Karunanidhi voices displeasure over Congress' increasing demands

AICC in-charge of Tamil Nadu Ghulam Nabi Azad presenting a shawl to Chief Minister M Karunanidhi before a meeting on seat sharing at DMK Headquarters, in Chennai on March 2, 2011.UNI PHOTO
AICC in-charge of Tamil Nadu Ghulam Nabi Azad presenting a shawl to Chief Minister M Karunanidhi before a meeting on seat sharing at DMK Headquarters, in Chennai on March 2, 2011.UNI PHOTO

It will be a "take it or leave it" situation for the Congress as its seat-sharing talks with the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) for the April 13 assembly elections plunged into a crisis as DMK President and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi expressed displeasure over the party's growing demand and announcing that a decision would be taken this evening.

Past mid-night last night, the DMK Chief came out with a statement, questioning whether it was proper on the part of the Congress to increase its demand to 63 seats, when the DMK, despite its constraints, had offerred as many as 60 seats and indicated that the Congress could either take it or leave it.

The DMK leader was upset that the Congress, besides scaling up its demand to 63 seats, was insisting that all the 63 seats would be constituencies of its choice.

"It is for the party (Congress) to decide whether it is proper on their part," Mr Karunanidhi said.

Giving a clear indication that the Congress could take the 60 seats and work out an understanding with the DMK to identify the constituencies or leave the Front, the DMK President said the party’s high-level action committee would meet here this evening and take an appropriate decision on the issue.

Mr Karunanidhi said that, when the Congress came for talks, it was told that the DMK had contested 132 seats, the PMK 31, CPI (M) 12 and the CPI 10 in the 2006 assembly elections as part of the DMK-led DPA Front. In view of the Left parties subsequently quitting the Front, their 23 seats would have to be shared with newcomers like the VCK and Kongunadu Munnetra Kazhagam(KMK).

Going by the presence of the two new parties in the DMK fold, the ruling party had offered 51 seats to the Congress, three more than the 48 seats the latter had contested in the 2006 elections.

Later, the DMK increased the offer to 53, 55 and 58 seats in the subsequent rounds of talks.

When Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, who is in-charge of Congress affairs in Tamil Nadu, came for talks on the night of March 3, the offer was increased to 60 seats. Mr Azad had said that the two parties would sign the agreement after he consulted the Congress high command.

Mr Karunanidhi said that, however, the Congress did not turn up last night to sign the pact, but telephoned and increased its demand to 63 seats. The Congress also said they would themselves choose all the 63 constituencies.

This has irked many second rung DMK leaders, who openly suggested to the party high command that the Congress, if not interested in finalising a deal, could be allowed to walk out of the Front.

They were confident of an impressive show with the support of PMK and VCK in northern districts and KMK in the western region and with M K Azhagiri’s "political strategy" in the south.

Political circles say the Congress has very little choice, but to accept the offer made by the DMK and sign the deal, especially in the wake of Vijayakanth joining the AIADMK-led Front last night.

There was speculation that the Congress might walk out of the DMK-led alliance and join hands with Vijayakanth to form a third Front. Now in the event of Congress stepping out of the DMK Front, it could either go it alone, in keeping with party General Secretary Rahul Gandhi's formula, or get into the AIADMK, pushing out the MDMK and the Left parties.

It is in this backdrop, the DMK’s high level action committee, headed by Mr Karunanidhi is meeting at DMK headquarters "Anna Arivalayam" here this evening to take stock of the situation and a final decision with regard to Congress.

It remains to be seen whether the Congress would come to sign an agreement, accepting 60 seats.


Vijayakanth joins hands with Jayalalithaa for TN Assembly elections

Ending days of speculation, the opposition AIADMK tonight struck a seat sharing deal with the fledgling DMDK, headed by actor-politician Vijayakanth, allotting 41 seats to it, for the April 13 Assembly elections in Tamil Nadu.

Amid speculation that the actor might go it alone or forge an alliance with the Congress, in the event of the latter walking out from the DMK-led alliance to form a third front, Vijayakanth drove down to Ms Jayalalithaa’s Poes Garden Residence here tonight and signed the pact after a brief 20-minute discussion.

Accompanied by DMDK Presidium Chairman and former AIADMK Minister Panruti S Ramachandran, and youth wing leader L K Sudhish, the actor-politician, who held talks with Ms Jayalalithaa, agreed to take 41 seats, though he had once scaled up the demand to more than 60 seats.

Copies of the agreement signed by Ms Jayalalithaa and Mr Vijayakanth were distributed to waiting newspersons as both the leaders avoided meeting the newspersons, who were waiting outside the Poes Garden Residence. After signing the pact, Mr Vijayakanth got into his car and drove away.

Mr Vijayakanth, who floated the party in 2005 as an alternative to the two main Dravidian parties, the DMK and the AIADMK, fought the 2006 Assembly elections and 2009 Lok Sabha elections independently and emerged as a force to reckon with.

With the signing of agreement with DMDK, the AIADMK would finalise deals with other allies like the MDMK, led by Vaiko, and two left parties, the CPI(M) and CPI. These three parties have already completed a couple of rounds of talks with the AIADMK poll panel.


No change in poll schedule: Tamil Nadu CEO

Amid reservations expressed by some political parties, including the ruling Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), on holding Assembly polls on April 13, Tamil Nadu Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Praveen Kumar today said there would be no change in the dates and the election would be held as per the schedule announced by the Election Commission (EC).

"There will be no change. The elections to the State Assembly will be held as per the EC's announcement," he told reporters here.

