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September 27, 2001 - September 27, 2001

Gujarat crisis :: No dearth of wannabe CMs in Gujarat BJP Thursday, September 27, 2001

TIMES NEWS NETWORK
AHMEDABAD: In spite of all the talk about the TINA (There Is No Alternative) factor, in case Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel steps down, there is no dearth really of aspirants for the top job in the Gujarat BJP.

We feature some of the front-runners who are considered chief minister material within the party even as the BJP think-tank in Delhi discusses whether a leadership change is the only way out of the dumps.

Narendra Modi
Banished from Gujarat at the instance of Keshubhai Patel, Modi is considered by many as the man responsible for BJP's ascent to power in Gujarat. Keshubhai blamed him for troubles during his last tenure as chief minister, and has not allowed him to meddle in Gujarat affairs at all. A organisational man par excellence, Modi is popular in the BJP as well as the RSS and VHP. Modi, who has drawn close to the Prime Minister Vajpayee in the recent months, also has the support of Union minister Arun Jaitley, a Rajya Sabha MP from Gujarat. However, though his organisational skills are well acknowledged, his administrative prowess is untested so far.
Merit: A Parivar man who can revive the BJP organisation.
Demerit: Totally unacceptable to Keshubhai Patel.

Vallabh Kathiria
An MP from Rajkot in his mid-40s, who is now Union minister of state for heavy industries, he has two great advantages: he is a Patel and that too from Saurashtra. A qualified surgeon and a soft-spoken man with a low profile, Kathiria has been operating behind the scenes in Gujarat, particularly in the matter of revival of the Madhavpura bank. Considered close to the chief minister, he would be acceptable to the large number of Patel MLAs from Saurashtra who call the shots in the present dispensation. However, critics would argue that Kathiria's performance as Union minister has been nothing to write home about, and what the BJP needs today is a hands-on man with proven administrative skills and organisational capabilities.
Merit: Young leader with the right caste.
Demerit: Hasn't shown the dynamism which BJP requires today.

Kashiram Rana
The BJP's strongman from Surat and the current Union textiles minister, he is representing Surat in the Lok Sabha for the fifth consecutive term. It was during his tenure as state BJP president that the first BJP government headed by Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel was formed in 1995. Rana enjoys the confidence of the RSS as also the Gujarat Governor Sundar Singh Bhandari. A former BJP veteran, whose views may be sought if a change in guard is effected. After the rebellion by Shankersinh Vaghela, Rana was considered close to the rebels but he has proved his loyalty since. A failed signature campaign earlier this year had been attributed to him though he had publicly denied a hand in it.
Merit: Popular leader with proven record.
Demerit: May not be acceptable to the Saurashtra lobby.

Rajendrasinh Rana
An MP from Bhavnagar, he is the state BJP president since 1998 and is the Kshatriya face of the BJP in Gujarat. After the BJP debacle in panchayat and civic elections, Rana was tipped as CM because of his clean image and unassuming nature. He has, however, to share the blame for the BJP debacle. Rana would have liked Keshubhai to take some bold decisions to refurbish the government and the party, but could never get his plan through. He has left the job of running the party in the hands of others, and does not seem to be in total command.
Merit: Young leader with the ability to carry other groups along.
Demerit: Being blamed for weak organisational set-up.

Suresh Mehta
No. 2 in the Keshubhai Patel Cabinet, Mehta was made chief minister after a rebellion in party in October 1998 when Keshubhai Patel was ousted. An astute parliamentarian, Mehta manages the BJP show in state Assembly. Temperamental by nature, he has threatened to resign from the Keshubhai Patel ministry too often _ once because of the murder of his supporter in Kutch. He is known as a critic of Keshubhai Patel and a leader of the dissident group. But the CM treats him with great respect and that has blunted his aggression. Mehta does not have caste on his side _ he is a Kayasth from Kutch _ and even the RSS leadership is wary of him because of his moderate views. As an administrator, his performance is much better than other ministers, but that's hardly a bench-mark.
Merit: Senior leader with the reputation of being a good administrator.
Demerit: Does not get along with RSS , temperamental by nature.

