Sunday, July 2, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Atal meets NDA leaders, Thakre
BJP hardens stand on autonomy
Tribune News Service

NEW DELHI, July 1— The Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, today held a series of meetings with NDA leaders and his party colleagues to discuss the Jammu and Kashmir autonomy issue even as the Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister, Dr Farooq Abdullah, arrived here on way to attend the MDMK conference at Erode in Tamil Nadu.

The objective of the meetings was to informally find a common denominator on the issue among the leaders of the NDA constituents. Later, if need be, an official meeting of the NDA would be held, the sources said.

The Prime Minister also met the BJP President, Mr Kushabhau Thakre, along with the Union Home Minister, Mr L.K. Advani.

While no meeting between the Prime Minister and the Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister was held today, the two might meet tomorrow.

The Union Communication Minister, Mr Ram Vilas Paswan, the Civil Aviation Minister, Mr Sharad Yadav, the Agriculture Minister, Mr Nitesh Kumar, the Power Minister, Mr R. Kumaramanglam, the Defence Minister, Mr George Fernandes, and the Information and Broadcasting Minister, Mr Arun Jaitley, were present at the meeting.

While none of the Ministers chose to divulge what was discussed at the meeting which was held at the Prime Minister’s residence at 7 Race Course Road, the BJP President told newspersons after a two-hour-long meeting that the resolution passed by the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly was an invitation for the disintegration of the country.

Mr Thakre said that he had clearly outlined the BJP’s stand on the issue before the Prime Minister and the Home Minister.

“This proposal is wrong and against national interest. It will open the way for the division of the country and would not benefit Kashmir also”, the BJP President said, adding that such demands would raise their heads elsewhere in the country also and create an atmosphere of instability.

Mr Thakre said the party was opposed to the restoration of the pre-1953 status and would fight it tooth and nail. The past 50 years’ developments in Kashmir like the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, the Election Commission and the CAG which had been extended to the state could not be reversed, he pointed out.

Asked if he had asked the Prime Minister to reject the state Assembly resolution, the BJP leader said he had apprised Mr Vajpayee of the party view and now it was up to him and the Union Cabinet to take a decision.

Earlier reflecting the same sentiments, the party Vice President, Mr J.P. Mathur, said Dr Abdullah had brought the resolution as “he wants to win the next Assembly elections by instigating Islamic fundamentalism in the valley”.

“His speech in the assembly reflects his communal mind and he is using the communal card to win the elections”, Mr Mathur alleged.

Asked under whose pressure Dr Abdullah was acting, Mr Mathur said it appears that there was a ‘foreign hand.’

A majority of the NDA leaders would be in Tamil Nadu to attend the MDMK meeting at Erode. Mr Advani and Mr Kumaramangalam and the Finance Minister, Mr Yashwant Sinha, would attend the MDMK conference. Dr Abdullah, the Punjab Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, the Assam Chief Minister, Mr Praful Mohanta, are also attending the MDMK meet, which would provide an excellent opportunity to informally discuss the autonomy issue.

PTI adds: Meanwhile, the Jammu and Kashmir Government rejected as “illegal” the resolution adopted by the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC) seeking separation of Ladakh region from the state and a Union Territory status for it.

An official spokesman said the issues on which the LAHDC resolution was moved on Friday, were totally political in nature, not falling within the jurisdiction of the LAHDC Act.

Earlier, in Srinagar, Dr Abdullah regreted the “propaganda” on the autonomy issue saying that the autonomy package contained nothing that weakened Centre-state relations.

Three former Prime Ministers — Mr V.P. Singh, Mr I.K. Gujral and Mr Chandra Shekhar — lashed out at the autonomy demand, saying it would lead to division of the state on communal lines and raising of similar demands in other parts of the country.

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