The CEO said the polling schedule would not be revised and it would be held as per the schedule, he said, referring to reservations expressed by the ruling DMK, Left Parties and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) over the schedule announced by the EC.

Chief Minister and DMK President M Karunanidhi yesterday took a dig at the EC for hurriedly fixing the polling date and questioned the logic behind the long one-month gap between polling and counting, which was to take place on May 13.

The Chief Minister said the EC had not consulted the State Government before finalising the dates.

"Being an autonomous body, the EC need not consult any one (in finalising the poll schedule) but Ceasear's wife should be above suspicion," Mr Karunanidhi said, clearly expressing his displeasure over the schedule for State Assembly polls.

Mr Praveen Kumar said the Model Code of Conduct for the polls had come into force and it would be implemented strictly with the observers assigned by the EC monitoring it.

He said the Expenditure Observer would look into the poll-related expenses and the Assistant Expenditure Observers, assigned by the District Election Officers, would monitor the expenses of the candidates.


Numbers the hitch in finalising DMK-Cong seat sharing deal

The ruling Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) in Tamil Nadu and its principal ally, the Congress, have sorted out issues like power sharing and a common minimum programme, but the bone of contention remained the number of seats with Congress demanding at least 62 seats for the April 13 Assembly polls.

Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, who is in-charge of Congress affairs in Tamil Nadu, air-dashed to the city last night and held talks with DMK President and Chief Minister M Karunanidhi for nearly two hours, but failed to clinch a deal.

Before leaving for Delhi this morning, Mr Azad told newspersons at the airport that he would brief Congress President Sonia Gandhi about the talks he had with Mr Karunanidhi and get back to the DMK for another meeting.

Mr Azad, accompanied by TNCC President K V Thangkabalu, arrived at the DMK headquarters Anna Arivalayam last night and held talks with Mr Karunaidhi till about 2300 hrs, but failed to strike a deal.

Sources said the Congress, which had initially staked its claim for 90 seats, scaled down its demand, but was not willing to settle below 60 to 62 seats.

The DMK, however, offered upto 57 seats, which was not acceptable to the Congress, the sources added.


Tamil Nadu boxing official arrested on charges of sexual harassment

Tamil Nadu Boxing Association (TNBA) Secretary A K Karunakaran was today arrested by the Chennai city police on charges of sexual harassment.

Police sources told UNI that Mr Karunakaran was arrested by Vepery police following a complaint from a woman boxer, Thulasi, that he had misbehaved with her.

Mr Karunakaran, who was arrested by the police from his residence, was taken to Vepery police station for interrogation.

Thulasi, who had finished third in the recent senior national championship in Kerala, was not selected in the Tamil Nadu team for the just concluded National Games in Ranchi, Jharkhand.

Sources close to Mr Karunakaran,however, said since Thulasi was not selected in the state team for the Games, it would have prompted her to lodge a complaint against Mr Karunakaran, who had given a fillip to the sport by organising regular coaching camps and tournaments ever since he became the Secretary of the state body.

Police sources said there were also allegations that Mr Karunakaran had taken money from some boxers promising them jobs. But he failed to do so and had not returned the money so far.

As news of his arrest spread, several supporters of Mr Karunakaran assembled in front the police station.


Vaiko, Nedumaran among 200 held while trying to march to Lankan mission

MDMK General Secretary Vaiko and Tamil Nationalist Movement leader P Nedumaran were among more than 200 pro-LTTE supporters arrested here today when they attempted to take out a march to the Sri Lankan Deputy High Commission in the city.

The leaders launched the agitation under the banner of Sri Lankan Tamils Protection Committee to condemn the alleged desecration of the body of slain LTTE Chief V Prabharakan's mother Parvathi Ammal by the Sri Lankan military after the funeral last week.

Mr Vaiko, Mr Nedumaran, CPI State Secretary D Pandian and scores of activists assembled near the Nageswara Rao Park in the city and attempted to take out a march to the Lankan Deputy High Commission demanding its closure to condemn the incident.

The activists, carrying portraits of Parvathi Ammal, shouted slogans denouncing the Sri Lankan military for allegedly desecrating her body and demanded immediate closure of the office of the Deputy High Commission here.

When they attempted to take out a march to press their demand, they were arrested by the police.


Shriram Transport rolls out Automall for trade of pre-owned trucks

Asset financing company Shriram Transport Finance Company Limited today launched the Shriram Automall in Chennai, billed as the country's first single- window destination for trade of pre-owned trucks.

Union Minister for Home Affairs P.Chidambaram inaugurated the facility in Pukkathurai village on GST Road, 15 kms south of Chengelpet, a press release from the company said.

The facility spread across 2 lakh sq. feet space, is the first-of-its kind initiative which will give access to the country’s large community of truck-owners to trade their vehicles in a hassle-free manner, it said.

The release said that, at the Automall, apart from trading of the truck, the truck-owner will also be able to explore financing and insurance options as also minor and major repair facilities. Rest rooms for travel fatigued truck drivers and cleaners are also provided as an add-on facility.

The overall plan is to have 50 such facilities strategically located on important highways of country.

"Road transport today is the lifeline of the country's growing economy. We are excited with the launch of our Automall which will benefit truckers in prompt replacement of their vehicles leading to modernization of country’s trucking fleet. The facility will house hundreds of pre-owned vehicles both in as-is-where-is and refurbished condition and truckers will be able to trade in a transparent manner," said R Sridhar, Managing Director of Shriram Transport Finance Company Ltd.

