Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Zoom Developers back in Vizhinjam port bid

Apr 30, 2009

Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala Cabinet on Wednesday decided to include the bid of Zoom Developers for participating in the tender process of the Rs 5,348-crore Vizhinjam port project, which is slated to come up on a BOT basis. This is in deference to the Supreme Court verdict on Zoom Developers’ petition. “The letter given by Lanco Kondapally will be under consideration, till Zoom Developers’ bid is also examined. This is the State Government’s directive to the Bid Evaluation Committee,” Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan told reporters after a meeting of the State Cabinet here.

However, no deadline has been fixed for vetting the bids submitted by the companies including Zoom Developers and Lanco Kondapally. After getting the Central clearances, Kerala Government had awarded the contract to Lanco. Zoom Developers had promptly challenged this award dragging Kerala Government to court for rejecting its bid.

Congress-led Opposition United Democratic Front (UDF) had alleged that Zoom was kept out of participation, despite it offering to pay the government Rs 447 crore after ten years of operations. Lanco, they pointed out, offered only Rs 115 crore for the same period. On Tuesday,the State Secretariat of the main ruling party CPI(M) had directed the Government to re-examine Zoom’s bid.

Vizhinjam port project, set on world’s deepest natural port location at 24 metre depth, is envisaged to handle 4.1 million containers annually. Built close to a busy international shipping route, the proposed port is to be handed over to Kerala Government after the 30 years once the concession period is over.

Kerala Cabinet, which met here, also approved the guidelines for starting IT parks in private sector in the state. A minimum of 30,000 sq feet land was necessary for starting an IT park, according to the State’s IT policy. As much as 70% of the land available must be used for IT-related purposes, Chief Minister, who holds the IT portfolio, said.

The Cabinet also decided to celebrate the third anniversary of the LDF government’s rule by launching welfare and development works. Achuthandan said that the Rs 2 per kilo rice scheme for BPL families would be inaugurated, in the State capital, on May 18. In other districts, the scheme would be effective from May 19.

WHO raises swine flu alert to phase 5

30 April 2009
Geneva: World Health Organisation (WHO) Director General Margaret Chan has raised the pandemic alert for swine flu by one level to phase 5 in Geneva. The declaration Wednesday night of Phase 5 is a strong signal that a pandemic is imminent. It is characterized by human-to-human spread of the virus into at least two countries in one WHO region.

"Based on an assessment of all available information and following several expert consultations, I have decided to raise the influenza pandemic alert from phase 4 to phase 5,," Chan announced at WHO headquarters.

WHO did not rule out that it may yet up the level once more, to the highest-possible phase 6, which would mean that a global pandemic was underway.

Chan said all countries should activate pandemic flu plans, which had been prepared following the avian flu outbreak earlier this decade, and called on governments and health authorities to be on high alert for influenza-like illnesses and pneumonia.

WHO said the decision to make the transition to phase 5 was based on the geographical spread of the disease as well as the fact that evidence supported sustained human-to-human transmission at the community level.

"We are seeing this in Mexico, and as information emerges from the US authorities we are also seeing that there," Chan said.

"A pandemic by definition means we have established transmission in multiple countries, multiple regions of the world," explained Keiji Fukuda, WHO chief of health security.

"We are seeing it now in two countries in one region," he added, referring to the United States and Mexico.

"If this continues we expect it to be in other countries and regions," Fukuda noted, saying the WHO was "in the process of moving towards" phase 6, but added that "we are not there yet."

While phase 6 would mean that the new outbreak had taken on global dimensions, it would not indicate how severe the disease had become.

"A pandemic virus is precarious, unpredictable and will take us by surprise," Chan said.

Numerous times during her press conference, Chan stressed that the nature of the virus was still not yet fully understood, including how severe the disease could get. She said the virus was showing signs that it could range from very mild to quite severe.

"Let me say it is important to take this very seriously, to maintain vigilance and to track the virus as it evolves," Chan said, but cautioned that "we need to maintain a level of calmness so we will continue to manage this in a rational manner."

There was no need for border closures, restrictions on movement of people, good or services, and to stop eating properly cooked pork products.

However, there was still need for awareness, also at an individual level, and WHO officials reminded people to maintain proper hygiene and limit some physical contact, such as greeting friends with hugs and kisses.

Monday, the UN agency had raised the pandemic alert level from phase 3 to phase 4.

Indian army will help form Ealam: Jaya

30 April 2009
Musiri (TN), April 30: Upping the ante, AIADMK supremo Jayalalithaa Wednesday nightsaid if a government of her choice was formed at the Centre after Lok Sabha polls, she would take steps to send the Indian army to Sri Lanka to form a separate Tamil Eelam in that country.

Addressing an election meeting here, she said "naan sollum madhya arasu amayndal, India padaiyai anuppi tani eelam amaikka nadavadikkai eduppen." (If a central government of my choice is formed, I will steps to send our troops to Sri Lanka to form separate Eelam)."

Attacking Congress leaders for criticising her that she was not aware of international law, Jayalalithaa asked whether they would flay Indira Gandhi in a similar vein for sending the Indian army to create Bangladesh and Rajiv Gandhi for sending the IPKF to Sri Lanka in 1987.

Jayalalithaa's remarks came days after she made a dramatic shift in her party's position last week and said she would strive for formation of a separate "Tamil Eelam" (homeland for Tamils) in Sri Lanka, saying it alone would solve the decades long ethnic strife in the island nation.

The Sri Lankan Tamils issue has come to occupy centrestage in the run-up to Lok Sabha polls in Tamil Nadu. Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and DMK President M. Karunanidhi had on Monday gone on a surprise indefinite fast demanding ceasefire in Sri Lanka but called it off six hours later after the island government announced cessation of combat operations.

Note:See How the Politicians are Irresponsible and Underminining National Repute

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Asianet Idea Star Singer Final Results

1st (Male) - Vivek : 110254 SMS + 77 marks - Rs.1 crore worth Confident Villa
1st (Female - Sonia : 106000 SMS + 76 marks - Rs. 1 crore worth Confident Villa
1st Runner Up - Rahul : 61408 SMS + 74 marks - 101 Sovereign Josco Gold
2nd Runner Up - Gayathri : 44519 SMS + 73 marks - Rs. Two lakhs
Consolation Prize 1 - Jins : 80945 SMS + 70 marks - Rs. One lakh
Consolation Prize 2 - Prasobh : 59918 SMS + 68 marks - Rs. One lakh

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

BJP will win highest number of seats: Advani

Bangalore: The Bharatiya Janata Party was poised to win the highest number of seats in parliament, senior BJP leader L.K. Advani said here Tuesday.

"So far as my assessment is concerned, it seems to me that the largest single party in the new Lok Sabha would be the BJP. It also seems to me that the BJP along with its allies (in National Democratic Alliance) would be the largest alliance in parliament," Advani told reporters here during his two-day visit to Karnataka for poll campaign.

Asked which party or alliance should be invited to form the next government, the NDA prime ministerial candidate said: "The conventions are there in this regard. A party that would win the highest number of seats would get the opportunity to form the new government."

Though Advani admitted he could not predict the exact number of seats the party or the NDA would win, he expressed confidence that they would be able to get the mandate of the people to form a government.

"My assessment is based on feedback I got after visiting about 80 parliamentary constituencies during this period for electioneering. I have also visited more constituencies in the last six months to participate in the party's 'vijay sankalp rath yatra', where I was able to assess the change in the mood," Advani recalled.

The 10 allies of the BJP in the NDA are Shiromani Akali Dal, Shiv Sena, Janata Dal-United (JD-U), Indian National Lok Dal (INLD), Rashtriya Lok Dal, Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM), Nagaland Peoples Front (NPF), Uttarkhand Kranti Dal and Kantapur Progressive Party in West Bengal.

Terming the 15th Lok Sabha elections more crucial for the country than political parties or individuals, Advani said had the BJP won the 2004 elections, the country would have achieved a lot.

"But we failed, principally because we were overconfident at that time and the climate also bred that overconfidence even among our opponents. This time, I have cautioned my party leaders and cadres against being overconfident but work hard with self-confidence," the former deputy prime minister said.

A sober Advani, however, declined to join issue with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's remarks that he (Advani) had been indulging in mudslinging against him during the last five years.

Asked if he was in favour of a law that would allow only members of the Lok Sabha to become prime minister, Advani said it was up to the political parties to build a consensus on it, as an amendment to the law would require a two-thirds majority to pass it in parliament.

Manmohan Singh is a Rajya Sabha member.

'Personnel not pulled back from Smart City'

21 April 2009

Kochi: The Dubai Smart City has not pulled back its personnel from the Kochi Smart City project, but has put on hold additional recruitment of human resources until the freehold land issue was resolved, company CEO Fareed Abdulrahman Tuesday said.

In a statement here, the company said the Smart City personnel assigned to Smart City Kochi "are still heavily involved in the development of the project and have not been pulled back from their roles and responsibilities."

The company had identified the office space at Josh Towers at Vazhakala in December. However, the whole process of setting up of the office had not yet taken place. The government had allotted about 246 acres of land for the project at nearby Kakkanad and of this about 136 acres had got in principle SEZ status from the central government. But the final notification was yet to come as the land has not yet been registered. The lease agreement signed between the Kerala Government and the Smart city project of Dubai on May 13, 2007 had lapsed in November last year. A fresh agreement is yet to be signed. The bone of contention between the government and project developers is the insistence of the latter for about 30 acres of free hold land which should be included in the lease agreement, according to them.

Dubai firm wants freehold land from Kerala govt

21 April 2009
Thiruvananthapuram: The proposed Rs.15-billion Smart City Kochi IT park Tuesday suffered a setback after Smart City Dubai, which has signed a pact with the state government to develop the project, said it wanted the freehold land issue resolved.

This was informed in a press release, issued Tuesday by Smart City Dubai chief executive Fareed Abdulrahman, who said they were assigned to Smart City Kochi and still heavily involved in the development of the project and had not pulled back from their roles and responsibilities.

"However, the office fit-out of Josh Towers (also at Kochi) and the recruitment of additional people have been put on hold till the freehold land issue is resolved," read the release.

Smart City Dubai wants the state to give 12 percent freehold rights on the property as was agreed at the time of the signing of the agreement, but says now the government has different opinion on that.

The project is slated to come up on a 246-acre plot, with an 8.8 million square feet of built-up space, of which 70 percent is earmarked for IT and IT-enabled Services.

The foundation stone of the project was laid Nov 16, 2007 by Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan and since then, barring seven board meetings, there has been no movement forward.

The Smart City Dubai is upset with the state government on account of the slow progress with regards to the stamp duty for the registration of the land, and also on the granting of special economic zone (SEZ) status for the entire project.

So far, for the project's first phase, only 136 acres were granted SEZ clearance last year.

Dubai firm wants freehold land from Kerala govt

21 April 2009
Thiruvananthapuram: The proposed Rs.15-billion Smart City Kochi IT park Tuesday suffered a setback after Smart City Dubai, which has signed a pact with the state government to develop the project, said it wanted the freehold land issue resolved.

