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News Watch 13 Mar 2009

HEADLINES

LEAD

The Third Front was officially launched at an impressive rally here on Thursday, with a coalition of Left and major regional parties vowing to defeat the Congress-led UPA and the Bharatiya Janata Party-led NDA in the Lok Sabha elections to form the next government at the Centre. The mammoth rally saw the Communist Party of India (Marxist), the Communist Party of India, the Janata Dal (Secular), the Telugu Desam Party, the Bahujan Samaj Party, the All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, the Telangana Rashtra Samithi, the Revolutionary Socialist Party, the Forward Bloc, and the Janhit Congress Party of the former Haryana Chief Minister, Bhajan Lal, closing ranks against the Congress and the BJP. The former Prime Minister and JD (S) supremo, H.D. Deve Gowda, who presided, said a national policy document would be prepared soon and placed before the people. CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat set the tone for the rally, stating that the "historic" convention was organised to address the "country's need for a new alternative." The coming electoral battle would give the people a chance to choose a new secular democratic alternative that would meet the aspirations of the masses. CPI general secretary A.B. Bardhan said the aim of the Third Front was to come to power. "It is an alternative to the policies and programmes [pursued by the UPA and the NDA]," he said.(HINDU)

  • CHENNAI: Election Commissioner Navin Chawla on Thursday warned that the expenses of Independents acting as surrogates would be added to the accounts of the main candidates. Mr. Chawla, who was here to review preparedness for the Lok Sabha elections, told reporters that the Election Commission noticed, for the first time, the presence of surrogate candidates in the recently Assembly elections. It allowed them to use cars and publicity material in good faith, but found them assisting the main candidates. "Let them receive a warning," he said. If the Commission tracked them, it would add their expenses to the account of the candidates for whom they were intending to campaign. Mr. Chawla said that he had asked Chief Electoral Officer Naresh Gupta to instruct all presiding officers and staff that they should ensure that all Electoral Photo Identity Cards (EPIC) and other documents of proof of identities brought in by voters for polling were meticulously noted in the register. "This is a serious duty cast upon them. We will not tolerate any deviation." He said the model code of conduct was in operation and the Commission would have "zero tolerance" to violations. (HINDU)
  • Tumkur (Karnataka): The project to prevent Congress from heading the next non-BJP coalition at the Centre gathered pace on Thursday with BSP boss Mayawati and AIADMK chief Jayalalithaa coming together with other regional players and the Left to form a fresh version of the Third Front. The inauguration, which came after several false starts and initial reservations from the Left, was attended by leaders of Telugu Desam Party (TDP), Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS), Janhit Congress of former Haryana chief minister and Congress discard Bhajan Lal, and JD(S) of former prime minister H D Deve Gowda, who played the host. The development was significant enough to warrant an immediate reaction from the Congress. Party spokesperson Manish Tiwari said in New Delhi that the only role of the Front would be to assist the BJP. ''It's a ghost that keeps reappearing every three-four years,'' Tiwari said in a clear effort to undercut the seriousness of the rival ''secular'' enterprise. (TOI)
  • New Delhi: A new entity on Delhi's political map, North-East parliamentary constituency includes nine assembly segments of former East Delhi and Timarpur of the erstwhile Sadar Bazar LS seat. With SC, OBC and Muslim voters together comprising almost 55% of the total electorate, the outcome will heavily depend on the voting pattern of these groups. The presence of unauthorized colonies and villages can also tilt the balance. The middle and upper middle class are restricted to posh areas in Mukherjee Nagar and Delhi University campus but their impact on electoral results remains questionable. Even as the Congress and the BJP are neck and neck at the assembly level with five and four seats respectively Gokalpur is with BSP experts point out that the support of unauthorized colonies may give the Congress an edge. The political power in the new constituency seems to rest with Brahmins as three and 11 members from the community are present legislators and councillors respectively. But the overall result may depend on caste alliances and voting patterns in different areas. Though the Brahmin factor can not be shrugged aside, parties will work overtime to woo the Muslim, OBC and SC voters. (TOI)