Related News: Chief Minister may step down from office

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


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VMC election: Samata keeps options open Thursday, September 27, 2001

TIMES NEWS NETWORK
VADODARA: The Samata Party's city unit seems to have found itself in an excellent bargaining situation for the election of members to the Standing Committee of the Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC) scheduled on Saturday. The party has been approached by both the Congress and Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) for the purpose of forming an alliance.

Samata leaders here said that the party had the 'levers' to steer either the BJP or the Congress to power. "Samata is going to play a decisive role in the election of the standing committee members. Nobody can expect to get a majority there without our support," said deputy Mayor and president of city unit of Samata Party, Shailesh Mehta.

Mehta ruled out any possibility of any of the six members of his party being wooed by Congress or BJP. "We are together and shall stay this way for the next four years," Mehta said.

Other Samata councillors ruled out any possibility of their quitting the party. Samata councillor Javed Dhupelwala denied rumours that he was being approached by BJP leaders. "I am an associate member of the party. So far, nobody has approached me for support," Dhupelwala said.

Mehta said that the issue of support to a particular party was being dealt by Samata Party's leadership. "A final decision in this regard will be taken by the state leadership. We are in constant touch," Mehta said.

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


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War cry threatens to derail Royal Orient Thursday, September 27, 2001

TIMES NEWS NETWORK
AHMEDABAD: The Royal Orient Express, Gujarat's answer to Rajasthan Tourism's Palace on Wheels, will commence its first journey of the season from Delhi Cantonment railway station on Wednesday. However, officials here are already worried that booking cancellations by foreign tourists in the event of a war in the region would eat into profits in a big way.

The Western Railway announced on Tuesday that the Railways will run Royal Orient from Wednesday onwards for the season which extends up to April 2002, but officials of the Tourism Corporation of Gujarat Limited (TCGL) say the war cries have already started leading to booking cancellations.

The TCGL had finalised 10 charters for the season and three more were underway, the maximum since the train's inception in 1996, and officials were quite buoyant about taking on the famed Palace on Wheels.

TCGL managing director Atanu Chakravarty told TNN, "We are keeping our fingers crossed and are waiting for events to unfold in the coming days. Tourism in the region is bound to get affected even though there are no advisories yet from foreign embassies not to travel to India." He said some individual cancellations had come in, while other tourists were inquiring about the financial impact that they would have to bear in the event of cancellation.

Chakravarty said while foreign tourist traffic is bound to decline, a lot of outbound traffic from India would also get affected. "We are trying to salvage our bookings and at the same time trying to aggressively sell the package to domestic tourists who are calling off their plans to go abroad," he said.

Nearly 550 passengers have already booked themselves for the week-long Royal Orient sojourn for the September-April season and the current projections are that there will be at least 20 per cent cancellations.

The 14-saloon train made a rather disappointing start after its launch in February 1995 with its occupancy dropping from 25 per cent in the first year to nearly 15-20 per cent in the next few years. However, after the coaches were refurbished last year and the corporation tied up with some leading tour operators in Europe, things started looking up. In fact, the train made its first profit in the last year, netting nearly Rs 1 crore for the TCGL.

The Indian Railways take away 72 per cent of profit under the revenue-sharing agreement.

There was an air of anticipation at TCGL about the arrival of the new season, beginning from September, when the train resumes its journey after a four-month break.

While last year there were only four charters, the TCGL has put in extra effort through tie-ups with foreign travel firms, especially Raj Singh of London-based Exotic Travels, to raise the number to almost 13 this year.

While the travellers on Palace on Wheels get to see mainly Rajasthan, the Royal Orient offers both Rajasthan and Gujarat in an attractive package.

The Royal Orient is sold as "an experience fit for kings".

It leaves Delhi every Wednesday and winds its way through Rajasthan and Gujarat. The tourists get to see Chittaurgarh, Udaipur, Mehsana, Modhera, Patan, Ahmedabad, Adalaj, Sasan-Gir, Somnath Delwada, Diu, Palitana, Sarkhej, Udaipur and Jaipur before returning to Delhi the next Wednesday.

TCGL has also offered attractive packages for honey-mooners and corporate achievers who can either take the whole week-long tour or board the train at Ahmedabad and take a three-day circuit to Modhera, Gir and Diu.