This was informed in a press release, issued Tuesday by Smart City Dubai chief executive Fareed Abdulrahman, who said they were assigned to Smart City Kochi and still heavily involved in the development of the project and had not pulled back from their roles and responsibilities.

"However, the office fit-out of Josh Towers (also at Kochi) and the recruitment of additional people have been put on hold till the freehold land issue is resolved," read the release.

Smart City Dubai wants the state to give 12 percent freehold rights on the property as was agreed at the time of the signing of the agreement, but says now the government has different opinion on that.

The project is slated to come up on a 246-acre plot, with an 8.8 million square feet of built-up space, of which 70 percent is earmarked for IT and IT-enabled Services.

The foundation stone of the project was laid Nov 16, 2007 by Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan and since then, barring seven board meetings, there has been no movement forward.

The Smart City Dubai is upset with the state government on account of the slow progress with regards to the stamp duty for the registration of the land, and also on the granting of special economic zone (SEZ) status for the entire project.

So far, for the project's first phase, only 136 acres were granted SEZ clearance last year.

Cong will never check price rise: Sushma Swaraj

Bhopal: Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Sushma Swaraj Monday said that though the Congress government at the centre is led by an economist it will never be able to check price rise.
"How can one expect the Congress to control price rise since Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, like other economists, feels that inflation was an indicator of growth rate," Swaraj told reporters here.

The BJP leader said that the United Progressive Alliance government led by the Congress has been furnishing figures about decline in inflation only to mislead the common man since the prices of essential goods like pulses, wheat and sugar were still sky rocketing.

"The common man will not eat the figures but he needs food grains at low price."

Swaraj, who is in charge of of the party's campaign in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand, said that the BJP will bag 180-200 seats in the polls.

Not interested in joining politics: Mohanlal

19 April 2009
Coimbatore: Malayalam superstar Mohanlal Sunday said he has no desire or intention to enter politics and was happy acting in films.

"Why should I? I am doing well in films and happy about it. Moreover, I have no interest in joining politics," he told reporters after inaugurating a jewellery showroom here.

Asked why he had failed to exercise his franchise in the April 16 Lok Sabha polls in Kerala when he had repeatedly urged the public not to desist from voting, Mohanlal said he was busy shooting in Hyderabad and so could not make it on time on the election day.

To another question on whether he had any particular role in mind which he wanted to essay but could not so far, he said, "I do not expect any particular role. I want to do characters and any different or distinct role and it has to come to me."

"The people of Kerala also do not want me to confine myself to a particular role or image. There is no stigma to any role. The fans and audience have accepted me and also whatever I am doing." Mohanlal said.

Stating that Malayalam cinema, despite a limited audience, has adapted well and caught up with latest technology, he said the Tamil film industry was also doing very well. He said he is presently doing a Tamil film with noted actor Kamalhassan, which is expected to hit the screens in July.

SC to hear graft case against Vijayan in May

21 April 2009
New Delhi: The Supreme Court Monday decided it will hear in May a lawsuit that alleges delay in sanction by the Kerala government to prosecute former state power minister and Communist Party of India-Marxist state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan in a corruption case.

The apex court had initially declined to hear the public interest lawsuit and dismissed it. But on Monday, a bench of Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan and Justice P. Sathasivam decided to hear it in May after counsel for K.B. Suresh, who brought the PIL, insisted it has merit.

Kerala-based scribe T.P. Nandkumar has approached the apex court against a Kerala High Court order of Feb 12, 2009, that dismissed his contention that the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) was delaying the trial of Pinarayi Vijayan and two state bureaucrats on the pretext that the government has not given permission to prosecute them.

The other two accused in the case, besides Vijayan, are former power secretary K. Mohana Chandran and former joint secretary (power) A Francis.

Nandkmar had contended before the high court that the CBI, which probed the graft case, did not need any government approval to prosecute them as they were not entitled to legal protection from trial for corrupt acts.

Vjayan faced a CBI probe for his alleged role in awarding a contract in 1997 for renovation and modernisation of two hydro-power plants in the state to Canadian firm SNC Lavalin without any competitive bidding.

The government's official auditor later found that the award of the contract by the Kerala State Electricity Board to the Canadian firm at the behest of the minister had resulted in a loss of Rs.3.5 billion to the state exchequer.

The contract had allegedly been given to the Canadian firm ignoring a Bharat Heavy Electrical Limited report, which had said that the renovation of three power plants could have been achieved at a cost of less than Rs.1 billion.

Nandkumar had approached the high court alleging that the state government was not keen to prosecute Vijayan and two bureaucrats though a corruption case against them was lodged in February 2005.

He also contended that that there has been no progress in the investigation.

But the high court disposed of scribe's plea after the state government said that the CBI has approached it for approval for trial of the former minister and the bureaucrats, and that it was examining the plea.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Fresh trouble brews in Malayalam film industry

April 18th, 2009
In a sign of fresh trouble for the Malayalam film industry, nearly 300 members of a technician’s body disrupted a film shoot in Palakkad in Kerala protesting the attitude of leading stars Mammootty and Dileep.
Members of Federation of Malayalam Cine Technicians Association (MACTA) disrupted the shooting of “Bodyguard”, which stars Dileep, and had a scuffle with crew members leading to the police stopping the shoot.

Trouble first broke out early last year when Dileep refused to act in a film by Thulasidas, following a string of flops by the director. The dispute remains unresolved and the MACTA has accused both Mammotty and Dileep of trying to scuttle the future of the body.

Last year MACTA, comprising 19 different associations of the Malayalam film industry, split with the big names in the industry floating Film Employees Federation of Kerala (FEFKA).

While MACTA is being led by director Vinayan and has a huge membership base, the FEFKA includes most of the big time directors like Joshi, I.V. Sasi, Siddique, Lal, Sathyan Anthicad, Renjith, Renji Panicker.

While FEFKA has the full blessings of the most influential Malayalam film body Association of Malayalam Movie Artistes (AMMA), the MACTA is now affiliated with the Communist Party of India.

Meanwhile, Thulasidas said that a protest of this nature was not acceptable.

“A protest in a shooting location is not acceptable because it really would hamper the work of actors and the director. They have to work in a totally stress-free atmosphere. This is not good,” Thulasidas told reporters here

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Heavy polling in Kerala in initial hours

Thiruvananthapuram: An estimated 20 per cent of the total 2.18 crore electorate exercised their franchise in the first three hours of polling in Kerala's 20 Lok Sabha constituencies.

Polling is progressing peacefully throughout the state, where long queues were visible before all the booths right from 07.00 a.m., when voting began.

Though the sky was overcast in the morning, the state has remained free of rains so far. No untoward incident has been reported from anywhere.

Early voters included Defence Minister A.K. Antony and Congress candidate from Thiruvananthapuram Shashi Tharoor in the state capital, senior Congress leader K. Karunakaran in Thrissur and CPM state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan in Kannur.

Advantage UDF in Kerala

16 Apr 2009

As Kerala goes to polls on Thursday, the odds seem to be heavily against the Left coalition which won a record 19 out of 20 seats in 2004. The Congress-led UDF is expected to reap a rich poll harvest as it has a clear edge in at least 9 seats and may grab another handful, albeit with lesser margins.

No marks for predicting that the people’s disenchantment with the Left Front government will reflect at the hustings. Internal strife in the CPM and the coalition, corruption charges and allegations of terror links have all added to the problems of the comrades.

However, Congress gains may not be due to any renewed faith in the party or its leadership but the absence of a good alternative. That the competition is going to be stiff in some seats — notwithstanding the extreme unpopularity of the ruling front — indicates clearly that the Opposition may not have effectively harnessed the anti-incumbency in its favour.

Former UN under secretary general Shashi Tharoor, who is the Congress nominee from the Kerala capital, is unfazed by the CPM’s campaign which accuses him of being an agent of the imperialists. But the fact is that the Muslim votes are a matter of worry. Neelalohitadasan Nadar of the BSP, who enjoys significant clout in the Nadar sections, may walk away with a chunk of votes traditionally considered Congress. But the Nair community which is the largest votebank in the capital city and the likelihood of the CPM ditching its ally CPI reassures the UDF camp.

The Ponnani seat which paved the way for the Left’s experiments with Abdul Nasser Madani’s PDP may not yet see the red flag rising. But the party is set to cut the victory margin of the Indian Union Muslim League in a significant way.
The BJP is hoping for a miracle in Kasargode where its youthful candidate K Surendran is fighting the CPM’s P Karunakaran. The party is counting on increasing its vote share substantially this time.

UDF will make a clean sweep in Kerala: Antony

Thiruvananthapuram (IANS): Defence Minister A.K. Antony said here on Thursday that the Congress-led United Democratic Front in Kerala will make a clean sweep in the Lok Sabha elections.

"What happened to us in 2004 will happen to the Left this time. The people of Kerala will extract a sweet revenge by voting for us. It will be a clean sweep for the UDF," Mr. Antony told reporters after casting his vote.

Mr. Antony resigned as chief minister following the poll debacle in May 2004, when the Left won all but one of the 20 Lok Sabha seats in Kerala.

Mr. Antony said Kerala will lead the rest of the country in ensuring a victory for the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government.

"Kerala will vote and give a clean chit to the Manmohan Singh government. Gone are the days of a single party ruling the country. Hence, even though there are secular parties that are contesting against us in the states, when it comes to forming a government in Delhi we will seek the support of all secular parties," he added.

Brisk voting underway in Kerala

Thiruvananathapuram (IANS): Brisk voting was underway in all of Kerala's 20 Lok Sabha constituencies on Thursday morning, where the main contest is between the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) and the opposition Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF).

Heavy polling was reported in cities across the state and especially in the coastal areas, with more than five percent votes having been cast in cities and four percent in rural areas at the end of the first hour.

A total of 217 candidates are in the fray while the electorate comprises 21,865,324 voters, of which 11,337,483 are women.

As many as 20,508 polling booths were set up and 24,377 electronic voting machines (EVMs) and 22,972 control units were being used.

Reports from across the state indicate that there have been no major incidents or problems during the voting yet.

Emerging after casting his vote at Trissur, nonagenarian Congress leader K. Karunakaran said the UDF will do extremely well.

"This time there has been no problems within the UDF and it is a very positive sign," he said.

Soon state Revenue Minister K.P. Rajendran arrived to cast his vote and exchanged pleasantries with Karunakaran, asking him not to forget the Communist Party of India (CPI) candidate Jayadevan.

Malayalam film superstar Suresh Gopi, who cancelled a foreign trip with his family in view of the poll, arrived early in the morning here to cast his vote.

Casting his vote at his home town in Kannur,CPI(M) state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan said the UDF is worried about what is happening because the LDF is going to have an easy win.

CPI(M)-JD(S) ties take ugly turn in Kerala

Kozhikode: Three days before Kerala goes to Lok Sabha polls, war of words seems to be intensifying between coalition partners in the state, with JD(S) state President M P Veerendrakumar asking CPI(M)'s Kerala Secretary Pinarayi Vijayan not to interfere in his party's affairs.

"Let Vijayan not interfere in JD(S) affairs. It is our party and not the CPI(M), which will decide who should be our representative in the state Cabinet," Veerendrakumar said, addressing a party meeting here Sundy night.