The Automall will also house Shriram One Stop, a computerized touch screen kiosk which will be a virtual Truck Bazaar, providing real time information about used commercial vehicles available for sale and simultaneously facilitates registration of individual buyer’s requirements.

One Stop will bring more transparency while buying and selling used commercial vehicles, the release said.

The Automall will also include Shriram New Look, wherein refurbished pre owned commercial vehicles are put on display for buying with inbuilt financing options, the release added.


DMK in seat sharing pact with IUML, allots 3 seats

The ruling Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) in Tamil Nadu today signed a seat sharing agreement with the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), allotting three seats to it for the coming Assembly elections in the state.

After a round of talks with the DMK poll panel, headed by Deputy Chief Minister M K Stalin, early this week, IUML state President K M Khader Mohideen signed an agreement with DMK President and Chief Minister M Karunanidhi.

As per the understanding, the IUML would contest the three seats on DMK's "Rising Sun" symbol, a press release from the DMK headquarters here said.

Expressing satisfaction with the allotment of three seats, Mr Mohideen said he was happy over the deal and the party would fight for the victory of DMK-led alliance in all the 234 seats.

"The IUML will fight for the victory of the DMK and the continuance of Kalaignar's welfare schemes," he said.

DMK poll panel members Stalin, Arcot N Veerasamy, Duraimurugan, K Ponmudi and former Union Minister T R Baalu were present when the agreement was signed.

The DMK had earlier struck a deal with the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK), allotting it 31 seats.

The party has held two rounds of talks with its principal ally, the Congress, and one round of talks with Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK) but is yet to finalise deals with them. The DMK is also holding talks with other minor allies.


Trough of low pressure brings rain in several parts of TN

The formation of a trough of low pressure in the southern parts of the south-west bay over the Sri Lanka coast brought good rains in several parts of Tamil Nadu last night, bringing respite to people who were reeling under intense heat wave conditions.

Weather office sources said though the monsoon rains had withdrawn, the fresh spell of showers were due to the formation of the trough over the Lankan coast.

Under its influence rain or thundershowers were likely to occur at a few places over Tamil Nadu and Puducherry during the next 48 hours.

In Chennai, the sky would be partly cloudy with rain or thundershowers in some areas during this period.

Thanks to the rains, the day and night temperatures have come down to a great extent in several districts.

The present situation was likely to continue for the next couple of days, the sources added.


Sri Lankan govt denies visa to VCK leader, sends him back

The Sri Lankan government denied a visa to Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK) leader and MP Thol Thirumavalavan, who had gone to the country to pay homage to Parvathi Ammal the mother of slain LTTE leader V Prabhakaran, early this morning and sent him back.

Mr Thirumavalavan left for Colombo by a JetLite flight around 0130 hrs but the Lankan Immigration officials denied him permission to leave the airport and enter the country.

The VCK leader, who has been championing the cause of Sri Lankan Tamils, wanted to visit Valvettithurai in Jaffna where the body of Parvathi Ammal is kept for public homage.

However, on arrival at the Colombo airport, the Sri Lankan authorities refused him a visa and sent him back on the return flight to Chennai.

Mr Thirumavalavan, who returned here around 0545 hrs, told newspersons at the airport that the denial of permission to him was a great insult to India.

He, being an MP, the Sri Lankan government had not only insulted him as an individual but the country as a whole, he said. He said he would raise the issue in Parliament.


Legendary make-up artist Pitambaram passes away

Celebrated make-up artist in Tamil and Telugu cinema, Pitambaram, who had excelled in his art, died at his residence here this evening, following a prolonged kidney ailment.

He was 90. He is survived by three sons and three daughters. One of his sons P Vasu is the acclaimed Tamil, Telugu and Kannada film director, known for box office hits like "Chandramukhi".

Pitambaram , who was born into a family that does make-up for stars, started his career in 1947 and was with the legendary N T Rama Rao from 1948 till NTR became Chief Minister and had to give up acting.

He was also the make up man for two other legends M G Ramachandran (MGR) for 40 years and for Sivaji Ganesan in some films, Mr Vasu told


Mr Pitambaram had also produed 12 films between 1967 and 1984, that included hits like "Matrudevata", "Koduku Kodalu" ,"Madeivam" and "Yugandhar"- a remake of Bollywodd hit "Don" of Amitabh Bachchan in Telugu an "Walter Vetrivel" in Tamil.

Pitambaam was with NTR since 1948 when Vauhini studios opened. One of its founders producer B Nagi Reddy appointed him as NTR's chief make up man and continued for 40 years. He also did make up for NTR's actor son Balakrishna.

"Sahasame Jeevitham" that introduced Balakrishna was the last film Pitambaram had produced.

Many other well known Telugu and Tamil actors like S V Ranga Rao, Nagabhushanam and Savitri also went to him for make-up.

"He was a highly respected man in the industry in his heydays and even after he retired," Mr Vasu recalled.

The funeral will take place here tomorrow.


CBI raids residences of ex-OSD to Dr Anbumani Ramadoss

A four-member Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) team from Delhi today raided the residences of former Officer on Special Duty (OSD) to former Union Health Minister Dr Anbumani Ramadoss in connection with alleged irregularities in granting permission to a self- financing medical college in Indore in Madhya Pradesh.

After raiding the Chetpet and Anna Nagar residences of Mr D S Murthy, the former OSD to Dr Ramadoss, the CBI team was believed to have asked him to visit the CBI office in Delhi for questioning during this week.

