http://www.tribuneindia.com/2002/20020116/edit.htm#2

JAN.16,2002

Digvijay's Dalit initiative

POLITICIANS make promises that they rarely fulfil. They make announcements and take positions on sensitive issues that make the sceptics go to sleep. That is, perhaps, the reason why Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Digvijay Singh did not get the kind of Press that his "new age" agenda for the Dalits deserved. At a two-day conference of Dalit intellectuals and social activists he struck a refreshingly bold note on the issue of Dalit empowerment. Of course, some of the 21-points included in the Bhopal Document have a familiar populist ring to them. However, the Chief Minister and the over 500 participants deserve to be complimented for daring to point out the self-limiting and negative aspects of the policy of reservation. The purpose of the exercise may have been to indirectly influence the outcome of the assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh next month. The Samajwadi Party of Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav in the name of social justice has made populist commitments. The Bahujan Samaj Party led by Ms Mayawati has finetuned its Ambedkarite agenda for bluffing its way to possible victory. Mr Rajnath Singh as Chief Minister of the Bharatiya Janata Party-led coalition gave a new dimension to the exploitation of Dalits by offering reservation within job reservations for the most backward castes. And in the absence of a leader of stature Mr Digvijay Singh has been asked to spearhead Congress campaign in UP. The Dalit conference in Bhopal could have been a clever ploy to offer a new deal to the under-privileged sections of society without inviting the wrath of the Election Commission.

Be that as it may, the fact remains that few leaders have had the courage to talk straight on the sensitive issue of reservation of seats for the Dalits. What Mr Digvijay Singh said about the ineffectiveness of the policy of reservation in helping the Dalits break the shackles of economic and social backwardness made a lot of sense. He pointed out that the policy would lose its punch in the near future because the public sector was shrinking. Even if the private sector was made to reserve jobs for the Dalits, it would be able to take care of the economic needs of just 1 per cent of the nearly 17 crore members of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes plus those placed in the backward category by the Mandal Commission. After former Prime Minister V.P. Singh unleashed the Mandal recommendations on the nation few politicians have had the courage to question the element of populism built into the present policy of reservation. In fact, mouthing populist rhetoric in the post-Mandal phase helped the likes of Mr Laloo Prasad Yadav, Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav, Mr Kanshi Ram and others to gain acceptability as the messiahs of the Dalits. Mr Digvijay Singh has taken a huge risk by daring to question the long-term consequences of this policy. It is a different matter that the remedy he has offered too stinks of populism. For instance, providing agriculture land to every Dalit family in the state through a series of impractical measures cannot be expected to make the upper castes lose sleep. However, if the Bhopal Document results in a nationwide meaningful debate on the issue, that in itself would be a major achievement and the credit for which should go to Mr Digvijay Singh.

SC, ST staff entitled to seniority

http://www.hinduonnet.com/stories/2002011601190800.htm

NEW DELHI, JAN. 15. Government employees belonging to the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (SCs/STs) are entitled to seniority consequent upon their elevation under the reservation rules with effect from June 1995, it was announced on Monday.

An official statement said the President, K.R. Narayanan, had given his assent to the Constitution (92nd amendment) Bill, 2001, notified in the Gazette as the Constitution (85th amendment) Act 2002, amending Article 16 (4a) of the Constitution.

The amendment provides for ``consequential seniority'' to the SCs/STs for promotion in Government service by virtue of the rule of reservation.

A Supreme Court judgment in 1995 had stipulated reservation only at the entry point in service and not in promotion.

It was given effect through an office memorandum in January 1997.

The amendment, taking effect from June 17, 1995, protected the interest of Government servants belonging to the SCs/STs by negating the office memorandum.

The judgment's adverse effect on the interests of the SCs/STs in Government services has been superseded by the amendment.

The office memorandum stood withdrawn and the status quotas in 1997 and earlier restored.

