Thursday, March 15, 2001,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Why did Badal skip NDA meeting?
Sarabjit Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 14
The Punjab Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, who skipped an emergency meeting of the National Democratic Alliance held this afternoon at the residence of the Prime Minister, said that no one exposed by tehelka. com., should be shielded.

He said that an inquiry should be ordered in all cases in which solid evidence was available.

He was confident that the Prime Minister would not shield anyone. Expressing ignorance about the details of the expose by the portal, Mr Badal said that he did not get enough time to watch television as he was busy elsewhere.

When asked what would be his party’s stand, which was part of the NDA, in this connection, Mr Badal said that the party was for holding an inquiry at the appropriate level.

Has Mr Badal deliberately skipped the NDA meeting? It appears so. Mr Badal was to speak in the Punjab Vidhan Sabha on the Motion of Thanks to the Governor for his address to the House moved by Mr Manpreet Singh this afternoon.

Reporters were sounded that Mr Badal would speak at 1 p.m. However, it was delayed for about an hour. Mr Badal started speaking after 2 p.m.

Though most of his speech was a repeat of his earlier ones delivered on the floor of the Vidhan Sabha, he persisted with it and reeled out facts and figures.

He spoke for about two hours. The Speaker had to announce that today’s session would continue till Mr Badal finished his speech. The session was extended for about one and a half hours.

If Mr Badal had not taken so long to wind up his speech, he would have got enough time to fly to Delhi to attend the NDA meeting. Informed sources said that Mr Badal had got the message with regard to the NDA meeting well in advance and he had enough time to conclude his speech accordingly to be present at the meeting. It was the most crucial meeting of the NDA since the formation of its government at the Centre.

Mr Badal said that he had informed the BJP leaders concerned in Delhi that he would not be able to attend the meeting as he was to speak in the Vidhan Sabha.

Other Shiromani Akali Dal leaders, when quizzed in connection with the expose, said that the party was examining all aspects of the latest political developments in Delhi.

As the Vidhan Sabha elections in Punjab were due within the next nine months, the party leadership would have to keep in mind whether such an expose could prove harmful to the party in the poll.

“The party is watching the entire situation very closely and will take a decision accordingly when the facts are fully known to it”, said a senior Akali leader.

Meanwhile, the leader of the Opposition in the Vidhan Sabha, Chowdhury Jagjit Singh, said Mr Badal should make his position clear immediately with regard to the expose. He said as Mr Badal’s party shared power in the Union Government, it should press the Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, to resign in the interest of the country.

Chowdhury Jagjit Singh said that Mr Badal should either make Mr Vajpayee resign or his party the SAD — should withdraw from the NDA. Mr Badal had preached against corruption from the rooftop but members of his own Cabinet were neck deep in corruption, Chowdhury Jagjit Singh alleged.

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