MANMOHAN SINGH & GOVT

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday reviewed the situation in Pakistan in the wake of political instability prevailing there. At a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS), which Dr. Singh chaired for the first time since his surgery in January, the implications of the situation in Pakistan were assessed. The meeting was also attended by External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Defence Minister A.K. Antony and Home Minister P. Chidambaram. Mr. Mukherjee described the developments in Pakistan as its "internal matter," but added that India wanted to see the government in the neighbouring country stable so that it could tackle terrorism emanating from there. "We do hope these issues will be resolved by their own system and by their own mechanism," the External Affairs Minister told journalists after the CCS meeting. "Pakistan is an important neighbour. I hope that all [its] internal matters will be resolved by its leadership amicably and peacefully, in its best interests," he said. (HINDU)

LEFT PARTIES

BANGALORE: Though the purpose of the Third Front, launched on Thursday at a massive rally at Dobbespet, near Bangalore, is to form a non-Congress and non-BJP government, Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Prakash Karat remained non-committal on his party becoming a part of the proposed alternative at the Centre. "We will have to still think about that," Mr Karat told Hindu The when asked whether the CPI(M) would become a part of the alternative government. However, his party would work with the Front constituents to consolidate the anti-Congress and anti-BJP forces and bring them on a common platform. "It is a loosely coordinated front of the Left and various secular, democratic and regional parties. We are planning to meet on March 15 to work out the modalities and firm up things," he said. Mr. Karat said the All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) were committed to becoming constituents of the third force, though their leaders Jayalalithaa and Mayawati chose to depute their representatives instead of personally attending the rally. "We already have a seat-sharing arrangement with the AIADMK in Tamil Nadu. The BSP, as a policy, does not enter into a seat-sharing understanding with any party. The BSP has been with us for quite some time now." Mr Karat was responding to a question whether Ms. Jayalalithaa and Ms. Mayawati were "fence sitters." He said talks were continuing with the Biju Janata Dal (BJD), which recently parted ways with the BJP, to persuade it to become a part of the Third Front. "We are in touch with them," he said. (HINDU)

I. CURRENT AFFAIRS

Inflation at 2. 43 % New Delhi: Inflation fell to 2.43 per cent, the lowest in over six years as prices of food items softened further. (HINDU)

Iraqi shoe-thrower gets 3 yrs' jail: A Baghdad court sentenced reporter Muntazer al-Zaidi to 3 years in jail for throwing shoes at George Bush. (TOI)

STATES

ANDHRA PRADESH

Congress party on Thursday announced names of the nine Congress candidates for the Local Authorities Constituencies of the Andhra Pradesh Legislative Council. An APCC press release said that party president Sonia Gandhi has approved the candidature of the nine candidates, who were also given the B forms. The candidates are: Konda Muralidhar Rao (Warangal), Pothula Rama Rao (Prakasam), Datla Venkata Suryanarayana Raju (Visakhapatnam), Nethi Vidyasagar (Nalgonda), V. Bhoopal Reddy (Medak), R.Venkatarama Reddy (Nizamabad), Taniparthi Bhanu Prasada Rao (Karimnagar), S. Jagadeeshwara Reddy (Mahabubnagar) and Katireddy Laxma Reddy (Khammam). Seven out of the nine MLCs retiring after a two year term belong to the Congress party. The party has retained Mr. Nethi Vidyasagar, Mr. Bhoopal Reddy and Mr. Venkatarama Reddy. Mr. Muralidhar Rao and Mr. Jagadeeswara Reddy filed their nominations on Thursday. Elections to the nine vacancies will be held on March 30. (HINDU)