The CBI team launched the raid in the morning and continued it till late in the afternoon, before flying back to Delhi. Though there was no official word about the raids, the CBI team was believed to have seized some documents.

The searches were carried out in connection with granting permission to Index Medical College, a private medical college in Indore, though it did not have the necessary infrastructure facilities.

The permission was given to the college by the Health Ministry, when Dr Ramadoss was the Union Health Minister during 2004-09.

The CBI team had visited last month also, but found Mr Murthy's house locked. After sealing the house, it went back to Delhi and returned this morning on learning that Mr Murthy, who had gone to the US, was returning.

The CBI officials, who were waiting at the airport, "received" Mr Murthy and took him straight to his house to conduct the searches.

When the search was going on, the former Union Minister called on Chief Minister M Karunanidhi with his wife and family members to invite the Chief Minister to the wedding of his nephew.


Tamil playback singer "Malaysia" Vasudevan passes away

Veteran playback singer and film actor "Malaysia" Vasudevan died here today after a brief illness. He was 67.

The singer, who won the State Government's prestigious Kalaimamani Award, is survived by his son, Yugendran, a singer and television actor, and daughter Prashanthini, a playback singer.

He was undergoing treatment at a private hospital for the past few days following some cardiac problems and had been moved to the Intensive Care Unit after his condition became critical. He died of cardiac arrest this afternoon.

The Tamil singer, who was born in Malaysia, had moved to Tamil Nadu in the late 1970s and took to a career as a singer and actor in plays.

He has more than 8,000 songs in Tamil and over 4,000 songs in other South Indian languages to his credit. He also acted in nearly 85 films.

His first song was for the film "Delhi to Madras" and he shot into fame after he joined Bharathiraja-Ilaiyaraja combine to sing in the film "16 Vayathinile", a box office hit in the late 1970s.


AIADMK holds seat-sharing talks with CPI, MMK ahead of TN Assembly polls

The three-member poll panel of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) today held seat sharing talks with the Communist Party of India (CPI) and Manithaneya Makkal Katchi (MMK).

After the preliminary round of talks last week, CPI leaders, led by state unit Secretary D Pandian, held a second round of discussions with the AIADMK panel, led by former Minister O Panneerselvam today at the AIADMK headquarters.

Emerging out from the meeting, Mr Pandian said they had made considerable progress in the talks and the deal would be finalised in a couple of days.

AIADMK General Secretary J Jayalalithaa would announce the final deal, the CPI leader said while parrying questions on the number of seats, the party staked claim to and the number of seats it would be allotted.

The CPI(M) had completed the second round of talks yesterday and state unit secretary G Ramakrishnan expressed satisfaction over the progress of talks.

Both the Left parties were part of the DMK-led alliance in the 2006 assembly elections. They walked out of the alliance, protesting against the presence of the Congress in the front, after the Congress-led UPA Government at the Centre signed the nuclear pact with the United States.

While the CPI(M) contested 13 seats and won nine, the CPI had contested ten seats and won six seats in alliance with the DMK in the 2006 assembly elections.


Kalaignar TV given enough time before CBI raid: Jaya

A view of the DMK headquarters, Anna Arivaalayam housing the Kalaignar television channel which was raided by CBI officials in connection with the alleged 2G spectrum scam, in Chennai on February 18, 2011. UNI PHOTO
A view of the DMK headquarters, Anna Arivaalayam housing the Kalaignar television channel which was raided by CBI officials in connection with the alleged 2G spectrum scam, in Chennai on February 18, 2011. UNI PHOTO

Opposition All India Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) General Secretary J Jayalalithaa today alleged that the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had raided Kalaignar TV, owned by the family members of Chief Minister M Karunanidhi, in connection with the 2G spectrum scam after giving enough time for the channel to work out "escape strategies".

In a statement here, she said the investigating agency ought to have raided Kalaignar TV and secured all the records before making their suspicions public.

"When the CBI disclosed in court the details about a Rs 206 crore payoff by the Dynamix Balwa Group to Kalaignar TV, they were making a major mistake," she said.

By following the practices set for normal criminals, they gave enough time for the evil brain to work out escape strategies, she further alleged.

Overnight, a high-level meeting reportedly took place at DMK headquarters Anna Arivalayam, the head quarters of the DMK party, which also houses the office and studios of Kalaignar TV, and those present at the meeting worked out the escape strategy.

On February 13, all critical documents relating to Kalaignar TV were taken away in gunny sacks to the Perungudi dump yard and burnt, she alleged.

Later on February 15, all bills and money documents, cash vouchers and transaction challans relating to the channel were shredded and dumped in the Corporation bins in different parts of the city, she alleged.

Having destroyed every conceivable bit of evidence and virtually sanitizing the place of all incriminating evidence, the channel's Managing Director Sharad Kumar released a statement, saying "There is no connection between the transaction and the 2G spectrum issue and the amount had been returned with interest."

He went a step further, saying "if either the CBI or the Income Tax Department has any suspicion in this regard, Kalaignar TV has no objection to its accounts and documents being verified by the agencies."

"As if in response to this invitation, the CBI has raided the offices of Kalaignar TV. They would have been able to unearth more if they had bothered to dig up the various garbage dumps in Chennai city," she added sarcatiscally.


Kiwis' victory over Kenya second fastest win in World Cup

New Zealand's crushing ten wicket victory over minnows Kenya in a Group A World Cup Match here today was the second fastest win in the history of the tournament.

The match was over in two hours and 24 minutes and lasted 193 balls (including one no ball in each innings), thus becoming the second fastest match in the tournament.

