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March 23, 2001 - March 23, 2001

Jaspal surprises BJP by seeking pardon for Amarsinh Friday, March 23, 2001

Jails minister Jaspal Singh continued to be on a collision course with the BJP establishment by pleading against the proposed suspension of Leader of the Opposition in the state Assembly Amarsinh Choudhary.

The controversy surrounding Chaudhary's allegation that foreign aid for earthquake-affected people had found its way into ministers' residences took a surprise turn when Singh on Thursday pleaded in the House that Chaudhary be spared from suspension as proposed by parliamentary minister Suresh Mehta on Wednesday.

Pandemonium prevailed in the morning session as Mehta moved a proposal that Chaudhary either apologise or he be suspended from the House for the remaining days of the current session. Singh, deviating from the party line, requested, "We should not initiate any action like suspension if he were tendering an apology as that would amount to taking an unprecedented step".

Singh said, in keeping with democratic norms, the House should not waste precious time in discussing this issue. Under no circumstances should the proposal moved by Mehta be put on vote as it would tarnish the state Assembly's image.

"Let us not do it particularly when Chaudhary has shown his willingness to apologise," he said, adding that any action against Chaudhary would have far-reaching implications and, perhaps, set wrong precedents. In these circumstances we must adopt a practical approach and settle the issue in an amicable manner, he opined.

The members of the treasury benches were stunned when Singh made an emotional statement amid shouting from BJP members that "Chaudhary should apologise". For a while even Speaker Dhirubhai Shah looked perplexed.

The Congress members led by Chaudhary welcomed the stance of Singh by thumping benches, further inciting angry BJP members who insisted that Chaudhary first apologise.

While recalling Chaudhary's indiscipline and disregard to the Chair on Wednesday and the "indecent" comment he had made in the House on Thursday, Mehta said it was not possible for him to oblige Singh.

Turning down Singh's plea, Mehta said there was no other way but to move a motion seeking Chaudhary's suspension from the House for the rest of the current Assembly session as he has indulged in indiscipline and had "shown the true culture of the Congress party in the House".

Mehta regretted that leader of stature of Chaudhary, who was once chief minister of the state, should not have "stooped to such a level".

Earlier when Mehta rose to move a motion seeking suspension of Chaudhary, the Leader of the Opposition took strong objection to the minister's habit of putting his left leg on the Bench.

"This is disrespecting the House," he had commented. Mehta replied that earlier too the members had opposed this but the Speaker had rejected their protest.

While strongly defending his position, Chaudhary argued that there was no question of his tendering an apology since he had picked up what BJP member Atmaram Parmar had stated.

Senior Congress members Naresh Rawal and Udesinh Baria while defending their leader pleaded that the House should not take such a harsh view of Chaudhary and not precipitate a crisis. But minister of state for home Haren Pandya and senior member Ashok Bhatt opposed them tooth and nail and insisted that Chaudhary apologise.

Related News - Minister pulls rug from under Keshubhai's feet

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Vincent case bigger than Armsgate: BJP leader Friday, March 23, 2001

Senior BJP leader Bhaironsingh Shekhawat on Thursday said a thorough inquiry into the CBI case registered against Congress president Sonia Gandhi's private secretary Vincent George regarding amassing wealth disproportionate to his known source of income would reveal more startling facts than Bofors and tehelka.com.

While speaking to reporters here, the former Rajasthan chief minister denied reports that former BJP president Bangaru Laxman had become a victim of caste politics of Dalits. Referring to the incident Shekhawat, said all political parties were given election funds and there was nothing wrong in it.

He criticised the Congress for protesting against the Central government's decision to institute an inquiry by a sitting Supreme Court judge. Not only that, the Opposition was not even prepared to debate the issue in Parliament.

Shekhawat also addressed a meeting of yuva morcha workers and had a meeting with Bharatiya Janata Party legislators.

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Industrialists protest against hike in excise duty Friday, March 23, 2001

RAJKOT: Manufacturers of ball and roller bearing of Saurashtra region took out a rally on Thursday to protest against imposition of 16 per cent CENVAT duty. They later submitted a memorandum to the commissioner of central excise.

Around 22,500 ball and roller bearing manufacturers took part in the rally led by Rajkot Engineering Association president Pravin Garala. Industrial associations from Shapar-Veraval, Morbi, Gondal and other areas took part in the rally which was flagged off from the Trikon Baugh area.

In a message to Union finance minister Yashwant Sinha, the manufacturers asked him to withdraw the hike on excise duty. The memorandum also pointed out that the small-scale sector was facing a financial crisis and lack of turnover. It was also pointed out that customs duty on imported bearings were being assessed on value-based amount instead of weight-based amount and this had led to foreign bearings being dumped into the market. This had also led to stiff competition as a result of which it was becoming difficult for the local industries to survive.

