Confusion over PMK's return to DMK-led alliance in Tamil Nadu

Confusion reigns high over the coming back of Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) into the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK)-led alliance, though Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and DMK President M Karunanidhi had announced that the PMK is back into the DMK fold.

The Chief Minister, while talking to newspersons in New Delhi last evening, had said the PMK would be part of the DMK led alliance for the coming assembly elections, along with Congress, VCK and other parties.

However, minutes after the Chief Minister made the remarks, PMK founder-leader S Ramadoss said the party was yet to decide on the alliance issue as it was getting "feelers" from other parties.

The PMK leader's remarks, giving the impression that it was also open for an alliance with the opposition All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), has created confusion in the DMK camp.

Dr Ramadoss said the DMK leader had expressed his desire that the PMK should be part of the DMK led alliance, "but we have not taken any decision on the question of alliance."

He said the party was still discussing the alliance issue at various levels and would announce the final decision only at its General Council meeting, after the first week of February.

The PMK leader's remarks that the party has received feelers from other parties, giving an impression that the party might also renew its ties with the AIADMK, created confusion on the alliance scenario.

The PMK, which was making overtures to come back to the DMK fold for the assembly elections, had recently said it would stake claim for 50 seats, when it forged an alliance with a front. This was seen as a ruse to increase its bargaining power.

The PMK, which had contested 31 assembly seats in alliance with the DMK in the 2006 assembly elections, was forced to snap ties with the DMK, before the Lok Sabha elections.

In the 2009 Lok Sabha poll, the party had contested seven seats, in alliance with the AIADMK, but drew a blank. After the Lok Sabha elections, it walked out from the AIADMK alliance and tried in vain to form a third front with the support of the Congress and Vijayakanth's DMDK.

After it became clear that the third front was not possible, it showed signs of coming back to the DMK fold.

A fortnight ago also, Mr Karunanidhi had said the party had received signals from the PMK (for joining the DMK led alliance) and the DMK also responded to the signals.

Reacting to this, Dr Ramadoss said the party would announce its stand after the Pongal festival, but the party has not been able to take any decision for nearly a fortnight since then.

Sources in the DMK said the PMK was asking for a minimum of 50 seats, including 15 seats in the southern districts, to dispel the general impression that it had no base in the south and 35 seats in its strongholds in northern districts.


Lalit Modi refuses summons again, police mulling legal steps

Former Indian Premier League (IPL) Chairman Lalit Modi has refused summons for the second time on a criminal complaint filed by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) about alleged financial irregularities and the city police is mulling moving the appropriate court for further action.

Chennai City Police Commissioner T Rajendran told reporters here today that second summons were issued asking Mr Modi and five others to appear before Central Crime Branch (CCB), probing the case, by the end of this month.

"One of the persons, Ajay Verma had appeared and gave his side of explanation. Others are expected by month end," he added.

He said Mr Modi had refused the summons and the CCB police would deal with it legally.

"Let us examine the other people first. Then we will take a decision on that. We can legally deal with it by approaching the court under Section 172 of the Indian Penal Code", he said.

The section relates to absconding to avoid service of summons or other proceedings.

The fresh summons were issued in the second week of this month after the earlier one issued on December 27, 2010, to Mr Modi was returned as refused.

Of the seven persons against whom summons were issued earlier, one Kunal Das Gupta had already appeared before the CCB and given his explanation on the complaint filed by the BCCI. Now Ajay Verma has appeared before the Police.

Others to whom fresh summons were issued are Venu Nair, Andrew Georgio, Seamus O'Brien and Harish Krishnamachar.

The CCB said investigations had revealed that some losses had been incurred by the BCCI over the handling of the IPL Media Rights and free commercial air time by Mr Modi.

The criminal complaint against Mr Modi and six others were lodged by BCCI Secretary N Srinivasan in October last year alleging misappropriation of funds to the tune of Rs 469 crore by Mr Modi.

Acting on Mr Srinivasan's complaint, the CCB registered cases against Mr Modi under various sections of the IPC, including criminal conspiracy, forgery, criminal breach of trust, falsification of accounts and cheating.

The complaint was filed by Mr Srinivasan as a follow-up to BCCI's decision taken at its annual general meeting (AGM) in the last week of September 2010.

Mr Srinivasan, in his complaint, said various acts of Mr Modi attracted penal action under the IPC and accused him of misappropriating funds by rigging media rights bids and free commercial air time.

The main charges against Mr Modi pertained to media rights (misappropriation of Rs 425 crore), security issues (Rs 25 crore) and free commercial air time (Rs 29 crore).


Chennai Metro Rail in full swing, train services by 2013: Stalin

The 45-km-long ambitious Metro Rail Project, aimed at easing the growing traffic congestion in Chennai City, will be completed ahead of schedule and the train services would commence in two years, Tamil Nadu Deputy Chief Minister M K Stalin said today.

Talking to reporters after reviewing the project works, he said the works were going on in full swing. The first phase train services on the elevated corridor between Koyambedu and St Thomas Mount would commence in 2013, he said.