Both the innings put together lasted a mere 31.5 overs, which was about one-third of the total match overs.

Kenya, batting first, were bowled out for 69 in 23.5 overs and the Black Caps, powered by some lusty hitting by openers Martin Guptill (39 not out) and Brendon McCullum (26 not out), took just 49 balls to overhaul the target, recording the second fastest win in the World Cup.

The fastest ever win was recorded by Sri Lanka against Canada in the 2003 edition at Paarl in South Afica. The Lankans, after bundling out Canada for 36 in 112 balls, romped home in just 18 minutes. They scored 37 for one in 28 balls to record the fastest win both in terms of time and overs.

The match lasted just 140 balls, the shortest match in terms of balls bowled in World Cup history.

The fact that there were just four boundaries in the brief Kenyan innings, again was a dubious record when compared to five boundaries in Canada's score of 36.

At the M A Chidambaram Stadium also, which had seen several records tumble, it was the shortest match ever played at the venue.


Most of our batsmen played across: Kenyan skipper Kammande

The captain of the Kenyan World Cup team, Jimmy Kammande, today said the ten wicket-loss in their first Group A outing against New Zealand here offered lessons to learn for the side's subsequent matches.

"Most of our batsmen played across the line. We didn't play straight. Many of our batsmen fell leg before wicket," he said at the post- match press conference.

Kammande said that, this being their first outing in the Cup matches, his team was a bit nervous. "We were a bit nervous. But the first game is out of the way," he remarked.

Kammande, who himself could not stay at the crease for more than 16 balls and scored 3 in the Kenyan innings, said, "But we need to put up some score hereafter to do better."

The Kenyan skipper also observed that he chose to bat first after winning the toss as he thought that the "pitch was looking solid for batting."

"But the wicket was a little bit up and down. But the New Zealand bowling was good. Jacob Oram had extra bounce," he said.

Asked about ICC's decision to have only the elite members playing the World Cup in the next edition, he said "They have the power to take a decision, but we like to play. The more you play these guys, the better you get."

"There is lot to be done done for our next match" he added.


Debutant Bennett bags four as Kiwis crush Kenya by 10 wkts

Medium-pacer Hamish Bennett claimed four wickets in his World Cup debut as New Zealand inflicted a crushing ten-wicket defeat on minnows Kenya in a Group A match at the M A Chidambaram Stadium here today.

After bundling out Kenya for a paltry 69 in 23.5 overs, the Kiwi openers Brendon McCullum and Martin Guptill knocked off the target in double quick time as the match, which in all lasted just 31.5 overs, ended even before the scheduled lunch break.

Martin Guptill (39, 32 balls, 5x4, 2x6) and McCullum (26, 17 balls, 4x4) sent the Kenyan bowlers scurrying for cover as they overhauled the measly target in just eight overs to provide an early end to the contest.

The Black caps finished at 72 for no loss, knocking off the target in just 37 minutes.

It was one of the lowest totals at Chepauk and the shortest game ever played at the venue. The entire match itself lasted just two hours and 24 minutes.

Earlier, Bennett, in a hostile spell of pace bowling, claimed four wickets off ten balls to break the back of the Kenyan batting to finish with the flattering figures of four for 16 in five overs to have a dream World Cup debut.

Playing in his ninth ODI after he made a good debut against Bangladesh at Dhaka in October 2010, Bennett was later adjudged the Man of the Match for his career best figures.

Bennett, who will turn 24 on Tuesday, pushed the Kenyans to the brink reducing them from 40 for one to 49 for five as he got rid of Seren Waters (16), Steve Tikolo (2), Collins Obuya (14) and Morris Ouma (1) to make it a no-contest.

Medium-pacer Jacob Oram, who replaced Bennett, became the sixth Kiwi bowler to claim 150 wickets as he claimed three wickets for two runs in 16 balls to polish off the tail, before Tim Southee, who started the slide by getting rid of opener Alex Obanda (6), picked two wickets off two balls in the first over of his second spell.

It was a morale boosting win for the Black Caps, who had lost 16 of their last 18 ODIs in recent months against Bangaldesh and India.



Alex Obanda lbw Tim Southee 6

Seren Waters lbw Hamish Bennett 16

Collins Obuya lbw Hamish Bennett 14

Steve Tikolo b Hamish Bennett 2

Morris Ouma lbw Hamish Bennett 1

Rakep Patel (not out) 16

James Kamande c Brendon McCullum b Jacob Oram 2

Thomas Odoyo c Jesse Ryder b Jacob Oram 2

Nehemiah Odhiambo b Tim Southee 0

Shem Ngoche lbw Tim Southee 0

Elijah Otieno c Styris b Jacob Oram 0

Extras: (nb-1, w-2, lb-3, b-4) 10

Total: 69 all out in 23.5 overs.

Fall of wickets: 1-14, 2-40, 3-42, 4-44, 5-49, 6-59, 7-63, 8-68,

9-68, 10-69.


Tim Southee 6-0-13-3

Nathan McCullum 4-0-15-0

Hamish Bennett 5-0-16-4

Daniel Vettori 6-1-16-0

Jacob Oram 2.5-1-2-3.

New Zealand;

Martin Guptill (not out) 39

Brendon Mc Cullum (not out) 26

Extras; (nb-1, w-3, lb-1, b-2) 7

Total: 72 for no loss in eight overs.


Thoms Odoyo 3-0-25-0

Elijah Otieno 2-0-18-0

James Kamande 2-0-21-0

Nehemiah Odhiambo 1-0-05-0


Cricket: Kenya win toss, bat first in World Cup

Kenya won the toss and decided to bat first in their first Group A 2011 World Cup preliminary league match against New Zealand at the M A Chidambaram Stadium here today.

