Monday, August 27, 2001, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Crucial NDA meeting today
Farooq’s threat, Trinamool re-entry on agenda
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 26
Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee would be tackling a pressure situation from three sides — National Conference’s threat to quit the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), Samata Party taking action against and the re-entry of Trinamool Congress — when the NDA’s Coordination Committee meets here tomorrow morning.

Well-placed political sources said today that on all three issues, Mr Vajpayee was likely to emerge with flying colours.

Tomorrow’s NDA meeting is taking place against the backdrop of the angry outburst of ally and Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah’s threat to quit the ruling coalition over the Prime Minister’s remark made in his Independence Day speech that the government would ensure free and fair elections in Jammu and Kashmir whenever they are held.

Sources said Mr Vajpayee’s aides had already sent feelers to Dr Abdullah that the Chief Minister need not be exercised over the Prime Minister’s comments as Mr Vajpayee did not mean what Dr Abdullah was interpreting.

It is understood that the PM’s aides have conveyed to Dr Abdullah that Mr Vajpayee would himself be talking to him on telephone, possibly late tonight itself. Dr Abdullah has been requested on behalf of the Prime Minister to make sure that he attends tomorrow’s meeting and in case he is unable to come, somebody on behalf of the National Conference must attend the meeting to stop speculation.

However, the government is foxed by the delayed reaction of Dr Abdullah over the Prime Minister’s remark. One assessment of the Vajpayee government is that the very fact that Dr Abdullah has chosen to react on the PM’s remark 11 days after it was made showed that it was nothing but the Chief Minister’s familiar pressure tactics to grab a financial package for his state which the Centre is so far not agreeable to.

The Vajpayee government has braced itself up for the second potential crisis within the NDA — the Samata Party’s angry insistence that the government should suo motu file a first information report (FIR) against for using prostitutes to get a story.

It is understood that the government has partially succeeded in persuading the Samata Party to drop this demand because if this were to happen, the entire Opposition would demand a similar action against former BJP President Bangaru Laxman, a Tehelka victim.

Sources said the government had almost reached an understanding with the Samata Party that the proposed FIR against Tehelka should be filed by a couple of NDA MPs, including those from the Samata and the BJP. This FIR is likely to be filed early next week. This issue is likely to come up for extensive discussion at Monday’s NDA meeting.

Monday’s meeting was called at the initiative of Mr Vajpayee to formalise the re-entry of the Trinamool Congress in the NDA fold because he wanted to invite Trinamool leader Mamata Banerjee for the August 28 dinner. However, he did not want to face a flak from the media for inviting Trinamool even though the party’s re-entry in the NDA was yet to be formalised.

Sources said the NDA meeting was convened on August 27 at 10 am so that the Trinamool’s re-entry is formalised. The meeting was considered necessary as the West Bengal unit of the BJP has vehemently opposed Trinamool’s re-entry. It is understood that the contra view of the West Bengal BJP unit would be heard, discussed and overruled.

On the question whether Trinamool can be given a re-entry without awaiting the report of the George Fernandes-led four-member NDA committee to look into the norms of rejoining the NDA, Samata leader Shambhu Shrivastav said, “Politics does not function like the bureaucracy; it functions according to the need of the hour.” 


Musharraf invites Vajpayee for meeting in New York

New Delhi, August 26
Pakistan President Gen Pervez Musharraf has invited Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee for a meeting with him on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York next month, it was officially announced here tonight.

General Musharraf’s invitation was conveyed by Pakistan High Commissioner to India Ashraf Jehangir Qazi who called on Foreign Secretary Chokila Iyer here on Friday evening.

This was stated by a spokesperson of the External Affairs Ministry.

Mr Vajpayee told reporters in Lucknow today that he would meet General Musharraf during his New York visit.

He said he would discuss the Jammu and Kashmir and other bilateral issues with the Pakistan President.

“I will meet President Musharraf in New York and discuss all issues, including Jammu and Kashmir, which will help in improving bilateral ties,” Mr Vajpayee told a press conference here.

The Prime Minister said he had accepted an official invitation to visit Pakistan and dates were to be finalised.

Earlier, a report from Islamabad said President Musharraf had sent a formal invitation to Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee for talks in New York next month.

A Pakistan Government spokesman said “the invitation was delivered to Mr Vajpayee through the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi.”

President Musharraf and Mr Vajpayee held landmark summit talks in Agra in July.

They agreed to meet again in the near future despite failing to agree on a joint declaration. PTI, AFPBack


Hizb chief denies agreeing to give up jehad

Islamabad, August 26
The chief of Pakistan-based militant outfit Hizbul Mujahideen, Syed Salahuddin, today denied that his group had agreed to quit its activities or participated in any meeting with Pakistan officials on the issue.

Salahuddin was referring to comments reportedly made recently by Interior Minister Moinuddin Haider who said the militant groups had agreed to surrender arms and end their jehadi activities.

“We had made it clear at a seminar in the presence of the Interior Minister that the jehadi groups and forces are at present busy in taking the Kashmir liberation movement to its logical end. We said the encouragement of these forces was very much needed”, he told Radio Teheran. Militant outfits in Pakistan have protested against the government’s move to ban collection of donation and displaying of banners by them in southern Sindh province, besides the raids on their offices. PTIBack

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