Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Postpone polls, urge Tamil Nadu parties

Chennai, March 2 : Various political parties in Tamil NaduWednesday urged the election commission to postpone the April 13 assembly polls citing final school examinations, state festivals and the one-month wait for counting of votes as reasons for doing so.

The commission Tuesday set April 13 for the single-phase poll in Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry and May 13 for counting of votes.

G. Ramakrishnan, state secretary of the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) said: "The chief election commissioner had earlier announced that the poll date will be fixed taking into account school exams and the festivals coming up later. It seems he did not take these aspects into consideration."

He said in a statement here that the campaigning will distract around 900,000 students preparing for their class 10 final examinations.

The class 10 state board exams are to begin March 28 and end April 11.

Bharatiya Janata Party's state chief Pon Radhakrishnan told IANS: "World over Tamilians celebrate Tamil New Year April 14 and people will be busy preparing for the festival at least a week before. April 13 is not an apt date for the polls."

According to him, the one-month long wait for counting of votes is also unwarranted.

He said that it would be ideal if the Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry elections are held along with polls in West Bengal, where six-phased ballotting is to be held between April 18 and May 10.

At a time when political parties are still apprehensive about electronic voting machines and their tamper-proof qualities, the one-month wait for counting is not a right decision, he added.

The date, however, appeared to find favour with DMDK chief Vijayakant who, while pointing out that "13" is the number for evil spirits, hoped the number (April 13) would be helpful in removing the evil spirits of corruption and inflation in Tamil Nadu.

2G Scam: Idea chief grilled by CBI

New Delhi: Idea Cellular CEO Sanjeev Aga was questioned by the CBI in their Headquarters in New Delhi, in connection with 2G scam, an English news channel reported Wednesday evening.
The telecom firm owned by Kumaramangalam Birla, has been probed for irregularities in acquiring excess spectrum – 2MHz + 2MHz – for the Mumbai circle in 2005. The corruption is estimated to have cost the exchequer to the tune of Rs 684.59 crores.
The One Man Committee Report submitted by Justice RR Patil indicts the teleco of benefitting from the extra time granted to meet the eligibility criteria. The company had applied for licence in August 2005 for the Mumbai circle, but it was after more than one year that the LoI (Letter of Intent) was issued in November 2006.
"In the intervening period, time was extended to enable the applicant to acquire eligibility," the report had said.

Will JPC on 2G spectrum get to the truth?

New Delhi: The long discussed joint parliamentary committee (JPC) into the allocation of 2G spectrum is finally in shape. But some experts are sceptical about the outcome of the panel that had polarised parliament while others feel the truth behind India's biggest corruption scandal can now be revealed.

Leaders of the ruling Congress, which buckled in the face of intense pressure from the opposition that stalled parliament's winter session, were optimistic as was the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which fought tooth and nail for setting up the JPC.

However, some Left leaders and parliamentary experts were cautious about the 30-member multi-party panel that will probe the allotment of spectrum at below market prices, estimated to have cost the exchequer billions of rupees and led to the jailing of ex-communications minister A. Raja. 

'Raja stashed money abroad using wife’s a/c'

 New Delhi: With every passing day the CBI is tightening its noose against former telecom minister A Raja, who is now believed to have used his wife’s bank accounts in Mauritius and Seychelles to deposit part of the Rs 3000 crore bribe money, which he received as bribe from telecom companies for the preferential allotment of 2G spectrum.

As per a report published in an English newspaper, Wednesday, the CBI has issued a Letters Rogatory (LRs) to the top banking authorities of both the island nations, which provided it the details confirming a quid pro quo between the DMK leader and the telecom companies favoured by him in getting 2G spectrum license.

The LRs were sent soon after the central probe agency lodged an FIR in connection with the 2G spectrum allocation scam in October 2009, the report said.

Incidentally, this happened much before the Supreme Court started probing its investigation into the alleged scam.

A Raja is alleged to have received Rs 3,000 crores in bribes by favouring certain telecom players, in contravention of the first-come first-served policy. The CBI also believes that the entire 2G scam could have caused a loss of Rs 45,000-50,000 crores to the state’s exchequer.
As of now, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and other agencies, probing the spectrum scam, will soon issue LRs to as many as 10 countries to get more leads about the flow of foreign funds in the telecom sector and the money sent to tax heavens abroad by the prime suspects in the spectrum case. 

