Sunday, May 31, 2009

Dr Kurien admitted to hospital

UNI May 31, 2009
Author of White Revolution

He was admitted to MPU Hospital due to old age related health problems, the sources said. Dr Kurien was brought to the city by a special chartered plane from Vadodara.

MUMBAI: The author of white revolution in the country V Kurien was admitted yesterday to Breach Candy Hospital in Mumbai.

Hospital sources told UNI that 86-year-old Dr Kurien, who was admitted to the Muljibhai Patel Urological (MPU) Hospital in Nadiad ten days ago, was shifted to Breach Candy yesterday morning as his condition did not improve. He was undergoing treatment at the Intensive Care Unit of the Hospital.

He was admitted to MPU Hospital due to old age related health problems, the sources said. Dr Kurien was brought to the city by a special chartered plane from Vadodara.

Noted author Kamala Das is dead

Sunday,31 May 2009
Thiruvananthapuram, May 31: Kamala Das, well known poet and writer in Malayalam and English who converted to Islam a decade ago, died in Pune early Sunday, family sources said. She was 75.

She suffered from diabetes and was recently hospitalised with pneumonia. The end came in a private hospital, a family source said.

Born to V.M. Nair and Balamani Amma March 31, 1934, she spent most of her childhood in Kolkata where her father worked.

Influenced by her poetess mother and uncle Nalappatt Narayana Menon, a prominent writer, Kamala started writing at the age of 17 under the pen name Madhavikutty.

She was married to Madhava Das, 15 years elder to her, and the couple had three sons. Her eldest son, M.D. Nalapat, is a journalist.

Kamala's first literary success came at age of 42 with her autobiography "My Story".

Her popular English works include "The Sirens" (Asian Poetry Prize winner), "Summer in Calcutta" (Kent's Award winner), "The Descendants" (poetry), "The Old Playhouse and Other Poems" (poetry), "Alphabet of Lust" (novel), "The Anamalai Poems" (poetry), "Padmavati the Harlot and Other Stories" (short stories) "Only the Soul Knows How to Sing" (poetry) and "Yaa Allah" (poems).

Her Malayalam works include "Pakshiyude Manam" (short stories), "Naricheerukal Parakkumbol" (short stories), "Thanuppu" (short story and Sahitya Academy award winner), "Balyakala Smaranakal", "Varshangalkku Mumbu", "Palayan" (all novels), "Neypayasam" (short story), "Dayarikkurippukal" (novel), "Neermathalam Pootha Kalam" (novel and Vayalar Award winner), "Chekkerunna Pakshikal" (short stories), "Nashtapetta Neelambari" (short stories), "Chandana Marangal" (novel), "Madhavikkuttiyude Unmakkadhakal" (short stories) and "Vandikkalakal" (novel).

Kamala was also a painter and many of her works fetched high prices in exhibitions.

"Her body will be flown to Kochi tomorrow (Monday) and placed at Thrissur, Alappuzha and Kollam for people to pay their last respects.

Manmohan's Team

May 28, 2009 T

Manmohan govt strength goes to 79

At a glittering ceremony in the Rashtrapati Bhavan, the President administered oath of office and secrecy to 14 Cabinet ministers, seven Ministers of State with Independent charge and 38 Ministers of State. As Prime minister Manmohan Singh and 19 cabinet ministers had taken oath on May 22, with today's expansion, the strength of council of ministers has reached to 79, including 33 Ministers of Cabinet rank.

NEW DELHI: The seven-day old UPA Council of Ministers was extended today with President Pratibha Devisingh Patil administering oath to 59 ministers increasing its total strength to 79.

At a glittering ceremony in the Rashtrapati Bhavan, the President administered oath of office and secrecy to 14 Cabinet ministers, seven Ministers of State with Independent charge and 38 Ministers of State. As Prime minister Manmohan Singh and 19 cabinet ministers had taken oath on May 22, with today's expansion, the strength of council of ministers has reached to 79, including 33 Ministers of Cabinet rank.

The 59 ministers who were sworn in included 43 from the Congress, seven from the DMK, seven from the Trinamool Congress, two from the NCP and one from the National Conference. The Congress has kept the lion's share of 60 of the 79 ministers, including 28 Cabinet, 6 Ministers of State with Independent charge and 26 MoS positions.

The expanded Council of Ministers now has nine former Chief Ministers Virbhadra Singh (Himachal Pradesh), Vilasrao Deshmukh, Sharad Pawar and Sushil Kumar Shinde (Maharashtra), Dr Farooq Abdullah and Ghulam Nabi Azad(Jammu and Kashmir) and S M Krishna and Veerappa Moily (Karnataka) and A K Antony (Kerala).

The new ministry has three DMK nominees of the cabinet rank -- DMK supremo M Karunanidhi's son M K Azhagiri, grand newphew Dayanidhi Maran and his trusted aide A Raja. Mr Raja was a Cabinet Minister in the outgoing ministry while Mr Maran was also a minister in the first UPA government for about three years.

AICC General Secretary Mukul Wasnik and Senior Congress leader from Karnataka Mallikarjun Kharge have also been included in the Cabinet.

Kumari Selja, Pawan Kumar Bansal, G K Vasan, Kantilal Bhuria, Dr M S Gill and Subodh Kant Sahay, who were all Ministers of State in the first UPA government, have been elevated to the Cabinet rank.

NCP nominee Praful Patel will continue to be Minister of State with Independent charge. Senior Congress leader from Uttar Pradesh Salman Khurshid has been inducted as the Minister of State with Independent charge.

Prithviraj Chauhan, Sriprakash Jaiswal, Dinsha Patel and Jairam Ramesh, who were all Ministers of State in the first UPA government, have been elevated to MoS Independent charge. Ms Krishna Tirath, one of the seven MPs from Delhi, has been made a Minister of State with Independent charge.

Of the 38 Ministers of State sworn in, eleven were Ministers in the first UPA government. They are : E Ahamed, V Narayanaswamy, D Purandareswari, Panabaka Lakshmi, Ajay Maken, K H Muniyappa, Namo Narain Meena, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Jitin Prasad, M M Pallam Raju and S S Palanimanickam.

Former UN Under Secretary General Shashi Tharoor, daughter of former Lok Sabha Speaker P A Sangma, Agatha Sangma and Congress leader Sachin Pilot have been inducted as young faces of the government.

The other Ministers of State who have been sworn in are Srikant Jena, Mullappally Ramachandran, A Sai Prathap, Gurudas Kamat, Mahadev Khandela, Harish Rawat, Prof K V Thomas, Saugata Ray, Dinesh Trivedi, Sisir Adhikari, Sultan Ahmed, Mukul Roy, Mohan Jatua, D Napoleon, Dr S Jagathrakshakan, S Gandhiselvan, Preneet Kaur, Bharatsinh Solanki, Tusharbhai Chaudhary, Arun Yadav, Prateek Prakashbapu Patil, R P N Singh, Vincent Pala and Pradeep Jain.

The Constitution allows a maximum of 79 ministers working out to ten per cent of the combined strength of 793 Members of Parliament including 543 of the Lok Sabha and 250 of Rajya Sabha.

The new ministry gives representation to 20 of the 28 states and three of the seven Union Territories of the Indian Union. Coalition compulsions obviously took up the number of representations in Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra to nine each followed by West Bengal which gets eight ministers including seven of Trinamool Congress of Railways Minister Mamata Banerjee.

Bihar, which sent only two Congress MPs to the Lok Sabha, has got lone representation in Meira Kumar as the Congress has ignored claims of RJD President Lalu Prasad spurning his unconditional support of four MPs in the Lower House.

Andhra Pradesh and Kerala have been accorded six ministerial berths each, followed by Uttar Pradesh which gets five, while Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka get four each.

Gujarat and Punjab have three ministers each in Dr Singh's government, followed by two each from Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Assam and Meghalaya.

Jharkhand, Orissa, Haryana and Uttarakhand are represented by one minister each.

Among the three Union Territories which have come on board the new government, Delhi gets the lion's share of three ministerial berths while Chandigarh and Puducherry have been rewarded with one berth each.

The Jammu and Kashmir National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah has been rewarded with a Cabinet berth, while Mr E Ahmed of Indian Union muslim League (IUML) has been retained as a Minister of State. The cabinet has retained 12 old faces, including Pranab Mukherjee, P Chidambaram and A K Antony, and elevated six but dropped several big guns like Arjun Singh, H R Bhardwaj and Saifudin Soz, all from Congress. Former Surface Transport Minster T R Baalu of DMK has also been dropped, while his party colleague Dayanidhi Maran stages a comeback.

Other prominent leaders who could not make it to the Council of Ministers were Sisram Ola, Oscar Fernandes and Ashwani Kumar, who held portfolios of Mines, Labour and Industry respectively in the previous government.

Prominent among those elevated to the Cabinet rank are Anand Sharma, Bijoy Kumar Handique, Subodh Kant Sahay, Manohar Singh Gill, Pawan Kumar Bansal and Kantilal Bhuria.

Mani Shankar Aiyar, Renuka Choudhary, Santosh Mohan Dev, Shankarsinh Vaghela, A R Antulay, all ministers in Dr Singh's last government, could not make it to his new government as all of them were defeated in the elections.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Mamata returns Tata's Rs 27 lakh cheque

Friday,29 May 2009

New Delhi: Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee, whose stir against use of farmland forced Tata to move its Nano car project out of West Bengal, has returned a cheque of over Rs 27 lakhs from a Tata trust after the just-concluded Lok Sabha elections.

"The cheque has already been returned to the trust. I am writing a polite letter (in reply)," Banerjee said here today. "I am writing a polite letter and the cheque has already been returned to the trust," she said. The money, totalling Rs.27,64,925 was offered on May 20 by the Tata Electoral Trust, set up by Tata Sons Limited, after the Lok Sabha results were out. Trinamool Congress has bagged 19 of the 42 Lok Sabha seats in West Bengal, compared to just one it had in 2004. "We do not accept any donations from corporate houses so that we do not have any obligations towards them. We have obligations towards the common man, workers, farmers and poor people," Sisir Adhikary, Trinamool MP and Rural Development Minister, told PTI. He said the party secretariat met at the residence of Banerjee and a decision was taken to reject the offer. The Tata Motors blamed Banerjee for their pulling out the Nano project out of the state.

Tharoor hand-picked by PM for MEA

29 May 2009
New Delhi, May 29: A few days ago, Shashi Tharoor, a former UN bureaucrat and a newly elected Congress MP, said he wanted to be involved with the parliamentary committee on foreign affairs. Now his wish has been surpassed as Tharoor begins a new innings as a junior minister in India's foreign ministry.

