Thursday, September 14, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Advani briefs President on WB
From T. R. Ramachandran
Tribune News Service

NEW DELHI, Sept 13 — The BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) is on the horns of a dilemma if it should actively consider recommending to the President, Mr K R Narayanan, imposition of the Central rule in the Left Front-ruled West Bengal.

Political one-upmanship and violent clashes between CPM cadres and activists of the Trinamool Congress has created a delicate law-and-order situation in the state with at least three districts in the throes of chaos.

The Union Home Ministry fears the disturbed conditions in these politically troubled districts have the portends of spreading to other parts of West Bengal which could lead to a complete breakdown of the law and order machinery.

The Union Defence Minister, Mr George Fernandes and the six-member NDA government’s fact-finding team are at variance with each other in acceding to Ms Banerjee’s demand that the Chief Minister, Mr Jyoti Basu’s, Left Front government should be dismissed in the run up to the Assembly elections in West Bengal scheduled to be held in the first half of next year.

Ms Banerjee has toned down her threatening postures of quitting the NDA if the demand of the Trinamool Congress is not accepted in sending the Left Front government packing in West Bengal.

It is in this context that the Union Home Minister, Mr L K Advani’s, meeting with the President at the Rashtrapati Bhavan here today assumes importance. Mr Advani is believed to have apprised Mr Narayanan about the deteriorating law-and-order environment in certain districts of West Bengal. The Union Home Minister is also understood to have told the President that despite the advice of the Centre, the West Bengal Government has failed to respond to its entreaties.

Sources said Mr Advani was also reported to have told the President that if things were not reigned in, Ms Banerjee could face a serious threat to her life because of the unbridled political unrest in West Bengal. A decision on imposing the President’s rule in West Bengal which is being vehemently opposed by the Congress, will be taken after the Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, returns from his 13-day tour of the USA on September 19.

In the past, Mr Narayanan has expressed reservations about invoking Article 356 and dismissing a state government as evidenced in case of Bihar when the BJP kept up a chant that there was nothing but jungle raj in the ‘backward state’.

Sources said opinion was sharply divided on the question of bringing West Bengal under the President’s rule among the constituents of the NDA. A case in point are the observations of the NDA fact-finding mission to West Bengal headed by Dr Venugopalachari of the Telegu Desam Party (TDP) which is extending support to the Vajpayee government from outside.

The Venugopalachari panel has recommended declaring Midnapore and other trouble-prone districts as “disturbed areas” and rushing Central para-military forces to these areas to protect the lives and property of the minorities and tribals.

The Venugopalachari report simultaneously attacks the Left Front government and the administration for allegedly colluding in whipping up violence. The Venugopalachari mission has steered clear of recommending imposition of the Central rule in West Bengal.

The TDP and several other allies of the NDA, including the Shiromani Akali Dal and the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, Mr M Karunanidhi’s Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), have opposed resorting to Article 356 of the Constitution.

That is the ticklish situation confronting the NDA government. And in any case it is extremely difficult for the NDA to muster the requisite strength in either of the Houses of Parliament to adopt the resolution on imposition of the President’s rule in any state. 


Basu replies to Centre

CALCUTTA, Sept 13 (PTI) — West Bengal Chief Minister Jyoti Basu today refused to share the Centre’s view on the state’s law and order and dismissed as “biased and politically motivated” the report submitted by Defence Minister George Fernandes on the issue.

Asserting that his government was fully aware of its constitutional responsibilities, Mr Basu said in a three-page reply to Union Home Minister L.K. Advani that despite some “initial problems,” steps had been taken to tackle the political violence in three districts effectively.

“Public order is the prime concern of the state government and the state government is fully conscious of its constitutional responsibilities,” Mr Basu said in his response to the recent communication from the Union Home Ministry on the violence.

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