Veerendrakumar was replying to Vijayan's remarks that the JD(S), whose lone minister resigned from Cabinet recently in the wake of CPI(M) fielding its nominee in the Kozhikode Lok Sabha seat, would be represented in the LDF ministry soon after the polls.

"If Vijayan is going to decide our party affairs then the JD(S) party office can very well be moved to the AKG Centre (CPI(M) headquarters)'" he said.

Asking Vijayan to first take care of the problems in the Marxist party, Veerendrakumar said "CPI(M) is facing a series of problems including the SNC Lavalin case. In this situation, let him not worry about the JD(S)", he said.

Flaying Vijayan for describing Veerendrakumar as "silly" for remarking against noted businessman Faris Aboobacker, he asked "why Vijayan gets upset whenever Faris is criticised? For him, a person like me who had worked with his party for decades is silly and Faris is honest".

Enough is enough, PM on Advani

New Delhi: An increasingly combative Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Wednesday said his decision to hit back at Bharatiya Janata Party(BJP) leader L.K. Advani, who has been attacking him consistently for being a "weak prime minister" was a conscious choice as "enough was enough."

"Any serious political observer knows my remarks on Advani are true. I owe it to myself and the people of India to show where the shoe pinches. Enough is enough," Manmohan Singh said Wednesday at an interaction with members of the Editors' Guild.

His reply was in response to a question whether his recent strong words against Advani was a conscious or impulsive one and whether a certain bitterness had crept into their relationship.

A day earlier Advani decided not to attend a dinner hosted Manmohan Singh as a farewell for Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee while the two barely exchanged words when they sat next to each other at a function in Parliament House.

The prime minister also pointed out communalism will be a disaster for the country and said he took credit for no communal riots breaking out in after the 26/11 terror strikes in Mumbai.

Jaitley attacks Sonia for Advani comments

Thursday,16 April 2009

New Delhi: Senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Arun Jaitley Thursday took on Congress president Sonia Gandhi for her "ghulam" (slave) utterances against BJP's prime ministerial candidate L.K. Advani, saying it "smacked of arrogance" and "frustration".

Jaitley told reporters that: "The frustration of the Congress is evident in the choice of its words."

"Its topmost leader (Sonia Gandhi) leader uses words like 'ghulam (slave)' and 'rubbish.' This not only smacks of arrogance but also of some element of frustration."

Sonia Gandhi at an election rally in Karnataka's Bidar Wednesday had described Advani a "slave of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)". She had also termed as "rubbish" the BJP leader's oft-repeated remark that Manmohan Singh was a weak prime minister.

Taking a dig at the Congress, Jaitley said the party "probably thinks Advaniji is the chief issue in this election", and added that his party had no problem if the Congress wanted to put Advani "at the centrestage".

He also referred to the Maoist attacks during the first phase of elections Thursday and blamed the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government for it.

"The attack by the Maoists today is a pointer to the real situation of internal security," Jaitley said, and added that the Congress government had failed to address the social and economic concerns of the Maoists.

Commenting on the economic situation, the BJP general secretary said despite the prime minister being an economist, the country's economic situation had deteriorated.

He said that in the time of recession food prices worldwide were decreasing whereas in India it was the other way around, and added that there were salary cuts and staff being given pink slips too.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Vishu to be celebrated today

14 Apr 2009,

PUNE: The four-lakh strong Malayali population in the city is all set to celebrate Vishu, the harvest festival which also marks the new year, on Tuesday.

Vishu falls on the same date (April 14) almost every year and marks the first day of the Medam month.

"The day begins with the family members looking at the kani' (also called the Vishukani'), which is a sight that will ensure that the rest of the year is prosperous. Another much-loved ritual is the Vishu kaineetam'. After the pooja in the morning, older members of the family give a token amount of money to the youngsters. It used to be only coins earlier but now it includes notes as well," smiles B Madhu Nair, president of the Pune Malayalee Samajam, the oldest Malayali association in the city.

The vishukani' is an arrangement of auspicious articles including raw rice, betel leaves, areca nut, linen, a golden cucumber, a metallic mirror, the golden shower flowers ( kanikonna' in Malayalam or bahava' in Marathi), a holy text and coins in a bell metal vessel called the uruli'. A lit nilavilakku' (a bell metal lamp) flanks the arrangement. An elder, usually the mother, takes the rest of the family blindfolded or with their eyes closed to see the kani'.

"We also have the usual sadhya' (feast) like it is with Onam, with a number of dishes including avial' (a dish made from mixed vegetables), sambar' and payasam' (the sweet part of the meal made of milk or jaggery), amongst others," says Sarasamma Vijaykumar, a retired professional from Kalyaninagar. For software professional Arun Nambiar, celebrating the festival in Kerala would have meant bursting crackers too. "But I will make it a point to stay home for lunch," he laughs.

Vishu to ring in luck for Malayalis

13 Apr 2009,

AHMEDABAD: This year's Vishu may hold more significance than those in past few years. Malayalis may be more keen to ensure that coming year has better days in store for them. The belief goes thus: Your entire year will depend on what you see the first thing in the morning of Vishu, the first day of month of Medam of Malayalam calendar.

Vishu kani or the auspicious omen that is set up the previous night includes fruits, the indispensable laburnum flowers called kani konna', vegetables, jewellery, kodi vastram (new clothes), all spread in a bronze vessel (Uruli). Vishu celebrations are never complete without kaineetam', money that elders present to younger members of the family. "Vishu does not involve much expenditure. You can celebrate it, within limited resources," says Babu Ezhumavil, export-import consultant. Seemesh Pillai, an engineer working in Nigeria, has come down to be with his family for Vishu. "Vishu is where home is. And, it's not that being away from Kerala, we miss the fun. Of course, we don't burst crackers, but there is no decrease in the excitement." Ellavarkum Vishu ashamsakal!

Case against Kerala HM, Vijayan on missing file

Kerala's Home Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan
Thiruvananthapuram: A Kerala court Monday ordered the police to register a case against Home Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan and Communist Party of India-Marxist state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan and seven others for an official file, pertaining to the SNC Lavalin scam, that is allegedly missing.

Vijayan has been named the ninth accused by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in the scam for wrongly awarding contracts to a Canadian company for the renovation of two hydro-power projects when he was the state power minister 12 years ago.

The missing file contains remarks made by Vijayan on the then principal revenue secretary K. Varadacharaya's observation made in the deal.

The directive came from the Thiruvananthapuram additional chief judicial magistrate following a public interest litigation filed by advocate P. Nagaraj.

Christians in Kerala celebrate Easter

12 Apr 2009, PTI

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Christians in Kerala on Sunday celebrated Easter, commemorating the resurrection of Jesus Christ after crucifixion on Good Friday.

Faithful assembled in large numbers for special prayers in churches across the state where senior bishops and the clergy gave Easter message of hope, peace and devotion.

Head of Syro Malabar Catholic Church Cardinal Mar Varkey Vithayathil led the mass at the St Mary's Basilica in Kochi.

In the state capital, the devout congregated in large numbers at the St Joseph's Cathedral of the Latin Catholic hierarchy and the shrines of other denomination.

Chief minister V S Acuthanandan and leaders of all political parties greeted people on the occasion.

Priyanka's remarks proves Cong party dynastic: BJP

12 April 2009
Priyanka Vadra, right, waves to the crowd as she campaigns for her brother and Congress party leader Rahul Gandhi in Amethi, in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, Saturday.
Raipur: Attacking the Congress over party leader Priyanka Gandhi's reaction to Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi's recent statement that ''the Congress is a 125-year-old party and can't work for development of the country,'' the BJP Sunday claimed that her remarks had amply proved that the Congress was a dynastic party.

''Mr Modi's remarks were about the Congress party, not against any individual. But Ms Gandhi took it on her,'' BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad told a press conference here.

On Priyanka's question that ''Does Sonia, Rahul and I look old,'' Mr Prasad said, it had proved that the Congress only meant ''Mata, Putra aur Putri (Mother, Son and Daughter).'' It had also supported BJP's claim that Congress was a dynastic party, he said.

Replying to a question, he said, even as his party's Prime Ministerial candidate L K Advani was 80-year-old, he had the stamina and energy of a 40-year-old youth, and was capable of undertaking whirlwind tour of the country to address at least four public meetings daily.

PM has voluntarily abdicated authority: Advani

New Delhi: Reiterating his charge that Manmohan Singh is a weak prime minister, the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) prime ministerial candidate L.K. Advani said Manmohan Singh had "voluntarily abdicated authority".

In an interview to CNN-IBN TV channel, Advani said: "You have a situation in which the prime minister holds office but has no authority, while the person who wields the authority has no accountability", hinting at Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

"This is not a democracy," said Advani, adding that Manmohan Singh had "voluntarily abdicated authority".

He also said Manmohan Singh's weakness as prime minister was "patently" visible and "very clear".

"I have known cases where the prime minister has proposed some course of action but he is not able to implement it unless he gets clearance from the Congress party president," Advani said.

The BJP leader said: "I described him as a weak prime minister in the context of the fact that I have seen prime ministers earlier who had the support of only four MPs in the house and yet they were never at a disadvantage."

"I have seen Chandrashekar, I have seen H.D. Deve Gowda," Advani added.

His comments come a day after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, during an interaction with women journalists in New Delhi, said he did not wish to have a television debate with Advani as he did not want to accord Advani the privilege of being "an alternative prime minister".

Saturday, April 11, 2009

BJP trying to achieve breakthrough in Kerala

11 Apr 2009, PTI

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Undeterred by successive failures to win a single assembly or Parliament seat from Left dominated Kerala, a determined BJP is making all out effort to reverse the trend by pouring in resources and manpower to win at least two Lok Sabha seats from the state this time.

The party is engaged in hectic campaigning to win from capital Thiruvananthapuram from where high-profile Congress candidate and former UN diplomat, Shashi Tharoor is contesting besides Kasargode bordering Karnataka.

While the BJPs' state unit chief P K Krishnadas himself is in the fray in Thiruvananthapuram, the party has fielded K Surendran in Kasargode.

Struggling to achieve a breakthrough, BJP had put up its best-ever performance in the state in 2004 Lok Sabha polls during which its senior leader and former Union Minister O Rajagopal got 2.28 lakh votes but lost to CPI in a triangular contest.

The post-poll assessment of the party was that the high power campaign unleashed by it had antagonised sections of voters, especially those belonging to minority communities who rallied behind CPI candidate late P K Vasudevan Nair.

This time round, the party has decided to avoid fanfare but is reaching out to the voters in every nook and corner of the sprawling constituency.

Krishnadas says the party's high hopes are based on "a silent under current flowing through the area, which is more powerful than any visible signs".

"LDF's tie-up with PDP led by Abdul Nasser Madani and offer of support to the UDF by Popular Front (an allegedly radical outfit earlier known as NDF) has made the BJP the only alternative to the majority of voters", he claimed.

"It is the national leadership's decision that, as the state unit chief, I should lead from the front the electoral battle", Krishnadas, who is criss-crossing even the remotest hamlet on the periphery of the state capital, told reporters.

