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 Fernandes, Mamata quit; Trinamool leaves NDA
The Defence Minister, Mr. George Fernandes, today resigned from the Vajpayee Government in the wake of the Tehelka.Com. ``expose'' of corruption in defence deals, while the Railway Minister and Trinamool Congress chief Ms. Mamata Banerjee, quit the Ministry and withdrew her party's support to the National Democratic Alliance Government. Another key player in the Tehelka drama, Ms. Jaya Jaitly, stepped down from the presidentship of the Samata Party.

 Fernandes defends key defence deals
While submitting his resignation as Defence Minister, Mr. George Fernandes today sought to counter allegations of impropriety in the various defence deals signed during his tenure.

Jaya Jaitly quits as Samata chief
Ms. Jaya Jaitly today resigned as the Samata Party president, maintaining that the charges against her in the Tehelka.com ``expose'' were baseless, and that she had done no wrong.

 India ends Aussie winning streak
One of the most improbable victories in the long history of Test match cricket was recorded at the spiritual home of Indian cricket - Eden Gardens - on Thursday as Sourav Ganguly's badly bruised and battered team went for the jugular, rather than lick its wounds, to bring up a famous kill.

 Annan offers to mediate on Kashmir issue
The United Nations Secretary-General, Mr. Kofi Annan, today urged India and Pakistan to return to the spirit of the Lahore Declaration with a renewal of dialogue to reduce tension and build confidence.

 Vajpayee pressured to ease out Fernandes
The Prime Minister, Mr. Atal Behari Vajpayee, was apparently pushed into securing the resignation of the Defence Minister, Mr. George Fernandes, after several allied and supporting parties of his Government made it clear to him that his continuation in office had become untenable. Some senior BJP leaders also felt that it would be wise to get him to go.

 Alternative coalition if NDA goes, says People's Front
While the Tehelka disclosures jolted the ruling NDA coalition, the main Opposition party, the Congress and the newly-formed People's Front, felt elated as heads rolled and vowed to continue its agitation in and outside Parliament to demand the exit of the NDA Government.

PM talks to Naidu
The Prime Minister, Mr. A. B. Vajpayee, spoke to the Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister, Mr. N. Chandrababu Naidu, twice on Thursday to keep his crucial political ally posted of the latest developments in Delhi and presumably to seek his continued support in the critical juncture.

Hindu idols will be spared
The Foreign Minister of the ruling Taliban movement said today that they would not smash idols of the minority Hindu population in their campaign to eliminate statues from Afghanistan. ``There are a limited number of Hindus and Sikhs in Afghanistan with their temples,'' Mr. Wakil Ahmad Muttawakil told a news conference.

Moderate quake
An earthquake of ``moderate'' intensity measuring 5.1 on the Richter scale was felt in the Car Nicobar Island region at 6.53 a.m. today, the MET office said here.


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