Stating that the project was being implemented at a cost of Rs 14,600 crore, he said works to the tune of Rs 629 crore were completed.

Observing that the project was a landmark achievement for Chief Minister M Karunanidhi, he said the project was being implemented in two phases. Once fully operational by 2015, about six lakh people will commute under the project.

Mr Stalin said that, under the project, in all there would be 34 railway stations, 17 each on the 23.1 km long Washermanpet-Airport section and the 22.1 km Chennai Central-Annanagar-Koyambedu-St Thomas Mount corridor.

The first corridor is from Washermenpet via Broadway, Chennai Central Station, Ripon Building along Cooum River, Government Estate, Anna Salai, Spencers, Gemini, Saidapet, Guindy and Chennai Airport.

The second corridor is from Chennai Central along EVR Periyar Salai, Vepery, Kilpauk Medical College, Aminjikarai, Shenoy Nagar, Anna Nagar East, Tirumangalam, Koyambedu, Vadapalani, Ashok Nagar, SIDCO, Alandur and St Thomas Mount.

The portions of Corridor-1 with a length of 14.3 km from Washermanpet to Saidapet, and Corridor-2 with a length of 9.7 km from Chennai Central to Anna Nagar would be underground and the remainder elevated.

The project is aimed at providing the people of Chennai a fast, reliable, convenient, efficient, modern and economical mode of public transport, which was properly integrated with other forms of public and private transport including buses, suburban trains and MRTS.

The estimated cost of the project was Rs 16,000 crore. Of this, the Central and State Governments together would contribute about 41 per cent. The balance would be met through financial assistance from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) for which an agreement was signed in November 2008 at Tokyo.


Air India reintroduces Chennai-Thiruvananthapuram evening flight from February 1

National carrier Air India today said it would reintroduce an evening flight between Chennai and Thiruvananthapuram from February 1, 2011.

The flight IC 912 will leave Chennai at 1820 hours and reach Thiruvananthapuram at 1930 hours. The flight from Thiruvananthapuram to Chennai IC 911 will take off at 16.20 hours and reach Chennai at 17.35 hours.

The morning flight IC 909 will leave Chennai at 0855 hours and reach Thiruvananthapuram via Bangalore at 1115 hours. The flight IC 909 will leave Thiruvananthapuram at 0700 hours and arrive Chennai at 0855 hours.

The introduction of the evening flight provides day return facility between Chennai and Thiruvananthapuram, a press release from the airline said.


Congress MLA M Varadan passes away in Tamil Nadu

As the 12th Tamil Nadu Assembly draws to a close, one more MLA, Polur M Varadan of Congress party, died here this morning after a brief illness.

Varadan, who twice got elected to the state assembly from Chengam (Reserved) constituency in 1991 and 2006, was undergoing treatment in a private hospital and died this morning, party sources said.

He was 59. He is survived by his wife and a daughter. A senior leader, Varadan was General Secretary of the Tamil Nadu Congress Committee and member of the All India Congress Committee (AICC).

Varadan was the third Congress legislator to die before completing the full term in the recent past. The party had lost its floor leader D Sudarsanam in June and S Jayapaul in July last year.

With the death Mr Varadan, the strength of the Congress in the state assembly has come down to 33.


4 Buddhist monks injured in attack in Chennai

An injured monk after unidentified persons attacked Sri Lankan Buddha Vihar last night, in Chennai on January 25, 2011. UNI PHOTO
An injured monk after unidentified persons attacked Sri Lankan Buddha Vihar last night, in Chennai on January 25, 2011. UNI PHOTO

Four Buddhist monks were injured when a ten-member gang trespassed into the Maha Bodh Society and attacked them in the Egmore area of the city last night.

The incident, which took place in the Maha Bodh Society, located right opposite the Chennai City Police Commisioner's office, led to tension in the area.

The attack appeared to be a sequel to the frequent attacks on Indian fishermen by Sri Lankan Navy personnel and comes close on the heels of the killing of a disabled fishermen from Vedarnayam in the high seas two days ago.

The gang, which barged into the society premises, indulged in arson as they damaged the furniture in the reception. They also damaged television sets and vandalised statues before turning their ire on the monks who were staying there.

Police sources said at least four monks were injured in the attack by the gang, who also shouted slogans denouncing the killing of Tamil Nadu fishermen by the Lankan Navy.

Meanwhile, security has been tightened in the Society and in all the installations housing Sri Lankan offices.

Tight security arrangements were made at the Bank of Ceylon, the Maha Bodh Society and at the Sri Lankan Deputy High Commission in the city as various organisations have announced agitations to protest the killing of fishermen.


HMK activists held for trying to picket Chidambaram's house in TN

About 50 activists of Hindu Makkal Katchi (HMK) and some women fisherfolk from Kasimedu area in North Chennai were arrested when they tried to picket the residence of Union Home Minister P Chidambaram in the city today.

