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September 29, 2001 - September 29, 2001

Did an aggressive CM tame BJP's central leadership? Saturday, September 29, 2001

GANDHINAGAR: Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel has reportedly given enough indications to the BJP leadership that he has no intentions of stepping down to facilitate a change of guard in the state. Besides, the BJP is also not confidant whether a new chief minister from among the present MPs will get elected to the state Assembly with certainty.

On the return of the chief minister from New Delhi, ministers close to him and those claiming to know the developments over the past two days say Keshubhai had, in fact, been quite point-blank with the BJP president Jana Krishnamurthy during a discussion on change of leadership and possible alternatives.

In fact, the chief minister showed no interest in alternatives and, instead, said he was not inclined to make away for someone else.

The alternatives discussed included the names of two Union ministers -- Kashiram Rana and Vallabh Kathiria -- and state BJP president Rajendrasinh Rana, well-placed ministerial sources revealed on Friday. The CM claimed he had "complete support" of the state legislature party and his ministerial team.

The CM , who was on defensive on the first day of discussions, hardened his stance after he strongly objected to BJP state in-charge Madan Lal Khurana's statement that the leadership change issue was being discussed and a decision would be made known.

In fact, Keshubhai went on the counter-offensive against Khurana and forced a clarification from him that he had not said anything about a leadership change. Seeing Keshubhai's belligerent posture, the high command decided to go slow on the discussion over possible replacements and decided not to act in haste.

After the CM's firm 'no' to put in his papers and make it easy for the leadership to effect a change, sources said the alternatives were "discussed only to be rejected" as the feeling went around that removal of Keshubhai might destabilise things further. Besides, it was felt that one could not risk any of the Members of Parliament to seek election to the state Assembly, as of now.

Both the Rana and Kathiria are Lok Sabha MPs. Putting them on the CM's seat would mean going in for two more by-elections -- for an Assembly seat and also a Lok Sabha seat. The view was strong that with the sagging BJP image in the state, this was a huge risk.

Meanwhile, liberal opponents belonging to the Suresh Mehta and Kashiram Rana camps do not think that the type of changes the BJP high command wishes to bring about in the state BJP would in any way help the present state of affairs of the party. The dissidents feel that the leaders is taking views of only state president Rajendrasinh Rana, general secretary Sanjay Joshi, and the CM himself -- all belonging to the same camp.

The dissidents, however, have one thing in common with the loyalists in the BJP. They are also apprehensive about the possible return of Narendra Modi to Gujarat. The dissidents do not think this would help solve the situation in the state. Modi, a man with extremist views, is still considered responsible for the rebellion that struck the state led by Shankarsinh Vaghela in 1995-96.

Short tempered, Modi is known to be hostile to the moderate camp which does not get along with the RSS and could make matters worse for the likes of Suresh Mehta, who take satisfaction in the fact that, unlike Modi, Keshubhai is quite tolerant.

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

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GCCI against octroi hike Saturday, September 29, 2001

Source Times News Network
AHMEDABAD: The Gujarat Chamber of Commerce and Industry has appealed to the state government to "seriously reconsider" the proposal of Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation to hike octroi rates.

The deputy general secretary of GCCI, S.C. Shah, pointed towards the prevalent recessionary situation and world-wide fall in demand of goods produced while objecting to AMC's desire to raise octroi charges on no less than 38 consumer goods.

Shah says in his statement, "Any step to raise octroi duty would not only be ill-timed but would also prove detrimental to health of trade and industry of Gujarat. Such a step would also be ill-conceived since the state government is bound to remove octroi tax from six municipal areas of Gujarat at the earliest."

While talking about anger and outrage among representatives of trade and industry, GCCI members threatened that the business community would not hesitate to take up agitationary stance, if their sentiments are not given due and sympathetic hearing.

Shah added: "In 1998, GCCI had extended full co-operation to AMC in hiking the octroi rates despite protests from trade and industry. It was also discussed then that octroi rates would be levied on ad-valorem basis to reflect rise in prices of commodities with a subsequent rise in AMC's octroi income. New proposals to hike octroi duty is contrary to the understanding between GCCI and AMC."

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

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Govt clear AMC's Rs 100-cr bond issue Saturday, September 29, 2001

Source Times News Network
AHMEDABAD: After a long, painful wait - one that saw the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation miss its deadline of March - for issuance the Rs 100-crore tax-free bonds, the corporation finally got the nod from the Gujarat government on Friday.

With the magic word being tax-free, those investing in the bonds will earn non-taxable interest on the debenture. This is however the second avtaar of the path-breaking non-convertible debentures first launched by the AMC in 1998.

The Rs 100 crore bond (non-convertible debentures) is part of a Rs 300-crore water and sewerage project drawn up by the corporation to spruce up the water supply and sewage system of a city awaiting megacity status.