The Kiwis took the field with Captain Daniel Vettori recovering from his minor groin injury and off-spinner Nathan McCullum, who was discharged from a private hospital here yesterday following indisposition.

The teams:

New Zealand: Daniel Vettori (Capt), Martin Guptill, Jesse Ryder, Ross Taylor, James Franklin, S Styris, Nathan McCullum, Jacob Oram, Tim Southee, Hamish Bennet, and 12th: K Williamson.

Kenya: James Kamande (Capt), Alex Obanda, Collins Obuya, Steve Tikolo, Morris Ouma, R Patel, Thomas Odoyo, Nehemiah Odhiambo, Shem Ngoche, Elijah Otieno, and 12th James Ngoche.

It was a very unfamiliar sight at the historic Chidambaram Stadium, Chepauk, that too on a Sunday, with virtually empty galleries greeted the Kenyan and New Zealand cricketers who trooped in to play their first 2011 World Cup match in Group A.

Though the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association (TNCA) were claiming that the sale of tickets has been encouraging even for the matches in which India does not figure, it turned out to be otherwise.

Chepauk normally has a full house or nearly so whichever team turns up for a Test or ODI. It is slated to stage three more World Cup games with only one in which India will figure.

The previous three World Cup matches, two in 1987 and one in 1996, had drawn a full house. In fact, it was New Zealand who took on their traditional rival Australia in 1996 here.


DMK to hold seat-sharing talks with Congress on Sunday

More than two-weeks after cementing the alliance, a five-member Congress panel will commence seat-sharing talks with the ruling Dravida Munneta Kazhagam (DMK) tomorrow for the ensuing Tamil Nadu Assembly polls.

Talking to reporters here today, Tamil Nadu Congress chief K V Thangkabalu said the panel would hold talks with the DMK's five-member seat-sharing committee at the DMK headquarters "Anna Arivalayam".

Apart from Mr Thangkabalu, the other members of the panel are Union ministers P Chidambaram and G K Vasan, Congress spokesperson Jayanthi Natarajan and the party's MLA "Namakkal" Jayakumar.

The DMK committee is headed by Tamil Nadu Deputy Chief Minister M K Stalin and comprise state ministers Arcot N Veerasamy, Duraimurugan, K Ponmudy and DMK Parliamentary Party leader T R Baalu.

Ahead of the talks in which the number of seats to be contested by the Congress would be discussed, the Tamil Nadu had completed a two-day exercise of ascertaining the views of the party MPs and MLAs, both present and past, party district unit office-bearers and various units of the party and the local bodies.

With a majority of Congressmen in Tamil Nadu unanimous in their demand that the party should contest more than 70 seats and seek a share in power in the event of the DMK-Congress combine winning the assembly polls, it's going to be a hard bargain with the DMK.

The DMK has already clinched a deal with another major ally, the PMK, by allotting 31 seats to it yesterday.

Of the remaining 203 seats in the 234-member Assembly, the DMK would be contesting a significant number, and has to allot some to Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK), a key Dalit party, and other fringe outfits.

The Congress workers said theirs was a just and genuine demand considering that the party had extended unstinted and unconditional support to the DMK, which did not have the numbers in the Assembly to rule on its own, for the last five years.

The Congress, which had contested 48 seats in the 2006 Assembly polls, had won 35 of them.


Injury-hit Kiwis looking for first win, Kenya confident too

Drawing inspiration from their new coach, John Wright, New Zealand are looking to kick off their World Cup campaign in Group A with a big win over minnows Kenya at the renovated M A Chidambaram stadium here tomorrow.

Low on confidence after their 117-run thrashing at the hands of favourites, India in their warm-up game here on February 16, the Kiwis may be further handicapped if their injured skipper strike left-arm spinner Daniel Vettori and off-spinner Nathan McCullum, who was hospitalised due to fever, are not fit enough to play.

The Kiwis would be looking to do better than their performance of making it to the semi-finals three times in the last five editions of the World Cup.

But this appears unlikely going by the Kiwis' poor show of having lost 14 of their last 17 ODIs, including a 0-4 whitewash against Bangladesh and 0-5 drubbing against India last year in their away series.

However, at a media conference yesterday, their opening batsman Martin Guptill said he had no information about his captain on this matter.

"We have to face upto the fact that we aren't performing well under pressure," he observed.

The flightless Kiwis would have to really rise up against seasoned teams including their traditional rivals and reigning champions Australia, Sri Lanka and Pakistan, if they are to make any headway in this edition. Zimbabwe and Canada are the other two teams in this Group.

The Kiwis can draw comfort from the fact that they had defeated Kenya in their league outing in the 2007 edition of the Cup.

However, Kenya's veteran Steve Tikolo, the 39-year-old batsman, called out of retirement, does not think that the new-look team led by Jimmy Kamande can rise to the occasion.

Kenya had surprised everyone by entering the semis in the 2003 Cup edition in South Africa.

"Our strength has been our batting. But of late, the bowling has also been doing well," Tikolo said. "The team hopes that it can carry on with that."

The team with a sprinkling of youngsters and a majority of them unknown to the cricketing world, would give a good account of themselves, feels Tikolo, playing a record fifth World Cup.

Tikolo also felt that considering the conditions they would be up against in the sub-continent, the team has prepared well training in Dubai and India, after a preparatory camp in South Africa.

