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October 18, 2001 - October 18, 2001

Give me time before passing judgement: Narendra Modi Thursday, October 18, 2001

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, who pulled of a coup of sorts with his appointment, has said his ministry should be given more time before any judgment is passed on its performance. The RSS sanghpracharak-turned-Chief Minister was speaking to the India Today Group Editorial Director, Prabhu Chawla, in an exclusive interview to Aaj Tak.

Modi chose to be more or less nebulous on most of the issues confronting the state, emphasising at the same time that his predecessor, Keshubhai Patel, did not step down for non-performance but opted out in favour of new leadership in the state.

Modi said “ I did not even know that I was tipped to be the Chief Minister. BJP president Jana Krishnamurthy asked me to reach Gujarat and meet the state BJP president. I was then asked by him to attend the party’s legislature party meet where my name was proposed by Keshubhaiji and seconded by all the legislators.”

Modi, whose decade-and-a-half long political career has been no stranger to controversy, claimed that he faces no opposition from the state unit of the party over his appointment as Chief Minister.

However, Modi accepted that senior leaders in the party like Naresh Mehta were opposed to his appointment, saying: “Nareshji is my senior and I have to accept it. I cannot shy away from reality but what we should ideally talk about is results and not controversies.”

On being asked if elevation to the Chief Minister's post resembled the usual Congress procedure, Modi said: “I do not know how such issues are handled in the Congress." He added: “There is a lot of difference between the Congress and the BJP. As far as I know, Chief Minister’s in the Congress are nominated by the party high command and not by the concerned legislature party. After my nomination, I was received well and given a warm welcome in the party fold.”

He also said that all the 117 party MLAs in the state support him, maintaining it is the tradition and culture of the BJP to honour the legislative party’s choice.

One being repeatedly asked if Keshubhai Patel was removed, Modi said: “ I would not like to use the word removed. He is a very respected and senior party leader and I have always stated that I am just a gear in the vehicle and Keshubhai will drive the vehicle.” On being reminded that someone changing gears while another drives could lead to an accident, Modi said: “ All accidents are not bad.”

Regarding the poor rehabilitation for the Gujarat earthquake victims, which apparently led to Keshubhai's ouster, Modi said: “ A World Bank team recently visited Gujarat and complimented the Patel government for carrying out the relief and rehabilitation in such an orderly manner.”

That still leaves the question of why Patel was removed unanswered. However, Patel seems to have been given a parting gift with Modi retaining five of the nine Patels in the Cabinet.

Modi, in his inimitable style, went on to deny alleged vandalism and the burning of religious places of a particular community by BJP workers. Modi said: “None of the reports and inquiries have shown that any BJP worker was involved and those who are doing so are doing to malign to image of the party.” He also added that all those who are playing these dirty tricks are not only maligning the BJP but the nation as a whole.

On being asked whether he is a pracharak or a BJP party leader, Modi said: “The Sangh is my inspiration and has given a sense of mission to me. It has given me values to protect the Indian tricolour.”
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One-third of BJP MLAs made ministers Thursday, October 18, 2001

GANDHINAGAR: Twenty-nine new ministers, including Ashok Bhatt and Babubhai Bokhiria of Cabinet rank, were sworn in at the Town Hall lawns here on Wednesday, taking the total strength of the Narendra Modi ministry to 39. This is the same strength the unwieldy Keshubhai Patel ministry had.

The ministry has 12 new-comers in the Modi ministry now. Many of the new faces are virtually unheard of MLAs. Considering the fact that the BJP has only 116 MLAs in the Assembly, the strength of the ministry is quite huge, and the pressure from Modi's predecessor is written all over the new team.

Modi has, however, restricted his team to a two-tier ministry, with 11 ministers of Cabinet rank and the rest ministers of state. But falling a victim to caste and regional pressures apart from political necessities, Modi failed to cut down the size of the ministry as was earlier expected. Nor was the ministry-making without hitches.