- UNI

7500 BC lost river civilisation discovered off India's coast

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow.asp?art_ID=1732931780

AFP [ WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 16, 2002 3:43:45 PM ]

EW DELHI: A 'lost river' civilisation dating back to 7500 BC has been discovered off India's western coast, a senior cabinet minister said Wednesday. "The findings buried 40 metres (yards) below the sea reveal some sort of human civilisation, a courtyard, staircase, a bathroom or a temple or something," said Murli Manohar Joshi, minister for human resources and also ocean development. "It looks like a Harrapan-type civilisation but dating way back to 7500 BC," he said. The earliest discovered human civilisations in the subcontinent are the sites of the Harrapan and Indus Valley communities, which date back to 2500 BC. The 'marine archaeological findings' have been made by a joint exercise conducted by the Indian ocean development and archaeology institutes in the Gulf of Cambay region, off the coast of Gujarat state in the Arabian Sea. Objects such as pieces of construction material, artefacts with rectangular holes, fused objects, pottery, beads, broken pieces of sculpture, a fossilised jaw bone and human teeth and a cut wooden log have all been retrieved out from the site.

Carbon-dating and other methods have dated the finds to around 7500 BC. Acoustic imagery has also revealed a river stretch of nine kilometres (5.6 miles) along which all the objects have been found. The imagery also shows built-up structures protruding from the seabed. "We have formed a group to undertake further studies," Joshi said. "We have to find out what happened then ... where and how did this civilisation vanish ... what kind of seismological activity is taking place here." The minister said the discovery could have implications worldwide. "The idea is to tell the world that here is an area which needs further examination due to the discovery of objects which have been dated back to 7500 BC."

http://www.ndtv.com/

Ayodhya steeped in caste prejudices

Shikha Trivedy

Wednesday, January 16, 2002 (Lucknow):

In the upcoming Uttar Pradesh assembly polls, it is impossible to ignore the forces of caste. Most of the powerful mahants in Ayodhya -- the backbone of the Ramjanambhoomi movement -- are upper caste. But none of them placed the first brick for the foundation of the temple in Ayodhya in November 1989. Instead they chose a Dalit, Kameshwar Chopal for the task. But outside the political arena, these mahants still practice untouchability.

For instance, none of them has ever entered a temple built by schedule caste Khatiks, who earn their living by plying rickshaws and selling vegetables.

"The Brahmins priests of Ayodhya, the keepers of the Hindu faith have never entered this temple. They practice untouchability. They never come here even if we invite them for feasts or celebrations. If a sweeper enters their temple and if they recognise him, he is thrown out. Dalits cannot eat here. This is the truth," says Gulabchand, trustee of the Khatik Panchayati temple in Ayodhya.

We hear the same story in other Dalit temples. The only time caste discrimination was given a go by was when these temples were needed to house thousands of karsevaks who demolished the Babri Masjid in 1992.

"Most of the mahants in Ayodhya practice untouchability. We are not treated as equals. So we will never be made priests of the Ram temple. Therefore we neither support nor oppose the movement. But these religious leaders are very selfish. They had no hesitation in taking our help at that time, but afterwards we were completely sidelined," recounts Ghanshyampati Diwakar, Pujari, Ravidas Temple, Ayodhya.

For the first time since the early 1990s when the temple frenzy was at its peak, the BJP appears to be in some danger of losing its position as the single largest party in Uttar Pradesh. The last ten years have seen an upsurge of Dalit pride and consolidation of their votes that no discrimination or Ram wave can sweep away.

Obituary : Vithabai - queen of Dalit Art form.

The queen of TAMASHA art form, whose rustic voice and earthy charm mesmerised people for sixty years is no more. She was 74. She is survived by 3 sons and 5 daughters. She was the only woman folk arrtiste to be honoured with Preseident's Gold medal for her houtstanding performance and contribution to the Tamasha art.

The danseuse and singer par excellence spent her last years in Pune in acute poverty in the heart of Dalit revival movement.

