Wednesday, May 23, 2001,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Samata part of NDA: George
Says final decision on May 28

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 22
The deadlock between the Samata Party and the BJP over the Manipur issue continued today as a meeting between Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and senior Samata Party leader George Fernandes failed to make any headway.

“There will be more meetings in order to reach a final decision to resolve the problem,” Mr Fernandes told newspersons after the one-and-a-half-hour meeting at the Prime Minister’s residence here.

To a question whether the Samata Party would pull out of the NDA Government, Mr Fernandes, who was flanked by BJP President Jana Krishnamurthy and BJP secretary in-charge of North-East Padmanabha Acharya, said: “We have always been a trusted NDA ally. The party is very much part of the NDA.”

He said while informal talks would continue, a final decision would be taken after a formal meeting of leaders from both Samata Party and the BJP here on May 28. The meeting would also be attended by the representatives of Manipur state units of the two parties.

Mr Fernandes maintained that the meeting could not be convened earlier as polling for the civic bodies in Manipur was due on May 26.

Asked whether the BJP MLAs in Manipur would not stake a claim to form the government, where the Samata-led government of Radabinod Koijam was voted out yesterday, Samata Party’s veteran leaders said “the understanding is that the status quo will be maintained.”

To a question on whether senior Samata Party leader and Railway Minister Nitish Kumar had quit the government, he said “no” and wanted to know who was spreading this rumour.

Mr Krishnamurthy, who was also present at the meeting along with Mr Acharya, avoided making any statement. “I have nothing more to add except that we had a good lunch together.” Mr Fernandes said the whole gamut of the Manipur developments were deliberated upon and the discussions went “beyond the Manipur situation”.

However, he maintained that no proposal or formula was put forward to resolve the issue.

Asked if the two sides discussed the imposition of President’s rule or the selection of a consensus candidate for the Chief Minister’s post to defuse the Manipur crisis, where 24 of the 26 BJP MLAs voted against Koijam’s motion of confidence, Mr Fernandes merely said “no particular formula was discussed.”

Meanwhile, according to reports reaching here, in Manipur BJP legislators continued to defy the party high command and joined hands with other groups to form a new political outfit — the Progressive Democratic Alliance (PDA) — under their leader, R.K. Dorendra Singh.

IMPHAL: In a late night development, BJP President Jana Krishnamurthy today categorically ordered the party’s Manipur legislature party leader R.K. Dorendra Singh not to stake a claim to form a new government in the state till May 28.Back


PM, George desperate to solve crisis
T.R. Ramachandran
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 22
Keen to arrest the widening fissures in the BJP-led NDA, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee is once again in the thick of fire fighting operations to mollify former Union Defence George Fernandes and his Samata Party.

At the same time, Mr Fernandes is not talking from a position of strength and is using the fiasco connected with the fall of the Samata Party government in Manipur as a bargaining chip to secure his early re-entry in the Union Government.

The return of Mr Fernandes to the Vajpayee Cabinet is not in doubt. It can, however, take a while longer than the four months given to the K. Venkataswamy Commission of Inquiry to submit its report about the Tehelka. expose pertaining to widespread corruption in defence deals. The Venkataswamy Commission is yet to begin its hearings. And that is where the crunch lies.

Highly-placed sources in the BJP and the Samata Party contend that the “problem has blown over and we are trying to find an amicable resolution to the Manipur tangle.” The BJP expressed its apprehensions about reining in its legislators in Manipur because the party hardly has a presence in the northeastern region. Then, there is also the problem of legislators in Manipur being highly opportunistic and prone to switching loyalties at the drop of the hat.

The BJP and the Samata Party are acutely aware of each other’s predicament and it is in this context that Mr Vajpayee’s 90-minute interface with Mr Fernandes here this afternoon to end the impasse assumes importance.

There is no doubt that Samata Party’s credibility is at stake, especially in Bihar where RJD supremo Laloo Prasad Yadav has dared Mr Fernandes to withdraw his ministers and have a clean break with the NDA.

Disassociating themselves from the ruling combine at the Centre, can amount to shortchanging Samata Party’s political prospects in the short to medium term. Besides, the three Samata Party ministers in Mr Vajpayee’s Council of Ministers have serious reservations about giving up the trappings of power.

It is for these reasons that the Samata Party has authorised Mr Fernandes to take whatever decision he considers best so as not to precipitate matters. And in an endeavour not to embarrass or push Mr Fernandes to a corner, the Prime Minister has refused to entertain suggestions to appoint a fresh convener of the NDA.

The BJP has asserted that it will not stake its claim to form a government in Manipur even though it has 26 legislators compared to Samata’s 13. Union External Affairs and Defence Minister Jaswant Singh has even alluded to imposing President’s rule in Manipur without any semblance of a constitutional breakdown in that state.

Impartial observers here have taken exception to prejudging the developments in Manipur. There is a constitutional head in Imphal in Governor Ved Prakash Marwah. It is up to Mr Marwah to consider the alternatives and decide on the prospects of providing a viable and stable government after the fall of the Radhabinod Koijam government in Manipur yesterday.

Mr Vajpayee and Mr Fernandes are desperate for a face saving device notwithstanding the imponderables and the possibility of a fresh realignment of legislators hankering for power in the 60-member Manipur Assembly.


Cong non-committal on Central rule in Manipur
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 22
The Congress today cautioned the BJP allies over the “treatment” given by the BJP to the Samata Party in Manipur but refused to commit itself on the issue of imposing President’s rule in the state, saying that the question was still hypothetical.

Answering questions, Congress spokesperson Jaipal Reddy said the party was watching the situation in the state closely and before taking any position on President’s rule the party would watch “fun and games” of the BJP and the Samata Party. He said no proposal had yet been made to impose President’s rule in Manipur.

The Congress support to any government proposal on imposing President’s rule in Manipur is crucial as the NDA does not have a majority in the Rajya Sabha. “Other allies of the BJP should wake up in light of the treatment meted out to the Samata Party as they may also be at the receiving end,’’ Mr Reddy asserted.

Indicating that many of the BJP MLAs who brought down the Koijam ministry were former Congressmen, Mr Reddy said the Samata Party and the BJP were “quarelling over kidnapped children.”

Asked if the Congress would make efforts to bring back the “kidnapped children,” Mr Reddy quipped, “We are confident of producing more children, ...better children, ...kidnap-proof children.”

He said the situation in Manipur was getting curiouser and curiouser. Referring to the “ceasefire” between the Samata Party and the BJP and the decision on status quo in Manipur till May 28, Mr Reddy asked “if the Constitution would remain frozen during the period.” Back

Home | Punjab | Haryana | Jammu & Kashmir | Himachal Pradesh | Regional Briefs | Nation | Editorial |
Business | Sport | World | Mailbag | In Spotlight | Chandigarh Tribune | Ludhiana Tribune
50 years of Independence | Tercentenary Celebrations |
121 Years of Trust | Calendar | Weather | Archive | Subscribe | Suggestion | E-mail |