The BJP strategist also thinks that the presence of BSP's A Neelalohithadasan Nadar, who is likely to pocket a good chunk of Nadar and Dalit votes, has made it a four-cornered contest and division of votes might help the party scrape through.

"It is important to mobilise each and every party supporter and sympathizer to the polling booth and that is what we are planning to do", an RSS activist said.

In Kasargode, the party has been mounting a stretched and intense campaigning with the candidate Surendaran staying there since his candidature was cleared months before.

Though a Left bastion, the Saffron party has some roots there since its Jan Sangh days and the party's ascension in Karnataka just across the border has enhanced its confidence this time. Palakkad is another seat where BJP is expecting to do well, where former state unit chief C K Padmnabhan is working hard.

BJP launches 'referendum' on black money in Gujarat

11 Apr 2009,

AHMEDABAD: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Saturday launched a two-day "referendum" in Gujarat, soliciting voters' views on bringing back the black money of Indians stashed in tax havens abroad.

The initiative follows instructions of Chief Minister Narendra Modi who wants the exercise to be completed in two days. The results of the 'referendum' would be made public April 15, a senior party official said.

Cardboard 'ballot boxes' were put up in 2,000 polling centres across the state for the voters to express their views on whether India should bring back the unaccounted funds Indians have parked in banks in Switzerland and other countries.

LK Advani, BJP's prime ministerial candidate and nominee for the Gandhinagar seat, raised the issue last month, ahead of the Group of 20 (G20) summit in London where the matter was discussed.

Since then, Advani as well as other BJP leaders have been highlighting the issue, promi

PM has voluntarily abdicated authority: Advani

11 April 2009

- New Delhi: Reiterating his charge that Manmohan Singh is a weak prime minister, the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) prime ministerial candidate L.K. Advani said Manmohan Singh had "voluntarily abdicated authority".

In an interview to CNN-IBN TV channel, Advani said: "You have a situation in which the prime minister holds office but has no authority, while the person who wields the authority has no accountability", hinting at Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

"This is not a democracy," said Advani, adding that Manmohan Singh had "voluntarily abdicated authority".

He also said Manmohan Singh's weakness as prime minister was "patently" visible and "very clear".

"I have known cases where the prime minister has proposed some course of action but he is not able to implement it unless he gets clearance from the Congress party president," Advani said.

The BJP leader said: "I described him as a weak prime minister in the context of the fact that I have seen prime ministers earlier who had the support of only four MPs in the house and yet they were never at a disadvantage."

"I have seen Chandrashekar, I have seen H.D. Deve Gowda," Advani added.

His comments come a day after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, during an interaction with women journalists in New Delhi, said he did not wish to have a television debate with Advani as he did not want to accord Advani the privilege of being "an alternative prime minister".

Friday, April 10, 2009

Sonia slams CPM, BJP for attacking PM

Thursday,9 April 2009
Vatakara (Kerala): In a stinging attack on the Left and BJP, Congress President Sonia Gandhi Wednesday said it was a "shame" that the two parties had joined hands in attacking Prime Minister Manmohan Singh using "bad and negative language".

"It is a shame on the part of the BJP and the CPM to attack Dr Manmohan Singh. When a person becomes a PM, whether he belongs to Congress or other party, he becomes the Prime Minister of the country," Gandhi said, addressing an election rally in Vatakara in north Kerala as part of her day-long whirlwind tour of the state.

"I am shocked that senior leaders of the BJP and the Left are using negative language against our Prime Minister," she said as she fended off the attack by the saffron party, whose Prime Ministerial candidate L K Advani has repeatedly called Singh a "weak Prime Minister".

"It was shameful that the Left joined the BJP in attacking the Prime Minister ignoring the fact he is endowed with integrity. We are fortunate to have a Prime Minister like him," Gandhi said as she took on the Communists in their stronghold state.

Questioning the Left's track record on secularism, she said they had joined with the BJP twice and it was only the Congress, which never compromised with the ideology of BJP.

Both Kerala fronts carry terror baggage, says BJP

Apr 2009,ET Bureau

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Kerala's Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) has been blaming the ruling CPM-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) for keeping Abdul Nasser Madani's company, pointing to Mr Madani's terror-tainted past.

Now, with the Popular Front of India (PFI) throwing its weight behind the UDF, the Congress front's allegation against the LDF appears to be a case of the kettle calling the pot black.

PFI was formed in 2006 with the merger of one party each from Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, namely the National Development Front, the Karnataka Forum for Dignity and the Manitha Neethi Pasarai respectively.

While Abdul Nasser Madani's People's Democratic Party (PDP), which had once been in the Congress camp has decided to support the LDF this time, PFI has declared support to the Congress and its allies in 18 of the 20 Lok Sabha seats in Kerala.

Former BJP state president P S Sreedharan Pillai says both NDF, which has metamorphosed into the PFI, and Mr Madani's PDP which backs the LDF are both extremist outfits that are two sides of the same coin.

BJP president vice president Venkiah Naidu who visited Kerala today, went one step further, demanding that the state government disclose the list of those with terror links given to it by the centre. Mr Naidu's statement came in the context of defence minister A K Antony's statement that the centre had apprised the state government of those with terror links in the state.

Another state BJP leader, O Rajagopal has demanded that the state should hand over all cases from the state pertaining to terrorist activities to the National Security Agency. Mr Rajagopal pointed out that terrorists from Kerala who had been shot dead in Kashmir were linked to the PDP leadership in Kerala.

Interestingly, the Popular Front has decided to back 18 of the 20 UDF candidates, with the exception of Shashi Tharoor in Thiruvananthapuram and K V Thomas in Kochi. Reacting to the Popular Front's statement, CPM state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan said they ought to explain why it was not supporting the UDF in the two other seats.

Seven saffron stars

10 Apr 2009, ET Bureau

NEW DELHI: Even states-Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Karnataka, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh and Uttar Pradesh-accounted for a bulk of the seats bagged by BJP in 2004. If the saffron party nurses any realistic chance of retaining, if not improving, its tally, it'd be again banking its hopes on the same clutch of states. The seven states together provided the lion's share of 111 seats to BJP's overall kitty of 138 seats in the Lok Sabha five years ago. The individual share of these states was Madhya Pradesh (25), Rajasthan (21), Karnataka (18), Gujarat (14), Maharashtra (13), Chhattisgarh and Uttar Pradesh (10 each).

Of these, four-Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Gujarat and Chhattisgarh -are ruled by the party. It lost power in Rajasthan in the assembly polls held late last year while Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh have remained out of its grasp for some time now.

The party's strategists are pinning their hopes on a repeat performance in these states to help them retain their tally in the next Lok Sabha. The principal opposition party, it'd appear, had reached its peak in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Karnataka. BJP brass is thus devising strategies to ensure that their party does not lose any significant ground in these four states. State-level satraps such as Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Raman Singh, B S Yeddyurappa and Vasundhara Raje, thus, have a crucial role to play in the party's power-project.

In the remaining three states of Gujarat, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh, they're hoping for an improved show. They're looking towards Narendra Modi to deliver at least 18-20 seats. In the politically crucial state of Uttar Pradesh, they feel the party had reached its nadir in 2004, when it could emerge victorious in only 10 of the 80 seats, and was one of the primary factors responsible for NDA's defeat.

The party's decision to forge a pre-poll alliance with former union minister Ajit Singh's RLD and the perceived anti-incumbency confronting the Mayawati government is giving confidence to the BJP leaders that they'd be able to better their tally in Uttar Pradesh. They feel Brahmins, who formed a critical factor in BSP's spectacular show in the assembly polls held in the state in May 2007 may have started deserting Ms Mayawati's party and gravitating back towards BJP.

BJP and its alliance partner, the Shiv Sena, had together won 25 of the 48 seats in Maharashtra. With the Congress-NCP combine staring at alliance problems and a bout of anti-incumbency disadvantage, the NDA is sanguine about its prospects in the state.

While the seven states together accounted for 111 of the 138 seats won by BJP in 2004, the remaining 27 seats were provided by Orissa (7), Bihar (5), Punjab, Uttarakhand (3 each) Arunachal Pradesh, Assam (2 each), Goa, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand and Delhi (1 each).

With BJP's alliance with BJD collapsing in Orissa, the party leadership is bracing for a reduction in their share from the state, but are hoping to make up for the losses, if any, by winning more seats in Jharkhand, Bihar, Assam and Himachal Pradesh.

Both Kerala fronts carry terror baggage, says BJP

6 Apr 2009,, ET Bureau

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Kerala's Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) has been blaming the ruling CPM-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) for keeping Abdul Nasser Madani's company, pointing to Mr Madani's terror-tainted past.

Now, with the Popular Front of India (PFI) throwing its weight behind the UDF, the Congress front's allegation against the LDF appears to be a case of the kettle calling the pot black.

PFI was formed in 2006 with the merger of one party each from Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, namely the National Development Front, the Karnataka Forum for Dignity and the Manitha Neethi Pasarai respectively.

While Abdul Nasser Madani's People's Democratic Party (PDP), which had once been in the Congress camp has decided to support the LDF this time, PFI has declared support to the Congress and its allies in 18 of the 20 Lok Sabha seats in Kerala.

Former BJP state president P S Sreedharan Pillai says both NDF, which has metamorphosed into the PFI, and Mr Madani's PDP which backs the LDF are both extremist outfits that are two sides of the same coin.

BJP president vice president Venkiah Naidu who visited Kerala today, went one step further, demanding that the state government disclose the list of those with terror links given to it by the centre. Mr Naidu's statement came in the context of defence minister A K Antony's statement that the centre had apprised the state government of those with terror links in the state.

Another state BJP leader, O Rajagopal has demanded that the state should hand over all cases from the state pertaining to terrorist activities to the National Security Agency. Mr Rajagopal pointed out that terrorists from Kerala who had been shot dead in Kashmir were linked to the PDP leadership in Kerala.

Interestingly, the Popular Front has decided to back 18 of the 20 UDF candidates, with the exception of Shashi Tharoor in Thiruvananthapuram and K V Thomas in Kochi. Reacting to the Popular Front's statement, CPM state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan said they ought to explain why it was not supporting the UDF in the two other seats.

Cong wants to defeat Sushma but has no candidate

10 April 2009
Bhopal: The Congress party, which held a marathon brainstorming session here after its Vidisha candidate Rajkumar Patel's nomination was rejected, is yet to announce a decision on who it will support in the Madhya Pradesh constituency.

It is keen on giving a tough fight to Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidate Sushma Swaraj, party sources said Friday.

"The rejection of Patel's nomination was a setback, but we have worked out a formula to counter it. A proposal to this effect has been sent to the higher-ups in the party and a reply is expected in a day or so," a Congress leader told IANS.

The meeting to rework the party's strategy for Vidisha ended at about 2 a.m. Friday.

Asked if the party plans to back any of the independents or the Samajwadi Party candidate, the Congress leader said: "Wait and watch. We don't want to say anything till the party high command gives a final nod. But it is certain that we will give a tough fight to Sushma Swaraj."