Garala said attention was also drawn to the announcement made by Prime Minster Atal Behari Vajpayee declaring enhancement in central excise exemption limit for SSI units upto Rs 1 crore for a period of 12 years, taking into consideration the long-term policy for the SSI sector. However, in the current budget, roller and ball bearings were excluded from SSI exemption by levying a 16 per cent CENVAT duty.

Members said hike in excise duty would jack up the cost of production by at least 10 to 12 per cent and that would make imported bearings much cheaper.

The leaders of the industry urged the finance minister to review the situation.

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Vyas report to be reviewed Friday, March 23, 2001

VADODARA: The three-member inquiry committee report in M R Vyas case will not be tabled in Friday's syndicate, well placed sources said. According to sources, vice-chancellor Anil Kane has found a technical snag and decided to review the inquiry report before tabling it in the syndicate meeting.

"Consultations with legal experts have shown that the report has perhaps faltered on some to the technical side. There is cloud of doubt over the so-called audio recording of the Umesh Dangarwala where he has allegedly made some admissions. There is also a debate whether to consider this as legal evidence. Also Dangarwala's disposition is not signed by him which has also become a contentious issue", said a source. He said that in this context Kane has preferred to hold back the report and only after ensuring that the findings are confirm to legal demand it would be taken up by MSU's governing body.

The inquiry committee, sources said, had suggested termination of Vyas's service as a teacher in commerce faculty according to the university hand book. Sources also said that Vyas was found guilty of using fake and forged documents of Vadodara Stock Exchange, Cochin Stock Exchange and Jodhpur University for getting his promotion. Inquiry committee, sources said, had also asked to check the role of U R Dangarwala in the entire controversy. Dangerwala, has on record, denied allegations levelled against him by Vyas.

Meanwhile, the syndicate in its Friday's meeting will also nominate a member for the three-member search committee to select the next vice-chancellor of M S University. Kane term is due to be over in six months' time. The other two members will be nominated by state governor and Gujarat universities vice chancellors' committee respectively.

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Congress corporators decline invitation to Kevadiya Friday, March 23, 2001

VADODARA: City Mayor Bharti Vyas's invitation to elected public representatives of the Congress in the Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC) to visit the Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP) dam site at Kevadiya along with BJP corporators on Friday has been turned down.

Congress corporators termed the Kevadiya visit as 'mayor's picnic' at a time when the state is still grappling with multiple crises, like an impending drought on the one hand and devastation brought on by January 26 earthquake. Congress leaders called Vyas's Kevadiya picnic plan a cruel joke played on people who are suffering because of natural disasters worsened by an 'apathetic administration'.

Sources said that Vyas had decided to take VMC corporators to Kevadia Colony on Friday, to show them how water is drawn from Narmada Dam and brought to the city.

Congress leaders, however, said the BJP was indulging in gimmicks and had completely failed in handling the water crisis. "The problem of water scarcity have aggravated in the last five years because of the indifferent attitude of the BJP government. Even now, they are more interested in going out on a picnic to Kevadia Colony rather than find ways to solve the water problem in the city," says leader of Opposition in VMC Dalsukh Prajapati.

"We won't leave our people in the lurch and go out on a party with the mayor. Our demand is that instead of taking water from the Narmada River to Ajwa reservoir, water should be taken from Narmada River to Mahi River," said Prajapati. He said that only 1.35 crore gallon water can be stored in the Ajwa reservoir, while nearly 4.5 crore gallon water can be stored in the four French well in the Mahi River.

The Congress leaders say that 1.35 crore-gallon water stored in Ajwa reservoir won't even last a month. "Each time we tried presenting the real picture before the mayor, she said that under such a situation, the VMC will draw water from the newly constructed tube-wells. But unfortunately, the water from the tube-well is saline and can't be used for drinking purpose," said Prajapati.

Congress labelled the mayor as 'stubborn' and 'disinterested' in the development of the city. "She can't think beyond her party. She forgets that she is a mayor of the city and not a representative of a party. She is more interested in pleasing the party rather than work for the welfare of the people in the city," said Parajapati. He added that if the mayor continues to have a detached attitude towards the problem of water scarcity, soon the situation in Vadodara would be similar to that in Saurashtra.

"In the past we had told the mayor that we were ready to go along with the ruling party to Gandhinagar, to request the state government to allow us to take water from Narmada river to Mahi. But she didn't try to convince the state government nor did she pay heed to our advice," said Congress leader Chirag Zaveri. He said, "We are always ready to work for the welfare of the city, but the very thought of going out for a picnic when the whole city is gripped by severe water crisis disgusts me."

The Congress leaders are demanding that all the Corporators be informed about the water condition in the city. "Nearly one-third of the Corporators are with us. We need to be informed about the steps taken to solve the water crisis in the city," added Zaveri.

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