The agitation, organised by the fisheries wing of the HMK, was to condemn the Centre for its failure to prevent the frequent attacks on Tamil Nadu fishermen by the Sri Lankan Navy personnel.

The HMK workers and some fisherwomen assembled in front of Shastri Bhavan on College Road to take out a march to Mr Chidambaram's residence at Pycrofts Garden Road, when police arrested them. Mr Chidambaram's house is just a stone's from Shastri Bhavan.

As various organisations have announced agitations to condemn the killing of fishermen, heavy police pickets were posted in front of the Union Minister's House. Security has also been tightened at the Sri Lankan Deputy High Commission office in the city as some outfits, including the Socialist Democratic Party of India, had announced a picketing agitation.

The HMK activists shouted slogans denouncing the Centre for failing to take steps to prevent killing of fishermen by the Lankan Navy, before they were bundled into the waiting police vehicle.

The agitation comes a day after a fisherman from Vedaranyam in Nagapattinam district was allegedly strangulated to death in the sea by men of the Sri Lankan Navy.

Meanwhile, reports received here said tension continued to prevail in Vedaranayam as fishermen did not venture into the sea for the second successive day to condemn the killing of fisherman Jayakumar yesterday.

Jayakumar was the second fisherman to be allegedly killed by the Sri Lankan Navy in less than ten days. On January 12, the Lankan Navy shot dead a fishermen, hailing from Jegadhapattinam village in Pudukottai district.


Mukherjee assures Karunanidhi of action to end attacks on fishermen

Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee calling on Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi at his Gopalapuram residence, in Chennai on January 23, 2011. UNI PHOTO
Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee calling on Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi at his Gopalapuram residence, in Chennai on January 23, 2011. UNI PHOTO

Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee today assured Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi that the Centre would take up with the Sri Lankan Government the issue of recurring attacks on Tamil Nadu fishermen by the Sri Lankan Navy.

Talking to newspersons after a meeting with Mr Karunanidhi at the latter's Gopalapuram residence here this morning, he said the External Affairs Ministry would be asked to take up the issue of the killing of fishermen with the Sri Lankan government.

Mr Mukherjee said India had very good relations with the Sri Lankan government and was helping them in rehabilitating the internally displaced Tamils. There was no reason why the Lankan Navy should resort to such attacks, he said.

If the Indian fishermen do something wrong, they could be arrested and proceeded with due legal process, he said, adding "there is no point in justifying shooting at Indian fishermen by the Lankan Navy".

Mr Mukherjee warned that the relations between India and Sri Lanka would get strained if the island nation's government did not ask its Navy to stop the attacks on Indian fishermen.

He said the External Affair Minister would contact his Sri Lankan counterpart and prevail upon him to stop such attacks on Indian fishermen. The Indian envoy in Colombo would also be asked to take up the issue with the Lankan government, he said.

Mr Mukherjee said Mr Karunanidhi was very much worried that two fishermen were killed by the Lankan Navy in the past ten days.

Expressing his anguish and grief over the killing of fishermen, the Chief Minister asked the Finance Minister to ensure that such incidents did not recur in future, an official press release said.

The Centre should talk to the Sri Lankan government and take proper steps to prevent the attacks. The Centre should also prevail upon the Lankan government to take action against the Naval personnel, who had resorted to firing and attacks, he said.

Mr Karunanidhi brought to the notice of Mr Mukherjee that a 28-year-old fisherman from Nagapattinam district was allegedly killed by Lankan Navy personnel last night when he was fishing along with two other fishermen, the press release said.

Yesterday, the Indian Coast Guard Eastern Region Commandant S P Sharma met the Chief Minister and assured that all necessary steps would be taken to prevent attacks on fishermen by the Sri Lankan Navy personnel in future.

However, hours after the Coast Guard official gave the assurance, Jayakumar of Puzhpavanam village in Nagapattinam district was allegedly killed by Lankan Navy personnel.

He was the second fishermen to be killed by the Lankan Navy during this month. On January 12, the Lankan Navy had allegedly shot dead a fisherman and caused injuries to another fisherman.

On the night of January 21, the Lankan Navy personnel allegedly attacked a group of Indian fishermen and seized their GPRS gadgets and their catch, while they were fishing at mid sea.


Will take more responsibilities if given bigger post: Azhagiri

Union Minister and Dravid Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) South Zone Organising Secretary M K Azhagiri today said he would accept more responsibilities in the coming Assembly elections if the party offerred him a bigger post.

In a brief chat with newspersons at the airport here before leaving for New Delhi, he said, "I will not ask for any post. If they offer, I will accept the same."

He was replying to a question whether he was being given a bigger post apart from South Zone Organising Secretary in the coming Assembly elections.

"I am already a Union Minister and South Zone Organising Secretary of the party," he said.

Mr Azhagiri evaded a direct reply when asked about reports that he had handed over resignation letters to his father and Chief Minister M Karunanidhi offering to quit the party post and step down from the Union Cabinet.

"The Chief Minister has already given a detailed explanation on this. I have nothing more to say," he said.

