Monday, January 22, 2001,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Sonia to take holy dip today
Authorities say can’t ensure security

LUCKNOW, Jan 21 (UNI) — Congress President Sonia Gandhi will pay a daylong visit to Maha-kumbh mela in Allahabad tomorrow, even as the mela authorities today expressed their inability to provide adequate security to her.

Terming the visit of Mrs Gandhi as ‘personal’, a state Congress spokesman said here that the AICC President would reach Allahabad by a special plane tomorrow morning and return to New Delhi the same evening.

Mrs Gandhi will take a holy dip in the ‘Sangam’ and meet sants and sadhus apart from making a brief stopover at Anand Bhawan.

Earlier, Senior Superintendent of Police (Kumbh) Alok Sharma expressed his “inability” to provide adequate security cover to the Congress President.

Mr Sharma said the staff of Mrs Gandhi had been informed of the “factual” position on the availability of security personnel. He denied reports that the Congress leader had been outrightly denied permission to visit the mela.

The Mahakumbh SSP said: “In the case of Mrs Gandhi, a VVIP with the highest Z-plus security, it had been made amply clear that it would not be possible for the police administration to ensure adequate number of police personnel for her.”

He, however, said that so far he had not received any official communication of Mrs Gandhi’s programme from the Congress or her office. Mrs Sonia Gandhi is also Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha and enjoy Cabinet Minister status.

Mr Sharma said the visit of Mrs Gandhi had been timed with the biggest bathing festival of “Mauni Amavasya” on January 24 when more than three crore devotees were expected to visit Kumbh. As the pilgrims had already started pouring in, the police administration would be hard pressed to provide security to the Congress President.

Leader of the Uttar Pradesh Congress Legislature Party Pramod Tiwari today termed as ‘politically motivated’ the statement of the Kumbh Mela administration expressing inability to provide security to the party President.

Talking to mediapersons, Mr Tiwari alleged that the mela administration had taken this step on the instructions of the state government.

Saying that Congress workers would provide security to Mrs Gandhi, Mr Tiwari warned of serious consequences against the “dual policies” of the administration.

Mr Tiwari asked the mela administration as to how it had allowed Union Human Resource Development Minister Murli

Manohar Joshi to visit the mela on Makar Sankranti, which was an important bathing festival.

“Mrs Gandhi is coming on January 22, which is not a peak day”, he pointed out. Criticising the brutal lathi charge on mediapersons on January 19 in front of the Media Centre, Mr Tiwari said it was a most condemnable act and an attack on the freedom of the press.

He said his party would raise this issue in Parliament and the UP Assembly.

The Uttar Pradesh Government today ordered a high-level inquiry into the police assault on mediapersons in the Kumbh Mela area on January 19.

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