Born in the temple town of Pandharpur as the youngest of 13 children, Vithabai made her debut at the age of 11 and went on to dominate the field for over six decades. She rose to fame through acclaimed songs and drama shows, RAKTAT NHALI KIRHAD & MUMBAICHI KELEWALI.

Her troupe was the first group to visit NEFA during 62 Sino-Indian conflict to entertain jawans of the Maratha Light Infantry.

Her marriage with Maruti Sawant, however proved a failure.

She brought elegance to the Tamasha form to use it as a tool for public education and social reform. She also had a small stint with Marathi films.

Winner of Sangeet Natak Akademi award in 1990, she presided over an all India Dalit Drama Meet at Pravaranagar, Ahmednagar, in 1996.

Prominent people from different disciplines of performing arts paid their last tributes to Vithabai at the Aryabhushan Tamasha Theatre where her body was kept in state before being taken to Narayangaoin for the final journey.

Dalit And Buddhist Identities

Some people deny that the Dalit identity and try to merge with Hindu, Indian, Dravidian, Tamil, Maharashtrian, Telugu, Shudra or Bahujan identities. They have a fear of Brahminical and Shudra Hindu forces. They join with the Hindu tones, which criticize Dalit leaders, activists and movements as sectarian and narrow-minded. They do not realize that the Hindus, but not Dalits divided the India as a caste Hindu village and the Dalit ghetto.

Dalit is not a caste and Dalits are not untouchables. They are an independent racial, religious, ethnic and social group that is different from the Hindus. Mangs, Chamars, Mahars, Madhigas, Malas, Pariyars and Pallars may be castes or scheduled castes. Untouchables may be those who believe themselves, as they are untouchables, by birth. The Adi-Shudras and Harijan identities were accepted bypeople who depend the Hindus (Brahmins to Shudras) for political survival.

Dalit identity emerged out of awareness and knowledge. Dalits become aware that they are not untouchables but they are oppressed and the untouchability is imposed on them. The Dalits are never Hindus. They are descendant of Sakyas. The Sakyas were neither Kshatriyas nor Vaisyas. They were out sider of Hindu Varna system and were original Buddhist. Buddhist culture were prevailed, the original Buddhist (Dalits) were rulers, teachers and preachers etc. and the Indian society was highly prosperous and glorious.

Buddhism was defeated by the cunningness of Brahmins and the stupidity of Shudras who are brain and muscle powers of Hinduism. Consequently Hindus suppressed the original Buddhists due to the ideological political and social conflicts between Hindus and Buddhists. The Buddha and other Samanas (Dalit Saints) were mentioned as devils and Untouchables by Hindu scriptures. Hindus treated the Magadha as Untouchable region, Magadhi or Pariyati or Pali as untouchablesí language and Buddhist literature as untouchables literature. Finally the language (Pali), the culture (Buddhist), the religion (Buddhism), the tradition (Samanic), the literature (Pali) were suppressed and destroyed.

The original Buddhist lost their own language, culture religion, status and power and became broken people. They were made to live in out side of Hindu villages and live in very degraded life. Due to the fall of righteousness (Dhamma), not only the original Buddhist fell down, but also the whole Indian sub-continent became deteriorated.

In the modern era due to the arrival of British, missionaries, modern education and scientific development, and constant struggles the condition of Dalit is changing.

They realize what they are and what are their original race, language, culture, religion and tradition. They realized that they were homogenous and indigenous people of the ancient India and were made broken people by the Hindu invaders. Since 1891, when Thatha Rettai Malai Srinivasan Started a Dalit organization (Pariyar Mahajana Sabha), the Dalits were hunting for a single identity to unit all Dalits who are labeled in different names. Bodhisatta Iyothi Thass stressed Sakya identity in 1890s $ 1900. He founded Sakya Buddhist Society in 1890s.