This is clearly the the high point in the life of the 53-year-old Tharoor, who lost narrowly to South Korea's Ban Ki-moon for the UN top job in 2007, resigned from his position and plunged into the hurly burly of Indian politics barely a few months ago.

The former UN undersecretary-general is expected to effectively complement External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna as a minister of state at a time when India's global stature is growing the and the country's neighbourhood is seething with problems.

Tharoor is also expected to make up for relative inexperience of Preneet Kaur, Congress MP from Patiala and wife of former Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh, who has also been named as a junior foreign minister, or minister of state.

In an interview to IANS last week before his name was included in the council of ministers, Tharoor, the first-time Congress MP from Thiruvananthapuram, had indicated his interest in being part of foreign affairs committee of parliament and playing a proactive role in it.

A quintessential diplomat by temperament, he had, however, tactfully skirted questions on his chances of making it to the external affairs ministry. But deep down he knew it was coming his way.

Tharoor advocates a realistic foreign policy, purused by the Manmohan Singh government in its first term, that is "both autonomous and independent and at the same time is pegged to development and security needs of our people".

"We need a realistic calculation of our national interests. Well, people say it's pro-US, pro-West or pro-Israel, but they are all meaningless labels. The only pro any of us can be is to be pro India," Tharoor had said in a wide-ranging conversation.

Tharoor, who knows the UN system from inside, is all for India reviving its campaign for a seat in an expanded UN Security Council and playing a larger role on the global stage.

He, however, cautioned against India playing the role of "a great power in the military sense or in terms of hard power," but using its enormous creative energies through soft power.

Being a minister will not, however, detract from what he sees as his core mission to transform Thiruvananthavuram, Kerala's capital, into a global city.

"Making a difference to people in my constituency is ultimately what I am going to be judged by," he said. The challenge, as Tharoor said, will be now to juggle his new responsibility at the center with the grassroots issues of his constituenc

'VS had plans to form a new party'

28 May 2009

Thiruvananthapuram: A senior member of the CPM Thursday came up with a serious allegation against Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan who is facing a volley of charges following the party's defeat in Lok Sabha elections.

According to sources CPM state committee member C.M. Dinesh Mani allgedly disclosed that there was a plan to form a new party under the leadership of V S Achuthanandan when the party ticket was denied to him in the run up to the assembly elections.

He said the planning was done at a meeting held in the house K.Chandran Pillai. Fisheries Minister S. Sarma was also present during the meet. There was also a plan to start a new newspaper, he added.

The state scretariate has decided to raise the issue with the politburo.

Meira Kumar, the lone Bihari in Union Cabinet

29 May 2009

New Delhi: Meira Kumar, who was today appointed as Union Minister of Water Resources, is the lone face from Bihar in the new cabinet. Daughter of Deputy Prime Minister and late Dalit leader Babu Jagjivan Ram, Kumar (64) joined the Indian Foreign Service in 1973 and served at embassies in Spain, United Kingdom and Mauritius. She entered electoral politics in 1985 and was elected from Bijnor in Uttar Pradesh. She was a member of the eleventh and twelfth Lok Sabha from Karol Bagh in Delhi. She lost her seat in the BJP wave of 1999 but was able to get reelected with a record majority from her father's former constituency of Sasaram in Bihar.

As the new Water Resources minister, she will have to work on the near-stalled River Inter-linking Project. The falling ground water table in several parts of the country would be another major challenge for her ministry.

As Union Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment in the previous government, her brief was the enactment of Reservation Act and 'affirmative action' for reservation in the private sector. The Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act 2007 is considered her major achievements in the previous government. But on the other hand, the SC/ST (Reservations in Posts and Services) Bill, listed during the last Lok Sabha session, was stalled. Her attempts to give SC status to a child even if only the mother belongs to SC category also fell flat. The proposal to amend the SC&ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act remained stuck in the files.

Meira Kumar, the lone Bihari in Union Cabinet

29 May 2009

New Delhi: Meira Kumar, who was today appointed as Union Minister of Water Resources, is the lone face from Bihar in the new cabinet. Daughter of Deputy Prime Minister and late Dalit leader Babu Jagjivan Ram, Kumar (64) joined the Indian Foreign Service in 1973 and served at embassies in Spain, United Kingdom and Mauritius. She entered electoral politics in 1985 and was elected from Bijnor in Uttar Pradesh. She was a member of the eleventh and twelfth Lok Sabha from Karol Bagh in Delhi. She lost her seat in the BJP wave of 1999 but was able to get reelected with a record majority from her father's former constituency of Sasaram in Bihar.

As the new Water Resources minister, she will have to work on the near-stalled River Inter-linking Project. The falling ground water table in several parts of the country would be another major challenge for her ministry.

As Union Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment in the previous government, her brief was the enactment of Reservation Act and 'affirmative action' for reservation in the private sector. The Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act 2007 is considered her major achievements in the previous government. But on the other hand, the SC/ST (Reservations in Posts and Services) Bill, listed during the last Lok Sabha session, was stalled. Her attempts to give SC status to a child even if only the mother belongs to SC category also fell flat. The proposal to amend the SC&ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act remained stuck in the files.

Chandy blames government for Smartcity delay

21 May 2009 PTI

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Opposition leader in the Kerala Assembly Oommen Chandy criticized the statement by chief minister V S Achuthanandan that global recession was the reason for the delay in implementing the Smartcity IT project by Dubai based TECOM promoters.

Achuthanandan was 'attemting to cover up the failures' of the government and main reason for the dealy was government's inabilty to take decisions on conditions stipulated on the project agreement entered with TECOM, Chandy told reporters here.

Chandy said there was no recession when the agreement was singed two-years back. Prolonged dely on the part of the government to resolve the issues have adversely affected the progress of the park at Kochi with an estimated investment of Rs 3500 crores, he said.

Achuthanandan had stated yesterday that promoters of the Smartcity were making 'certain undeserving demands' on the state government as the economic recession had affected them.

The growth of IT industry in Kerala was 45 per cent in 2008-09 against the national growth average of 17%, the chief minister said.

Meanwhile, the general body meeting of The Technopark and Infopark wash held here yesterday and approved annual budgets of Rs 650 crore and Rs 250 crore respectively for the year 2009-10.

No change in Kerala, Achuthanandan to stay: CPM

28 May 2009

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The Communist Party Of India-Marxist (CPM) on Thursday refused to remove Kerala chief minister VS Achuthanandan or make any changes in the state unit after the recent drubbing in the Lok Sabha polls.

Addressing reporters here after a five-day meet of the party, state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan said: "There will be no change at any level. Instead we will work out a time bound programme after a thorough introspection on the reasons we lost. There will be corrections in certain policies of the government which we feel have come under criticism from several quarters."

The meeting, which was attended by party general secretary Prakash Karat and politburo member S. Ramachandran Pillai, also included 15 members of the state secretariat and 84 members of of the state party committee.

The factional feud between Vijayan and Achuthanandan in the party saw the chief minister coming for heavy attack and demands for resignation. The meeting was held to take stock of the poor poll show in which the state's ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) saw its tally slip to mere four seats from the earlier 19.

"I cannot share with you the details of the meeting but we have found out that all was not well within our party and also within the LDF. It has also been decided that we will not tolerate any more diversion from the Leninist ideology in the party," said Vijayan.

Among the other reasons that Vijayan cited for the debacle was the distancing of the Christian and Muslim community from the LDF and also the opposition spreading rumours about the Left's poll understanding with the People's Democratic Party led by Abdul Nasir Maudany.

"The media also launched a fierce attack against us and this was also a factor that led to our defeat," said Vijayan.

Mamata returns a cheque of over Rs 27 lakh sent to her by the Tata Electoral Trust

May 29, 2009 New Delhi:
Aide drives Banerjee to Rail Bhavan in his car on her first day as Railway Minister

Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee, riding an unprecedented wave of support from across West Bengal — trouncing the Left in its worst defeat in three decades — has returned a cheque of over Rs 27 lakh sent to her by the Tata Electoral Trust after Verdict 2009.

“I politely returned it,” she said here today. “I don’t have any ill will against the Tatas.”

Last October, Tata Motors chairman Ratan Tata had blamed Banerjee and her party for forcing him to pull the Nano project out of the state. “I once mentioned that if somebody puts a gun to my head, you pull the trigger or you take the gun away because I have not moved my head. I think Ms (Mamata) Banerjee has pulled the trigger,” he had said.

An official spokesperson of the Tata group confirmed the cheque had been rejected. Another party that rejected the money given by the Trust is the CPM, which, ideologically, does not accept corporate funding.

Said new Trinamool MP and inducted as Minister of State, Rural Development, Sisir Adhikari: “A meeting of all the party candidates was held and our leader (Banerjee) placed the issue before all of us. It was unanimously decided that we will not accept the money.”

Sources said the corpus for the Tata Electoral Trust is built over five years with contribution from Tata group companies, other corporates as well as individuals. The money is distributed to parties in two tranches of 50 per cent each. The first tranche for general elections 2009 was distributed based on the party-wise strength of the 14th Lok Sabha and the second tranche based on the parties’ performance in the 15th Lok Sabha. Parties qualify for funds only if they get at least three per cent of the total strength of the Lok Sabha — a minimum of 16 of the total 543 seats.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

India Gets Biggest Cabinet In 10 Yrs

Reward for Kerala, ahead of 2011 polls

28 May 2009, ET Bureau

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: When two nurses at the Apollo Hospital in Delhi spoke in Malayalam in the elevator this week, the hospital authorities reportedly dismissed them from service.

The duo can now take heart that their state’s demands of every kind will be heard loud and clear not only in hospital elevators but in the highest echelons of power as an unprecedented half a dozen Keralites join the Union Cabinet.

After defence minister A K Antony and Vayalar Ravi, four Lok Sabha MPs from the state got the call from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi on Wednesday. While Indian Union Muslim League’s E Ahmed was an odds-on favourite to be part of the ministry, the three Congressmen — Mullappally Ramachandran, K V Thomas and Shashi Tharoor — were not so assured about being part of the Union Council of Ministers.
Congressmen across the state were unanimous in saying that such a strong Kerala contingent would help accelerate the development of the state.

Political observers here say that the choice of Mullappally, Thomas and Tharoor as ministers of state have all to do with their closeness to the party high command, with all three perceived to have had the high command’s blessings in contesting.