If the sources are to be believed, the CBI has so far conducted preliminary inquiry in Singapore, Mauritius, Cyprus, Dubai (UAE), Moscow ( Russia), Norway, Isle of Man, Jersy Island and British Virgin Island.

The sources in the ED have also indicated that money involved in the spectrum scam was first invested in little known companies in these countries and then routed back to India either as Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) or as payoffs. 

Yesterday, CBI had informed the Supreme Court that it had questioned 63 persons including an MP, CEOs and promotors of 10 mobile service providers who got spectrum during Raja's tenure, and department of telecom (DoT) officials. 

The CBI is due to file a chargesheet against the prime suspects on or before March 31, however, the ED had last month sought time till June to complete its probe under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) and Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA).

EC orders stoppage of free CTV distribution in TN

Chennai: With the model code of conduct coming into force for the April 13 Tamil Nadu Assembly polls, the Election Commission on Wednesday ordered stoppage of distribution of free colour TV sets, the ruling DMK's flagship scheme.

Chief Electoral Officer Praveen Kumar also warned of "severe action" against officials found violating the code.

"District Collectors and the Heads of Departments have been asked to stop forthwith distribution of free colour TVs till the elections process is over", Kumar said in a statement here, a day after the EC announced the poll schedule. 
He said officials would face severe disciplinary action if they were found to have aided the TV distribution. 

The distribution of free colour TV sets was one of the freebies offered by the DMK in its election manifesto for the 2006 Assembly polls. 

Government has covered a major section of the population under the scheme and it recently ordered procurement of 10 lakh CTV sets for distribution among the rest. 

Officials had already distributed tokens to beneficiaries to receive the sets. 

The CEO also said the Ministries and other authorities should not announce, among others, any financial grants in any form or promise construction of roads and provision of drinking water facilities. 

No ad-hoc appointments in Government and Public Undertakings which 'may have the effect of influencing the voters in favour of the party in power,' must be made, he said. 

"Further, the ministers shall not combine their official visit with electioneering work and shall not make use of official machinery or personnel during electioneering," he added. 

DMK allots 10 seats to VCK

Chennai: The ruling DMK Monday inked a seat-sharing deal with the VCK - a Dalit party - for the ensuing Tamil Nadu assembly polls, taking the number of such deals to three. DMK chief and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi and VCK chief Thol. Thirumavalavan met here and arrived at the deal. In 2006, the VCK contested nine seats and won two. This time around it will have one more constituency to contest from.

The DMK had earlier signed an agreement with PMK for 31 seats and the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) for three seats. With 44 seats gone - 10 to VCK, 31 to PMK and three to IUML - there are 190 seats to be shared amongst DMK, Congress and few other parties. Meanwhile, DMK's seat sharing talks with its major ally Congress remained inconclusive after the second round Friday.

Further, the DMK on its own should contest from at least 130 seats so as to have a chance of securing majority on its own in the 234-member Tamil Nadu assembly.

For the past five years, AIADMK General Secretary J. Jayalalithaa has been calling the DMK government a 'minority DMK government', irking the ruling party that has 99 members in the house and is supported by allies like Congress and VCK.

EC announces assembly poll schedule

New Delhi: Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Puducherry, Assam and West Bengal will go to polls in April and May in the biggest popularity contest since the 2009 Lok Sabha election, it was announced on Tuesday.

Chief Election Commissioner S.Y. Quraishi said some 150 million voters will be eligible to take part in the elections that will begin April 4 and conclude May 10.

The vote count will take place May 13, Quraishi told reporters at his office.

While Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry will have a single phase polling on April 13, Assam will see balloting on April 4 and 11.

Polling in West Bengal will be spread over six phases -- April 18, 23 and 27 and May 3, 7 and 10.

The April-May battle will dominantly involve the Left, the Congress and regional parties like the Trinamool Congress, the Asom Gana Parishad, the DMK and the AIADMK.

One of the keenest contests is expected in West Bengal, where the Left Front led by the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), which has been in power since 1977, faces its most serious challenge.

The Left Front's biggest threat comes from the Trinamool Congress of Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee who has vowed to unseat the Marxists and form a government.

In Kerala, the coalitions led by the Left and Congress will take on each other. The ruling DMK in Tamil Nadu will lead its alliance against a resurgent AIADMK.

Assam's ruling Congress faces a divided opposition.