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Copter controversy

K.M. Tampi Thiruvananthapuram

The hiring of a helicopter for electioneering by the Congress(I) is in the eye of a storm in Kerala. The Kerala
Pradesh Congress Committee said it was mainly for the use of the national leaders campaigning in Kerala.

It added that State leaders could use it in an emergency. KPCC(I) president Ramesh Chennithala invoked
that provision to make a short trip from Kottayam to Kayamkulam.

Not one to miss out on such the opportunity, Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan said the Congress(I) could
afford to hire a helicopter because it had enough money from deals like the 2G spectrum scam. He said it
would not be surprising if Oommen Chandy (Leader of the Opposition) was given a helicopter as well, adding
that LDF leaders would continue their campaign by car and on foot. However, the helicopter would not help
the UDF to catch up with the LDF, the Chief Minister claimed.

Meanwhile, CPI(M) State secretary Pinarayi Vijayan, and his counterpart in the CPI, C.K. Chandrappan, have
asked the Election Commission to include the cost of hiring the helicopter in the KPCC(I) president's election
expenditure. Mr. Chennithala is contesting from the Harippad constituency. The KPCC(I)'s rejoinder to the
charges was that helicopters have been used for electioneering in the past as well, and wondered why the
LDF was raising a hue and cry over it now.

As for Mr. Chandy, he openly justified the use of helicopters. Hadn't the Chief Minister used a helicopter
provided by the Defence Minister to reach Sabarimala, when the tragic stampede took place? Why is he
allergic to helicopters now, he asked.

The Chief Electoral Officer, Nalini Netto, had the last word on the issue. She said that helicopters could be
used for electioneering and that the expenditure for it would be included in that of the political parties.

Gujarat House resolution to ban Lelyveld's book

GANDHINAGAR: The Gujarat government has banned Joseph Lelyveld's controversial book, Great
Soul: Mahatma Gandhi and His struggle with India, which allegedly calls the Father of the Nation
a racist and bisexual.

Why the Matuas matter

Raktima Bose Kolkata
Parties in West Bengal scramble to seek the blessings of Boroma, ‘godmother' of the politically significant
Matua sect

Political parties in West Bengal will be keeping their fingers crossed when the approximately seven million-
strong Matua community casts its votes.

The fate of as many as 74 constituencies hinges on this community, which could be decisive in determining
which party wrests political control of the State.

Though the electorate has long ceased to vote on the lines of caste and community, the Matuas are too
important to ignore for political parties.

Five years ago, the Matua Mahasangh was still a little-known Hindu sect with a large following among the
socially-disadvantaged, primarily those living in districts on the Bangladesh border.

It was founded in the mid-1800s by Harichand Thakur. tolerance. class and creed. After Partition. . gender equality and non-distinction irrespective of caste. and Harichand's grandson Pramatha Ranjan Thakur established the sect's headquarters at Thakurnagar in North 24 Parganas district. He preached love. thousands of Matuas arrived in West Bengal. at Gopalganj in the Faridpur province of present-day Bangladesh.