The most surprising entry into the Cabinet is that of Bokhiria who was a minister of state under Keshubhai. Ashok Bhatt, a Brahmin, could not get the Cabinet berth so easily then, and was taken in only after immense pressure from the high command at the last moment. Bhatt had to resign from the Keshubhai ministry last year following framing of charges in a 15-year murder case. However, with co-accused Harin Pathak being inducted into the Vajpayee ministry on Monday, Bhatt made a public statement in Delhi a couple of days ago talking of his re-induction in the Cabinet.

Party sources close to Bhatt said he was informed by Modi about his entry into the Cabinet only 90 minutes before the swearing-in, at noon. Apparently, Modi had decided to drop Bhatt from the list, but Bhatt outsmarted him by getting some big-wigs in Delhi to exert pressure. The decision to take Bhatt was reached in the dead of the night, at about 3.30 a.m.

Of the 29 new ministers, 17 were in the ministry under Keshubhai. Twelve have become ministers for the first time. Haren Pandya, who has been taken in as the senior-most minister of state, was expected by many to get Cabinet rank. Next in seniority as minister of state is BJP general secretary Gordhan Zadaphia, a new entrant and perceived as a Keshubhai loyalist.

Nearly 13 ministers who worked under Keshubhai failed to make entry into the Modi ministry. The main among them are Vajubhai Vala, Jay Narayan Vyas, Jaspal Singh (all of them enjoyed Cabinet rank), Mahendra Trivedi, Parmanand Khattar and Ramanlal Vora. Trivedi, a supporter of liberal leader Suresh Mehta, failed to return to the ministry because of his rivalry in Bhavnagar with state BJP president Rajendrasinh Rana. Jaspal was denied a place in the Modi ministry on grounds of indiscipline, while Vyas, who had resigned from the earlier ministry after calling Keshubhai a 'liar', has been kept out because of opposition from the former CM.

Those who could make a re-entry despite rumours that they might be dropped included Bharat Barot and Chimanbhai Saparia, both strong Keshubhai allies, and Purshottam Solanki, a deputy minister under Keshubhai who is accused of involvement in Mumbai communal riots in 1992-93. Others who made a re-entry are Liladhar Vaghela, Narayanbhai Patel, Mangubhai Patel, Prabhatsinh Chauhan, Bhupendra Lakhawala, Mulubhai Bera, Karsanbhai Patel, Ranjitsinh Chavda, Hemant Chapatwala, Harjivanbhai Patel and Jaswantsinh Babhor.

The new faces who made it into the ministry are Gordhan Zadaphia, Bavku Ugad, Devanand Solanki, Dilip Thakore, Daulat Desai, Rajchhod Rabari, Rajnikant Rajwadi, Ishwar Makwana, Vadibhai Patel, Muhan Kundaria, Jasumatiben Korat and Sundarsinh Chauhan. There are a dozen OBCs in the new Modi Cabinet, and as many Patels.

News Source : The Times of India [India's best Newspaper]

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Kailashnathan talks of downsizing in AMC Thursday, October 18, 2001

AHMEDABAD: Outgoing Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation commissioner K Kailashnathan has stressed on the need to cut down on excess staff in AMC to minimise unnecessary expenditure.

"It is the right of the Amdavadis to demand that they get the best services at the cheapest possible rates. Growing administrative costs and expenditures incurred by the AMC dictates that the staff strength be optimised and a good deal of accountability be inducted into each civic employee's responsibilities," he said.

The outgoing municipal commissioner told newsmen, on the eve of relinquishing office, that private participation in areas like AMTS, parks and gardens and even water supply, "may prove fruitful as people would have better facilities at cheaper rates, while the corporation would have lesser burden and be able to focus on providing quality civic amenities."

Talking about the long-term changes that he has been able to make ever since he took over as municipal commissioner in 1999, Kailashnathan spoke about the path-breaking property tax formula introduced earlier this year.