Patel's nomination was cancelled due to a technical reason. He had not submitted the form A in original while filing his nomination last Saturday. When the anomaly was noticed an hour before the deadline, the party rushed a fresh set of papers from Bhopal but failed to meet the deadline and returning officer Sandeep Yadav rejected the nomination.

The Samajwadi Party, which failed to strike an alliance with the Congress in Uttar Pradesh, is hoping that its candidate Chaudhary Munawwar Salim will get the support of the Congress in Vidisha.

"If the secular forces unite to support me at this point of time, we will be able to defeat the communal and fascist forces unitedly and set an example," Salim told IANS.

"I have talked to Patel and sought his support. I am sure the BJP candidate, howsoever big she may be, will be defeated if the Congress accedes to my request," he added.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Terrorists stealing info from matrimonial sites

9 Apr 2009, PTI

MUMBAI: Prospective brides and grooms who avail services of online matrimonial sites, will now have to be more cautious as their photographs and personal details registered on such websites might be lifted by the terrorists for making fake identities.

In a startling revelation, one of the alleged members of terror outfit Indian Mujahideen (IM), has confessed to have used information and photographs posted on matrimonial websites to get themselves fake student ID cards, which could be used to procure fake driving licenses.

Anik Sayyed (27), a computer professional in his confessional statement recorded by a magistrate in October 2008, has said that he downloaded photos from websites like and and used them on forged documents.

"I used to type matrimony in Google and open sites like and and download photos of men registered on those sites. I used to then edit those photographs in Coreldraw and Adobe Photoshop and paste them on other documents," Anik has said.

Anik, who was arrested by Mumbai crime branch from Pune last year, also said that he also used information from the BSNL telephone directory to forge details for procuring SIM cards.

The confessional statements of seven out of the 21 arrested IM members were opened by a special MCOCA court here on Wednesday and the copies were given to the other accused.

VS refuses to share dais with PDP

Tuesday,7 April 2009
Thiruvananthapuram: Though Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chief Abdul Nasir Madany shared the dais with senior Communist Party of India-Marxist state leaders last month, Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan Tuesday refused to share the stage with any PDP leader.

Madany, who was exonerated in 2007 in the 1998 Coimbatore bomb blast case after being jailed as an undertrial for nearly a decade, has been moving closer to the CPM since his release.

Last month, CPM state secretary Pinaryi Vijayan and Madany shared the dais to kick start the campaign for ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF)-supported independent candidate Hussain Randathany at the Ponnani constituency in Malappuram district.

Achuthanandan, who arrived in Ponnani for campaigning, Tuesday instructed that none of the PDP leaders should be on the stage with him.

CPM general secretary Prakash Karat, asked by reporters why Vijayan and Achuthanandan adopted different stands towards Madany, denied any differences.

"They (PDP) had offered us their party support and I am told by the state leaders that they will do their campaign independently. I will check with my leaders in Kerala about the sharing of dais," said Karat.

Madany has come under flak from the media here with several publishing reports about him and his wife Sufiya Maudany's alleged involvement with the Bangalore bomb blasts-accused.

Maudany has denied any involvement and has gone on record to say that neither he nor any of his party activists is involved in any terror case.

Legislator P.C. George Tuesday circulated copies of a charge sheet filed by the Kozhikode police in a case in which Madany is an accused. The trial is to start in May.

"The statement by Vijayan and Madany that there are no cases pending against him is false. I submit all the evidence before you," said George.

Ever since the CPM got support from Madany for the Lok Sabha polls, party leaders have been at pains to explain that the PDP is just supporting the Left candidates and they have no alliance

No difference of opinion with VS: Vijayan

Tuesday,7 April 2009
Thrissur: CPM state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan Tuesday said there was no difference of opinion between him and Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan on Left Democratic Front RPT Left Democratic Front's electoral understanding with People's Democratic Party, led by Abdul Nasser Madhani.

The Chief Minister had recently stated that reports about Madani's terror links could neither be accepted nor denied.

"The court has cleared him (Madani) in the Coimbatore blasts case. But what happened afterwards is being inquired into by the special police team," he had said.

Vijayan had dismissed reports on Madhani's alleged terror links, saying he is a secular leader and was against terrorism.

The reports had been investigated by police and everyone had expressed satisfaction over the probe, he had said.

Speaking at a meet-the-press programme at Thrissur press club, Vijayan said the CPM had taken the decision to accept PDP support in the presence of the Chief Minister. He said the prospects of the Third Front at the national level were getting brighter, with allies of Congress led UPA and BJP led NDA deserting the fronts.

'One after the other, allies of NDA and UPA are deserting their fronts, putting them in a miserable position. BJP is in a worse position than the Congress,' he said. He expressed the hope that the Church would support LDF.

LTTE threat to banks, security stepped up

Thiruvananthapuram: The Reserve Bank of India has alerted all the banks in Kerala to step up security following intelligence reports that LTTE cadre might attempt bank robbery.

According to bank sources, a note has been circulated to the authorities of all major banks including State Bank of India telling them that "LTTE has plans to attempt bank dacoity" and wanted their branches to be on alert to take "preventive measures".

Intelligence reports had said that LTTE might infiltrate into the state through the coast and might try to loot banks to boost their financial resources.

Security had been tightened in all banks across the state, the sources added.

Nine Charged in Hyderabad in Satyam Fraud

As elections loom, Price Waterhouse auditors, former chairman Raju, and others are accused of falsifying accounts and other crimes.

Three months after B. Ramalinga Raju, former chairman of Satyam Computer Services (SAY), confessed to a $1 billion fraud, India's Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) filed charges on Apr. 7. The 300-page charge sheet for "criminal conspiracy, cheating, and forgery and falsification of accounts and for causing disappearance of evidence" was filed in a Hyderabad court against nine people associated with the Satyam mess. They include Raju, his brother Rama Raju, Chief Financial Officer Srinivas Vadlamani, and two Price Waterhouse auditors.

The CBI's charges, which cite 433 witnesses, came nine days before India is to go to the polls on Apr. 16. For the past three months, New Delhi and regulators have been under pressure to conclude investigations quickly to minimize the damage to an already dented Satyam. They also wanted to wrap up the case lest it become an election issue. The CBI says it completed the investigation in "record time" of 45 days.

Satyam CFO Vadlamani, who had earlier denied involvement with the fraud, had vouched for the Price Waterhouse auditors—S. Gopalakrishnan and Srinivas Talluri—on Apr. 5. "They were given forged documents by the company management," he told representatives of the Mumbai-based Institute of Chartered Accountants of India, who met the CFO in Hyderabad's Chanchalguda prison. The Rajus and the PW auditors are lodged in the same jail.

Litigation against PwC in the U.S.
The global auditing firm, however, disputed the CBI statement and said it is "surprised and disappointed" by the charges. "The fraud perpetrated by Mr. Raju and his cohorts was designed to, and did, circumvent PW India's audit process. The audit partners were victims of that fraud," said a Price Waterhouse media release. The firm had suspended the two partners "from all duties" in January to facilitate the Satyam inquiries.

A couple of weeks ago, the firm even named two additional auditors who worked on the Satyam account as part of its disclosure to the accountants institute. Since then, Price Waterhouse, the auditing arm of PricewaterhouseCoopers, has been struggling to refurbish its image in India and distance itself from Satyam. The firm is facing a class action in U.S. courts, and many of its clients in India are concerned.

Now that the investigations have concluded, it is a matter of days before Satyam is likely to be sold. The company already has a list of suitors including Wilbur L. Ross Jr., the New York-based investor and rehabilitator of distressed assets globally, construction and engineering conglomerate Larsen & Toubro (LART.BO), Tech Mahindra (TEML.BO), and private equity firm Apax Partners.

But bidders have complained about a lack of transparency and the need for access to Satyam's books. Like everything concerning Satyam, even the sale is mired in controversy.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Election reality shows in Kerala turning into battlegrounds


Thiruvananthapuram: Poll-related TV reality shows in Kerala are turning into slugfests, with police using batons to restore order and channels winding up the shoot midway to avoid damage to crew and equipment.

Asianet, the State’s premier vernacular channel, had to abandon the shoot in the northern Kozhikode town for its show, ‘Porkalam’ (Arena) on Wednesday, as supporters of CPM candidate Mohammed Riyaz charged at Congress candidate M K Raghavan.

If his supporters had not walled him in, Raghavan would have suffered a few blows from “SFI and DYFI activists”. The latter have denied involvement but the footage nails the lie.

Youths started hooting and howling as the CPM rebel candidate took questions from the audience. CPM candidate Mohammed Riyaz, in spite of his assurance, did not turn up. “You can’t run this show without our leader”, shouted a Mohammed Riyaz supporter and the rest joined in.

The anchor tried to explain but the youths grew restive and finally lunged towards the podium, targeting Raghavan. The police enjoyed the “show” from sidelines as if they didn’t want to

court trouble.

Sources said Riyaz was advised by top CPM leaders to keep off to avoid questions about his alleged patron and real estate agent, Faris Abubacker.

But the first such incident this season was at Janasamaksham (Before the People), organised by Amrita TV in northern Palakkad town when the BJP and CPM activists traded blows. The saffron brigade sprung into action when a CPM activist fired a question at former BJP State president C K Padmanabhan on Varun Gandhi. Chairs flew, forcing candidates to flee. In the adjacent Alathur (Scheduled Castes) reserved constituency, a BJP youth leader landed in hospital after his misadventure at the Manorama programme, Kodipada, (Flag carriers). The provocation was a simple question to CPM candidate and SFI all-India president P K Biju: “Why is the monthly farmer pension just Rs200 when your government is paying the madrassa teacher Rs4,000?”

The police resorted to lathi-charge as the groups clashed. BJP candidate Bindu had to stage a sit-in at the police station demanding the arrest of

the miscreants.

In the southern town of Kottayam, three people were injured at the Asianet show. A Congress worker asked CPM candidate Suresh Kurup, MP, his achievements on the development front. But Kurup’s supporters dealt him a few blows in reply.

Out of the four such reality shows recorded at Kottayam, two were marred by chair-throwing.

In Malappuram, where a fierce battle is on between rival Muslim parties, Junior External Affairs Minister E Ahmed was blocked and his CPM rival, T K Hamza, MP, got a pin prick on the elbow. The show, Kurukshetra, was organized by India Vision channel.

Channel honchos, who took the indoor reality shows to the outdoors for better TRP ratings, are ruing the decision. Even with a strong posse of policemen, the crowd is unmanageable, posing a direct threat to the anchors

and camera. At a show in Kochi, the CPM supporters vent their ire at the anchor, who they thought was siding with the rival candidate. Rival party workers first display their lung power and the losing side picks up chairs and whatever comes handy, converting the venue into a battleground.

No Indian will accuse Antony: Chandy

3 April 2009
Kozhikode: Refuting allegations of corruption against Defence Minister A K Antony, his long-time friend and Opposition Leader in the Kerala assembly, Oommen Chandy Friday said `no one in the country will dare to accuse Antony of being corrupt'.

`Will anyone in India believe if you say that Antony is corrupt?', he asked in response to a question on charges of corruption levelled against Antony in the medium range surface-to-air missile deal with an Israel company.