Mr Thomas’ candidature had attracted controversy, when he came in place of a much younger Hibi Eden to contest the Ernakulam constituency. The contest turned out to be surprisingly tough for Mr Thomas who barely managed to beat the challenge of CPM’s youth leader Sindhu Joy.

In contrast, Mr Tharoor and Mr Ramachandran scored resounding victories in Thiruvananthapuram and Vadakara respectively. While Mr Tharoor won handsomely against CPI’s Ramachandran Nair, with a majority two short of a lakh votes, Mr Ramachandran scored perhaps the most spectacular win for the Congress in the state, winning the Vadakara seat by over 56,000 votes from CPM after a 29-year gap.

Six ministerial berths is also seen in the state as a reward to voters, who will be deciding on a new state government two years from now. The CPM-led Left Democratic Front had bagged 100 out of the 140 assembly seats in the state in the 2006 election.

Getting a call from PM, Sonia 'extraordinary' moment: Tharoor

New Delhi (PTI): Becoming a minister in his very first outing in the Lok Sabha is an icing in the cake for Shashi Tharoor but the former UN diplomat says getting the good news directly from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh himself was an overwhelming experience.

"It was an extraordinary moment to have the PM come on phone and speak and then handover the phone to UPA chairperson Mrs (Sonia) Gandhi who also spoke," said the 53-year-old author-diplomat turned politician, a first time MP who won from Thiruvananthanpuram as the Congress candidate.

Mr. Tharoor said the move by Singh and Gandhi to individually call up ministers who are to be sworn in certainly showed it was not a matter the two leaders have taken lightly and that they have given a great deal of importance in inform those who have found a berth in the Union Council of ministers.

"This is a government that is determined to act and the leadership clearly wants to be a very strong team around it and I think it is a privilege to be one of them," said the former UN under secretary general.

Asked about media speculation that he will find a slot in the External Affairs Ministry, Mr. Tharoor's reply was, " I am simply going to wait to know where I am assigned and whichever ministry it is one has the duty to do one's very best and I will do so."

Mr. Tharoor said he does not have particular preference for any ministry and that it will be a challenge to do any assignment. "Everything will be a challenge and one must be flexible," he said

No pressure from within party: VS

Kerala Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan on Wednesday refuted media reports that some CPI(M) state committee members had demanded his resignation at its meeting for the debacle suffered by the party in the Lok Sabha polls.

“Where will things head to if one goes by media reports and resigns,” Achuthanandan told reporters here when asked to comment on reports that he had been the target of attacks by the faction led by party state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan at the ongoing state committee meet.

“When the party committee is in session, the media will carry reports on the discussions. But you will come to know what actually happens when the decisions are finally taken (by the state committee),” the 86-year-old leader said.

Achuthanandan hopes positive response from Centre

Thiruvananthapuram (PTI): Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan on Thursday expressed hope that with six Ministers from Kerala included in the Union Cabinet, "Centre's neglect" of the State will "come to an end".

"With six Ministers from the State, we can expect good result towards State needs," he said after inaugurating the International Conference on Anti-Counterfeiting Technologies here.

"Let us hope that there will be an end to Centre's neglect to State requirements," Mr. Achuthanandan said.

A K Antony, Vayalar Ravi, E Ahamed, Mullapalli Ramachandran, Shashi Tharoor and K V Thomas are the MPs from the State included in the Union Ministry.

Kerala CPM likely to grin and bear it

25 May 2009, ET Bureau

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Going from a position of 18 Lok Sabha seats out of 20, to a mere four can be a body blow for any coalition and trigger a move to fix responsibility, but the CPM in Kerala, which now has four seats and none for any of its coalition partners, is likely to just grin and bear it.

Observers here say that any major change in the party set-up is unlikely and that a status quo would continue irrespective of the drubbing that the party took in the Lok Sabha polls.

What was widely speculated in the backdrop of the appalling defeat at the polls was a likely change of the chief minister or at least some cosmetic changes to the ministry, but neither of that is likely to happen, they say. Nor is the party state secretary's post in any danger.

It is felt that despite the enormity of the loss, chief minister V S Achuthanandan continues to have considerable charisma among the people making it a tricky decision to change him after three years in office. The CPM does not have a legacy of changing the chief minister mid-course, either.

Observers say that the face-off between the official faction backing party state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan and the opposite camp attached to the chief minister would continue, with neither side being able to get a clear upper hand. While the Pinarayi camp is considered to have a brutal majority within the party framework, the party state secretary happens to be embroiled in the SNC Lavalin case, which weakens his otherwise strong hold on the party.

However, the CPM move to merely discuss the poll debacle without taking anyone to task may not go well with its coalition partners. The RSP and the CPI, for instance are unhappy about the Left front losing the Kollam seat where the CPM contested. Coalition members are also unhappy about the CPM and the CPI publicly haggling over the Ponnani candidate, and the CPM's move to take on board the People's Democratic Party led by Abdul Nasser Madani. The latter move is considered to have alienated a large section of minorities.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Know your Minister - Mr.Sashi Tharoor -Reorded in 1999

UC Berkeley's Harry Kreisler in coversation with author and diplomat Shashi Tharoor, currently Director of Communications and Special Projects for the Secretary-General of the United Nations. Series: Conversations with History [5/2000]

Baying for VS's blood

27 May

Warns of repeated defeats, if VS continue as CM

Most of the district secretaries have warned that the defeat will repeat for the coming local administrative organisations election and Assembly election if VS continue in the Chief Minister post. In the review report that was submitted last day, said that Achuthanandan was the main reason behind LDF's shameful defeat in the state.

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The district secretaries who stand with Pinarayi in the state committee asked for Chief Minister VS Achuthandan's expulsion from the post.

The members criticised VS's stand in SNC Lavalin case has in turn negatively affected Pinarayi Vijayan and also commented that VS had violated the party norms. Eleven out of 13 members who took part in the state committee meeting lambasted against VS Achuthanandan. Whereas Wayanad state secretary CK Sasheedran gave his full support to the CM. Sasheedran said that VS was right and the fault is not with him but with the party. Pathanamthitta state secretary Advocate K Ananthagopan was also reluctant to criticise VS.

The state secretariat asked for VS's resignation on May 7th, when Achuthanandan violated the opinion that there is no need to administer the prosecution in SNC Lavalin case the decision which was taken by the CPI(M) secretariat. The secretariat had furnished the minutes of the report to the polit bureau. The Lavalin had now fallen like a ill-omen on VS's head.

Kannur district secretary P Sasi, Kottayam state secretary KJ Thomas, Kozhikode district secretary TP Ramakrishnan, Thrissur district secretary Baby John came out with vehement criticism towards VS. Alappuzha state secretary PK Chandranandan did not take part in the first day discussion.

Most of the district secretaries have warned that the defeat will repeat for the coming local administrative organisations election and Assembly election if VS continue in the Chief Minister post. In the review report that was submitted last day, said that Achuthanandan was the main reason behind LDF's shameful defeat in the state. The state committee meeting will continue till Thursday.

The attitude of VS was the main reason why people viewed the PDP-CPI(M) relation in a bad tone. The district secretaries were put in front to confront VS and through this the party state committee was trying to convince that all district committees were against the CM. The Achuthanandan section still hopes that in the coming two day discussion in the state committee, the central leadership will go against the party leadership.

Four more Kerala MPs in the union cabinet

27 May 2009

K V Thomas, Mullappali Ramachandran, Shashi Tharoor, E Ahmed.

New Delhi: Four more members from Kerala will be joining the Union cabinet Thursday. They are: Mullappally Ramachandran elected from Vadakara, K V Thomas elected from Eranakulam, E Ahmed elected from Malappuram and Shashi Tharoor elected from Thiruvananthapuram.

Telephone message from PMO has asked the four MPs to be present at Rashtrapati Bhavan on Thursday. A K Antony and Vayalar Ravi had already been sworn as cabinet ministers earlier. This is for the first time that six MPs from Kerala are being included in the union cabinet.

The four will be sworn-in on Thursday by 11.30 am. Though their portfolios have not yet been finalised, there are indications that K V Thomas may get fisheries ministry. Shashi Tharoor is expected to be minister of state for external affairs. While E Ahmed is expected be a minister of state with independent charges.

59 MPs will be taking oath of office Thursday. 14 cabinet ministers, seven ministers of state with independent charges and 38 ministers of state will be swearing in on Thursday. Farooq Abdullah will be given cabinet rank. The DMK from Tamil Nadu will have three berths in the cabinet.

Farooq Abdullah, Dayanidhi Maran, Prithviraj Chouhan, Pallam Raju, Mallikarjun Kharge, Oscar Fernandes, Ajay Makkan, Veerbhadra Singh, Purandeshwari, Salman Khurshid, M K Azhagiri, Jithin Prasada, Jyothiraditya Scindia, Sachin Pilot, Kumari Shelja, among others, will join the union cabinet Thursday.

Stage set for JDS entry to UDF

26 May 2009

Kozhikode: The JDS state committee which met here Tuesday has virtually given the green flag for the party to decide positively on joining UDF in the state.

The decision of the central committee will now be discussed in all the 14 district councils of the party. The final call will be taken on July 12 when the state committee meets again.

The consensus was on ensuring entry into the UDF coalition before the announcement of the local body elections. The meeting also decided to take strong action against leaders and party workers who take stand against this decision. The party also announced the expulsion of its vice-president N.M.Joseph, secretaries Gangadharan Nadar, C.K. Gopi and treasurer Mohammed Shah from the party.

Nair takes over as CEO of Delhi International airport

27 May 2009

New Delhi: P.S. Nair Wednesday took over as Chief Executive Officer of Delhi International Airport Limited.

Nair was earlier CEO of Rajiv Gandhi International Airpot at Hyderabad. He was also Director of Delhi Airport.

Nair replaces B.S. Santaraju.

Tharoor to be sworn in as minister

27 May 2009

New Delhi: Shashi Tharoor, the former UN undersecretary general, will be sworn as a minister in Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's council of ministers Thursday.

Sources close to Tharoor said he got a call from the Prime Minister's Office asking him to be present for the swearing-in ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhavan.

Tharoor, who contested from Thiruvananthapuram, won by a margin of nearly 100,000 votes beating Ramachandran Nair of the Communist Party of India (CPI).

VS refutes resignation reports

27 May. Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan, under pressure to resign after the ruling Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPM) faced its worst ever electoral drubbing in the state, Wednesday refuted all talks of quitting.

"If I was to resign based on news reports then would there be an end to anything," asked Achuthanandan.

"These are all reports only... let the state committee meeting get over and at the appropriate time I will let you know," he said.