All Adi Movements such as Adi-vasi, Adi-Dravida, Adi-Tamil, Adi-Andhra, Adi-Dharmi, Adi-Hindu, Adi-Karnataka and other Dalit movements were very much interested to trace a single historical, racial, linguistic, ethnic and social identity to Dalits who are scattered in different part of Indian sub-continent. In 1920s and 1930s all India depressed class conventions stressed a single identity for Dalits. Bodhisatta Ambedkar used the word Dalit for so-called untouchables or depressed class to mean all the broken people.

Dalit panthersí movement further popularized it but the word was only confined in Maharastra in 1970s. The Dalits are united under one identity at least after constant struggle of nearly one century (1891-1991). This was materialized in 1991, when the celebrations of Bodhisatta Ambedkar's birth centenary were taken place all over India.

The Dalit identity, assertion, struggles for liberation was wide spread all over India in last decade (1991-2000). They could even able to carry their issue to the United Nations, the superior body of the world.

Buddhists and Dalits are not contradictory identities rather they are complementary to each other. Dalits are the descendant of ancient original Buddhist and never been part of Brhamanical Hinduism. Taking initiation (Dhiksha) or refuge (Caranam) is not conversion from any other religion to Buddhism rather it is very necessary for every Buddhist to take formal initiation and refuge and follow the path scrupulously.

The Dhamma Diksha taken by Bodhisatta Ayothidass in 1891, Bodhisatta Ambedkar in 1956 and Upasaka Udit Raj in 2001, and their followers were not incidences of conversion but, self-proclamations of the religious identity of Dalits.

The liberation of Dalit is depending on the revival of their ancient religion (the Dhamma), ancient culture (the Buddhist ancient tradition (the Samana tradition) and ancient language (Pali or Daliti).

http://www.tribuneindia.com/2002/20020118/nation.htm#2

Mayawati's decision causes flutter

K. G. Dutt

Saharanpur, January 17 The decision of Ms Mayawati, Bahujan Samaj Party national vice-president, to contest from the Harora (Reserved) Assembly constituency in this district has caused a flutter in the Western U.P. politics. Political strategists of the BJP and the Samajwadi Party are planning ways to defeat Ms Mayawati at the hustings but are worried at the rising influence of the BSP in Western U.P., especially, in the Saharanpur district.

The Saharanpur district situated at the foothills of Shivalik range has become a citadel of the BSP from 1996 Assembly polls. It was in 1996 that Ms Mayawati proved her mettle here by scoring 84647 votes after defeating the Samajwadi candidate who polled 57229 votes. She again won Harora (R) seat in a byelection in 1998 and polled 46737 votes against 30391 scored by the BJP.

In fact the BSP has experienced a phenomenal rise in its vote bank and support after the arrival of Mayawati on the scene. For instance in the 1991 Assembly elections Ms Bimla Rakesh of the Congress won this seat by getting 48644 votes. The BJP then polled 40692 votes and wrested the seat from the Congress. The BSP was nowhere on the scene during that period. But immediately afterwards in 1996 poll, Ms Mayawati won the seat surprising with the total votes polled. In fact, Harora (R) had all along been a very safe seat for women candidates. It was from 1967 to 1974 that Ms Shakuntla Devi of the Congress had been winning this seat. From 1977 to 1991, Ms Bimla Rakesh maintained hold on the voters. Only in 1993, the seat was won by the BJP.

The arrival of Ms Mayawati on the political scene of Western U.P. has radically changed the situation. Even caste equations have undergone a change in favour of the BSP. During the 1996 poll, not only the BSP chief won the Harora (R) seat but it also captured the adjoining Nagal constituency also. Nagal seat had been in the kitty of the BJP prior to that. Ms Mayawati factor counted in Muzzaffarbad and Deoband also. Ms Mayawati consolidated the Harijan and backward votes behind the BSP. Serious inroads were made in into the BJP support in Saharanpur district. The gains made by the BSP were more embarrassing for the Samajwadi party as its state chief, Mr Ram Sharan Dass belongs to Saharanpur.

