Thursday, March 9, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Gujarat withdraws order on RSS
Oppn claims victory; PM denies Centre’s role

GANDHINAGAR, March 8 (PTI, UNI) — Bowing to relentless Opposition pressure in Parliament, the Gujarat Government today withdrew its controversial circular allowing its employees to join the RSS, an issue that paralysed the Lok Sabha for over 10 days.

The withdrawal came at the end of discussions between Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel and BJP central emissaries M. Venkaiah Naidu and K.N. Govindacharya, who were despatched by the party leadership to resolve the issue on which even BJP’s allies did not fully rally behind the Vajpayee government.

“The decision (to withdraw) has been taken following a request by the central party leadership and is in broad national interest,” said Gujarat Home Minister Haren Pandya, a hawk who had been rejecting the possibility all along.

In New Delhi, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee said the Centre had no role in the Gujarat Government decision maintaining it was “their decision”.

The decision came hours after Mr Vajpayee announced in the Lok Sabha that his government was ready to face a censure discussion on the issue as demanded by the Opposition.

Reacting to the withdrawal of the circular, Opposition parties said it was a “victory” for secular forces as the BJP stood “exposed”. They also said the withdrawal was possible because of the stand taken by BJP’s allies.

Significantly, on Monday RSS Chief Rajendra Singh had issued a statement saying his organisation was “unconcerned” whether the Gujarat circular banning employees to participate in RSS activities existed or not. It was perceived as a move paving the way for withdrawal of the circular.

Earlier, as the impasse in Parliament over the issue continued, the government appeared to drag its feet on a censure discussion as BJP’s allies had expressed reservations about voting in favour of the government on an issue involving the RSS with which they had ideological differences.

With the withdrawal of the circular, the Opposition move for censure of the government now appeared to have become infructuous. It remains to be seen whether the Opposition would still press for a discussion on the issue in an attempt to pillory the Centre.

Mr Pandya said though the Gujarat Government was Constitutionally right and it was within its power to issue such a circular, it was withdrawn because some parties were bent upon extracting political mileage from it.

“The Opposition had no other agenda except going to town on the RSS circular. They had vitiated the atmosphere all over the country and were creating disturbances over the issue both inside and outside Parliament and in Gujarat Assembly,” he said.

Mr Pandya, however, justified the January 3 circular saying the state government was well within its legal and constitutional rights to remove the name of the RSS from the list of organisations banned for employees’ participation. “There was no protest in any section of the people in the state against the circular. On the contrary, they supported it,” he stated.

“Despite this, a frustrated Congress and some other political parties protested against the circular, ignoring the fact of legal sanctity and that it was a state subject. These parties, peeved at the pro-people policies of the Union and Gujarat Governments and their popularity, undemocratically stalled Parliament’s proceedings everyday by raising a political protest and ignoring popular sentiments.

Under these circumstances, the state government considered the matter in all its aspects and to honour the people’s sentiments about stalled proceedings of Parliament, has withdrawn the circular, he added.

The BJP today said the Gujarat Government withdrew the controversial order on RSS following the impasse in Parliament on account of the “irresponsible behaviour” of the Opposition, which was not allowing business to be transacted.

Party General Secretary M. Venkaiah Naidu told reporters the entire country was concerned over the agitation in Parliament.

He said the BJP was in full agreement with the Gujarat Government on the controversial order allowing state government employees to join the RSS and said it was “legally, constitutionally and politically correct”.

“We have advised the state unit to keep the situation in mind and take a decision on the RSS circular,” Mr Naidu said adding he would apprise the central leaders of the discussions he had with the state leadership on the issue today.

NEW DELHI: While the Congress said the BJP should learn a lesson from the development, the Left parties said the saffron party was “forced” to take the step mainly because of its allies’ stand.

Trinamool Congress, a key ally of the BJP, hailed the decision saying it had caused “tremendous embarrassment and harassment to the Centre”.

Samata leader and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar as also Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan of the JD-U welcomed the step with Mr Kumar saying the circular had created “unnecessary controversy”.

While Mr Vajpayee said it was Gujarat Government’s decision and the Centre had no role to play in the matter, Home Minister L.K. Advani said the state government took the decision on the advice of the BJP.

The Congress said the development has once again showed that Mr Vajpayee is a “faltering” Prime Minister as he should have told RSS that it had “no business to destabilise his government which was an NDA government and not that of the BJP.

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