CPIM was raising such `baseless' charges only to divert the public attention from the SNC Lavalin corruption case in which the party's state Secretary Pinarayi Vijayan is sought to be arraigned as an accused by CBI, the senior congress leader said.

`No Indian will believe even if one says that Antony stood company to corruption', he said, participating in a `Meet The Leader' programme,organised by the Calicut Press Club here.

No ties with NDF: Chandy

Palakkad: Leader of the Opposition in the Kerala Legislative Assembly Oommen Chandy Saturday said the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) would not have any tie-up with the National Development Front (NDF).

Talking to newspersons here, he said there would no joint election campaigning with NDF leaders in the state either.

Though there was no proposal to expand the UDF after the elections, the front would not turn a blind eye to political developments in the state, he said.

Name Third Front PM candidate: Antony to Left

Kottayam: Ridiculing the Left's claim that the Third Front would form government after the Lok Sabha polls, Defence Minister A K Antony Saturday said a vote to LDF nominees would be a "waste" as it had neither spelt out the contours of such an alternative nor its prime ministerial candidate.

Antony said the Congress and the BJP have declared their prime ministerial candidates, but the Left had not announced its leader so far.

"The Left should clarify as to whom it supports at the Centre and where it will go for setting up the Third Front," he told a meet-the-press programme here.

The former Kerala chief minister, who is campaigning for the Congress-led UDF in the state, asserted the UPA would retain power under the prime ministership of Manmohan Singh.

He also said the Congress would accept the support of all parties to form the government, but there was no question of propping up any other government.

Slamming the Left for joining hands with BJD in Orissa for the "sake of a few Assembly and Lok Sabha seats", Antony asked the CPI-M to end the friendship with it.

He said the country cannot forget the Kandhamal communal strife. Attacking BJP, he claimed the country would disintegrate if it came to power.

"People have lost faith in the BJP." On the arms deal with Israel, he reiterated that India had defence cooperation with about 45 countries and the ties with Tel Aviv started from 1992.

"If there is any evidence of irregularity in the deal, it will be cancelled and a detailed inquiry conducted," Antony said.

Abdul Nasser Madani-led Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Kerala, Antony said it was not something new.

"CPI-M has been having tacit understanding with PDP since the Ottappalam by-election in 1993," he added.

In an apparent counter to LDF's charge that Kerala had been neglected by the Centre, he claimed the UPA Government had been "liberal" towards the state in sanctioning developmental projects.

In the last five years, Rs 40,000 crore worth development projects, including the Kuttanad scheme and Idduki package, had been sanctioned by the Centre to the state.

The LDF Government in the state had not sanctioned any new project except those allotted by the Centre, he claimed.

He said the projects already started would be completed if the Congress came back to power. Youth would be given more opportunities, he said in reply to a question.

Rahul's assets Rs.2.25 crore, doesn't own a car

Sultanpur (Uttar Pradesh): The total worth of Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi is around Rs.2.25 crore (Rs.22.5 million/$450,000), and the young scion of the Nehru-Gandhi family does not own a vehicle, according to an affidavit filed by him Saturday.

Rahul Gandhi, 38, who is seeking re-election from Amethi, filed his nomination papers for the Lok Sabha seat Saturday afternoon. The affidavit filed as part of the documents says his assets total around Rs.2.25 crore.

The Congress general secretary wrote nil against the column asking whether he owns a vehicle.

And the cash deposit that he owns, with the State Bank of India, Delhi, is not much either - Rs.70,000.

He has deposits with financial institutions worth Rs.7,000.

His deposits with non banking financial institution, NDFC (National Development Finance Corporation) is Rs.742,966. With the HDFC (Housing Development Finance Corporation) in New Delhi, he has Rs.341,892. Both are long term deposits.

Rahul Gandhi's deposits with postal savings, the Life Insurance Corporation and the National Savings Scheme total Rs.1,029,128 (over Rs.1 million).

He owns 333 gm of jewellery worth Rs.150,000.

His assets, including values of claims and interests, are Rs.729,621.

He also owns agricultural land in two places. A 4.692 acre land in Mehrauli, Delhi, of which an undemarcated 50 percent is his share. The value is Rs.986,244 as on March 31, 2008.

He owns another plot of six acres in Faridabad, Haryana, worth Rs.2,822,000 (over Rs.28 lakh).

He owns two shops in the Metropolitan Mall in Saket, New Delhi. Shop no.24 in the mall is 514 sq ft and valued at Rs.55 lakh.

Another shop on the ground floor - 996 sq ft - is valued at Rs.1 crore 8 lakhs (Rs.10,800,000).

Against liabilities, he filed that je had taken a Rs.70 lakh loan from HDFC in 2006, of which Rs.23 lakh has to be returned.

He has paid income tax of Rs.1,120,880 and sales tax of Rs.532,000.

He paid property tax of Rs.78,000 this year.

According to the documents filed, Rahul Gandhi is an M.Phil in development economics from Trinity College, University of Cambridge, 1995. He has done his Bachelor in Arts from Rollins College, Florida, in 1994.

He filed his nomination at the Sultanpur District Collectorate at the office of the additional district magistrate Radhey Shyam, who is the returning officer for the Amethi Lok Sabha polls.

There are no criminal cases pending against the Amethi MP.

Highly educated persons in Kerala poll fray

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Kerala, known for its high literacy rate, will see many qualified persons ranging from post-graduates to doctorates, test their electoral fortunes in the Lok Sabha polls.

Topping the list is none other than former United Nations diplomat and Congress candidate Mr Shashi Tharoor, who is making his electoral debut from Thiruvananthapuram.

Mr Tharoor, who served as the UN Under-Secretary General, holds a Ph.D from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. Mr N K Sudheer, Congress candidate from Alathur-SC constituency is a B.Tech graduate in Nautical Engineering from Lo ndon and is a chief officer in Merchant Navy.

LDF supported Independent candidate from Ponnani Prof Hussein Randathani, holds a Ph.D in history and is currently the Principal of MES Keveeyam College, Valancherry in Malappuram district.

BSP candidate from Thiruvananthapuram Mr A Neelalohithadasan Nadar is a Doctor of Philosophy in Hindi. Dr K S Manoj, the CPI-M nominee in Alappuzha, is a doctor.

Among the other Congress candidates Mr K V Thomas from Ernakulam is a retired physics professor and Mr G Balalachandran (Attingal), a retired lecturer. Former Union Minister Mr Mullapally Ramachandran (Vadakara), Mr P T Thomas (Idukki), and Mr K C Venug opal (Alappuzha) are post-graduates with bachelor's degree in law. - PTI

Reality bites TV poll shows in Kerala

Thiruvananthapuram (PTI):
The high-voltage electioneering in Kerala is turning out to be a reality drama with violence by supporters of rival candidates marring TV poll debates on Malayalam channels.

On some shows, audiences with different political leanings take the situation into their own hands making the candidates on show mute witness to their unruly behaviour.

Recording of one such show, arranged by the Asianet in Kozhikode on Wednesday, was abandoned shortly after the shooting began with the supporters of the UDF and LDF coming to blows.

Trouble began when the LDF supporters took offence at some "snide" comments from a section of the audience about CPI(M) candidate Muhammad Riyas, who did not turn up for the recording while his Congress and BJP rivals were present.

The charged supporters of rival candidates then turned their ire at the recording crew and even Congress candidate M K Raghavan, prompting his followers to form a human shield around him.

Commenting on the incident, Associate Editor of Asianet N K Raveendran told PTI, It is a pity that because of unruly behaviour of a section of audience thousands of voters are denied an opportunity to understand their candidates and the issues.

While the Congress alleged the violence was caused by activists of the CPI(M)'s youth wing DYFI, the latter stoutly denied having any role in the incident.

Spectre of namesakes haunts Kerala candidates

Thiruvananthapuram, Apr 3 (PTI) Faced with the spectre of close contests in highly polarised Kerala politics, candidates of UDF and LDF are haunted by their namesake independents fielded by rivals to create confusion among voters to snatch a few thousand vital votes that could make a difference between victory and defeat.

The one who was hurt the most by 'others' (namesake) phenomenon in the 2004 Lok Sabha polls was senior Congress leader V M Sudheeran who lost the Alappuzha seat by 1,009 votes against K Manoj of the CPI(M).

His namesake, V S Sudheeran, an independent, got 8,288 votes which he believes were his but got cast in the account of the "other" Sudheeran out of confusion over the name.

The winner polled 45.95 per cent votes and runner up 45.81 per cent with the spoiler accounting for 1.13 per cent. Sudheeran, who had been elected to Parliament and Assembly several times, said the Election Commission should take some steps to avoid the problem of 'others'.

"I am a victim of the others. More often than not they are brought into the fray by vested interests deliberately to mislead the people. Some legal mechanism should be there to curb this problem," Sudheeran told PTI.

In fact, the will of the people would get sabotaged by the presence of 'others', he said. PTI

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Full text of BJP manifesto

4 Apr 2009,

For stability & security India needs a decisive leader

A quirk of fate brought the Congress to power at the Centre in the summer of 2004. The United Progressive Alliance that it put together, which was able to secure parliamentary majority with the help of the Left parties, has shown remarkable lack of cohesiveness with individual Ministers representing the Congress’ allies running their allotted Ministries like their personal fiefdom. This was a Government totally divorced from the twin principles of collective responsibility and accountability.

The nation was thus burdened with a Prime Minister who was in office but not in power; and, a Government that was in power but not in authority. This was supposed to be a Government that would work for the welfare of the aam admi – the common man. As it prepares to exit office after five years, the government has nothing to show by way of extending a ‘hand’ to the aam admi.

This Government will be remembered for four things. It was headed by the weakest Prime Minister the country has ever had. Its reversal of NDA’s policies has led to a mounting sense of insecurity fuelled by repeated terrorist attacks, Maoist insurgency and separatist violence which together have claimed hundreds of innocent lives. Its gross mismanagement of the economy has caused inflation, job losses and lockouts. And, it has shielded corruption at high places by misusing agencies of the state, namely the CBI.

The Congress has tried to whitewash its terrible record on the national security front, especially its abysmal failure to protect citizens from terrorism, by making cosmetic changes in antiquated laws. This is clearly not enough. It has sought to gloss over the increasing cost of food, which is eight per cent higher than in 2008, and many times more than in 2004, by projecting misleading statistics.

Lakhs of people in the unorganised sector have lost their jobs over the past year. Skilled workers are losing their jobs in the organised sector. This is far worse than unemployment because it impoverishes families dependent on assured income and dampens the national spirit.

The worst hit are India’s youth, especially those who are looking forward to enter the job market. The Congress-led UPA Government has gifted them with a bleak future. As for the poor, they feel abandoned by the Congress-led regime. The much-publicised National Rural Employment Guarantee Programme has turned out to be as much a flop as all other schemes of the Government. It is a telling comment on the UPA’s performance that a whopping 55 million people have been pushed below the poverty line over the past five years. This is according to a study by the Indian Statistical Institute, based on data collated by the National Sample Survey Organisation; the real figure could be much higher.

In rural India, thousands of farmers have committee suicide to escape the burden of mounting debt and grinding poverty. They are victims of Government apathy.