Asked whether the DMK would get an additional berth in the Union Cabinet, he said, "I am not the Prime Minister to answer this question."

Answering a question, he denied having demanded that the DMK should sack former Communications Minister A Raja for his alleged involvement in the 2G spectrum scam.

"I have not made such demands. This is only a campaign launched by the media," he said.

Showing signs of rapproachement, Mr Azhagiri yesterday had called on Mr Karunanidhi, his father, at his Gopalapuram residence here.

This was the first time that Mr Azhagiri had called on his father after reports surfaced early this month that he was not happy with party affairs, especially in southern districts and offered to resign, both from the party post and from the Union Cabinet.

Mr Azhagiri was also reported to be unhappy with the party's handling of the 2G spectrum issue, refusing to distance itself from Mr Raja.

However, Mr Karunanidhi, reacting to reports that the Madurai-based Mr Azhagiri had handed over the resignation letters to him, had said "they were only media reports" and denied his son had given him any such letters.


Child falls off grandma's lap in Chennai, dies

A two-and-half-year-old girl fell from her grandmother's lap after being jolted by high decibel levels during fireworks to mark the culmination of the annual Chennai Sangamam Festival at Wimco Nagar near the Northern Chennai suburb of Ennore last night.

Police said the child suffered head injuries and died at a private hospital around 0100 hrs.

Chennai Sangamam is an annual programme held during the Pongal festivities to promote the rural and traditional folk arts of Tamil Nadu.

Being organised through an NGO, Tamil Maiyam, that came under the CBI scanner following the 2G spectrum scam, the Sangamam, was the brainchild of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi's poetess daughter Kanimozhi, a Rajya Sabha MP.

Venkatesan and Kalpana had brought their daughter Bhavanisri to witness the Chennai Sangamam festival. The child was sitting on her grandmother's lap. They were sitting in an elevated area close to a giant loud speaker erected at the venue.

As the fireworks lit the skies and bursting of crackers followed, the decibel level went high following which the child got rattled and fell down.

The elderly woman could not react in time and the child's head hit a concrete slab. The child sustained head injuries and was rushed to a local hospital from where she was shifted to Child's Trust Hospital in the city, where she died in the wee hours today, according to Ennore Police Station Inspector Nedumaran.


Jaya takes on Cong, seems to "closes door" on alliance

The AIADMK today seemed to close the door on forging an alliance with the Congress for the forthcoming Assembly elections in Tamil Nadu with party supremo J Jayalalithaa describing the Congress-DMK alliance as a dangerous combine, "which is going to woo the voters with their loot in various scams, including the 2G spectrum."

In a statement here, Ms Jayalalithaa, who was so far keeping the door open for the Congress, for the first time accused the party of jointly cheating the nation to the tune of Rs 1.76 lakh crore in the 2G spectrum scam.

Alleging that the "DMK regime in the State has distinguished itself as the most corrupt in any State, ever," she said the Congress-led UPA Government, for its part, "stands totally discredited with the Aadarsh Housing Scam and Commonwealth Games scam keeping the spectrum scam, close company."

"Armed with all this loot, this dangerous combine is going to woo the voters of Tamil Nadu. The people of Tamil Nadu have to be vigilant. It is upto them to teach these criminal opportunists a fitting lesson," she said.

When Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited the city on January 2 (to inaugurate the Indian Science Congress), Mr Karunanidhi, after making a show of sabre-rattling against its national ally following raids on former Telecom Minister A Raja, decided that the party could not afford to break away from the Congress, she said.

Ms Jayalalithaa said the meeting between the Prime Minister and Mr Karunanidhi ended with both of them separately informing the media that the alliance between the two parties "which jointly cheated the nation (in the spectrum allocation)" was intact.

Thereafter, everything changed and barely three days later, Communications Minister Kapil Sibal, "in a gross contempt of court," had rubbished the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) on the 2G spectrum allocation as totally erroneous, she said.

Mr Sibal claimed that not only had the nation not suffered any loss under Mr Raja, but that a loss of Rs 1,50,000 crore had been caused during the earlier NDA dispensation, she said.

"He tried every trick in his attorney’s handbook in a desperate attempt to pull the wool over the eyes of the people. In short, once the continuation of the DMK-Congress alliance was sealed for the forthcoming Tamil Nadu Assembly elections, Raja suddenly became a knight in shining armour," she said.

Alleging that the CBI investigation has run out of steam, she said the documents seized and the details obtained from interrogation had not led to any arrests.

The CAG’s protest that its calculation estimating the extent of loss to the nation were based on absolutely fool-proof and time-tested norms, have gone unnoticed and this constitutional authority has virtually been undermined, she said.

The AIADMK leader, who had offered support to the Congress-led UPA Government in the event of the DMK withdrawing support, accused the Congress leadership of stonewalling the Opposition demand for a JPC probe into the scam and allowed an entire session of Parliament to degenerate into a "no show".