Unlike in 1998, however, when the AMC earned accolades as a trendsetter -- the first municipal corporation in India to issue public bonds based on an enviable AA(SO) rating by CRISIL, this time the corporation authorities are prepared to while their time till the opportune moment arrives.

AMC commissioner K. Kailashnathan told TNN: "Though we have got the green signal from the state government we will have to wait a while. The terrorists attack on WTC in New York has in its global, ripple effect has boosted prevalent rate of interest (in the open market) on loans taken to almost 10.5 per cent. We however want the interest rate to be around 9 and 9.5 per cent when we float the bonds. I expect the market to stabilise within a week from now."

Unlike the public bonds issued in 1998 the ones belonging to a new millennium will not be marketed and will be sold by "word of mouth" that too only to large commercial groups or financial institutions.

The other major change could be the proposed 10-year period for the new debentures instead of the seven, as in 1998. The bonds will hold out interest rate ranging around 9.5 per cent (as compared to the 14 per cent of 1998) which is expected to draw good response as its premium will be tax-free.

Meanwhile, the corporation has already done its homework by attracting investors for the tax-free bonds worth Rs 100 crore. A source in AMC disclosed: "Since this bond is only meant for financial institutions, contacts have been established with ICICI, Gujarat State Financial Services and ILFS. Now it is just buying time till the right moment."

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

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CLP chief appointment yet uncertain Saturday, September 29, 2001

Source Times News Network
GANDHINAGAR: Despite a major victory at the bypolls, the Congress high command continues to be bogged down in a final decision concerning appointment of the Congress Legislature Party leader.

Congress chief Amarsinh Chaudhary said here on Thursday that he still "does not know" when the party leadership might take a decision on the crucial post.

A decision has been pending ever since Chaudhary's appointment as head of the party in the state, three months ago.

"The matter is pending before the high command. You can ask the high command about when a decision will be taken," he said.

Still holding the CLP leader's post, Chaudhary has offered to quit "as soon as a new leader is found" with a view to abiding by the 'one party one post' principle.

Another decision pending is the appointment of the party's office-bearers. Chaudhary said the matter will be tackled "soon", refusing to give a date, apparently apprehending discomfiture within the party arising from fresh appointments.

It may be recalled that the late chief of the state Congress, CD Patel, had formed a jumbo executive, with a battery of vice-presidents and general secretaries to "assist" him.

The question of appointing a CLP leader has become more complicated after the by-election victory of Narhari Amin, a former deputy chief minister. A strong candidate for the important post, he is likely to overshadow other chief contestants -- Naresh Rawal, Udaysinh Baria, Subhash Shelat, Siddharth Patel, Mohansinh Rathwa, among others. Rawal, a person supported by Congress chief Sonia Gandhi's main Gujarat confidant Ahmed Patel, has been jittery since Amin's victory.

Talking to newspersons, Chaudhary said he had wanted the BJP government to resign in the wake of the recent bypoll results and declare fresh mid-term elections.

"The BJP administration has been so poor that officials do not support any party policy. Despite best of efforts at the recent bypolls to bring the official machinery on its side, the BJP failed to do that because of bureaucratic indifference," the Opposition leader said.

Criticising the state government for postponing village panchayat polls for the third consecutive time, Chaudhary said, "So afraid is the BJP of facing the people now that it is refusing to appoint a new CM in the wake of its defeat at the bypolls. The BJP is afraid that the new CM it wishes to bring from outside its legislature party would have to face elections within six months, according to the Constitution, to be confirmed as CM, a risk it does not want to take."

Meanwhile, the period of uncertainty in the state administration has come to an end with the announcement in Delhi that the present CM will continue. Since the bypoll results, considerable uncertainty prevailed in the Secretariat about the future of the present CM, leading bureaucrats not to take any important decision. Everyone was more concerned about knowing the stability of the present dispensation. But with the central BJP expressing confidence in the CM, the air of uncertainty has ended.

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

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Forum seeks CERC intervention to ease power situation Saturday, September 29, 2001

Source : Times News Network
VADODARA: The Forum of Federations, Chambers and Associations of Industries of Gujarat has sought the intervention of the Gujarat Electricity Regulatory Commission to ensure uninterrupted power supply to the industries.

Forum president Amit Goradia has made the request in a fax message sent to GERC chairman Justice S D Dave. By imposing an additional weekly holiday on industries from September 9, Gujarat Electricity Board has infringed upon the norms laid by GERC, charged Goradia.

He expressed serious concern over the restrictions imposed on the industries which are facing a recession and are facing strong competition in the global scenario.

Goradia said industries could not afford to keep their units closed beyond the weekly staggered holiday as they would suffer production loss which may lead to closure of some of them leading to unemployment, social unrest, disturbance of industrial peace, loss of revenue to the state etc.

Goradia demanded that the GEB strictly follow the norms laid by GERC.

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

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