A three-day state committee meeting, which began Tuesday, saw 11 of 13 members who spoke on the first day say that it is best for the party that Achuthanandan should resign.

The meeting is being held to take stock of the poor poll show in which the state's ruling Left Democratic Front saw its Lok Sabha tally slip to a mere four from the earlier 19 seats.

Karat amends report; VS scores

May 26, 2009

The last laugh was VS's

Though during the discussion Kodiyeri criticised VS, he took a different stand and said that party should have taken a perfect stand during candidate selection for the election.

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The CPI(M) General Secretary Prakash Karat modified the report of state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan which was submitted in the CPI(M) secretariat meeting on Sunday. The submitted report was an overview on the shameful defeat of the left in the state in the Lok Sabha elections.

Prakash Karat had asked to change the report and include in it that polit bureau has found that CBI case regarding SNC Lavalin and the relation with PDP has catalysed the defeat of left in Kerala. Pinarayi Vijayan in his report has said that the attitude of Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan was the main reason behind the defeat of LDF in state. In the report, it has been noted that SNC Lavalin has not affected the election but VS's stand on the case has created an issue. The report has not at all mentioned PDP relation had proved lethal to LDF during election.

It has been reported that VS has reacted towards the negative remarks against him in the report during the second day of the secretariat meeting on Monday. VS pointed out that the report was not on communist lines and also lambasted that CBI case on SNC Lavalin was the main reason behind the left's defeat in the state. The Lavalin case has tarnished the anti-corruption face of the communist party. The relation with PDP was against the party's policy. Denying Kozhikode seat for Janatha Dal and having a war-like situation with CPI were the other reasons that VS pointed out for the defeat during the party meeting.

All members in the meeting criticised VS Achuthanandan during the second day of the meeting yesterday. Only central committee member MC Josephine supported VS. On the first day of the meeting the same scenario was there where only minister PK Gurudasan supported the CM.

Though during the discussion Kodiyeri criticised VS, he took a different stand and said that party should have taken a perfect stand during candidate selection for the election.

Though Karat too criticised VS Achuthanandan, he said that the drift within the party as well as other factors has accelerated the defeat of left in the state.

Karat saves the day for Kerala CM

Statesman News Service
Thiruvananthapuram, 26 MAY: It's Karat to the rescue ~ again!
The CPI-M general secretary has saved the day for Kerala chief minister Mr VS Achuthanandan, by making corrections in a report drawn up to assess the LDF’s poll failure in Kerala.
According to a source loyal to the CM: “Mr Vijayan mentioned the SNC Lavalin case as a contributing factor in his report, but said it was the chief minister’s attitude to the advocate general’s legal advice (acquitting Mr Vijayan of any wrong doing) that blemished the party’s unified image and helped the Congress win by a huge margin.” Also, Mr Vijayan did not mention the Left’s folly in deciding to include Mr Abdul Nasser Madani’s People’s Democratic Party in its election campaign, and instead found fault with Mr Achuthanandan, and his reluctance in accepting what the majority (Mr Vijayan’s official faction) wanted.
Mr Karat who attended the state secretariat meeting asked that corrections be made as the Politburo has found that the CBI’s case against Mr Vijayan and the party’s associations with the PDP were major contributing factors to the loss of votes.
The CM’s loyalists had argued that the report was a personal attack and went against the party’s guidelines while assessing the poll performance. The last time Mr Karat came to the rescue of the chief minister was during the 2006 Assembly elections, when Mr Vijayan, who was hopeful of becoming chief minister, left Mr Achuthanandan out of the publicity material. Mr Karat had intervened and allowed the veteran leader to become the CM, and for now, there has been no talk of Mr Achuthanandan giving up his post. As for the SNC Lavalin case, the Governor has asked the CBI to furnish more evidences within the week.

Heavy rainfall in Kerala; toll touches six

Thiruvananthapuram (PTI) One fishermen died in Alappuzha on Tuesday as heavy rains lashed the southern coast of Kerala, taking the toll in the South West Monsoon related incidents to six since its onset two days back.

The fisherman, identified as Shibu, drowned while fishing in rough sea.

Two migrant labourers from Bengal, were drowned in Ithikkara river in Kollam while two other deaths were reported from Alappuzha and one from Thrissur on Monday night.

Revenue Minister K P Rajendran in a press release said District Collectors of affected districts had been instructed to open 24-hour control rooms to monitor the situation.

They had also been asked to arrange medical care for people affected by the rains. A state-level control room has been opened in Thiruvananthapuram.

Special camps had been set up in Koyilandi near Kozhikode where 28 members belonging to six families, affected by sea erosion, had been rehabilitated, official sources said.

In the last two days, eight houses had been totally destroyed and 168 houses partially damaged in the rains. Crops in an area of 8.5 hectares in Thrissur had been completely submerged, sources said.

Meanwhile, cases of chikungunya and cholera have been reported from Kozhikode and Alappuzha districts.

Carpool website to help techies go green

26 May 2009

Thiruvananthapuram, May 26: Companies based in Kerala's Technopark, an IT park here, Monday launched a carpooling website for IT professionals in the state as part of its green computing initiatives.

The website,, was jointly launched by the Group of Technopark Companies (GTECH), a body representing the chief executives of the Technopark firms, and Palnar Transmedia, a city-based software firm.

The site would encourage IT professionals to travel together and thereby save money, fuel and reduce global warming and traffic on the roads, GTECH officials said.

Those who are interested can register in the website for free by submitting some basic information and search for travel mates who commute to the Technopark campus or Infopark in Kochi.

Kerala has more than 30,000 IT professionals working at these two IT parks.

GTECH President S. Rama Rao said there was an urgent need to create awareness in the industry about the benefits of carpooling primarily to reduce the harmful effects of carbon dioxide emissions from vehicles.

GTECH secretary Satish Babu said the primary objective of the carpooling was to enhance environmental consciousness.

"This unique model of GTECH acts as a catalyst in promoting the cause of environmental sustainability in Kerala. It is also in tune with the National Policy on Conservation of Fuel," said Babu.

Malayalam speaking nurses asked to quit - Policing the language?

Tuesday,26 May 2009

New Delhi, May 26: Two nurses, who were asked to resign for speaking to each other in Malayalam at the Indraprastha Apollo Hospital here, will now take up the matter with the National Human Right's Commission (NHRC). Hospital authorities, however, said the two are "still with the hospital".

The nurses, Jenny Joseph and Laila Menon (names changed), were posted in the ICU of the Cardio Thoracic Vascular Surgery (CTVS) ward. Reporting for afternoon duty at 1.45 p.m. Monday, the two greeted each other at the lift lobby in Malayalam, not realising that the nursing superintendent Usha Bannerjee was behind them.

Joseph said: "We have been apologising to her since but we were not allowed to enter the ward after that."

The two are still trying to "sort out the matter peacefully", but Bannerjee "refuses to speak," she added.

Apollo Hospital, meanwhile, claims that speaking in any 'native languages' within the premises is a strict no-no - something that the nurses are well aware of.

"Still the hospital has not asked them to leave - they are still with the hospital. It was simply a case of the boss reprimanding her juniors for not following rules and speaking in Malayalam inside the building," Parul Chabra, the hospital's public relations official, told IANS.

Menon, who put in her papers "under pressure", maintains that she had not spoken in the presence of any patient, and that since her shift had not begun and she was in the lift lobby, "it did not come in the way of delivering healthcare to any patient".

Speaking on behalf of the two "inconsolable" nurses who were employed by the hospital six months back, Usha Krishna Kumar, president of the Malayali Nurses Welfare Association, told IANS: "It is outrageous that for expressing their fundamental right to speak in Malayalam they are being penalised. We are filing a complaint with the NHRC and the hospital's stand is bogus. They (nurses) were indeed asked to resign and told to 'go sell dry fish' by Usha Bannerjee."

"We will also be approaching senior Kerala MPs and the labour ministry to address this matter as nurses - 90 percent of whom are Malayalis - are just harassed on the pretext of hospital rules in private hospitals," added Usha, who is the wife of former union minister S. Krishna Kumar.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Mazha Yatra

Mamata promises free rail passes to students

23 May 2009

New Delhi: It will be a second homecoming at the railway ministry for Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee, who said Saturday that she wants to issue free rail passes to students and vendors.

But Banerjee will have her task cut out as she steps into the shoes of Lalu Prasad, who earned wide credit for the dramatic turnaround of the world's largest rail network under a single management despite lowering fares.

But from her first remarks, minutes after she was allotted the ministry, it was evident that populist policies of her predecessor were likely to continue.

"I would like to bring out the humane face of the railways," she told reporters, before leaving for Kolkata in the evening to seek her mother's blessings before taking charge of her ministry here Monday.

"I would like to issue free passes to students and vendors. I want commercialisation of railways but commercialisation with human face. What is the use if there is no human resource," said the 54-year-old known for her simple lifestyle.

Industry will watch her moves closely as she had led major protests at Singur near Kolkata against what she termed was forcible acquisition of land from farmers for a small car project of Tata Motors. The agitation resulted in the company shifting the car project out of West Bengal.

Among her first tasks will be to present a regular rail budget - an area in which Lalu Prasad made a mark by earning a cash surplus before dividend of over Rs.90,000 crore (Rs.900 billion/$18 billion) in the five years he was at the helm.

Banerjee will oversee how to expand India's rail network of 108,706 km, on which run more than 11,000 trains daily, including 7,000 for passengers, to ferry 14 million travellers. There are 6,853 stations in the country.

First elected to the Lok Sabha in 1984, when she was barely 30, Banerjee, who was railway minister between Oct 13, 1999 and March 16, 2001, has seldom served her full terms as minister.

She first became minister of state in 1991 and was given the human resource development portfolio with the charge of youth affairs, sports, women and child development. But she quit two years later, saying she wanted to be with the "oppressed" Congress workers.

In October 2001, she was given railway ministry with cabinet rank, this time in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government of Atal Bihari Vajpayee but resigned 17 months later over an arms purchase scandal from which she wanted to distance herself and her party.

She returned to the Vajpayee cabinet in September 2003 as a minister without portfolio and was given the coal and mines ministry in January 2004 but this innings was also short-lived as the NDA was defeated in elections that summer.

Author of as many as 17 books in English and Bengali, Banerjee has bachelor's degrees in English, education and law. She lists painting and writing songs among her favourite pastimes

Smart City: Kerala minister flays TECOM

25 May 2009
Kochi, May 25: A few days after Kerala Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan said the global slowdown might delay the launch of Kochi's Smart City project, state Fisheries Minister S. Sarma Monday said the project developer was now making fresh demands that were not part of the agreement.