"Mr Sibal, by choosing to debunk the CAG report at an open press meet rather than before the Supreme Court, which is hearing petitions relating to the case or the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament, which is already looking into the issues raised in the CAG report, clearly shows that the Congress, for the sake of its ally, the DMK, is prepared to destabilise every constitutional authority in the country.

"It is becoming increasingly apparent that the spectrum probe is moving the Bofors way with the guilty going scot free," she said.

"There is reason for every right-thinking person in this country to be concerned," she added.


CBI officials raid Indian Maritime University premises in Chennai

Officials of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) conducted raids at the premises of Indian Maritime University at Uthandi here today.

Police said the raids were being conducted following complaints of alleged misappropriation of University funds. The searches, which began in the morning, were continuing.

The CBI officials also raided the Kottivakkam residence of University Vice-Chancellor Dr P Vijayan, police added.


Engineering student commits suicide in Chennai

A second-year engineering student allegedly committed suicide by hanging himself to death after failing to clear the third semester examination, results of which were cleared last evening, police said.

Upset that he failed in all the five subjects, the 18-year-old student, V Ramachandran, allegedly committed suicide by hanging himself to death on a ceiling fan at his house in the suburban area of Old Tambaram.

His parents, who run a tea shop, were away when the boy ended his life, the police said.

According to them, the boy returned early from college last evening and found the house locked. He visited his father at the tea shop to get the house key. When his father asked why he had come home early, he said he was suffering from headache and wanted to rest.

When the parents went home last night they found the house locked. They broke open the door and found the boy dead, the police added.


9 AIADMK members suspended from TN House, Oppn. stages walk out

Nine members of the opposition All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) members were today suspended from the Tamil Nadu Assembly for the rest of the session for their unruly behaviour during the Governor's Address to the House on January 7.

Protesting against the suspension, members of the AIADMK, its ally Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) and the two Left parties twice staged a walk-out from the House on the issue.

Soon after the House assembled for the day, Leader of the House and Finance Minister K Anbazhagan moved a resolution seeking to suspend nine AIADMK members for disurpting the proceedings and the Governor's address.

The House adopted a resolution suspending AIADMK members D Jayakumar, K Hari, Pandurangan, Pollachi Jayaraman, S Velumani, L Ravichandran, Agri Krishnamurthy, Senthil Balaji and C Ve Shanmugham for their unruly behaviour and staging a protest inside the House, when Speaker R Aviduayappan ordered their eviction on that day for disrupting the Governor's address.

Condemning the suspension, the AIADMK members staged a walk-out. Its allies, the MDMK, the Communist Party of India (CPI) and the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) also followed suit.


Tennis: Berdych, Tisarevic, Malaisse in last 4 of Chennai Open

Top seeded Czech Tomas Berdych, seventh seed Xavier Malisse and sixth seeded Serb Janko Tisarevfc moved into the semi-finals of the singles at the ATP Tour Aircel Chennai Open 2011 tennis championships with easy victories against their opponents here yesterday.

In the first quarter-final on the centre court, Berdych, in Chennai for the first time, downed world no. 108 Slovak Blaz Kavcic. The hard-hitting Czech won 6-3, 6-3 in a little more than an hour.

Tipsarevic (Serbia) did not have to stretch himself much while ending the run of Japan's Kei Nishikori. Playing Nishikori for the first time, Tisarevic, a crowd favourite here, outplayed the talented Japanese 6-4, 6-4 in straight sets.

On court no 1, world no. 60 Malisse closed in on his second final in this eventi, winning saving seven break points to crush German Bjorn Phau 6-0, 6-2 in 71 minutes. Malaisse had won the title here in 2007.

"I played a strong match," reflected Malisse. "I didn't make any mistakes and played a smart match. I like coming here to Chennai. It's very relaxing, the matches start at 5 pm so you can rest and recover well. I feel good here; the balls and the courts suit my game well," he said about his win.


Seat sharing talks with Congress after Pongal: Karunanidhi

Asserting that the alliance between his Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and Congress remained strong, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi today said the party would hold seat-sharing talks with the Congress after the Pongal festival.

Talking to newspersons after a meeting of party MLAs here, the DMK chief said both Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had said the alliance between the two parties remained as strong as ever.

Earlier in the morning, Tamil Nadu Congress Commmittee (TNCC) President K V Thangabalu called on the Chief Minister at the new Secretariat, before the start of the Assembly session.

The Congress leader said he met the Chief Minister to extend his New Year greetings as he was not in the city at the time.

The Congress leaders have already said the alliance is strong and he had nothing to add, Mr Karunanidhi said.

On former telecom minister A Raja being allowed to be prosecuted in connection with the 2G spectrum scam, Mr Karunanidhi said he did not want to say anything as the matter was sub-judice.


Tennis: Indian Express Paes-Bhupathi enter semis in Chennai Open

The "Indian Express" pair of Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupati ran over unseeded Phil Marx (Gemany) and Ken Skupski (Great Britain) to enter the doubles semi-finals of ATP Tour 2011 Aircel Chennai Open Tennis Championships here tonight.

