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March 21, 2001 - March 22, 2001

Power supply to Nadiad municipal office disconnected Thursday, March 22, 2001

NADIAD: The power supply to Nadiad municipal office building, octroi check posts, municipal town hall and local modern hall managed by the municipality here was disconnected by the Gujarat Electricity Board on Tuesday morning for not paying the electricity bills.

The electricity bill amounting to Rs 25 lakh is to be paid to the local GEB authority. Though the power supply was disconnected at around 9 am on Tuesday, it was however restored at 3 pm on the same day following directive given by the GEB head office to local GEB authorities here.

Earlier, the president of the Nadiad municipality in a letter had requested the GEB head to restore the power supply. In the letter it was stated that due to financial crunch in the local body, it could not pay the bills. The president added that when the financial condition of the municipality improves, she would arrange a meeting with GEB officers for the payment.

According to executive engineer of local GEB office A C Patel, the Nadiad municipal authorities have failed to pay the power bills amounting to Rs 8 crore since the last two years despite local GEB authorities serving several notices to the municipal authorities. Detailing the due of power supply bills, he said that an amount of Rs 3.5 crore of municipal water supply, Rs 5 lakh of high tension line of drainage besides a huge amount of Rs 3 crore of rural drainage of municipality have not been paid.

It is learnt that following political pressure, the GEB at Vadodara is hesitating to take stern action against Nadiad municipality, as the local civic body is controlled by BJP-led group since the general municipal election held in January 2000.

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Minister pulls rug from under Keshubhai's feet Wednesday, March 21, 2001

AHMEDABAD: Minister for jail and rural housing Jaspal Singh turned the tables of the state BJP leadership when they asked him to move a resolution at the legislators group meeting on Sunday evening to criticise the Opposition's conduct after the Tehelka expose.

Instead, Jaspal attacked the government and charged its ministers of indulging in corruption, as bemused legislators watched. He also disagreed with Chief Minister Keshubhai's speech to the BJP MLAs, where he had praised the efforts of the state government in providing relief to the quake victims and dubbed the relief efforts a "complete mess".

Singh confessed before the BJP legislators, who had gathered for the customary meeting on the eve of the budget session of Assembly, that he had "cried like a baby" when he heard Bangaru Laxman admitting on television that he had been 'stupid' in accepting money.

Jaspal regretted that the people had a very poor perception of the BJP after the event. "Even in Gujarat we have the media accusing ministers of corruption, of women being used to fix deals with ministers ."

Ironically, just as the BJP legislature party meeting began, Keshubhai had signalled to Jaspal that should prepare and move the resolution. Pleading that his Gujarati was not up to the mark, Jaspal suggested it should be drafted by somebody else.

After the draft was read out to the MLAs by home minister Haren Pandya, Jaspal got up and sought the CM's permission to "say something". He asked two assembly employees to get out of the room and bolted the door from inside as the MLAs watched in anticipation.

By then Keshubhai had given a half-an-hour speech hailing the work done by the state government for quake relief work. Jaspal said he did not agree with the CM that the government had done a great job with quake relief. Only if the people of Rapar, Bhuj, Bhachau, Anjar and other places felt so would he be convinced. The government, while coming to the conclusion, had relied on sycophants.

"Let me tell you that the people are certainly not happy. Even ministers are moving around in Kutch without red lights on their vehicles fearing that would invite people's wrath. Why should this happen if the government was doing a good job?"

Singh also questioned the CM's plan to provide 8 lakh temporary shelters for quake victims by monsoon and wondered how he proposed to do it. As minister for rural housing, he regretted that Keshubhai had not consulted him on the subject.

Jaspal said while Keshubhai was patting his own back, he had heard an AIR report from Bhuj earlier in the day which slammed the government. "They are a semi-government organisation and even they are trying to tell you the truth, provided you are willing to listen with an open mind..." he said.