Smart City Dubai has not even placed a brick at the site, Sarma, also the chairman of the Rs.1,500 crore ($316 million) project, said while speaking at a function here.

"We are bound by the agreement and we will honour it by all means. But instead of going ahead as planned, they (Smart City Dubai) are now coming up with fresh demands," he said.

"Now they want to get free hold rights of 12 percent of total project land, which amounts to 39 acres. As per the agreement, this becomes due only after the master plan is ready. But the plan is yet to be ready," the minister added.

Earlier May 20, Achuthanandan had said the developer might not have the required funds because of the financial crunch. He also accused the Dubai-based firm of making "undeserving demands".

The proposed project, to be jointly launched by the state government and infrastructure major Smart City, is slated to come up on a 246-acre plot with 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 Achuthanandan and since then, barring a few board meetings, there has been no movement in the project.

Earlier Smart City Dubai chief executive Fareed Abdulrahman had said the company wanted the land holding issue settled first.

He added that the company had put on hold recruitment of additional human resources until the freehold issue was resolved.

However, Sarma said the demand was "outside the purview of the agreement".

"See, we just can't violate the agreement. If we do so, then it would lead to endless rounds of controversies," he added.

Meanwhile, the state Youth Congress has called for a march towards the project site June 1, calling for the government's speedy action to bring the project into reality.

Youth Congress leader P.S. Prasanth said the protest meet would be inaugurated by Leader of the Opposition Oommen Chandy.

"The state government instead of blaming others first have to do its job. We just can't afford to lose this project," said Prasanth.

Antony takes charge as Defence Minister

25 May 2009

New Delhi: A.K. Antony Monday took charge as defence minister for the second time amid increasing security concerns in the country's neighbourhood and cited infrastructure development in the northeast and border areas, modernisation of the armed forces and welfare of the troops as his priority.

"Security scenario around India is getting more and more challenging. Developments around us is a cause of concern to us. So eternal vigilance is must for us," Antony said after assuming office, referring to the instability and violence in neighbouring countries like Pakistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka.

"Further strengthening of the security apparatus around us is the priority of my ministry," Antony said, further underscoring the need for strengthening land-border security, air defence and coastal security.

"To meet these challenges India needs to push modernisation of armed forces. Modernisation does not mean only procuring of equipments. Along with that training of the armed forces is also important," he added.

He said his ministry had taken note of the rapid development of infrastructure by China on its side of the border.

"Infrastructure development in northeast and other border areas, modern equipments in coastal area is more important and will require fast track procurement," he said.

Talking about China, Antony said India not only needed to maintain but improve its relations with its northern neighbour.

CPI(M) secretariat meets to assess poll results

25 May 2009
Thiruvananthapuram: A two-day meeting of the CPI(M) state secretariat in Kerala began Sunday to discuss the drubbing of the LDF in the Lok Sabha polls.

According to CPI(M) sources, party general secretary Prakash Karat and state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan briefed party forum of the factors that led to the defeat of the Left at the national and the state levels.

Based on the briefing, discussions would take place at the party forum and would come out with "corrective" measures and steps to strengthen the Left.

The secretariat proposals would be placed before the CPI(M) state committee scheduled to meet later this week.

The sources said that Sunday's meeting was "less stormy and more business-like compared to its last sitting before the Lok Sabha poll results were out", when several members unleashed a severe attack on Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan, accusing him of ignoring the party line on crucial issues.

The LDF was routed in the Lok Sabha polls by the Congress-led UDF which lifted 16 of the 20 Lok Sabha seats.

The tally of the CPI(M) came down to four from 13 in 2004 while the second largest ally CPI drew a blank.

We have promises to keep: Manmohan

New Delhi: "We have made a number of promises and we have promises to keep," Prime Minister Manmohan Singh declared Saturday at the first meeting of his newly-sworn in cabinet.

In doing so, he was harking back to India's first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru who often cited the last stanza of Robert Frost's immortal poem "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" that runs thus:

The woods are lovely, dark and deep/But I have promises to keep/And miles to go before I sleep/And miles to go before I sleep.

Nehru was known to often cite the last two lines of the verse as he unveiled his vision for India's development in the early days of the country independence.

The cabinet meeting, which was held at Manmohan Singh's official 7 Race Course Road residence, lasted for 30 minutes and was attended by all the 19 ministers who were sworn in Friday, Home Minister P. Chidambaram said.

What was the mood at the meeting, IANS asked him.

"Well, the prime minister said we have made a number of promises and we have promises to keep," Chidambaram said.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Monsoon may reach Kerala by Sunday

23 May 2009

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The India Meteorological Department (IMD) on Saturday said that conditions were favourable for the onset of monsoon in Kerala by Sunday.

The IMD said on its website that the conditions were also favourable for further advance of the monsoon into some parts of south Arabian Sea, some parts of extreme south peninsula, parts of south Bay of Bengal and some more parts of central Bay of Bengal during the same period.

Earlier this month, the IMD had predicted that the onset of the monsoon in Kerala would be on May 26 with a model error of four days to either side of the mean. Last year, the monsoon hit the state May 28.

From Kerala, the monsoon travels upwards to the central Indian plains and is expected to cover most of the country by June end.

The IMD has also issued a warning that isolated heavy to very heavy rainfall will take place in Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Kerala, and isolated heavy rainfall over Lakshadweep and coastal Karnataka.

The outlook for the next two days was rainfall activity at most places over northeastern states and east India with possibility of heavy to very heavy rainfall at a few places.

Monsoon feel before June 7 date

With the southwest monsoon likely to hit Kerala in two days, the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) said the rains could reach Pune before June 7, the expected date, if favourable conditions persist. “If the intensity continues, we will see rains ahead of the due date and if the intensity reduces, it is possible that the monsoon spell will come after June 7,” said IMD deputy director general A B Mazumdar.

The southwest monsoon is likely to hit the Kerala coast over the weekend. The IMD has forecast that the monsoon currents will advance over the Arabian Sea on May 23-24 as the conditions are favourable for the onset of the monsoon over Kerala this year. “The conditions are favourable for the onset of monsoon in two days,” said Medha Khole, director (weather central), IMD, Pune.

According to Khole, the parameters include the pressure gradient over the Arabian Sea and Bay of Bengal, increase of cross-equatorial wind flow and the northward movement of the cloud cover from the equatorial regions to the Indian region. All this will result in high intensity of rainfall activity in the region.

Sunday,24 May 2009 15:58 hrs IST

Technopark land row: HC seeks explanation
Kochi, May 23: Kerala High court Saturday directed the government to showcause why land acquisition proceedings of Technopark, Thiruvananthapuram, should not be stopped.

The order in this regard was issued by Justice Thotthathil B Radhakrishnan, while considering a writ petition filed by SBT officers housing cooperative society, in the state capital challenging the acquisition proceedings.

According to the petitioner, the society owns about 7.15 acres of land, which was proposed to be takenover by Technopark without any negotiations.

Muthoot Pappachan group to invest Rs.7.5 bn

22 May 2009

Thiruvananthapuram, May 22: The Kochi-based Muthoot Pappachan group, that has interests in financial services, hospitality, infrastructure and wind power, is investing Rs.750 crore (Rs.7.5 billion/$159 million) in seven hotel properties in Kerala and Tamil Nadu, as well as more than 100 service apartments here.

"In Kerala, we will undertake four premium hotel projects near Kovalam, Alapuzha, Bekal in Kasargode district and Kochi," Group managing director John Muthoot told IANS.

"The Kochi property, a five-star business hotel, will be ready in the next few months. An agreement has been signed with the Taj group for managing this property," Muthoot said.

The new projects also include 122 service apartments near the international airport here - the state's first-ever such property - which will be ready by 2011, he said.

Another three properties will come up in Tamil Nadu - near Chittar dam bordering Kerala, at Sriperumbudur near Chennai, and on Old Mahabalipuram Road, the state's IT corridor.

"All three projects will be ready latest by 2011," Muthoot said, adding that discussions were in "advance stages with international hospitality brands" for managing the properties.

The group owns The Muthoot Plaza, a premium five-star business hotel in this Kerala capital, apart from running an in-flight catering service, The Muthoot Skychef. It also owns a property that is operated by the Taj group as the Taj Green Cove Resort at Kovalam.

These properties too are being expanded: 60 rooms will be added to the Taj Green Cove Resort, and 57 new rooms to The Muthoot Plaza. The in-flight service will also begin operations at other airports in south India.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Great Fall of the Left

Tinkering is not enough— the Left in Kerala may have to do something close to reinventing itself, to survive its near-decimation this Lok Sabha poll. It is no longer just its interminable inner contradictions, or its warlords locked in turf battles, that it needs to deal with. The Left’s very fundamentals were on the dissection table this poll.
It is no coincidence that this followed an inevitable corrosion, eating through almost the entire Left edifice in the state for sometime now. Never before was the Kerala CPM and the Left Front jolted so hard by inner dissent, never had it suffered a crippling credibility crisis of the kind it now faces. The CPI, which was blanked out this poll, is in immediate danger of ceasing to be a national party; the Janata Dal (U) has withdrawn its lone minister from the Left cabinet and technically walked out of the Left camp. The miffed RSP had famously used its clout this poll to get back at Big Brother — and the ragtag bunch at the rump are also far from amused.

Deshabhimani: America helped Congress win polls

The CPI(M), which had no qualms hobnobing with ‘terror-tainted’ Abdul Nazer Madhani in the Lok Sabha election in Kerala, has attributed the Congress victory to the ganging up of all the communal forces, the corporate media, and the American imperialistic intervention. Party mouthpiece Deshabhimani, in its editorial titled, Dimensions of the verdict, has fixed the blame for the Congress victory on the US.

“All retrogressive forces in Bengal and Kerala had resorted to anti-Left stand. The imperialistic forces had been tenacious that the Left should not emerge as a critical force in the 15th Lok Sabha. That the US Ambassador had called on prominent political leaders of the country on the eve of the verdict and asked them to take anti-Left stand in the government formation should be seen as the intervention of such forces,” said the editorial.

The other two factors which the party found responsible for the Left’s poor performance were the media and the communal forces. The Right wing had succeeded in parading caste and communal forces on its side. The BJP vote had gone to the Congress. The media also put forward the anti-Communist agenda with an intention to defeat the Left, said the editorial. It also asked the Left to do introspection on the fallout of the support given to the outgoing government.