The left-right combination of Skupski and Marx were hoping to derail the second-seeded famous Indian duo who had come together here again after five years in preparation for the Australian Open, the Grand Slam in which they were to play together after their split some years ago.

They had been playing together for India in the Davis Cup though.

Paes and Bhupati were in control right from the first set of this one- sided duel. They romped home 6-4, up 5-3, breaking Marx in the fifth game. The Indian duo served and volleyed well.

However, Marx and Skupsi picked up steam in the second set in which Paes and Bhupati made some unforced errors. However, forcing a tie- break after drawing level at 6-6, the Indian Express picked up great momentum to lead 4-1, 6-3 and wrapped up the duel as the nearly full centre court cheered them endlessly.

The contest lasted an hour and thirty minutes or so. Paes regaled the crowds hitting tennis balls into the stands with a cricket ball later.


Leander felicitated by his alma mater MCC Higher Secondary School

Ace Indian Tennis Player Leander Paes addressing students at Madras Christian College Higher Secondary School where he had studied, in Chennai on January 7, 2011. UNI PHOTO
Ace Indian Tennis Player Leander Paes addressing students at Madras Christian College Higher Secondary School where he had studied, in Chennai on January 7, 2011. UNI PHOTO

Tennis ace Leander Paes, who is here to participate in the ATP Tour 2011 Chennai Open Tennis Championships, today dedicated his triumphs in the Grand Slams to his alma mater Madras Christian College Higher Secondary School.

Paes had studied in this school from 1986 to 1992, from class six to ten.

He said whatever he was in life, he owed it to the school and his teachers then. They had tought him the values in life, besides encouraging him to take to sports. Besides tennis, which he was learning at the now defunct BAT Amritraj Academy, he used to love playing football at school, Paes said, addressing the students.

He said he was about to begin a new career post tennis. "I cannot go on entertaining people with my tennis as age catches up. So I am now taking up a new career in films," Paes, who has signed four films, told the students, when one of then asked him about his new-found love for acting.

When a student asked him which career he loved more, Leander said the film career was to keep him active after his tennis.

Headmaster and Correspondent of the School G J Manohar said Paes' teachers recalled that he was mischievous. But he could balance his academics and sport in an organised manner.

Mr Manohar told UNI that Paes was felicitated on the occasion of the scool celebrating 175 years of existence as a famous institution which also produced many distinguished sportspersons for Tamil Nadu as well as India.


PMK set to come back to DMK fold in Tamil Nadu

The Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK), which broke away from the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK)-led alliance prior to the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, is all set to come back to the DMK fold for the Assembly elections.

Confirming this, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and DMK President M Karunanidhi said the PMK joining the DMK-led alliance had almost been finalised.

Talking to newspersons after a meeting of party MLAs here, he said the PMK had given some signals and the DMK had also responded to the signals.

Both the parties would soon hold talks, he said, adding, "We have not yet fixed the date for talks."

The PMK joining the DMK-led alliance became evident when the party legislators did not join the opposition chorus to pin down the government.

During the previous session, the PMK members had opposed the government, but changed their stand now, giving clear indications that the party had come close to the DMK.

Party founder leader S Ramadoss, who had criticised the opposition for demanding Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe into the 2G spectrum scam, welcomed the Governor's address.

The PMK, which fought the 2006 assembly elections in alliance with the DMK, broke away from the party after the DMK took exception to its senior leader Kaduvatti Guru who spoke against the DMK high command in a party meeting.

The relations became strained after the DMK government had detained Mr Guru under the National Security Act (NSA) (which was subsequently revoked).

Prior to the Lok Sabha elections, the PMK chose to renew its ties with the AIADMK and contested seven seats, only to draw a blank.

After AIADMK supremo J Jayalalithaa refused to instruct party leader and former Minister C V Shanmugam to drop a criminal case against Dr Ramadoss and his son Anbumani Ramadoss, PMK distanced itself from the AIADMK.


Tennis: Tipsarevic stays on course in Chennai Open

Seventh seeded Serb Janko Tipsarevic kept alive his hopes of a second singles title here by ending the run of Russian qualifier Alexandre Kudryavtsev 6-2, 7-6 (3) in the ATP Tour Chennai Open Tennis Championships today.

The 1-hour 22-minute, generally one-sided battle, especially in the first set, earned Tipsarevic, who was the singles champion here in 2007, a berth in the quarter-finals.

The win was also his second against the 26-year-old Russian after a gap of two years in their second meeting. He had defeated Kudryavtsev in Moscow in October 2008.

As both traded powerful passing shots from the baseline essentially, holding serve was crucial. In the first set, up 2-1, Tipsarevic broke the Russian for a 3-1 lead. He held serve for a 4-1 lead before dropping the sixth game. He wrapped up the set breaking the Russian in the eighth.

But the Russian raised his game vastly in the second set which went on serves. Drawing up on 6-6, the Russian forced a tie break. Tipsarevic settled the issue rather easily in the tie-breaker 6-3, dropping two points, leading 4-1.

