Friday, February 25, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Congress stages dharna
Tribune News Service

NEW DELHI, Feb 24 — The Congress today stepped up its opposition on the move by the Gujarat Government to permit its employees to take part in RSS activities by holding a dharna outside Parliament and stalling proceedings inside the House.

The Congress President, Mrs Sonia Gandhi, played her part as the Leader of the Opposition by leading her MPs to stage a “sit-in” at the footsteps of Mahatma Gandhi’s statue placed across the main entrance of Parliament House.

“It is regrettable that they are pursuing their hidden agenda. We will fight till the last,’’she said as party MPs raised slogans.

“Gandhiji ke desh ka nara, sarva dharma sambhav hamara, RSS ka hidden agenda nahin chalega, nahin chalega,’’ the Congress MPs shouted in chorus and promised to continue their stir till the controversial order was withdrawn.

The party’s stand and approach also found reflection in the address of Mrs Sonia Gandhi to the party’s general body this morning.

In fact, she utilised the customary address at the start of the session to outline the areas the party would focus on during the Budget session, including the growing activities of the Sangh Parivar, Constitution review, Kargil inquiry report and international matters like the CTBT.

Mrs Sonia Gandhi alleged that the decision of the Gujarat Government could not have been made without the connivance of the Centre. “The Prime Minister is pretending to draw a Lakshman Rekha between the BJP-led NDA and the RSS.’’

She said Mr Vajpayee’s intention was “insincere” as he initially endorsed the Gujarat Government’s decision and retreated subsequently under pressure from the Congress.

Later, the Congress made it clear that there would be no let up on the issue with senior party leaders, Mr Pranab Mukhejree, Mr Madhavrao Scindia, Mr Rajesh Pilot and Mr Priyaranjan Das Munshi addressing the media on it.

Mr Scindia, who had moved the adjournment motion along with 11 others, said the party would continue to raise the matter in the House till the Congress and the Opposition were allowed to speak on the matter.

He charged that the move by the Gujarat Government was a “trial balloon” released by the BJP government in the states in order to push the party’s “hidden agenda”.

He said the Speaker had not informed him of his decision on the adjournment motion and expressed unhappiness over the manner the issue was dealt in the Business Advisory Committee of the Lok Sabha this evening.

Mr Scindia said the Opposition was united on the RSS issue.

However, he parried questions on whether the party would allow the introduction of the Railway Budget due to be presented in the Lok Sabha tomorrow.

Similarly, Mr Mukherjee said the matter should have been allowed to be discussed in the Rajya Sabha, where party MPs had given a notice.

So far, the Congress has managed to carry along most of the Opposition parties with it. However, it has not yet opened talks with the constituents of the NDA with Mr Scindia stating that the party was attempting to arouse their conscience.


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