In Deoband Assembly seat, the BSP registered 20.4 per cent of the votes in its favour. The Muzzaffarbad seat was contested by the BSP for the first time in 1996. It secured second position then. Ms Mayawati?s political strategy had consolidated the gain of the BSP in Nukkar and Sarsawa constituencies too. In the 1996 byelection in Nukkar constituency, the BSP candidate got third position where it used to be in zero category prior to that.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow.asp?art_id=1181410558

SC/ST cell canvassing Dy CM post for Kharge

TIMES NEWS NETWORK [ FRIDAY, JANUARY 18, 2002 2:32:48 AM ]

ANGALORE: A section of the KPCC SC/ST cell has urged Congress president Sonia Gandhi to appoint Home Minister Mallikarjuna M. Kharge as deputy chief minister of Karnataka.

In a communication to Sonia Gandhi, Cell vice-chairman T.M. Nagachoodaiah, general secretary A. Krishnappa and secretary M.C. Munirangaiah have complained about the rise in atrocities against dalits and argued that Kharge's appointment was only fair in this backdrop.

Highlighting Kharge's achievements and his electoral victories in the previous elections when other stalwarts lost, the leaders also pointed out that dalits were the only largest section not represented in the top order of the state.

While Chief Minister S.M. Krishna represented Vokkaligas and KPCC president Allum Veerabhadrappa represented Lingayats, the two dominant communities in the state, the dalits were constantly denied a high post, the leaders maintained.

In a strong indictment of the government and to support their argument, the leaders also listed the various atrocities committed against dalits since the Congress came to power in the state in late 1999.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow.asp?art_id=1341217698

PT chief Krishnaswami to fight Jaya

PTI [ FRIDAY, JANUARY 18, 2002 12:03:38 AM ]

COIMBATORE: Dalit party Puthiya Tamizhakam (PT) would field its President K. Krishnasami from Andipatti assembly constituency from where AIADMK supremo J. Jayalalitha is going to contest the by-election due next month.

The decision was taken at the party's executive committee meeting, held here on Wednesday, Krishnasami told reporters on Thursday.

When asked about seeking support from other political parties, Krishnasami said that Congress president E.V.K.S. Elangovan was in favour of his candidature, while TMC president G.K. Vasan was yet to take a decision in this regard.

He said that he would personally meet the leaders of left parties in Chennai to garner their support, once his conditional bail was relaxed.

Asked about the stand of DMK and MDMK, Krishnasami said that he would also discuss the issue with these parties in due course.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow.asp?art_id=512868103

Mulayam, Mayawati yet to announce candidature

TIMES NEWS NETWORK [ THURSDAY, JANUARY 17, 2002 2:18:38 AM ]

LUCKNOW: Chief ministerial aspirants, Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mayawati have not yet made up their minds about contesting the February elections for the state assembly. However, chief minister Rajnath Singh has announced his decision to contest from two assembly constituencies.

Sources in the Bahujan Samaj Party said that Mayawati might also contest from two constituencies, the names of which would be declared at the last moment. The BSP has declared the names of candidates for 400 constituencies so far.

One of the three left out constituencies includes Harora, and party sources indicated that the former chief minister might stand from there along with one more seat.

At the time of releasing the list of candidates for the poll, Mayawati had said she would abide by the wishes of the Bahujan samaj in this matter.

Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh seems to be in two minds. Indications are that if he at all contests he may prefer a safe seat on his home turf. SP fear that if Mulayam contests the Bharatiya Janata Party will use all its might to defeat him.

Chief minister Rajnath Singh has made his choice clear that he will like to contest from one more constituency other than Haidergarh which he represents in the 13th Vidhan Sabha. He, however, has said that a final decision in this regard would be made by the central leadership of the party.

http://www.newindpress.com/Newsitems.asp?ID=IEO20020106152053&Title=This+is+India&rLink=0

India moving to preserve 3,000 tribal dialects

IANS / Jan.18,2002

BHUBANESWAR: India is taking several steps to preserve the country's 3,000 tribal dialects. Tribal Affairs Minister Jual Oram told IANS: "We have 14 tribal research institutes in various states. They have been trying to document the oral traditions of tribal languages. They are also preparing dictionaries, reference books, conversational guides and grammar books on tribal dialects."