Jaspal said the public image of the state government had deteriorated so much that it was being forced to allot lands to media organisations all over the state to keep them happy and derive good publicity.

Sources said the speech was heard with rapt attention by the MLAs and there was a stunned silence afterwards. MLAs said after the meeting that Jaspal seemed to be a lonely individual in the room "with everyone trying to avoid him like plague".

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Tehelka dynamites comrades' faith in George Wednesday, March 21, 2001

For the heroes of the 1975 Baroda dynamite case, Baba, as George Fernandes, the mastermind behind the conspiracy was code-named then, is a changed man. Men who hatched a plot to shake up the Indira Gandhi government during the infamous emergency say they are disillusioned with their leader.

Baba's core team members of the dynamite conspiracy from Vadodara observe that "Fernandes is no more the fiery socialist and disciple of Dr Ram Manohar Lohia that he used to be, instead he is a selfish politician who has used every opportunity to get into the position of power".

Some like Fernandes' once close associate and still a socialist, Tulsi Boda, call the Tehelka episode as "George's moral corruption" while others like the outspoken trade unionist and Jasvantsinh Chauhan say "Fernandes was never of the stature that he was portrayed or perceived to be by the masses".

"He has long ceased to be a socialist. He is not the George that he was", reacts Chauhan, who had attracted Fernandes' attention as a young dynamic leader of the Union of Socialist Youth. "It would be wrong to say that we worked for Fernandes. We worked for the movement against Indira's Emergency and Fernandes happened to be the leader of the movement. But even then he was not sure of movement's fate", Chauhan says.

Chauhan remarks that the former defence minister has turned into a political opportunist. "He pledged support for Morarji Desai's party and withdrew support the very next day. He abused Parliament and became a parliamentarian. He was against holding position of power, particularly ministries, he became a minister himself. His action does not support his thinking. It smacks of hypocrisy", Chauhan adds.

"Fernandes is definitely a changed man. I don't hesitate to call him a selfish politician. But at the same time I feel that he is too intelligent a man to get involved in this scandal. May be people close to him have got him into this present situation", says another old Fernandes pal and city president of Janata Dal (Secular) Motilal Kanojia. He, however, recalls that Fernandes always wanted to be in power.

Boda, who twice organised the Kutch Satyagrah for Fernandes, feels that the latter has pushed himself into the present crises. "He is indulging in doublespeak. He got readily used by the Sangh Parivar to draw secular votes for the BJP. He makes funny arguments. I spoke to him when he was here during the corporation elections. Instead of the Fernandes of 70's I came across a person who relies on excuses rather than reasons", Boda said. In the aftermath of the armsgate, Boda feels that Fernandes has gone morally corrupt. "Like all other political parties, his party too accepts funds from big shots. And if Samata is no exception to the existing political parties, George Fernandes too can't be an exception to the existing politicians", Boda says.

Veteran journalist Kirit Bhatt, who had also played a major role in the dynamite case, however says, "I don't think he would be involved in this. Not even remotely. He is an overcautious person. In fact, I would say that Fernandes is the man who is responsible of taking out the fundamentalist sting of the BJP. He is responsible for changing BJP's stand on contentious issues like common civil code, Article 370 and the Ayodhya issue", Bhatt says.

But unlike Bhatt's views, most of Fernandes' former friends feel that the 'Baba' of yesteryears has turned into a 'Bhogi'.

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Tehelka dynamites comrades' faith in George Wednesday, March 21, 2001

VADODARA : For the heroes of the 1975 Baroda dynamite case, Baba, as George Fernandes, the mastermind behind the conspiracy was code-named then, is a changed man. Men who hatched a plot to shake up the Indira Gandhi government during the infamous emergency say they are disillusioned with their leader.

Baba's core team members of the dynamite conspiracy from Vadodara observe that "Fernandes is no more the fiery socialist and disciple of Dr Ram Manohar Lohia that he used to be, instead he is a selfish politician who has used every opportunity to get into the position of power".