According to Tikolo, minnows or not, the young Kenyans are raring to go, and if they pull off a "rabbit out of the hat" act, they would only be the happiest.

The present scenario of the team emerges from the fact that the team was plunged into a lot of controversies including a match fixing scandal in 2003.


New Zealand (from):- Daniel Vettori (captain), Hamish Bennett, James Franklin, Martin Guptill, Jamie How, Brendon McCullum, Nathan McCullum, Kyle Mills, Jacob Oram, Jesse Ryder, Tim Southee, Scott Styris, Ross Taylor, Kane Williamson, Luke Woodcock.

Kenya (from): Jimmy Kamande (captain), Seren Waters, Alex Obanda, David Obuya, Collins Obuya, Steve Tikolo, Tanmay Mishra, Rakep Patel, Maurice Ouma, Thomas Odoyo, Nehemiah Odhiambo, Elijah Otieno, Peter Ongondo, Shem Ngoche, James Ngoche.

Umpires: Rod Tucker(Aus) and Marais Erasmus(S Africa), Third umpire: Aleem Dar(Pak), Fourth umpire: Sudhir Asnani (India), Match Referee: Roshan Mahanama(Sri Lanka).


DMK allots 31 seats to PMK plus an RS seat for Tamil Nadu assembly polls

Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) supremo and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister K Karunanidhi today allotted 31 seats to the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) for the coming elections to the State Legislative Assembly.

The announcement came a day after the meeting of Anbumani Ramadoss, the former Union Health Minister and son of PMK founder-president S Ramadoss, with Congress President Sonia Gandhi in New Delhi put the PMK back in the DMK-Congress led aliance in the state.

The allocation of seats to the PMK, besides a Rajya Sabha seat, came swiftly at a meeting between Dr Ramadoss and Mr Karunanidhi at the latter's Gopalapuram residence this morning, as part of the agreement. The discussions lasted more than an hour.

Talking to newspersons, Dr Ramadoss said, "We are satisfied with the allotment of seats though the number is the same that the DMK had given us in the 2006 Assembly elections."

Dr Ramadoss also predicted that the DMK-Congress-PMK-VCK combine would "definitely emerge victorious" in the Assembly elections.


2G spectrum case: CBI conducts raids on Kalaignar TV

Officials of the CBI, probing the money trail in the alleged multi-crore 2G spectrum allocation scam conducted raids on Friday at the Tamil television channel "Kalaignar TV", owned by Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi’s family.
A view of the DMK headquarters, Anna Arivaalayam housing the Kalaignar television channel which was raided by CBI officials in connection with the alleged 2G spectrum scam, in Chennai on February 18, 2011. UNI PHOTO
A view of the DMK headquarters, Anna Arivaalayam housing the Kalaignar television channel which was raided by CBI officials in connection with the alleged 2G spectrum scam, in Chennai on February 18, 2011. UNI PHOTO

Officials of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), probing the money trail in the alleged multi-crore 2G spectrum allocation scam involving former Communications Minister A Raja, today conducted raids at the Tamil television channel "Kalaignar TV", owned by Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi’s family.

Reports said a five-member CBI team raided the premises, a day after tainted Mr Raja, arrested for his alleged involvement in the scam, was remanded to judicial custody and lodged in Tihar Jail after extensive questioning by the agency.

The CBI officials descended on the premises of the Kalaignar TV at around midnight last night. The raids continued till 0530 hrs. The officials left the premises just before the break of dawn.

The raids were reportedly conducted following reports that money to the tune of Rs 200 crore, allegedly part of the kickbacks received in the spectrum scam, was funded to the Kalaignar TV for its operations.

The channel had admitted that it had received close to Rs 200 crore as loan and that it had been repaid with interest.

The raids came two days after the channel had issued a statement, reiterating it had no links whatsoever with the spectrum scam and that the CBI was free to inspect its account books.

Senior officials of the TV channel, in which Mr Karunanidhi’s wife Rajathi Ammal and their daughter Kanimozhi, a member of Rajya Sabha were part of the Board of Directors, were said to be present during the more than five-hour long raids.

Kalaignar TV Chief Operating Officer and Managing Director Sharath Kumar, who had a couple of days ago said that the company's loan agreement with Cineyug Films had nothing to do with the 2G spectrum allocation, was also said to be present during the raids.

However, CBI sources in Chennai could not confirm the raids, saying they were not aware of any such operation.

They told UNI, "We are not aware of any such raids. We have no reports about such an operation. Perhaps a team from Delhi might have conducted the raids. We have no information."

On February 16, Mr Karunanidhi issued a clarification that the Cineyug Films had nothing to do with the alleged scam.

The Chief Minister had said the CBI and Income Tax authorities were free to verify the accounts and records, if they had any doubt over the transaction.

Reacting to CBI informing the Supreme Court about the transaction even after the channel clarified that it could not be linked to the 2G spectrum scam, Mr Kumar had said that if the CBI and the Income Tax Departments had any doubts, they were free to visit the office of the TV channel and check the records.

"The officials can verify the records and cross check the accounts. We have absolutely no problem," Mr Kumar had said.


IPL Season to begin Apr 8 with CSK-KKR encounter at Chennai

The 2011 DLF Indian Premier League (IPL) season will get under way on April 8 with reigning champions Chennai Super Kings playing Kolkata Knight Riders at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium here.

The full 2011 league schedule was released today. The ten teams will play a total of 74 matches at 13 venues over 51 days.

In announcing the schedule, IPL Chairman Chirayu Amin emphasised that it was subject to final approval.