Talking to the media after the match, Tipsarevic said he could have wrapped up the match early in the second set, but the Russian saved three break points. "He also played well.... he was very very good."

Asked about a possible contest against Japan's Kei Nishikori in the quarter finals, Tisarevic said Kei was an attacking player and very good although not a strong server.

"Last year, he was suffering from injuries," he recalled, adding Falla was also a good player.

"Whover it is, the match would be basically a baseline contest," he added.

Asked what he thought of his popularity with the tennis fans in Chennai, Tipsarevic said, "I don't know. I have seen that the people here like me. But I am happy playing here."

Tisarevic admitted that his country's triumph in the Davis Cup gave him a lot of confidence for the new season.

"It sure gave me confidence," he observed, adding the Davis Cup was really a world championship event and it should be known by that name rather than by the present name.


T R Baalu meets Sonia amid reports of Azhagiri's resignation

Senior Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) leader T R Baalu met Congress president Sonia Gandhi here today and discussed the political situation arising out of the 2G spectrum controversy revolving around party leader and former Union Communications Minister A Raja.

Although Mr Baalu described it as a "courtesy call", sources said the relations between the Congress and the DMK were discussed following the raids by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Mr Raja's premises.

"It was a courtesy call. I conveyed DMK chief M Karunanidhi's new year greetings to the Congress president," Mr Baalu told reporters after the meeting at Ms Gandhi's residence.

He said the meeting did not have anything to do with Union Minister and DMK leader M K Azhagiri's resignation.

Reports said the ruling DMK, which is gearing up for the upcoming Assembly elections in Tamil Nadu, suffered a setback with Mr Azhagiri raising a banner of revolt and offering to step down as its South Zone Organising Secretary.

Expressing dissatisfation with party affairs, Mr Azhagiri is believed to have handed over the resignation letter to his father Mr Karunanidhi on January 3. But the DMK chief refused to accept

the resignation, the reports added.


Tennis: Top seed Berdych enters quarter finals of Chennai Open

Top seeded and world no 6 Tomas Berdych entered the singles quarter-finals of the ATP Tour Aircel 2011 Chennai Open tennis championship with a 6-2, 6-4 straight set win over Croatia's Ivan Dodig here this evening.

The Czech and the Croat appeared to be unevenly matched in what was their first ATP Tour meeting as Berdych outplayed the 26-year-old Croat, who was playing for the first time in Chennai.

Dodig looked rusty in the first set in which Berdych broke him in the first, third and the fifth games, serving and returning with aplomb. But Dodig managed to break Berdych once in the four game, down 1-3.

But the Croat was neither shaken nor shaky in the second set. He waged a grim battle with his superior opponent who had won only seven of the 20 matches after emerging the runner-up at Wimbledon in 2010.

The Croat served well and fired an ace or two, but gave away more negative points than his famed rival. Berdych broke the Croat in the fifth game for a 3-2 lead and as Dodig narrowed the lead to 4-5, Berdych finished it off in style up 40-0 and 40-15. The contest lasted an hour and 15 minutes.

Speaking after the match, Berdych said, "It is important to play 100 per cent. The scores may make it look easy. But no match can be won easily."

"I am happy to go through to quarters," he said, adding a final against the likes of Wawrinka was farfetched at this stage. "I still have a few more matches to win," he said in modesty.


Lalit Modi refuses summons issued by Chennai Police

Suspended Indian Premier League (IPL) Chairman Lalit Modi has refused the summons issued by the Central Crime Branch (CCB) of Chennai Police based on a complaint filed by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) accusing him of alleged financial irregularities to the tune of Rs 469 crore.

The police are now looking to move the appropriate court in this regard.

Talking to reporters on the sidelines of a function here today, Chennai City Police Commissioner T Rajendran said, "We have issued summons to seven people asking them to appear before the CCB. But the one issued to Modi has returned as refused."

Mr Rajendran said the summons were issued to Mr Modi and the six others on December 27, asking them to appear before the CCB and present their versions to the complaint filed by the BCCI.

He said following the summons one of the six, Kunal Das Gupta, appeared before the CCB today. "We are examining him," he said.

Asked whether the CCB would move legally against Modi for refusing the summons, the Commissioner said, "We hope that another three or four will appear before the CCB in the next couple of days. We have given time till January 7."

"Let us see. We will wait for a couple of days. If more people do not appear, we will move the court against all those who failed to respond to the summons, instead of filing separate petitions against each one of them," he added.

The Commissioner had last week said investigations so far revealed that some losses had been incurred by the BCCI over the handling of the IPL media rights and free commercial air time by Mr Modi.

The summons were issued to Modi, Kunal Dasgupta, Venu Nair, Andrew Georgio, Seamus O'Brien, Harish Krishnamachar and Ajay Verma.

"If they do not obey the summons, there are legal provisions. We will move the appropriate Court under Sec 172 of Indian Penal Code (IPC) (Absconding to avoid service of summons or other proceedings)," he said.