Some like Fernandes' once close associate and still a socialist, Tulsi Boda, call the Tehelka episode as "George's moral corruption" while others like the outspoken trade unionist and Jasvantsinh Chauhan say "Fernandes was never of the stature that he was portrayed or perceived to be by the masses".

"He has long ceased to be a socialist. He is not the George that he was", reacts Chauhan, who had attracted Fernandes' attention as a young dynamic leader of the Union of Socialist Youth. "It would be wrong to say that we worked for Fernandes. We worked for the movement against Indira's Emergency and Fernandes happened to be the leader of the movement. But even then he was not sure of movement's fate", Chauhan says.

Chauhan remarks that the former defence minister has turned into a political opportunist. "He pledged support for Morarji Desai's party and withdrew support the very next day. He abused Parliament and became a parliamentarian. He was against holding position of power, particularly ministries, he became a minister himself. His action does not support his thinking. It smacks of hypocrisy", Chauhan adds.

"Fernandes is definitely a changed man. I don't hesitate to call him a selfish politician. But at the same time I feel that he is too intelligent a man to get involved in this scandal. May be people close to him have got him into this present situation", says another old Fernandes pal and city president of Janata Dal (Secular) Motilal Kanojia. He, however, recalls that Fernandes always wanted to be in power.

Boda, who twice organised the Kutch Satyagrah for Fernandes, feels that the latter has pushed himself into the present crises. "He is indulging in doublespeak. He got readily used by the Sangh Parivar to draw secular votes for the BJP. He makes funny arguments. I spoke to him when he was here during the corporation elections. Instead of the Fernandes of 70's I came across a person who relies on excuses rather than reasons", Boda said. In the aftermath of the armsgate, Boda feels that Fernandes has gone morally corrupt. "Like all other political parties, his party too accepts funds from big shots. And if Samata is no exception to the existing political parties, George Fernandes too can't be an exception to the existing politicians", Boda says.

Veteran journalist Kirit Bhatt, who had also played a major role in the dynamite case, however says, "I don't think he would be involved in this. Not even remotely. He is an overcautious person. In fact, I would say that Fernandes is the man who is responsible of taking out the fundamentalist sting of the BJP. He is responsible for changing BJP's stand on contentious issues like common civil code, Article 370 and the Ayodhya issue", Bhatt says.

But unlike Bhatt's views, most of Fernandes' former friends feel that the 'Baba' of yesteryears has turned into a 'Bhogi'.

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Cong decision to go for coalition hailed Wednesday, March 21, 2001

GANDHINAGAR: Former chief minister Chhabildas Mehta on Monday hailed the new initiative of the Congress party to go for coalition with like-minded parties saying that this concept seemed to be order of the day in our political system.

In a statement, senior GPCC leader said he had made this suggestion to Congress president Sonia Gandhi last year when the party had met with a stunning defeat in Orissa, Haryana and Bihar.

He said that one-party government at the Centre was impossible and in these circumstances the Congress should think about coalition and oust the communal forces.

The Congress could play a crucial role once the party high command took a decision to this effect, which he said was the need of the day. Mehta said he had already discussed the move with some intellectuals and their opinion was that the Congress president should declare that she would support the candidate of the party or any other consensus candidate for the post of prime minister.

Meanwhile, in a letter to the Governor, Mehta has alleged that the state government was manipulating the amount allocated for developmental works in budget through a fraudulent technique. Under this method, book entries of the funds sanctioned for the projects were transferred to a public ledger account. But in reality only 20 to 30 per cent of the total amount sanctioned were spent on the works. Thus the state government showed higher allocations in plan outlays while in fact the amount was not spent for the purpose it was sanctioned.

Mehta has demanded an inquiry into this as under present system the PLA amount would go on rising. At present the figure has reached a whopping Rs 4,000 crore, he added. The government, he alleged, was misguiding the state assembly as well as Planning Commission of India.

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