He said in some states the government had asked officials posted in tribal areas to learn their dialects to communicate better with the tribals.

He praised the Maharashtra Tribal Research Institute for preparing a conversational guide for field offices in tribal areas.

"In Rajasthan, the Manikal Varma Adimjati Shodh Sansthan at Udaipur has procured more then 50,000 of books on tribes and their dialects, languages and cultures." He said similar initiatives had been reported from Kerala, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Assam.

"In Assam, the institute is publishing books on tribal languages such as Bodo, Karbi and Mishing," he said.

"The research centre at Ooty in Tamil Nadu has conducted several important studies on tribal languages and communication."

According to the 1991 census, the tribal population in India is 67.7 million. More than half of them are concentrated in the states of Chattisgarh, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Orissa and Gujarat.

http://www.telegraphindia.com/

Book Review/ Mahatma Versus Gandhi

BY RESHMI SENGUPTA

GANDHI: A SUBLIME FAILURE

By S.S. Gill,

Rupa, Rs 295

A statesman or a saint? With a hint of trepidation, S.S. Gill takes upon himself the arduous task of selecting the most appropriate adjective for Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. The schism is wide and deconstructing a personality, who, in his lifetime has achieved mythical proportions, usually entails an accusation of sacrilege. Such are the snares that lay before Gill in tracing the ?sublime failure? of his childhood icon. Gill tries, and is sufficiently successful, in presenting an unbiased, scientific analysis. He is penetrating and strikingly shorn of affectations, providing some startling insights into a character otherwise distanced by hero-worship.

High school history texts single out Gandhi as the harbinger of India?s independence from the British. The contribution of any other freedom fighter has always seemed secondary. Besides, the larger-than-life image that slowly shapes up demolishes any doubt that might arise regarding the feasibility of Gandhi?s means to the end, the flaws inherent in the nature of his freedom struggle. Gill identifies this as the grey area, a slippery zone veering between Gandhi?s spiritual belief and his conviction in transforming it into a mass phenomenon.

Gill works on the premise that Gandhi?s political vision was essentially cluttered by his heightened spiritual dogmas. Consequently, he led ?one of the greatest mass movements in history without outlining a cohesive perspective to give a focus and sense of direction to such a movement?. Spiritual inspiration would be his motivating force and he would never feel the need for an organized leadership at the helm. Such an individualistic stance would frustrate his co-workers, like Nehru, who preferred concrete steps rather than impulsive decisions in routing out British power. Gandhi opposed use of force, which Nehru identified as necessary for disrupting the exploiting class.

Politics, for Gandhi was an extension of his belief in moksha, or self-realization, the attainment of which was his ultimate aim. The quest for moksha necessitated the cleansing of soul and body through an unfailing belief in truth and non-violence and reducing physical needs to the minimal. ?He believed that a single perfect satyagrahi could win freedom for India,? writes Gill. The conviction that his internal purity alone could transform the external world was flawed. For instance, he overlooked the volatile socio-political situation that thwarted a uniform non-violent movement across the country. If the non-violent movement failed, it had to be due to his moral failings.

Gill?s analysis on Gandhi?s brahmacharya (celibacy) is incisive, yet sympathetic and enlightening. A lot of controversy had dogged Gandhi for his ?sexual experiments?, carried out at his ashramas. The author does not censure him, but provides a scientific and logical explanation for such acts. Gandhi?s striving for mastery over carnal desires proved futile. The rigorous tests to which he exposed himself and his female companions were a manifestation of his near obsession with celibacy.

While breaking a myth or two about Gandhi, Gill?s comparative study also portrays him as a colossal figure in intellectual terms. His identification with the masses coupled with an ascetic lifestyle presented him as a saint-like social reformer. At the fag end of his career, this image suited other leaders to sideline him from mainstream politics. This is also the moment of failure for Gill?s Gandhi. His vision, however noble, has proved brittle. For Gandhi, it had been a gnawing sense of being not understood.