An equally damning indictment of the Congress-led UPA regime is galloping urban poverty. An estimated 23.7 per cent of the population in cities and towns lives in slums, according to ‘India: Urban Poverty Report, 2009’, amid squalor, crime, disease and tension.

Such glaring deprivation and denial, such rising numbers of people below the poverty line, contradict this nation’s aspirations. They are obstacles to India’s emergence as a great power and need to be removed through remedial Government intervention.

The stability of the NDA years helped India to prosper. The drift of the UPA years has put India in reverse gear. The BJP will restore the stability which India desperately needs.

The BJP, immediately upon coming to power, will address the key issues of security and economy. It will resume the employment-generating, prosperity-creating policies of the NDA government headed by Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee, through massive investments in infrastructure projects, by nursing agriculture back to health, and by making credit easily accessible to industry, while ensuring the safety and security of all people from the depredations of terrorists.

India today faces a severe crisis of leadership. The nation needs determined and decisive leader who has the capacity, commitment and conviction to take command of the situation and lead from the front. The country needs a leader who can restore Government’s credibility and the people’s confidence in themselves. The polity needs a leader who values consensus over conflict, consultation over confrontation. Then alone can good governance replace the all-round failure of the Congress.

That leader is LK Advani.

Shri Advani has an exemplary record of service to the nation covering over six decades. A leader of impeccable integrity, he was one of the chief crusaders for democracy during the Emergency (1975-77) and spent 19 months in jail. He led the Ayodhya movement, the biggest mass movement in India since Independence, and initiated a powerful debate on cultural nationalism and the true meaning of secularism. Along with Shri Vajpayee, he was the principal architect of the BJP’s triumph, as the head of the National Democratic Alliance, in forming a stable and successful non-Congress coalition Government at the Centre (1998-2004). As India’s Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister, he ably assisted Shri Vajpayee in steering the ship of the nation through difficult waters.

The BJP is proud that it is seeking the people’s mandate in the 2009 general election, along with its allies in the NDA, under the leadership of Shri Advani. The BJP is contesting the 2009 15th Lok Sabha election on a Manifesto that commits the party to an agenda for change guided by three goals: Good governance, development and security.

Our focus will be on the nation’s youth, on addressing their concerns and helping them achieve their aspirations. We will lay emphasis on empowerment through excellence by providing quality education. We will ensure the security of life and property. Reviving the economy, re-orienting it towards agriculture, rural development, and unorganised and informal sectors; creating adequate employment opportunities for the youth; pushing back the price line; and, investing heavily in infrastructure projects are at the top of our agenda.

The BJP believes that after five years of drift and missed opportunities, the time has come for a Government that works, a Government that cares. Our primary concern will be India’s rapid, inclusive, equitable and all-embracing development and stable growth that benefits the largest number of people. We will invest in rural development; we will ensure higher agricultural productivity and guarantee an assured income to farmers; and, we will protect the livelihood of the masses while creating myriad opportunities of gainful employment.

National security: Fear shall no longer stalk this land
The last five years have been a nightmare for the people of this country as terrorists, separatists and insurgents have led the effete UPA Government on a macabre dance of death and destruction. From the daring attack on Delhi on the eve of Diwali in 2005 to the fidayeen raid on the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya, from the horrendous bombings in Hyderabad (including at Mecca Masjid), Bangalore, Jaipur, Ahmedabad and Guwahati to the slaughter of worshippers at Sankat Mochan Temple in Banaras, the terrorists have struck repeatedly with impunity as the Prime Minister spent sleepless nights agonising over the plight of terror suspects and eagerly offered to reward the kith and kin of terrorists killed in action.

The UPA began its tenure by dismantling the anti-terror regime put together by the BJP-led NDA Government: The Prevention of Terrorism Act was scrapped; investigations were halted; and, prosecution was slowed down. The mastermind behind the daring attack on Parliament House, Mohammed Afzal Guru, was sentenced to death by the Supreme Court after being prosecuted under POTA. But a dissolute Government headed by an irresolute Prime Minister has failed to carry out the execution, sending out a clear message to India’s enemies: They shall not be punished till such time the Congress is in power.

It is, therefore, not surprising that terrorists should have repeatedly attacked our cities, leaving behind a bloody trail of death and destruction. Delhi, the nation’s capital, and Mumbai, the country’s financial capital, have been hit twice, as has been Bangalore, India’s technology capital. As if the bombings of the commuter trains were not enough, the ISI despatched fidayeen for a multiple strike on Mumbai which began on November 26, 2008, and lasted for more than 60 hours. Never before has India been seen to be so helpless in the face of terror.

Terrorism sponsored by Pakistani agencies is only one of the reasons behind the fear that grips the people in cities, towns and villages. The life and limb of the aam admi is equally in danger on account of Maoists who have expanded their theatre of violence to 156 districts across 13 States. The inter-State coordination mechanism put in place by the NDA Government has been dismantled and State Governments have been virtually left to fend for themselves in the face of mounting Maoist hostility. In Jammu & Kashmir, separatists continue to use the services of Pakistani terrorists to promote their agenda of relentless violence. In the North-East, insurgents have remorselessly killed and maimed innocent people. The situation in Assam is particularly of concern as the ULFA, which had been all but smashed during the NDA years, has regrouped and rearmed its cadres, and unleashed a relentless wave of terror. The Congress State Government has done nothing to either prevent this violence or punish ULFA; instead, unconditional talks have been offered to the killers!

Internal security is also imperilled by unchecked illegal immigration across our eastern border. The vulnerability of these illegal immigrants has been time and again exploited by the ISI and its jihadi front organisations as well as local terror cells to carry out bombings and provide logistical support to foreign terrorists. The Supreme Court has described illegal immigration as an act of ‘external aggression’ while striking down the IMDT Act. But the Congress, both at the Centre and in Assam, has tried to circumvent the Supreme Court’s judgement through executive orders. The Gauhati High Court last year lashed out at the State Government for doing nothing to stop the illegal immigration. The High Court highlighted how a Pakistani, who had entered Assam via Bangladesh, contested Assembly elections unchallenged. Vote-bank politics has not only changed the demography of vast stretches of eastern and North-East India but also eroded the authority of the state. India is sitting on a tinderbox. The consequences of this unabated illegal immigration are bound to be disastrous.

In its dying days, the UPA Government has tried to fool the people by tampering with outdated laws and setting up a National Investigating Agency to fight terror. But such half-hearted efforts to calm anger and disquiet following the 26/11 outrage are neither enough nor the right approach to tacking the menace of terrorism.

The BJP will initiate the following measures within 100 days of coming to power:

1. Revive the anti-terror mechanism that has been dismantled by the Congress; improve upon POTA to ensure it is more effective as an instrument of deterrence and a tool to prosecute offenders without innocent people being harassed; and, strengthen the operational role of the National Investigating Agency.

2. Give assent to laws drafted by State Governments for dealing with organised crime and terrorism; encourage other State Governments to adopt similar laws.

3. Launch a massive programme to detect, detain and deport illegal immigrants.

4. Completely revamp the internal and external intelligence agencies and review the existing system of coordination, convergence and dissemination of intelligence inputs. A massive exercise will be undertaken to modernise intelligence agencies so that they are better equipped to use technology and cope with the rapidly changing trends and patterns of terrorism at home and abroad. The National Security Council will be made the hub of all sector-related assessments. It will be accountable for real-time intelligence dissemination; intelligence agencies will be held responsible for lapses. Appointments to intelligence agencies will be on merit and not because of political patronage as has been the system during the Congress years.

5. A Digital Security Agency will be set up to deal with cyber warfare, cyber counterterrorism, and cyber security of national digital assets.

6. State Governments will be provided with all assistance to modernise their respective police forces and equip them with the latest weaponry and communications technology.

This will be done on a mission mode approach. The police are the first responders to any crisis situation. Drawing lessons from experience, police forces will be trained and fully equipped to deal with situations similar to that of Mumbai and in meeting the challenge posed by Maoists and insurgents.

7. Border management will be reviewed and improved. Punitive measures will be introduced to block illegal immigration.

8. India’s vast coastline is virtually unprotected. Coastal security will be strengthened for better patrolling of Indian waters and preventing terrorists from taking the sea route to enter India. A National Maritime Authority will be set up to coordinate coastal security.

9. Special courts will be set up for speedy prosecution of those involved with acts of terrorism. Their trial shall be fair and justice will be done to the victims swiftly.

10. Coercive measures, including diplomacy, will be used to deal with countries which promote cross-border terrorism. India will engage with the world in the global war on terror while not compromising on its domestic interests, primarily protecting citizens from the ravages of terrorism.

11. The Centre will facilitate better inter-State coordination and real-time intelligence-sharing, apart from helping States to raise anti-insurgency forces, to face the threat posed by Maoists. The ‘Chhattisgarh Model’ will be used for counter-Maoist operations. At the same time, every effort will be made to address the social and economic issues that make the ground fertile for Left-wing extremism.

12. Any talks with insurgent groups will be conditional and within the framework of the Constitution. The BJP will send out a simple message, loud and clear, to terrorists and their sponsors: They will have to pay a heavy price for each innocent life lost. Retribution will be swift and exemplary. The authority of the state, which has been diminished by the Congress in pursuit of vote-bank politics, shall be restored.

National Identity Cards for All: The BJP will launch an innovative programme to establish a countrywide system of multi-purpose national identity cards so as to ensure national security, correct welfare delivery, accurate tax collection, financial inclusion and voter registration. Voter identity cards, PAN cards, passports, ration cards and BPL cards are already in use though not all with photo identity. The NDA proposes to make it incumbent for every Indian to have a National Identity Card. The programme will be completed in three years.

The National Identity Card will contain enough memory and processing capabilities to run multiple applications. Through it the NDA will ensure efficient welfare delivery and tax collection. The card will also be linked to a bank account. All welfare payments, including widow and old age pensions, through the wide range of schemes such as Mother and Child support/ Kisan Credit, Students Assistance and Micro-Credit will be channelised through the National Identity Card. The card will make it possible for individuals to save and borrow money; for farmers to get bank credit, also establish accurate land titles data.

The National Identity Card will also strengthen national security by ensuring accurate citizen identity, thus tracking illegal immigration. All financial transactions, purchase of property and access to public services will be possible only on the basis of the National Identity Card which will be made forgery and hacking resistant.

Engaging the world: India’s voice shall be heard
The BJP believes a resurgent India must get its rightful place in the comity of nations and international institutions. The BJP also believes in a multi-polar world with no nation having overriding powers over others. Towards this end, the BJP in power will engage in meaningful diplomacy with nations across the world on equal terms. The BJP’s foreign policy will be based on the principle of enlightened self-interest.

The BJP desires good relations between India and the USA and will strengthen the India US strategic partnership on the principle of equality. But we will not compromise on either India’s national interest or relations with another friendly country. The BJP will restore the balance that has been disturbed by the UPA Government.

India’s traditional relations with Russia and the Central Asian Republics will be refashioned to keep pace with current realities and derive maximum mutual advantage.