The complaint was filed by BCCI Secretary N Srinivasan as a follow-up to a decision taken at its annual general meeting in the last week of September. The AGM had authorised Mr Srinivasan to lodge a comprehensive complaint with the police for the alleged financial misdemeanours of Mr Modi.

Srinivasan, in his complaint, said "various acts" of Modi attracted penal action under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and accused him of misappropriating funds by rigging media right bids and free commercial air time. The main charges against Modi pertained to media rights (misappropriation of Rs 425 crore), security issues (Rs 25 crore) and free commercial air time (Rs 29 crore).


Tennis: Paes-Bhupathi fight back from brink of defeat

Playing together in this tournament after a gap of nine years, top seeded Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi fought back from the brink and edged out Canadian-Swiss combination of Frank Dancevic and Stanislas Wawrinka 3-6, 7-6 (8), 10-4 to enter the doubles second round in the Aircel ATP Chennai Open Tennis Championship here today.

Paes, 37, and Bhupathi, a year younger, who had first paired up in 1997 and won four titles, the last in 2002, held their nerves when down by a set and then 3-6 in the second set tie-break, displaying in the process some of their old magic.

They worked their way past the high speed serves of Dancevic and Wawrinka, after going down tamely in the first set. Coming up with sharp volleying and getting back their first serves, which let them down in the first set, they drew on their vast experience to draw level after trailing 2-5 in the second set. They dropped a match point before winning the set on the second match point.

In the super tie break, the winners of three Grand Slam titles together enacted some of the old scenes of chest thumping while jumping to a 7-1 lead. They were on match point at 9-4. A netted service return by Wawrinka on Paes’ serve earned the Indians the march into the quarter-finals.

Earlier, the Indian challenge through four pairs in the doubles was off to an ominous start as the unseeded Somdev Dev Verman and Sanam Singh, the doubles gold medalists at the Asian Games in China in 2010, lost in three sets to the Dutch-US combination of Robin Haase and David Goffin.

Somdev and Sanam, who received a wild card entry, won the first set closely. But their game crashed in the second. Haase and Goffin prevailed after 83 minutes 5-7, 6-2, 10-8.

The Indian hopes, apart from Leander and Mahesh, in the doubles now hinge on Vishnu Vardhan and Divij Saran, while Rohan Bopanna is partnering Pakistani Aisam- ul-Haq Qureshi, the Indo-Pak express.

Earlier, in a late night singles first round match, sixth seeded Serbian Davis Cupper Janko Tipsarevic overcame a shaky start when he was down three break points in the very first game of the opening set. He ulitmately outclassed wayward Argentine Eduardo Schwank 6-3, 6-4, in just 79 minutes.

Tipsarevic, a semi-finalist here last year, broke his rival once in each set and won easily while Schwank, who was inconsistent.

The results:

Doubles (1st round): Robin Haase (NED) / David Goffin (US) bt

WC-Somdev Devvarman/ Sanam Singh (IND) 5-7, 6-2, 10-8,

Leander Paes / Mahesh Bhupathi (IND) bt Frank Dancevic (CAN)/

Stanislas Wawrinka (SUI) 3-6, 7-6 (8), 10-4.


Jayalalithaa hits out at Karunanidhi's remarks on freebies

Opposition AIADMK leader J Jayalalithaa today took a dig at Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi for his New Year day remarks that freebies would continue as long as the poor remained.

In a statement here, she said this only showed that Mr Karunanidhi wanted to keep the Tamil people eternally poor.

"He was not expressing his concern for the poor and downtrodden of the state. On the contrary, he was only publicly reinforcing the rich-poor divide," she alleged, adding he was only admitting that he does not have any scheme for the eradication of poverty.

"By making such a statement, Mr Karunanidhi was inadvertently acknowledging that he does not even have basic concern for the poor. In fact, he wants the poor in Tamil Nadu to remain poor," she charged.

"Only then can he keep bribing them with sops and freebies to buy their votes," she said.

Ms Jayalalithaa said that giving away freebies arbitrarily without strengthening the basic infrastructure was like printing currency notes without a corresponding back-up in gold.

"It comes cheap and is not even worth the paper it is printed on," she said.

She said the situation in Tamil Nadu was such that while rice was available for the poor at Re 1 a kg through the public distribution system (PDS), onions cost as much as Rs 90 a kg.

"All vegetables cost over Rs 50 a kg, while dal used for the traditional cuisine sambar, costs close to Rs 100. Cooking oil costs over Rs 100 per kg. Gas stoves are being given free. But cooking gas costs nearly Rs 400 a cylinder. Gas is so scarce that cylinders are not delivered for almost 30 days after booking," she said.

"This is the tragedy of Tamil Nadu. There is a Chinese proverb: Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime," she remarked.

She said Mr Karunanidhi’s strategy was to make the Tamil people a society of parasites, who were dependent on freebies, doles and sops for their livelihood.

Stating that rights of the Tamil people had been bartered away on inter-state river issues, Ms Jayalalithaa said the day of reckoning was not far off.


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