" his last chance to "correct the mistake" and remain in the party, the sources said.

The amazing anti-India syllabus of Pak madrassas

"India was part of Pakistan before 1947.

In the 1965 war, Pakistan conquered several areas of India and staring at a certain defeat, New Delhi requested the United Nations to arrange for a ceasefire.

During the 1971 war, the Pakistan Army demonstrated great courage and valour and inflicted humiliating blows on the Indian forces on both the Eastern and Western fronts."
This excerpts may puzzle you, but according to some madrasas in Pakistan, it is nothing, but history. Ten year olds in those madrassas are injected with such and more distorted 'facts', says a confidential Intelligence Bureau report.
Besides the impressionable minds are further indoctrinated with a textbook called 44 ways to support Jihad, written by Anwar-al-Awalaki.
The IB report, which is based on textbooks from madrasas and the interrogation of several arrested terror suspects including those involved in the Mumbai terror attacks ,says that the number of such "anti-India madrasas" is on the rise.
The report says that a typical text book for Class 111 starts with chapters on culture before moving on to subjects like the wars with India.
With the context set, and India painted as the enemy, the textbooks swiftly move on the importance of jihad and martyrdom.
The curriculum also lays a bit of emphasis on English. A chapter teaches the letters of the alphabet with examples like: B for bandook, k for knife, R for rocket, T for tank, and S for sword.
Studies on these madrassas also show that these outfits glorify violence. Even the games the kids play involve shooting practice with air guns and war games.
On culture and history, the textbooks, which are not available in the market and are distributed directly in the madrassas mostly run by the Jammat-ud-Dawa, teach how Muslim saints reformed Hindus and helped abolish their superstition and wrong practices.
A chapter on Muhammad Ali Jinnah states that he saved Muslims from being enslaved by the Hindu Congress party, which encouraged slavery.
A select group of children from these madrassas are then inducted into terror outfits like the Lashkar-e-Tayiba ,whose group of children is called the 'White Falcons' ,which begins grooming children for jihad right from when they are 10.
The report says that there are around 6,000 madrasas in Pakistan, most of which, an official said, are rooted in such a culture of hate.
"At least half of the madrassas in Pakistan adopt the Lashkar's curriculum and at present there are around 5,83,000 students studying in such madrassas."
"Though most students are from Pakistan, there are also around 16,000 Afghan children and some 18,000 foreign students," the official said.
The report says that outfits like the LeT are very choosy about the induction into such schools.
"They pick and chose children from very poor families. Till, the education is complete, they are taken care of and the families are given some money each month," the officer said.
The report says that some students realise that they are unfit to take up any vocation after a stint in these schools and by the time they reach Class X decide to join other legitimate madrassas which also teach mathematics, science, medicine and other subjects.