We will pursue friendly relations with the European Union, West Asian countries and South-East Asian nations. It will further strengthen relations with Arab countries and pursue enhanced cooperation with Israel – the two are not inter-linked and both are beneficial for India.

The dialogue process of solving the outstanding border dispute with China, which was initiated by the NDA Government under Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s leadership, will be revived. We believe that both India and China can prosper and rise together; increased economic cooperation can contribute to this.

India has a special role to play in the Indian Ocean region and we will pursue this vigorously. The BJP believes in forging enduring friendly and cooperative relations with India’s neighbours. We also believe that political stability, progress and peace in India’s neighbourhood are essential for South Asia’s growth and development: SAARC is a good platform to promote these goals.

But the BJP will be guided solely by national interest while dealing with India’s neighbours. Towards this end, its decisions and actions in power will be determined by the following:

Pakistan: There can be no ‘comprehensive dialogue’ for peace unless Pakistan a) dismantles the terrorist infrastructure on territory under its control; b) actively engages in prosecuting terror elements and organisations; c) puts a permanent, verifiable end to its practice of using cross-border terrorism as an instrument of state policy; d) stops using the territory of third countries to launch terror attacks on India; and, e) hands over to India individuals wanted for committing crimes on Indian soil.

Nepal: The BJP will re-craft India’s Nepal policy to rid it of the UPA’s biases that have influenced India’s response to events in Nepal with which our country shares a common civilisational and cultural history. India-Nepal relations must be based on friendship, mutual cooperation and harmony of interests. Towards this end, existing arrangements will be reviewed and revised bearing in mind mutual interests and benefits on the basis of dialogue. The BJP would like to see Nepal emerge as a stable, prosperous country, and will strive to strengthen age-old fraternal ties.

Bhutan: Existing close relations with Bhutan will be strengthened.

Bangladesh: The BJP will pro-actively engage the Government of Bangladesh on issues of mutual assistance and benefit. A friendly Government in Dhaka is in India’s interest.

Sri Lanka: The BJP believes that Sri Lanka has the right to deal with terrorism on its soil. At the same time, the political, economic and human rights of Sri Lanka’s Tamil minority community must be protected by the Government in Colombo. The BJP will pursue a robust relationship with Sri Lanka and regain the initiative that has been lost during the last five years.

Afghanistan: The BJP believes that India has an important role in helping the people of Afghanistan to rebuild their country and stabilise their society, as well as secure their lives from the depredations of the Taliban operating from Pakistani sanctuaries. The BJP will further build upon India-Afghanistan relations and work in close association with the international community to ensure a stable, secure and prosperous Afghanistan.

Mother India’s Children Abroad: The BJP will maintain close contacts with people of Indian origin who have settled on foreign shores. It has been the consistent policy of the BJP to promote the interests of people of Indian origin living abroad. During the NDA years, special efforts were made to revive and revitalise the ties between Pravasi Bharatiyas and their ancestral land by institutionalising the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, honouring achievers and introducing the PIO card. Those efforts will be given a further boost.

Defending India: No compromise, no concession
The Indian Army, Air Force and Navy need to be strengthened in view of rapidly changing regional and global realities. Tragically, the services have been ignored by the Congress and failure to address the concerns of the Army, Air Force and Navy has bred undesirable discontent. The BJP will address all pending issues immediately. It will be guided by the following solemn commitments while dealing with the defence of India:

1. The long-pending acquisition of military hardware will be expedited through absolutely transparent means in a time-bound manner.

2. Budget allocations for defence forces will be spent without being allowed to lapse. The criminal negligence of the defence forces by the UPA Government has resulted in nearly Rs 24,000 crore by way of budgetary allocations being allowed to lapse over five years. This not only endangers the lives of our soldiers but also the security of the nation.

3. Our forces are performing a service to the nation and deserve better pay and privileges.

Towards this end, the BJP is committed to the following measures:
a. The pending issues of pay and privileges will be revisited and resolved to the satisfaction of the defence forces. The modalities for setting up a separate Pay
Commission for the forces will be expedited;

b. All personnel of the Army, Air Force and Navy, as also paramilitary forces, will be exempt from paying income tax on their salaries and perquisites;

c. The honorarium for winners of gallantry awards like Pram Vir Chakra, which is abysmally low at Rs 500 to Rs 3,000, will be increased ten-fold to Rs 5,000 to Rs 30,000.
This will be done with retrospective effect; the honorarium will be tax free.

d. The principle of one rank, one pension will be implemented;

e. Incentive-based steps will be taken to make joining the defence services an exciting proposition for young men and women to overcome the shortage of officers; and,

f. Incentives will be offered to State Governments for ensuring honourable settlement of retired personnel of the defence services.

4. The present shortage of defence personnel at all levels will be met by making the Services an attractive career option. This would include competitive pay and privileges, and pension benefits. This task will be completed in a time-bound manner. 5. The capacities of Defence Research and Development Organisation will be enhanced. The PPP route will be explored for conventional defence production bearing in mind the nation’s needs and to make India a competitive player in the global market by 2020.

Independent strategic nuclear programme: We will assert India’s sovereignty
The BJP believes that India’s strategic nuclear programme has been deeply compromised by the Congress. The gains of Pokhran-II and subsequent development have been frittered away for gains that have accrued to those who wish to see India’s nuclear programme to be contained, rolled back and eventually dismantled.

The BJP will reverse this drift. India’s indigenous thorium technology programme will be expedited and given all financial assistance, correcting the grievous wrong done by the UPA Government. India needs nuclear energy, but not at the cost of our national strategic interests. The Congress has fooled the people of India by selling the over-hyped India-US Civil Nuclear Cooperation Agreement as an absolute necessity and how it will help light up people’s homes. It has done so by suppressing two crucial facts. First, as the CAG has pointed out, the UPA Government did not make the smallest effort to tap India’s own nuclear fuel supplies. Had it done so, our reactors would have produced many times more power than at present. Second, nuclear power is tremendously expensive and not affordable for the aam admi. The India-US nuclear deal, in the final analysis, is not about empowering India but disempowering India by making us dependent on American supplies and tying us to discriminatory regimes from which Pakistan is free.

The BJP will honour India’s commitments to prevent proliferation. But it will pursue an independent nuclear policy based on the following:

1. All options will be kept open and all steps will be taken that are necessary for the technological advancement of India’s civil and military nuclear programmes.

2. Maintain a credible minimum deterrent that is in tune with changing realities.

3. Seek cross-party consensus before agreeing to any control regime, including CTBT, FMCR and MTCR.

In view of the uncalled for and regrettable secrecy with which the Congress and the Prime Minister dealt with the India-US nuclear deal, the BJP proposes to introduce an amendment to the Constitution to make it mandatory for Government to seek Parliament’s approval/ratification by two-thirds majority before signing any bilateral or multilateral agreement that impinges on India’s strategic programmes, territorial integrity and economic interest.

Food security: We will make India hunger-free
The BJP views food security as integral to national security. The spectre of a looming food crisis haunts the developing world as never before. With the agriculture sector suffering on account of the Congress’ gross negligence, India faces a real threat of food scarcity. With India becoming a net importer of food under Congress rule, there is genuine concern about food security. Three factors have contributed to increasing food scarcity and the resultant sense of growing insecurity among the masses. First, the real income of workers and farmers has not kept pace with the rising cost of food, thus reducing their purchasing power. Second, the public distribution system has been severely crippled by the Congress-led Government which has been more interested in importing food grains and selling them at a high price than in securing the needs of the people. Third, with an additional 55 million people pushed below the poverty line over the last five years, there is widespread malnourishment. The economic recession has only worsened the situation and made it grimmer, especially for workers in the unorganised sector.

The BJP believes people have the right to food. To ensure food security for all and eliminate hunger, we will:

1. Provide 35 kg of rice or wheat every month to BPL families at Rs 2 per kg under an improved and expanded Antyodaya Anna Yojana. This will be available against ‘Food Coupons’ redeemable at both PDS and private outlets.

2. Allocate more funds for expanding, universalising and improving the functioning of the Public Distribution System.

3. Preventing families from slipping below the poverty line.

4. Setting up community kitchens in extremely impoverished areas with the help of NGOs through shared funding.

5. Aggressively addressing the problem of widespread malnutrition, especially by expanding the scope of the existing mid-day meal scheme.

6. Encouraging the production of cereals and discouraging the conversion of fertile farm land for dubious industrial projects.

7. Ensuring a sufficient level of food stocks are maintained to meet any exigencies due to possible global food crisis which could be severely debilitating and make imports prohibitively expensive, if not impossible.

Energy security: We will protect India from future crises
India cannot afford to lose any more time on securing its energy requirements. The Congress’s response to this issue has been episodic at best, often resulting in India failing to secure its energy interests even as other countries in the neighbourhood, most notably China, have spared no effort to single-mindedly pursue the goal of securing their energy needs for the present and future.

At present India is largely dependent on imported oil and gas to meet its energy demands, especially demand for power although our per capita power consumption is only a sixth of the world average. Sixty-seven per cent of our power supply comes from fossil fuels, of which 70 per cent is imported. With market fluctuation and manipulation, as it happened in 2008, this makes us vulnerable to external factors.

The BJP proposes to invest heavily in developing non-fossil fuel-based clean energy sources, especially for electricity production. Our goal will be to add at least 120,000 MW of power over the next five years, with 20 per cent of it coming from renewable sources. Similar emphasis will be placed on developing alternatives to petrol and diesel to lessen the burden of imported oil and gas as well as meet the challenges of climate change.

Adequate support will be extended for developing hybrid technologies and their applications. There will be special emphasis on developing renewal energy sources, especially solar energy, wind energy and run-on-the-river technology, and bio-fuel. Innovation will be rewarded.

Impetus will be provided for the production of non-conventional energy by enabling people and firms to bank it in the power grid and draw it at the time of their need.

India's BJP offers tax cuts, tough Pakistan policy
Fri Apr 3, 2009
NEW DELHI, April 3 (Reuters) - India's main Hindu-nationalist opposition party promised low taxes and interest rates to revive a slowing economy and a tough posture on Pakistan in an election manifesto on Friday aimed at boosting its poll ratings.

The Bharatiya Janata Party also promised to retrieve Indian money illegally stashed abroad, generate employment through massive infrastructure projects and give cheaper farm loans to cushion Indians from the global financial crisis.

It said it would cut housing interest rates, give tax exemption to citizens above the age of 60 and also waive personal income tax for hundreds of thousands of defence personnel and pensioners.

"We are giving a message to our voters that if you give us an opportunity then whatever we do we will do with honesty," the party's prime ministerial candidate Lal Krishna Advani said.

The BJP said India will resume peace talks with Pakistan only after Islamabad dismantled the "terrorist infrastructure" on its soil. "Without that there can be no comprehensive dialogue with Pakistan," spokesman Ravi Shankar Prasad said.

The party has accused the ruling Congress party in the past of being soft on national security, sharpening the criticism in the wake of the Mumbai attacks in November blamed on a Pakistan-based guerrilla group.

The BJP-led opposition alliance trails in most opinion polls for the month-long election beginning on April 13 and is struggling to find allies in potentially swing states.