March 23, 2002, Chandigarh, India
Govt not to deviate from NDA agenda
New Delhi, March 22
Interestingly, the National Conference which had abstained from voting on POTO in the Rajya Sabha yesterday promised to vote in the favour during the joint session of Parliament on March 26.
After a two-and-a-half-hour meeting held in the backdrop of a growing rift between the BJP and its allies, NDA Convener and Defence Minister George Fernandes told mediapersons that the alliance partners reaffirmed their faith in the common agenda of the NDA and insisted it be implemented with a greater vigour under the leadership of Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee. To a question, Mr Fernandes said Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah of the National Conference pledged that his party would support the government motion at the joint sitting.
During the meeting leaders of the alliance partners, especially Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee, expressed annoyance over the conflicting views expressed by various BJP members and the government on some contentious issues and raised the issue of the arrest of those accused in the Godhra carnage under POTO.
Invocation of POTO in Godhra was done at the instance of the local administration, Mr Fernandes said.
Later speaking to mediapersons, Ms Mamata Banerjee said: “The alliance partners have no doubt about the leadership of Mr Vajpayee and want to strengthen his hands, but the government should not deviate from the NDA agenda and must hold regular meetings of alliance partners for better coordination on various issues confronting the nation.”
She quoted the Prime Minister as saying that the government would not deviate from the NDA agenda at any cost. MDMK leader Vaiko stated that all NDA partners were in full agreement that there should be regular meetings.
Asked if any member present at the meeting demanded that the VHP should be restrained, Mr Vaiko replied in the negative. However, according to sources Home Minister L K Advani informed the NDA partners that the VHP would not be allowed to hold its proposed ‘asthi kalash yatra’ from Gujarat.
Significantly, for the first time, the meeting was attended by Mr P C Thomas, who represents the Indian Federal Democratic Party, comprising Independent members in the Lok Sabha.
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