Left lurches: Red card for Karat

17 May 2009,

NEW DELHI: He's a crime-fiction aficionado, but Saturday's plot against the CPM is one mystery he had never hoped to unravel. For the 61-year-old backroom boy, groomed by the likes of P Sundarraya, A K Gopalan and E M S Namboodiripad, this could be the most humbling moment of his career. Gone are the stream of visitors and, worse, his dream of cobbling up a non-Congress, non-BJP Third Front.

On Monday, when the party's politburo meets, Karat could face a hard time from colleagues, many of whom have been privately questioning his method of functioning. The numbing defeat could be used by his detractors to pin all the blame on him.

But the man is staying calm at the moment. He dismissed Somnath Chatterjee's demand for his resignation in a sentence, "He is not even in the party. Why should I react?" He spoke to West Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and Kerala leaders for a preliminary report. Even on Saturday, while admitting that serious introspection was needed, Karat refused to link blame to individauls and handled questions calmly. But loss was written all over his face.

Karat's friends see an opportunity in this defeat. He can, they say, go back to the basics, bridge the divide between the party and its state governments, and deal with factionalism in Kerala and sloth in West Bengal.

Politburo meeting could herald a series of tough decisions. It remains to be seen if Karat prepares the party well for 2011 assembly elections. Till then, it's a long summer.

Karat leads Left from 59 to 24 seats

17 May 2009, ET Bureau

NEW DELHI: The ‘kingmaker’ has turned pauper. Prakash Karat’s fire and brimstone sounds like an empty vessel today with the Left reduced from its larger-than-life presence to political irrelevance. From the great leap forward in 2004 when the Left touched a record 62 in Lok Sabha, it has dropped to an all-time low of 24 seats.

A vote against dogmatism, factionalism, arrogance and identity politics, the verdict is an indictment of power without responsibility which the Left enjoyed over the past five years. The Left’s report card reads like this: 16 in West Bengal where it had 35 seats with the CPM’s tally down from 26 to nine, four in Kerala where it had swept the last polls winning 19 seats of which the CPM bagged 14, two in Tripura and one each in Tamil Nadu and Orissa.

The CPM has also got a drubbing in the assembly elections in Andhra Pradesh, where its numbers have reduced from nine to one. The CPI has come down from six to four. In Orissa assembly, the CPM has won two seats and the CPI one.

The planning at the CPM headquarters in Delhi failed to boost the party’s prospects in the “red bastions” of West Bengal and Kerala. The electorate called the Left’s bluff in both the states, the first major electoral bloodbath after Mr Karat took over as CPM general secretary.

Despite regular warnings, Mr Karat and company chose to ignore the problems in the state units. The Indo-US nuclear deal, on which Mr Karat so obsessively chose to hinge his party’s political line, did not count. Nor did the minority appeasement that the CPM pursued appeal to the voters. A humbled Karat on Saturday gracefully accepted defeat, but kept silent on the reasons for it.

“The CPM and the Left has suffered a serious setback. It necessitates a serious examination,” Mr Karat said. He refused to accept the blame on the party leadership, Left’s policies or the state units, saying a “collective analysis” will be done by the politbureau. A slow learning Karat maintained that he was determined to fight for “alternative” policies.

Red signals for Left, CPI faces danger of losing national status

While the biggest shocks for the Left came in Kerala and West Bengal, the situation elsewhere was not much different and contributed significantly to the lowering of its overall tally. It lost seats in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand and its hopes of making gains in Rajasthan and Bihar were dashed.

The CPI(M) and CPI managed to win just three seats outside their traditional strongholds of Kerala, West Bengal and Tripura, losing four seats that they held in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Jharkhand.

In Andhra Pradesh, sitting MP and CPI deputy general secretary S Sudhakar Reddy lost to the Congress in Nalgonda by 1.5 lakh votes. CPI(M) MP Babu Rao Mediyam met a similar fate in Araku. Mediyam, who represented Bhadrachalam in the current Parliament, was defeated by Congress’s Kishore Chandra Suryanarayana Deo Vyricherla.

In Tamil Nadu, where both the parties had two sitting members, the tally was reduced to one each. CPI(M)’s P R Natarajan won the Coimbatore seat, while the party lost the Nagercoil (new name Kanyakumari) and Madurai seats. The CPI retained its Tenkasi seat but it lost in Chennai North and Nagapattinam.

Sex offender 'godman' gets 16 years jail term

20 May 2009
Kochi, May 20: Self-professed spiritual guru and astrologer to the stars Swami Amritananthachaithanya alias Santosh Madhavan was Wednesday sentenced to 16 years imprisonment for raping and sexually exploiting two people, including a minor girl, by a Kerala court.

The Ernakulam Additional Sessions Court has also asked Madhavan, who was arrested last year, to pay Rs.220,000 to the two victims.

He had been astrologer to several stars and was also close to the top brass in the police department. The Bharatiya Janata Party had then alleged that Madhavan, who is in his 30s, was close to Home Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan's son and had even fixed the time of his marriage.

Trouble first surfaced after a Dubai-based woman from Kerala complained that the godman had cheated her after taking money from her. The complaints of rape and sexual exploitation emerged after the media took up the issue and his photographs were splashed all over.

He was also booked after large number of pornographic films were found from his flat here. Besides, cases for possessing 'ganja' and a tiger skin are also registered against him.

Clash toll reaches six; hartal peaceful

20 May 2009

Thiruvananthapuram, May 19: The toll in the clashes between two groups at Cheiriyathuracoastal area near here has risen to six, with one more person succumbing to injuries at a hospital here Tuesday. Kanni Haji (60), who was undergoing treatment at the Medical college hospital died today, hospital sources said.

Four persons were killed and 37 injured in the clash, which broke out on May 17 after some persons extorted money from a restaurant in the area.

Police made a lathicharge and burst teargas shells to disperse the crowd which attacked them with country bombs and stones.

Meanwhile, the 12-hour hartal in the district called by various Muslim outfits today in protest against the 'police action' passed off peacefully.

Barring a few incidents of stone pelting at State Road Transport Corporation buses at some plces, no major incident was reported from anywhere, police said.

Shops and business establishments remained closed and vehicles also kept off the roads in many places. The Kerala University had postponed all exams scheduled for the day.

Meanwhile, State Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan Tuesday visited the violence torn area along with Home Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan and Law Minister M Vijayakumar.

Achuthanandan said that a cabinet meeting tomorrow would discuss grievances aired by both sections of people.

The state government had already ordered a judicial probe into the incident and announced a solatium of Rs 10 lakh each to the families of those killed.

Lalu says won't feel bad if denied Cabinet berth

20 May 2009,

NEW DELHI: With Congress reluctant to accommodate him in the new government, RJD chief Lalu Prasad on Wednesday appeared resigned to his fate, saying he would not feel bad if he doesn't get a cabinet berth.

"Those who bring power to Delhi are worshipped. I did not get that power," Prasad, who was the railway minister in the previous UPA government, said referring to the drubbing the party received in the Lok Sabha polls in Bihar winning only four out of 40 seats.

"I would not feel bad if I am not offered a berth in the Cabinet," he told a news channel.

The RJD chief said he has pledged unconditional support to the Congress-led UPA government and has no qualms about not being part of the new government.

Asked about the future of the Fourth Front comprising RJD, LJP and Samajwadi Party, Prasad claimed that such a Front did not exist at all.

"There was no Fourth Front. We had an understanding with our alliance partners," he said.

To a question, he said he shared good relationship with Congress president Sonia Gandhi's family and would not like to say a single word against them.

Mamata can be next chief minister of West Bengal: Pranab Mukherjee

20 May 2009,

NEW DELHI: After the Congress-Trinamool alliance's body blow to West Bengal's ruling Left in the hustings, Congress leader Pranab
Tuesday said that Trinamool Congress supreme Mamata Banerjee could be the next chief minister of the state.

In an interview to a news channel, Mukherjee, the West Bengal state Congress president, said it was possible that Banerjee would emerge as the next head of the state after the electoral rout of the Left after three decades.

"We (the Congress) have no problems with that (Banerjee as chief minister)," Pranab said, when asked what he thought of Banerjee becoming chief minister.

Asked if she would make a good head of government given her "difficult" personality, Mukherjee said: "I don't want to make judgments. But after all, position brings responsibility."

"I don't think she is anti-industrialization," he said when asked if Banerjee's tough stance forcing the Tata Motors to move their car project from Singur and the Trinamool-led violent protests in Nandigram over a chemical hub would not send wrong signals to the industry.

"Singur and Nandigram became political issues. Mamata initiated lots of development projects when she was the railway minister," Mukherjee said.

Mukherjee was instrumental in stitching the Congress-Trinamool alliance in West Bengal, which resulted in the Left parties winning just 15 of the 42 parliamentary seats.

The Trinamool Congress and the Congress won 26 between them. Of these, the Trinamool claimed 19 and the Congress seven.

Ever since the results, Banerjee has repeatedly been saying that the state assembly elections, due for 2011, should be advanced as the Lok Sabha poll results were a "no confidence vote" by the people in the state government

Monday, May 18, 2009

Sensex creates history; two upper circuits in one day

18 May 2009, ET Bureau

MUMBAI: Markets have stopped trading for the day as the benchmarks hit another upper circuit Monday as soon as the trade resumed after 2 hour break. Investors are euphoric after the United Progressive Alliance emerged victorious in the 2009 general elections. ( Watch )

Bombay Stock Exchange’s Sensex was locked at 14272.62 up 2099.21 points or 17.24 per cent. National Stock Exchange’s Nifty was locked at 4308.05, up 636.40 points or 17.33 per cent. According to media reports turnover including cash and F&O was less than Rs 1000 crore.

Marketmen are upbeat given the fact that there will be no interference by the Left Parties and other regional parties in day-to-day functioning of the government and less number of allies will lead to a stable government which will run its course of five years.

BHEL (32.72%), Larsen & Toubro (29.53%), DLF (25.82%), ICICI Bank (25.30%) and HDFC (23.46%) were the top Sensex gainers.

Amongst the sectoral indices, BSE Realty Index was up 25.37 per cent, BSE Capital Goods Index gained 23.47 per cent, BSE Bankex moved 20.27 per cent higher and BSE Oil&gas Index advanced 19.57 per cent.

Market breadth was positinve on the BSE with 833 advances and 11 declines.

The new government which is likely to be sworn in by Friday is expected to come-out with full budget within 45 days of resuming office, according to media reports.

Reforms in the banking sector, divestment of public sector undertakings, infrastructure, retail sector and insurance sector is likely to top the priority list.