"We are aware that State Assembly Elections are planned in a number of the host cities. We are consulting the authorities and will confirm the schedule as soon as we are able to do so. In the meantime, we have decided to release the provisional schedule to satisfy the massive level of interest in IPL across the country," he said.

To qualify for the final, the top four teams in the league will have to negotiate a new play-off system that has been introduced for the 2011 season.

In the new format, the teams finishing first and second in the league stage will compete in the first play-off game, Qualifier 1. The winner will progress directly to the final, whilst the loser will have a second chance of reaching the final via the Qualifier 2 play-off match.

The teams finishing third and fourth in the league stage will compete in the Eliminator. The winner will go forward to Qualifier 2 (where they will meet the losing team from Qualifier 1). The loser will play no further part in IPL 2011 and will finish in fourth position.

The winner of Qualifier 2 will progress to the final, where it will play the winner of Qualifier 1.

This new format lends more significance to each of the four IPL play-off matches. There is a clear advantage for the teams finishing in the top two league positions, giving an added impetus for the

teams to fight for the top positions in the league. Overall, the new format will provide fans of IPL with even greater enjoyment and excitement.

The dates and venues for the play-fff matches are:

Tuesday 24 May, Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai - Qualifier 1 (1st vs 2nd).

Wednesday 25 May, Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai - Eliminator (3rd vs 4th).

Friday 27 May, M.A. Chidambaram Stadium, Chennai - Qualifier 2 (winner of Eliminator vs loser of Qualifier 1)

Saturday 28 May, M.A. Chidambaram Stadium, Chennai - Final (winner of Qualifier 1 vs winner of Qualifier 2)

Qualification for 2011 CLT20 will go to the two Finalists along with the losing team from Qualifier 2.

As reigning champions, Chennai Super Kings have the right to host the opening match of the season, and to provide the venue for the final.


Cricket: India win second warm up: spinners do star turn

India put themselves in the right frame of mind for the 2011 World Cup cricket opener against Bangladesh at Dhaka on Feburary 19 with a thumping 117-run win against a struggling New Zealand before a near full house at the M A Chidambaram Stadium here tonight.

Chasing a stiff 361-run target, after Dhoni's sledgehammer hitting in an unbeaten 108-run knock and no. 3 left hander Gautam Gambhir's 89 powered India to 360 for 5 in 50 overs, the Kiwis seemed to be on the right course with opener Brendon Mc Cullum hitting the ball around powerfully against Aashish Nehra, S Sreesant and Munaf Patel.

With his opening partner M Guptill, he added 94 runs for the first wicket in the first 15 overs.

But Dhoni who employed a double off-spin attack and added cutting edge to his team's spin attack including leg spinner Piyush Chawla and pushed the Kiwis to the brink by bringing on off spinner R Ashwin.

The Kiwi slump appeared imminent as Aswhin had Guptill edging a sharply turning and awkwardly bouncing off-break to Dhoni.

Then McCullum himself fell run out as the regular offie Harbhajan Singh came on to bowl. Once McCullum fell for 58, after reaching his 50 off 43 balls with seven fours, the Indian spinners had the Kiwis by the scruff of their necks, as it were.

Earlier, India's innings was bolstered by the addition of 193 runs in the last 15 overs when skipper Dhoni and Suresh Raina(50) went full blast after the 100 run stand off 115 balls for the third wicket between Virat Kohli(59) and Gambhir.

New Zealand vice-captain Ross Taylor fell to Harbhajan Singh for a measly 5 off 14 balls caught by Kohli(3-140), then left-handed all-rounder James Franklin fell for a duck to leggie Chawla padding up an incoming leg-break.

He faced just three balls and the Kiwis were reduced to 141 for 4. Then it was Ryder's scalp at 147 off the fourth ball of the 25th over. Yuvraj Singh gobbled him up off Harbhajan Singh. Ryder fell even as he was looking promising, for 32 off 36 balls(three fours).

This reduced the Kiwis to 147 for 5 off 25.4 overs. Then make shift left-arm spinner Yuraj treated himself to the wicket of Jamie How when the batsman hoisted him to Munaf Patel' safe hands in the outfield. He scored 15 off 22 balls with the help of one four. The Kiwis were truly down on the mat now at 173 for 6 off 31.4 overs with Jacob Oram joining Scott Styris at the wicket.

The pair held on for 6.1 overs. But Yuraj helped himself to his second wicket. Turning one away from Oram, who drew away from the line of the ball, he got him stumped by Dhoni.

The Kiwis were now seven down for 197 off 37.3 overs and then 8-202 as Chawla castled Scott Styris who was deceived by the flight and played a square drive to the leg break coming in after pitching, to be castled.

Dhoni made another lethal bowling change bringing back Aashish Nehra for Yuraj. Off the last ball of the 40th over Nehra yorked Woodcock for 9 off the same number of deliveries. He hit one four.

Ten overs remaining, the Kiwis were 213 for 9, 147 runs behind India's score. Their last pair Nathan McCullum and Kyle Mills expectedly swelled the score to 243 with forcing shots typical at that stage.

However, it all ended when Nehra castled Mills off the first ball of the 44th over. McCullum was not out on 29 off 18 balls with three fours and two sixes.

Off spinners Harbhajan Singh (2-17) and R Ashwin (130-), leg spinner Piyush Chawla (2-39), Yuvraj Singh (2-33) and Aashish Nehra (2-55) shared the spoils for India. Only Munaf Patel and Sreeshant, the other two medium-pacers went wicketless.


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