MADHYA PRADESH

Bhopal: Former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kailash Joshi on Thursday said senior BJP leader Sushma Swaraj had never objected to his move to contest the Lok Sabha elections from Bhopal. Mr. Joshi, who won from Bhopal for the first time in 2004, said here that much before his name was finalised by the party, Ms. Swaraj had told him she would not oppose his candidature from the State Capital. He said after the BJP finalised his name, Ms. Swaraj rang him up and congratulated for getting ticket from Bhopal. Mr. Joshi said this was a "nice and endearing gesture" on her part for which he would always be thankful to her. The former Chief Minister said he had told the BJP leadership that although he wanted to contest from Bhopal, he would have no objection if the ticket was given to either Ms. Swaraj or someone else. Asked about the BJP's chances in the Lok Sabha elections in Madhya Pradesh, Joshi said the ruling party should be able to repeat its success in the Assembly polls held in November last year. Going by the results of Assembly elections, BJP should win 24 of the 29 Parliamentary seats in the State, he said. (HINDU)

TAMIL NADU

Chennai: Amid continuing uncertainty about who else will join them, the DMK and Congress on Thursday decided to approach ''like-minded, secular'' parties to strengthen the Democratic Progressive Alliance (DPA). Emerging out of a 100-minute meeting with Congress leaders led by home minister P Chidambaram, DMK treasurer M K Stalin said the DPA discussed the strategies that needed to be adopted to repeat the 40-0 verdict in 2009 also. ''We believe we will be able to forge a formidable alliance again in the state by joining like-minded parties.'' The Congress-DMK front, bolstered the Left and regional parties, had swept all the 39 seats in TN and the lone Puducherry seat in 2004. With the CPM, CPI and MDMK leaving the front, and the PMK having been jettisoned from the regional grouping led by the DMK, the Congress and DMK alone are confirmed major partners in the alliance at this point of time.(TOI)

WEST BENGAL

Kolkata: The Trinamool Congress, which has entered into an electoral tie-up with the Congress in West Bengal for the Lok Sabha elections, released its list of candidates for the 27 seats it will be contesting here, on Thursday. It will formally launch its campaign after talks on the nitty-gritty between Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee and External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee scheduled to be held here on March 15. Mr. Mukherjee is also president of the West Bengal Pradesh Congress Committee. This will be preceded by a visit to Nandigram to observe "genocide day" on March 14 (in memory of the victims of the violence there during and after the police firing on March 14, 2007). "We shall go there and touch the sacred earth before going ahead with our campaign," Ms. Banerjee said. The Trinamool Congress has left one seat to an ally the Socialist Unity Centre of India. Ms. Banerjee said: "The Congress has already announced that it will contest 14 seats. This is welcome as this electoral pact is critical for the restoration of democracy and to fight the misrule of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) in West Bengal." Of the candidates being fielded by the Trinamool Congress, five are women and four belong to the minority community. (HINDU)

II. INDIA & THE WORLD

ISLAMABAD: Even as efforts were on to pull back Pakistan's two warring political parties from the brink of a confrontation on the streets, in Karachi police sealed a major highway to prevent a large group of lawyers from travelling towards Lahore to join the "long march" by lawyers and Opposition political groups to Islamabad to demand the restoration of the deposed Chief Justice, Iftikhar Chaudhary. Police baton-charged and arrested scores of lawyers as they tried to break through barricades at a toll plaza on the highway towards Hyderabad. Meanwhile, police were massed on the Sindh-Balochistan border to block a large contingent of lawyers going from Quetta to Lahore. In Lahore, lawyers scuffled with police during a "mobilisation" rally. Aitzaz Ahasan, a prominent leader of the legal community, told followers that if police tried to stop them during the long march, they should resist "as much as possible," and in the last resort, must stage dharnas wherever they were stopped. Interior Ministry chief Rehman Malik told the National Assembly that the government would not make any attempt to prevent the rally, but said attempts to disturb peace would not be tolerated. Sources in the Pakistan People's Party said "some important political developments" were possible in the next 24 hours to ease the situation.(HINDU)
 
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