Sensex had opened 10.73 per cent or 1305.97 points higher at 13479.39 points to 12011.10. National Stock Exchange’s Nifty was locked at 4203.30, higher by 14.48 per cent or 531.65 points.

Market experts views:

“Markets had previously worried that gains by leftist and smaller regional parties would weigh on the reform agenda and lead to a further blow-out in the already large fiscal deficit. In previous elections, both BJP- and Congress-led alliances had been unable to push through reforms, held down by allies with their own agendas. The government's rural jobs program and strong private sector investment have highlighted the positive effects of economic reform and liberalisation, and voters' shunning of smaller parties imply a desire for greater action on the reform front,” said a Moody’s report

The report added, “Despite the strong endorsement from voters, the government is likely to have a tough job pushing through some much-needed reforms. Political constraints mean a scrapping of fuel subsidies are unlikely, nor reforms to outdated labour laws that constrain hiring and create high firing costs. Returning to the path of fiscal consolidation will also be challenging if the global recession becomes protracted, while the financial crisis will mean any steps to liberalise capital flows and foreign investment will be cautious.”

Investors' wealth swells by Rs 4 lakh cr within seconds

18 May 2009 PTI

MUMBAI: Investor wealth soared by a whopping Rs four lakh crore within seconds of opening of trade on the Bombay Stock Exchange, as the markets were elated at the decisive win of the ruling UPA government in the general elections.

The total investors' wealth, measured in terms of combined market capitalisation of all the listed companies, has increased by over Rs 4,08,410.60 crore in the opening trade to Rs 42,15,354.29 crore.

The 30-share Bombay Stock Exchange Sensex zoomed 1,305.97 points at 13,479.39, hitting the upper circuit within seconds of opening of trade, following which trading was halted for two hours.

Ashika Stock Brokers Research Head Paras Bothra said "the buying spree is likely to continue after the market reopens and may touch another circuit limit."

He further said "very low volumes were traded as most investors could not engage in any buying activity as the markets hit its upper circuit within seconds."

Further, the 30 Sensex companies, which account for over 47 per cent of the total market capitalization of all the companies, saw their combined market valuation rise by nearly two lakh crore in the opening trade today.

The combined market capitalization of the 30-blue chip stocks rose to Rs 20,33,564.40 crore today, from Rs 18,36,841.33 crore at the end of trade on Friday.

Among the Sensex companies Reliance Communication, Reliance Infrastructure, Larsen & Toubro, ICICI Bank and Jaiprakash Associates were among the major gainers with their stock prices surging between 18 per cent and 20 per cent.

From the beginning of the year, the benchmark 30-share index Sensex has made gradual recovery and has been on a gaining spree for the 10th consecutive week at the end of trade on Friday.

With today's upper circuit, the index crossed the 13,000 milestone again. It is for the first time that the Sensex has hit the upper circuit of 10 per cent.

While the National Stock Exchange 50-share Nifty increased 600 points or 14.48 per cent at 4,271.40.

All the major sector-indices were in the positive zone with realty surging the most by 15.84 per cent, bankex by 13.63 per cent, consumer goods by 12.83 per cent, power by 12.39 per cent among others.

Markets were expected to surge today in the first trading day after the announcement of the general election results, which showed that the UPA is set to form the next government without the Left support this time.

Bulls charged up for mega rally

18 May 2009,

MUMBAI: After 10 Janpath, the partying may shift to PJ Towers, Dalal Street. Unlike 2004, there is no fear of any Left-sponsored
common Minimum Programme (CMP) on Dalal Street this time around. So the bulls are waiting for the maximum: To take the sensex up by a circuit-hitting 10% within minutes of opening on Monday. Most Street players expect 15-20% rally during the week.

"The market was not expecting this (a thumping win for UPA) and was preparing for a fractured mandate. The election outcome is like a dream-come-true and we are in for a massive gap-up opening on Monday,'' said Nishid Shah, president & chief investment officer, IDFC Mutual Fund. So no one is ready to sit on the sidelines and miss the party. "FIIs, domestic institutions and investors will invest big time over next several months. Local investors, who were left out of the last two months' rally, will also jump in,'' Shah added.

Other than retail investors, speculators and mutual funds could also jump in. Over the last two months, most MFs stayed in cash. But now they are expected to join the celebrations, broking house officials said. "Anticipating a fractured election mandate, domestic institutions did not participate in the rally. But now DIIs have to start investing as the event risk is over,'' said Amitabh Chakraborty, president-equities, Religare Capital Markets.

Other than the expected euphoric buying, some short coverings could further aid the rally. Markets have put built-up around 3,300-3,200 (nifty) level and those positions could prompt some short covering, Chakraborty said.

Technically, the nifty could rally for another 600-650 points before it faces any major hurdle, chartists said. On sensex, this could translate to a rally of about 2,000 points and that could happen in the next 10 sessions, a derivatives analyst with a local brokerage said.

Moving beyond the immediates, the global markets, the budget expected to be presented over the next six to eight weeks, the emerging fiscal and economic conditions of the country will again start playing on investor sentiment and impacting the markets' movement, participants said.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Kerala: LDF gets four seats, UDF bags 16

Saturday,16 May 2009

Thiruvananthapuram, May 16: The CPM-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) Saturday is set to win four seats. The Congress-led UDF is leading in 16 of Kerala's 20 Lok Sabha constituencies, including the surprise win of its legislator K. Sudhakaran who ousted the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) from its bastion Kannur.

The Congress's Hamidullah Sayeed also won the lone seat from Lakshadweep.

Sudhakaran, the Kannur legislator, had been leading by a margin of more than 44,000 votes after about 75 percent of the votes had been counted.

In the 2004 Lok Sabha polls, the UDF was routed and managed to win just one seat when Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) candidate E. Ahamed won the Ponnani seat. Ahamed regained the seat Saturday when he won for the sixth consecutive time.

Jose K. Mani (UDF) - Kottayam
K.C.Venugopal (INC) - Alappuzha
M.K.Raghavan (UDF) -Kozhikode
Shashi Tharoor (INC) - Thiruvananthapuram
A.Sampath (CM) - Attingal'
Mullappally Ramachandran (UDF) - Vadakara
P Karunakaran (CPM) - Kasargo
K.Sudhakaran (INC)- Kannur
K.V. Thomas (INC) - Ernakulam
E.T. Mohammed Basheer (IUML) - Ponnani
P.K.Biju (CPM)- Alathur
Kodikunnil Suresh (INC)- Mavelikkara
Anto Antony (UDF) - Pathanamthitta
M.I. Shanawas (INC) - Wayanad
P.T.Thomas (UDF) - Idukki
K..P.Dhanapalan (INC) - Chalakkudy
P.C. Chacko (INC) - Thrissur
N.Peethambara Kurup (INC) - Kollam
M.B. Rajesh (CPM) - Palakkad
E.Ahmed (IUML) - Malappuram

Left routed in Kerala; UDF wins 16 out of 20 seats

Press Trust of India / May 16, 2009

Inflicting a crushing blow to the ruling CPI(M)-led LDF in Kerala, a resurgent Congress-led UDF bagged 16 of the 20 Lok Sabha seats, in a virtual reversal of the 2004 verdict.

CPI(M) barely managed to hold on to its traditional fortresses like Palakkad, Alathur, Kasargode and Attingal.

Effacing the 2004 ignominy, Congress captured 13 of the 17 seats it contested while its partners IUML won two seats and the Kerala Congress(M) one. The biggest loser of the day was CPI which lost all the four seats it contested.

Prominent UDF winners from the state included former UN Under Secretary General Shashi Tharoor, former Union Minister Mullapally Ramachandran and Union Minister and IUML chief E Ahamed.

Kerala proved to be a barren land for the BJP as the saffron party got much less votes than they garnered in 2004. BSP and NCP also came a cropper in the state where the electoral scene was dominated by the UDF and LDF.

The left rout in Kerala was largely attributed to prolonged feud between two factions in the CPI-M led by Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan and party state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan, and the infighting among front partners before the poll are seen to have contributed to the LDF debacle.

The results are also seen as rejection of the strategic tie-up forged by the CPI-M with PDP led by Abdul Nasser Madani who was accused of having links with extremist outfits

3 sons make it to Lok Sabha from Kerala, Lakshadweep

Press Trust of India / May 16, 2009

Three sons of politicians have made it to the Lok Sabha from Kerala and Lakshadweep this time.

Of the five sons of politicians who tried their luck this time from the state, only two emerged victorious, while P M Hamdulla, son of former Union Minister P M Sayeed, won the Lakshadweep seat.

The winners are: Jose K Mani, son of former state minister and Kerala Congress (Mani) leader, K M Mani, who won by a margin of over 60,000 votes from Kottayam defeating sitting MP, Suresh Kurup. A Sampath CPI(M), who contested from Attingal, defeated Congress' G Balachandran by about 18,000 votes. Sampath is the son of former CPI(M) MLA, Aniruddhan.

The loosers are veteran Congress leader K Karunakaran's son and state President of NCP, K Muraleedharan, who contested from Wayanad, K Francis George of the Kerala Congress (Joseph), son of party leader K M George, who was aiming for a hattrick from Idukki, and Debutant R S Anil (CPI), son of former minister late P K Raghavan, lost in Mavelikara.

No women representatives from Kerala in Lok Sabha

Press Trust of India / May 16, 2009

There would be no women representives to the Lok sabha from Kerala this time with the five women candidates fielded by prominent political parties failing to reach the finish line.

While the CPI(M) fielded two candidates, Congress, BJP and BSP had given tickets to one candidate each.

P Sathidevi, CPI(M)'s sitting MP from Vatakara lost to former union minister, Mullapally Ramachandran of Congress and student leader Sindhu Joy, who contested from Ernakulam constituency was defeated by Prof K V Thomas (Cong), while Congress candidate Shahida Kamal lost to CPI(M) sitting MP, P Karunakaran in Kasaragod.

Kerala has so far sent only seven women to the Lok Sabha.

The poor representation of women is regardless of the fact that female voters outnumber men by 8.56 lakh in the state.

LDF heading for humiliating defeat in Kerala

Press Trust of India / May 16, 2009

The ruling CPI(M)-led LDF is heading for a humiliating defeat in Kerala trailing behind the Congress-led UDF in 16 of the 20 Lok Sabha seats as about 45 per cent of the votes were counted.

The UDF candidates have established comfortable leads in most of the seats they are leading in a trend which is expected to be a virtual reversal of the 2004 verdict when the LDF swept the polls winning 18 of the 20 seats.

