Tuesday, March 19, 2002, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

PM vows fair poll in J&K
Asks militants to participate
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 18
Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee today sent out strong signals to the people of Jammu and Kashmir for bringing them back into the mainstream of the country by promising not only “fair” Assembly elections in the state but also asking militant groups to participate in it to “prove their popularity”.

In a bid to instil further confidence among the alienated population of the troubled state, the Prime Minister also announced that he will soon visit the state to have “wide-ranging” consultations with various sections to work out the poll strategy.

“I will go to Jammu and Kashmir along with the Home and Defence Ministers to take stock of the situation there and have discussions to evolve a strategy,” Mr Vajpayee said, winding up the two-day discussions on the motion of thanks to the President’s Address in the Rajya Sabha which was adopted by voice vote after negation and withdrawal of amendments moved by opposition members.

The Prime Minister also brought up various issues like Ayodhya, economy and India’s improving relations with China and warned that the government would have to take “unpopular” decisions to check mounting fiscal deficit if the country had to move on high growth path of 8 per cent as the present rate of 5.4 per cent was certainly not “impressive.”

In a separate development, VHP working president Ashok Singhal tonight ended indefinite fast following a written assurance from former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Rajanath Singh conceding his demands, including the lifting of restrictions and providing security to Ramsevaks visiting the temple town from tomorrow.

Referring to improving relations with China, Mr Vajpayee announced he would visit Beijing which would be preceded by the visit of External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh.

The Prime Minister said the government had to roll back the hike in LPG price because of general resentment and parties’ concern over the ensuing elections.

But there was no escape from taking “unpopular decisions” to check the deteriorating fiscal situation with most of the revenue being gobbled by ever-increasing government wage bill and pensions.

In an obvious dig at the Opposition for trying to topple him, Mr Vajpayee said, “I am ready to sit in the Opposition where I had spent most of my political career. But there must be someone to replace. Even after you come this side, these issues will persist and pose a challenge to you.”

Fiscal discipline could not be taken lightly, he said, adding that by changing the government, the economic problems would not cease to exist.

He said it was precisely for this reason “we must have consensus” among political parties to put the economy back on the rails, including the issue of disinvestment in public sector undertakings.

Bowing to the demand of women members, Mr Vajpayee said he would soon convene an all-party meeting to chalk out a strategy on how to go about for early passage of the Women’s Reservation Bill.

Mr Vajpayee refuted the Congress allegation that the Andhra Pradesh Government had been allowed to approach the World Bank directly for a structural adjustment loan for carrying out reforms of the state finances.

“There has been a misunderstanding,” he said, adding that the allegation by Congress leader Arjun Singh that the Centre had thrown all caution to the winds regarding economic sovereignty was not true.

The World Bank loan had been sanctioned with the permission of the Centre and no state was allowed to approach multilateral agencies directly, he said,

“We have to maintain economic sovereignty. We must not compromise on it. There should not be any doubt about it,” he said.

Turning to criticism on disinvestment, the Prime Minister said the government was not closing down any public sector undertaking.

“We are not selling the national assets as alleged in some quarters. Disinvestment does not mean putting the shutter on PSUs,” he said, adding that it was being done as they had become a “big burden” on the economy.

Referring to remarks made by a Supreme Court judge during the hearing of the Ayodhya bhoomi pujan case that this is not Parliament, Mr Vajpayee regretted that such observations should have been made.

“I do not want to get into a controversy between the legislature and the judiciary,” he said, adding that “but we have to sit together to determine what is the responsibility of the judiciary and the legislature.

Referring to alleged remarks by BJP MP Vinay Katiyar regarding the Hazratbal shrine in Srinagar, the Prime Minister said the reports had been denied by Mr Katiyar himself.

“The media has a duty to crosscheck such statements before going to print,” he said, adding that such reports could cause much damage by arousing communal passions.

On the performance of the NDA government during the past four years, Mr Vajpayee said, “No government has been able to complete such a long tenure (in coalition politics) and regional parties, which have come of age, are playing an important role.”Back


Grenade attack on BSF HQ
Tribune News Service

BSF officers inspect the spot
BSF officers inspect the spot where rifle grenades landed near the BSF Frontier Headquarters at Sanat Nagar in Srinagar on Monday. — Photo Amin War.

Srinagar, March 18
Militants made an abortive attack on the frontier headquarters of the Border Security Force (BSF) with rifle grenades, which however, landed about 200 yard away without causing any damage in the Sanat Nagar locality here today.

According to a police spokesman here militants hurled five rifle grenades towards a security force picket at Sanat Nagar causing injuries to a BSF jawan.

The Pakistan based Lashkar-e-Toiba has claimed responsibility for the attack.

This is for the first time the LeT has attacked security forces with rifle grenades in the valley. Earlier, they used to carry out fidayeen attacks on security force camps and also ambush convoys.Back

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