"This formula may initially bring down the regular income from collection of taxes but is already resulting in more number of tax payers. Since this formula ensures a fair amount of transparency in tax calculation and cuts down on any scope of disputes, that had, till date, become the order of the day in tax recovery resulting in accumulation of dues worth crores," he said.

The other achievements of Kailashnathan has been construction of Raska weir "that has solved Ahmedabad's water scarcity for at least 10 years" and adept handling of rescue and rehabilitation work after the city witnessed its worst-ever disaster in decades on January 26. In the pipeline is e-governance.

"E-governance through computerisation of many of our departments will ultimately mean a better response-time to people's grievances, strict monitoring at all levels of the corporation and thereby a better AMC," promised Kailashnathan.

News Source : The Times of India [India's best Newspaper]

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HC directs SEC not to take coercive action to recover deposits Thursday, October 18, 2001

AHMEDABAD: In a writ petition filed by two low tension power consumers of Surat, Gujarat High Court has given a stay to the Surat Electricity Company against taking coercive action for the recovery of security deposits.

The court issued notices to the state government, Gujarat Electricity Company and Surat Electricity Company, and sought reply by November 1.

Notices and stay were issued by justice RM Doshit in an application filed by Ashok Wankawala and Messers C Mahendra Exports, who have been asked to pay security deposits of Rs 13,000 and Rs 2.4 lakhs respectively. Advocate IJ Desai and advocate Nilay Anjaria appeared for the petitioners.

The petitioners objected to the SEC's demand for additional security deposits which are calculated at the rate of twice the amount of average monthly consumption bill, from a total of 328 low tension power consumers.

The petitioners also challenged the SEC's claim that this follows an approval from the government by its notification dated July 1, 1997. They claimed that the SEC has no locus standi to approach the government for approval of its own conditions of supply under section 21(2) of the Indian Electricity Act 1910. Nor the state government has power or jurisdiction to give such approval under this section.

Because from October 15, 1991, SEC has not only ceased as a licensee within the definition of the section 2 (6) of the Electricity (supplies) Act, 1948, but also its instrument of sanction has become ineffective under section 70 (1) of the 1948 Act.

It was submitted that the question of terms and conditions of supply as well as tariff was covered under section 43-a of the 1948 Act. It speaks of terms and conditions of supply of tariff for the sale of electricity by the generating company.

The premise of the challenge is the fact that the SEC by operation of law became a generating company from October 15, 1991.

Considering this legal position the government directed the SEC to supply electricity to its consumers at the GEB rate from January 1, 1996, which it is continuing.

The petitioner then said that it was incongruous to think in law that the tariff was that of GEB while conditions of supply could be that of SEC.

It then sought to quash the letter demanding security deposits and the state government's October 1, 1997, notification.

News Source : The Times of India [India's best Newspaper]

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Popular TV stars to swing to garba tunes Thursday, October 18, 2001

SURAT: The city will be celebrating garba dances during Navratri with the likes of Mihir, Daksha Chachi, Payal of 'Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi' and Pallavi of 'Ghar Ghar Ki Kahani'.

Star performers of popular TV serials have been roped in by organisers, while music bands from Bollywood are all set to put the nights on fire at some of the party hot-spots in the city.

With the garba scene hotting up, organisers are putting in their best to woo the crowds. Almost all organisers have arranged for attractive prizes on categories like 'best dancer', 'best dress', 'best couple', best child dancer' etc.

The My TV garba will have daily prizes in all the above categories, but the last day is expected to be the most sought-after. Organisers are planning to give away a popular motorbike to the best dancer.

Popular Club has arranged a lucky draw on the final day. The lucky one drives away with a car.

Likewise, the Friend's Group has its fingers firm on the public pulse. Sushilbhai Patel, one of the organisers, said keeping with the group's tradition of bringing celebrities, this year too it has invited popular television stars to attend their Navratri utsav.

News Source : The Times of India [India's best Newspaper]

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