The Congress candidates are ahead of their LDF rivals in Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam, Pathanamthitta, Alappuzha, Kottayam,Idukki, Chalakkudy, Thrissur, Palakkad, Ponnani, Malappuram, Kozhikode, Wayanad, Vatakara and Kannur.

The LDF candidates are ahead in Kasargode, Alathur (SC), Ernakulam and Attingal. Prominent UDF candidates leading include Shashi Tharoor, Mullapally Ramchandran, K C venugopal and K Sudhakaran of Congress and IUML all-India president and Union Minister E Ahmed in Malappuram and his colleague and former state minister E T Muhammad Basheer in nearby Ponnani.

The Congress nominee and sitting MLA K V Thomas is trailing youth leader Sindhu Joy of CPI (M). Several sitting CPI-M MPs are trailing including K Suresh Kurup (Kottayam), P Sathidevi (Vatakara), T K Hamza (Malappuram), K S Manoj (Alappuzha) and P Rajendran (Kollam).

CPI loses in all four Kerala seats it contested

Saturday,16 May 2009

Thiruvananthapuram, May 16: The Communist Party of India (CPI) lost all four of the Lok Sabha seats that it had contested in Kerala.

The CPI had three seats - of Kerala's 20 Lok Sabha seats - in the outgoing Lok Sabha. It had chosen not to renominate any of its old MPs and pitched for new candidates.

CPI state secretary Veliyam Bharghavan said this was not a reflection of the governance of the state government, in which the CPI is the second biggest partner.

'Arrogance of CPM leadership led to defeat'

Saturday,16 May 2009
Thiruvananthapuram: The defeat of LDF in Kerala in the Lok Sabha polls was the result of 'arrogance, high-handedness and immaturity of the CPM leadership', Janata Dal-S state president M.P. Veerendrakumar said Saturday.

Reacting to the results, he said the CPM leadership had 'virtually destroyed' the front and kicked out the JD-S from the front after denying them their sitting seat of Kozhikode.

Veerendrakumar, sitting MP in the segment, said Kozhikode had always been a fortress of the LDF.

Left fort collapses in West Bengal

Saturday,16 May 2009

But the biggest story from the state is the near rout of the CPI-M-led Left Front which has been ruling the state uninterruptedly for 32 years. This is the LF's worst performance since 1977, eclipsing its previous lowest tally of 26 in the 1984 Lok Sabha elections.

The LF has been decimated in five districts, besides facing the wrath of Muslims, angry over the violent incidents in Nandigram and the Sachar Committee report that pulled up the LF government for the backwardness of the minority committee. The defeat of the CPI-M in its stronghold of Uluberia - from where its candidate Hannan Mollah won eight times consecutively - is a pointer to this.

The LF, however, succeeded in retaining its base in the Maoist-dominated western belt of Bankura, Purulia and Mindapore West, besides doing well in Burdwan district.

Among the prominent candidates who have won or are set to win are External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee from Jangipur, Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee from her pocket borough of Kolkata South and CPI-M leader in the outgoing Lok Sabha Basudeb Acharya from Bankura.

The heavyweights who have lost or are staring at defeat are deputy leader of the CPI-M Mohammed Salim from Kolkata North, CPI-M nominee and former Asian Games double gold medal winning athlete Jyotirmoyee Sikdar, former union minister and BJP candidate Satya Brata Mukherjee (both from Krishnanagar) and state Congress working president Subrata Mukherjee.

The Trinamool candidates are also certain to win Tamluk - which includes the troubled zone of Nandigram - besides being ahead in Hooghly - which includes Singur. Both areas had seen violent protests over the LF government's bid to set up industrial units by acquiring farmland, and are said to be the prime reason for the LF's defeat.

All the three glamorous candidates of the Trinamool - singer Kabir Suman (Jadavpur), and film actors Tapas Pal (Krishnanagar) and Shatabdi Roy (Birbhum) - won from seats held by the LF earlier

End of the road for L.K. Advani?

Saturday,16 May 2009

New Delhi, May 16: Age was not on his side. And now it seems people were not either. Verdict 2009 seems to have dashed the prime ministerial hopes of Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) 'iron man', 81-year-old, L.K. Advani forever.

The 15th Lok Sabha election was arguably his last attempt to get the nation's top job in the twilight of his nearly five-decade-old political career, after being in the shadow of Atal Bihari Vajpayee for long.

Advani - the "symbol of the BJP's ideological battle" as some in the Hindu rightwing fraternity call him - may be the clear winner from his Gandhinagar constituency but lost the bigger fight that he, his family and party members heavily invested in.

With the rival Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) staging spectacular wins, it may well be the end of the road for Advani, whose Somnath to Ayodhya-Ram Janmabhoomi movement had put the right-of-centre party into political reckoning.

"It seems that it is the end of the road for him. He will be too old to contest the polls after five years," political scientist Sudha Pai at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi, told IANS.

It was Advani who had taken charge of the BJP's Hindutva campaign, with the Ayodhya movement culminating in the destruction of the Babri mosque in 1992 and putting the party in the political reckoning within less than a decade of returning just two MPs in 1984.

But he lost the script somewhere in the compulsion of coalition politics that catapulted Vajpayee - the party's moderate face - to the post of prime minister, with Advani as the number two.

His later attempts to reposition himself into the secular mode left the BJP leader with no clear identity of his own, some say. It started off with his 2005 Pakistan visit where he praised Mohammad Ali Jinnah.

In his new avatar, Advani also put the cause of the Ram temple on the backburner. He was resurrected by his party and made the prime ministerial candidate since Vajpayee is out of action because of ill health.

Advani spared no effort to reach out to every nook and cranny of the country, travelling more than 60,000-odd km, braving the sweltering heat with temperatures hovering around 40 degrees celsius. The octogenarian even lifted weights and pitched himself in cyberspace.

His backroom boys worked round the clock, while the BJP leader also found time to interact with young and first-time voters on his website.

Advani made a strong case for himself by his continuous tirade against Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, calling him weak and subservient to Congress president Sonia Gandhi. But it didn't work.

"This is clearly a vote for Manmohan Singh, who is clean, capable, educated and intelligent; no other leader, including Advani, has these qualities. Advani lost it for the way he attacked Manmohan Singh, the way he behaved right through the campaign, " says Pai.

The BJP's advertisements pitched Advani as a 'Loh Purush (iron man)', or tough leader, with pictures of him showing his fist.

"Advani is a symbol of the BJP's ideological battle," said Tarun Vijay, former editor of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) mouthpiece Panchjanya.

"There's no question of the end of the road for Advani or anybody. The BJP is not an individual centric party."

But his being projected as the prime ministerial candidate does not seem to have cut much ice with voters. Some sections of the BJP privately said a younger leader like Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi could have probably helped the party do better.

However, party general secretary Arun Jaitley said: "Advani was the NDA's face and this has not affected the party's overall performance."

He clearly failed to recreate the magic of Vajpayee who straddled the political spectrum like a colossus. On Saturday, with the party's debacle, BJP president Rajnath Singh said the party missed Vajpayee in the elections.

And now Advani may not get another chance.

Congress’ Shahnawaz is sixth time lucky in Kerala

May 16th, 2009 -
Thiruvananthapuram, May 16 - Congress candidate M.I. Shahnawaz Saturday saw his first win in six elections. He won in style from north Kerala’s newly-constituted Wayanad constituency with 153,490 votes - the highest margin in the state.
Shahnawaz has in the past contested thrice for the assembly and twice in the Lok Sabha elections, all ending in defeat.

“I am really delighted by this win. I owe this to the people who worked for me and for all those who voted for me,” said 58-year-old Shahnawaz.

With all the results out, the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) has won a record 16 seats and the Left Democratic Front (LDF) in four of the state’s 20 Lok Sabha constituencies.

The LDF had won 19 of the 20 seats in 2004, with the lone UDF victor being Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) candidate E. Ahamed from Ponnani.

Four of the UDF candidates had a victory margin of over 100,000 votes, while the biggest margin for the LDF was at Kasargode when sitting MP P. Karunakaran won by 64,427 votes.

At Malappuram, Minister for State for External Affairs E. Ahamed won by a margin of 115,569 votes, Shashi Tharoor (Thiruvananthapuram) 100,045 and Anto Antony (Pathanamthitta) 111,206.

Congress candidate M.K. Raghavan won the Kozhikode seat, but he scraped through with the lowest margin in the state with just 838 votes.

The winning LDF candidates - all of them from the CPI-M barring Karunakaran - have a victory margin of less than 21,000 votes.

At Alathur, P.K. Biju won by a margin of 20,960, A. Sampath won by 17,660 in Attingal, and M.P. Rajesh was victorious by 1,820 votes in Palakkad.

UDF charts stunning victory in Kerala

Thiruvananthapuram, Saturday, May 16, 2009: The Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) Saturday managed to grab sixteen seats of Kerala’s 20 Lok Sabha constituencies, including the surprise win of its legislator K. Sudhakaran who ousted the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) from its bastion Kannur.

The seats that have been won by the UDF are Kollam, Idukki, Malappuram, Kannur, Vadakara, Wayanad, Trissur and Chalakudy, Ernakulam, Ponnani, Kottayam, Alappuzha, Mavelikara, Thiruvananthapuram, Pathanamthitta and Kozhikode.

The LDF has won Palakkad, Kasaragod, Attingal and Alathur.

In the 2004 Lok Sabha polls, the UDF was routed and managed to win just one seat when Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) candidate E. Ahamed won the Ponnani seat. Ahamed regained the seat Saturday when he won for the sixth consecutive time.

The largest lead so far has been reported from Wayanad where the Congress candidate MI Shanavaz has set an unassailable lead of 1,53439.

Prominent Congress candidates who have pitched win include Shashi Tharoor with 100045 votes over CPI’s P Ramachandran Nair in Thiruvananthapuram and Union Minister of State for External Affairs and IUML all India president E Ahmed who won by 115569 votes over sitting CPI-M MP T K Hamza in Malappuram.

Speaking to reporters in CPM Headquarters in New Delhi, Prakash Karat, General Secretary, Communist Party of India (Marxist) said, the results were a major set back for the party in West Bengal and Kerala in the Lok Sabha elections. “The election to the Lok Sabha has resulted in a victory to the Congress who will be in a position to form the next government. CPM and the Left parties have suffered a major setback in this elections and a serious examination of the reason for the party’s poor performance. Our politburo is meeting today, after that we will come out with a more detailed response of the whole results,”he added.