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


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Gujarat High Court upholds murder sentence Thursday, September 27, 2001

TIMES NEWS NETWORK
AHMEDABAD: Gujarat High Court has upheld the sentence given to a murder accused by a trial court, following the testimony of a 12-year-old girl.

A division bench comprising Justice JM Panchal and Justice AH Mehta upheld the decision of the trial court judge AA Qureshi in Rajkot. Life imprisonment was awarded to Mohammed alias Batuk Karim for murder of Bhikhu Naran.

According to details of the case 35-year-old Nirmala of village Shapar near Rajkot had left her husband Dhiru Rajgor's house and was living with her daughter Sangita.

On October 29, 1991, at 11 p.m. she had physical relations with her lover Bhikhu Naran. On finding this another lover Batuk Karim murdered Bhikhu.

The incident occurred in the open ground of Lalpari lake in Rajkot before dawn. It was charged that Batuk rushed to the neighbouring Khodiyar temple and pulled away the pipe on which a trishul was fixed and attacked Bhikhu.

Nirmala was also accused of helping Batuk in the murder, but was the charge was dropped and she was released.

Mohammed challenged the decision of the trial court.

Appearing on behalf of the state, additional public prosecutor Digant Joshi submitted that Nirmala's daughter Sangita was the only witness of the incident.

It was also submitted that at such a tender age, if she gave a testimony that could go against her mother's character then what she was saying should be taken as a natural testimony and should be held in the interest of justice.

The girl said it was about morning. She was sleeping on a cloth mat beside her mother. She woke up due to some noise and found Mohammed beating up Bhikhu with a pipe.

She identified the pipe as the one in the Khodiyar temple. She also identified the cloth mat which carried the victim's blood spot.

Considering her testimony as a corroborating evidence the court accepted the same and upheld the sentence.

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


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VALSAD :: Chicago con man held in Ahmedabad Thursday, September 27, 2001

TIMES NEWS NETWORK
AHMEDABAD: The Criminal Investigation Department of the Gujarat state police have arrested a US citizen of Indian origin wanted by the Interpol on counts of fraud, failure to appear in the court and misuse of passport.

The Economic Offence Cell of the CID (crime) arrested 54-year-old Yogesh Ratilal Shah alias 'Yogi' alias Rayk Ztener alias Leonides Zamora Jr. accused by the Federal Bureau of Investigation of defrauding people to the tune of nearly $10-15 million in Wisconsin. The US district court had issued an arrest warrant against him.

Superintendent of Police SG Bhati told newspersons on Wednesday that the police had stationed a watch on his house in Lavkush tower. He was caught on Tuesday afternoon under provisions of section 34(B) of the Extradition Act.

Yogesh operated from a company involved in real estate under the banner '1043 Development Corporation' in Wisconsin along with three other partners, all of whom are Indian doctors.

The partners -- Dr Dharmesh C Shah, Dr Durgesh Mankikar and Dr Gautam Segal -- reportedly lodged a complaint against him after he fled to India in December last year. Ever since he had been living at his father's house in Ahmedabad. The FBI declared Yogesh 'absconding' after he escaped on a passport of Leonides Zamora Jr. Yogesh is married to Zamora's sister and holds an American passport.

The Central Bureau of Investigation's Interpol wing sent Yogesh's case papers and warrant to Additional Director General of police CID (Crime) KR Kaushik after which the hunt began. Yogesh, who looks a 'difficult-to-believe' cheat, tried hard convincing media persons that he was innocent. He claimed that the company "regularly sent donations to the Bandhu Triputi in Teethal, Valsad". 'Bandhu Triputi' are three revered Jain Munis with a large following, and based in Valsad.

The police have stationed a watch at Valsad.

Yogesh is also attached with an 'HH Krishnachandra Peace and Meditation Centre' at Teethal and claimed that he was involved in charity. He has been accused of bank frauds, forging signatures, wire frauds, money laundering, misuse of passports, inter-state transfer of money (hawala) and selling property without consent of partners among the other charges.

The accused went to the US on a student visa in 1970, and later settled in Chicago. He's been reportedly attached with the real estate firm for the past 5-6 years, says Bhati. He has a wife and two kids in the US.

Yogesh was produced in the court on Wednesday afternoon.

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