Monday, August 7, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

SAD not to pull out of NDA
To oppose Uttaranchal Bill in RS
Tribune news service

CHANDIGARH, Aug 6 — The Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) has decided not to withdraw support to the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance and its lone Cabinet Minister, Mr Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, will not resign.

The Political Affairs Committee of the party, which met with Mr Parkash Singh Badal in the Chair at Punjab Bhavan here today, has “strongly” protested against the passage of the Bill creating Uttaranchal state with Udham Singh Nagar district included.

The “protest” is also against the one-man report submitted by the Union Defence Minister, Mr George Fernandes, after visiting the place. He had submitted the report without consulting the other two members, Mr Badal and the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister, Mr Ram Parkash Gupta.

Briefing newsmen after the four-hour meeting, Mr Badal said he had directed all members of his party to “strongly oppose” the Bill in the Rajya Sabha. When reminded that there was collective responsibility of the Council of Minister how would Mr Dhindsa fit in in the whole scheme of things, the Chief Minister was non-committal. “We have asked our MPs to oppose”.

The party chief said a boundary commission could still be constituted to decide the issue keeping in view the sentiments of the people. “We will abide by the decision of that commission”, he added.

His persistent refrain was that whatever had happened over the Udham Singh Nagar issue was totally “wrong, illegal and unconstitutional”.

Insiders told TNS that the majority view in the PAC meeting was that “minimum” the SAD should do is to ask Mr Dhindsa to resign. Secondly, keeping in view the November 1998 resolution of the PAC on the Udham Singh Nagar issue — the SAD in future should extend only “selective” issue-based support. In that resolution the SAD had even threatened to “withdraw” support.

When Mr Badal was asked as to why the PAC had gone back on its November 1998 resolution, he remarked that he was only conveying the decision of the PAC which was “unanimously”.

To a pointed question if the Prime Minister and the Home Minister had given any assurance to him when he met them to protest against the passage of the Bill and the statement made by Mr Fernandes, who suo motto submitted the report, after a

pause Mr Badal said “No assurance has been given”.

As to the next course of action, if the Rajya Sabha also passes the Bill, he said “we will see then”.

Earlier, he spent some time giving the background of the events as when the three-member committee had visited Uttar Pradesh and what dialogue took place between him and Mr Fernandes. That is all history now.

Mr Badal said in a democracy wishes of the people could not be ignored. He stated that tension prevailed in that area today. “We welcome the creation of new states but oppose the manner in which these are created without regard to peoples’ wishes”. He clarified that SAD was not articulating the sentiments of Sikhs alone but of all the people of Udham Singh Nagar, who were against its inclusion in Uttaranchal.

The SAD, he said, was deeply hurt and had expressed its anguish over what has happened. The usual factors like geography, linguistics, economics, politics, social aspects etc were not considered while constituting the hill state. In this case nothing of the sort was considered. “It is not a democratic way to function,” he added.

Earlier in the day, a 250-strong delegation from Udham Singh Nagar, led by the Raksha Samiti office-bearers, including general secretary, Mr Anand Parkash Rastogi, the SAD’s UP state unit President, Mr Harbhajan Singh Cheema, Mr Mohan Singh and Mr Sarabjit Singh Brar, met the Chief Minister and other PAC members to put forth their grievances and hurt sentiments.

Since August 1, when the Bill was passed in the Lok Sabha, the Udham Singh Nagar district has observed a bandh. The police has used force, lathi-charged and even jailed some of the agitators. Mr Badal has strongly condemned such acts.

He also addressed the delegates assuring them that his party would do everything possible to raise their voice of protest and safeguard their interests. “We believe in the sincerity of purpose. We are seriously involved and are truthfully pursuing the case. It is unfortunate what has happened”, he told the gathering.

Clearly, the PAC had a tough time taking a decision which not only reflected its anguish but also mirrored the sentiments of the people of Udham Singh Nagar district. Mr Badal said there was no move on the part of SAD to suggest any amendments in the Bill before it is presented to the Rajya Sabha.

When he was told that the Bill may be placed on the table of the Rajya Sabha tomorrow, he expressed his ignorance. Will SAD tell the Prime Minister to “defer” the placement of the Bill in the Rajya Sabha, Mr Badal said “We can say that”.

The mood in the PAC, it is learnt was one of varied expressions and opinions. No wonder it took more than four hours for the PAC to come up with what Mr Badal stated to the waiting newspersons.

SAD is a coalition partner with the BJP both at the Centre and at the state level. Observers maintained that it was quite obvious that Mr Badal would not take any such stand which will strain the relationship between the two. He said so much at his briefing when he remarked “certain decisions are taken keeping in view state’s and nation’s interests”.

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