In the concluding chapter, Gill claims to have ?dealt with Gandhi, not Gandhism?. He does not sound shallow, as he has been able to delineate the latent contradictions and the multiple hues in this great historical personality. What has endured is Gandhian thought, the man has rarely been examined.

http://www.telegraphindia.com/

Backwards Dominate BJP List

FROM RADHIKA RAMASESHAN

New Delhi, Jan. 17:

After two weeks of hard bargaining with its allies and fine-tuning the caste equations, the BJP released its first list of candidates for the Uttar Pradesh and Uttaranchal polls today.

A chunk of the 305 candidates announced for Uttar Pradesh, out of a total of 403 Assembly seats, has gone to the most backward castes (MBCs) and most backward Dalits (MBDs) in keeping with the Rajnath Singh government?s decision to create a separate reservation sub-quota for these social categories.

Even in the Mirzapur Lok Sabha seat, which fell vacant after MP Phoolan Devi was gunned down, the BJP has put up Ram Chandra Maurya, an MBC candidate.

In the earlier elections, it had always fielded a Rajput to consolidate the upper caste votes against Phoolan, a backward caste Mallah.

With the leadership highlighting the decision to promote the MBCs and MBDs, it is apparent that the BJP has fallen on the ?caste card? to pump its electoral fortunes rather than Ram temple or terrorism.

The ambivalence on its principal poll plank in the state was reflected in a news conference jointly addressed by chief minister Rajnath Singh, state party chief Kalraj Mishra and their Uttaranchal counterparts, B.S. Koshiyari and Puran Chand Sharma. Party general secretaries Sunil Shastri and Pyarelal Khandelwal were also present.

Asked if the temple issue would figure in its Uttar Pradesh manifesto, Shastri said: ?Whatever manifesto is prepared will be vetted by the central leadership and their stand on Ayodhya is well known.? The temple is not a political but a ?cultural nationalism? issue, he added.

Mishra echoed Shastri. ?Ram mandir can be in the manifesto as a cultural issue,? he said. But the chief minister made it clear: ?Nothing can be said now on whether it will be included in the manifesto or not.?

The other major BJP central election committee decision was to drop 41 legislators from its current lot of 152. These include three ministers ? Arvind Jain, Shri Ram Sonkar and Hari Narain Rajbhar.

Rajnath would contest from the Haidergarh seat that he currently represents. Ten ministers from allied parties of the BJP would contest on its symbol, it was decided.

These include powerful ones from the Loktantrik Congress Party (LCP), Diwakar Vikram Singh, Fateh Bahadur Singh and Ganga Bux Singh and one from Ram Vilas Paswan?s Lok Janshakti Party, Shivendra.

Mishra has agreed not to contest, saying he would spend his time monitoring the elections.

The BJP would not officially state how many seats were being offered to its allies, saying the matter would be resolved in a couple of days. But well-placed sources said 35 of the remaining 94 seats have been earmarked for Ajit Singh?s Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), three for Maneka Gandhi?s Shakti Dal and five or six for the Samata Party.

The sources maintained that the BJP would not have an alliance with Paswan in Uttar Pradesh after he decided to go solo in Punjab and Uttaranchal.

The RLD had initially asked for 60 while the BJP was ready to give away 20.

Sources said the chief minister managed to have his way on accommodating the allies despite stiff opposition from Mishra, who insisted the party should contest a majority of the seats to prepare itself for a hung-Assembly scenario. Contesting in more seats would have ensured a better chance for the BJP to emerge as the single largest party. In such a case, the party could form a government with the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and jettison the smaller allies, Mishra had said. Singh, however, was determined not to have any truck with the BSP.

In Uttaranchal, the BJP released a list of 64 candidates out of a total of 70. Chief minister, Koshiyari will fight from Kapkot while his predecessor Nityanand Swami has been persuaded to bow out of the fray.


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