Tuesday, April 30, 2002, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

Paswan quits, parts ways with NDA
T. R. Ramachandran
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 29
The unabating communal violence in Gujarat had its inevitable fallout on the Atal Behari Vajpayee government today when a highly disturbed Union Coal and Mines Minister Ram Vilas Paswan resigned from the Cabinet and parted ways with the NDA. His resignation was accepted by the President, a Rashtrapati Bhavan communique said.

Mr Paswan, who met the Prime Minister a few hours before the meeting of the NDA here this evening to chalk out its strategy in dealing with the Opposition censure motion on the Gujarat situation in the Lok Sabha tomorrow, announced that his Lok Janshakti Party of four MPs would vote against the government.

Even though there is no immediate threat to the Vajpayee government, it is delicately perched. The unending trend of communal incidents in Gujarat and the Narendra Modi government’s inability to control it has dealt a severe blow to the image of the Vajpayee government.

Apparently considerable thought had gone into Mr Paswan and his party taking the extreme step of severing ties with the BJP-led NDA as the prospects of a snap general election is gaining currency.

This is particularly so with the Chief Minister designate of Uttar Pradesh, Ms Mayawati, asserting in Lucknow after staking her claim to form government that the BSP would have a critical understanding with the BJP in any future elections.

Clearly, the political opportunism displayed by the BJP in having a truck with the BSP in knitting together a coalition arrangement in Uttar Pradesh is being seen by the Lok Janshakti Party as attempts by the saffron brigade to hijack Mr Paswan’s constituency of Dalits and other backward sections.

Mr Paswan and his supporters believe that a calculated attempt is being made by the BJP and Ms Mayawati to push the Dalit leader into the political backwaters.

While acknowledging that the Lok Janshakti Party decision to vote with the Opposition was not going to create any immediate instability for the Vajpayee government, Mr Paswan emphasised that the issue at hand was maintaining and strengthening the country’s secular fabric.

Stressing that the Lok Janshkati Party had no option but to take the extreme step, Mr Paswan charged that the Vajpayee government’s policy of drift instead of imposing President’s rule in Gujarat had contributed to the deteriorating communal environment in the state.

Mr Paswan’s stunning decision caught the BJP and its troubleshooters off guard. Nevertheless, it can spur other allies of the NDA who have been walking the razor’s edge since the February 27 carnage in Godhra and the subsequent communal riots in Ahmedabad and other parts of Gujarat to sharpen their swords against the Vajpayee government.

Mr Paswan disclosed that he had spoken to Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister and Telegu Desam Party supremo Nara Chandrababu Naidu and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee over the telephone about the continuing communal frenzy in Gujarat and the Vajpayee government failing in its duty to intervene effectively in restoring communal harmony.

He regretted that nothing positive had emerged from Mr Vajpayee’s visit to Godhra and Ahmedabad. On the contrary the communal situation in Gujarat had gone from bad to worse, he said.

As yet another fire-fighting exercise gets under way to keep the disparate NDA flock together, the Prime Minister faces another unenviable task of seeing that the cracks in the 24-party conglomeration do not reach breaking point.

With the BSP deciding to support the Vajpayee government, the TDP, which is supporting the NDA government from outside, will decide tomorrow what its block of 28 MPs will do when the voting takes place in the Lok Sabha.

At the same time, the front organisations of the BJP which had sought the continuance of Narendra Modi as Chief Minister of Gujarat are now beginning to backpedal. They now contend that it is for the BJP top brass to decide on Mr Modi’s continuance or removal as Chief Minister. 


BSP, TDP, SDF, DMK to back govt
Tribune News Service and Agencies

Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee at the NDA meeting in New Delhi on Monday.
— PTI photo

Former Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal going to attend the NDA meeting — PTI photo

New Delhi, April 29
The National Democratic Alliance government is confident of defeating the Opposition’s censure motion under Rule 184 in the Lok Sabha tomorrow with alliance partners expressing with the Vajpayee government.

An indication to Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s removal has resulted in a show of unity among the NDA partners.

Briefing reporters after the NDA meeting, NDA convener George Fernandes underplayed the resignation of Union Coal Minister Ram Vilas Paswan saying that it would not weaken the alliance.

“Hame koi jhatka nahin laga,” (The resignation will not affect the NDA) Mr Fernandes said after the 45-minute meeting of the NDA chaired by Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee. “The NDA is a strong organisation and united.”

Mr Vajpayee said at the meeting that he had received Mr Paswan’s resignation but the Union Minister was not available when the Prime Minister’s Office tried to contact him. There was no discussion at the NDA meeting on the resignation issue, Mr Fernandes claimed while briefing reporters after the meeting.

Mr Fernandes said till 3 p.m., Mr Paswan’s office had said that he would be attending the NDA meeting. The NDA convener said the Janata Dal (United), which was represented by Mr Sharad Yadav, would also be issuing a three-line whip to its members to vote against the Opposition-sponsored motion on Gujarat in the Lok Sabha tomorrow.

Sources said that even the Telugu Desam Party of Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu would vote with the Vajpayee government as Mr Vajpayee had given a firm indication that Mr Modi would be removed after some time.

With this indication the National Conference and the Janata Dal (United) of Labour Minister Sharad Yadav also have decided to vote for the ruling NDA issuing a three-line whip to their party MPs.

Indication about Mr Modi’s removal received further credence when Rashtriya Swyamsevak Sangh spokesman M.G. Vaidya made clear here that the Sangh had no objection to his removal.

“The Sangh has no objection if Modi is removed. Who stays as Chief Minister is not our concern”, he said at a specially convened press conference.

BJP Parliamentary Party spokesperson Vijay Kumar Malhotra claimed that the government would have on its side at least 280 to 285 votes.

Mr Vajpayee is understood to have spoken to leaders of the Trinamool Congress and the National Conference.

Mr Vajpayee spoke to Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee and National Conference chief and Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah, before he left for London today, highly-placed sources said.

The sources said the five member National Conference, which is to face Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir later this year, may abstain from voting under Rule 184.

LUCKNOW: The BSP would support the NDA within and outside Parliament, its vice-president Mayawati today said.

GANGTOK: The ruling Sikkim Democratic Front, which has one member in each House of Parliament, today decided to support the National Democratic Alliance in tomorrow’s voting on the Gujarat issue.

CHENNAI: The DMK, a key constituent of the NDA, today expressed concern the over the continued violence in Gujarat, but said it would not support the Opposition-sponsored censure motion on the Gujarat issue in the Lok Sabha.


Gujarat violence claims 8 lives

Ahmedabad, April 29
The death toll in Gujarat since the February 27 Sabarmati Express carnage reached 900 today, with the fragile peace being shattered repeatedly in Ahmedabad and Vadodara.

The police said of the seven persons seriously injured when the crude bombs they were making exploded in their house in Kalupur this morning, two had died in hospital. One person was stabbed to death in Gomtipur within hours of the conclusion of the peace rally led by Defence Minister George Fernandes and Chief Minister Narendra Modi.

Prior to the rally, three persons had died in Chandola Talao area under the Maninagar police station.

In Kalupur, two persons died in police firing late last night as sporadic violence, arson and group clashes continued.

A report from Anand said that two scooter-borne men tried to shoot a man on his morning walk, but he ducked in time. The police later recovered the revolver and cartridge shell from the spot.

VADODARA: Despite imposition of indefinite curfew and heavy security bandobast, sporadic incidents of violence and arson continued unabated in Vadodara city for the fourth consecutive day.

At least three persons were injured in private firing and another in stone throwing following group clashes at Navidharti in the curfew-bound Karelibaug area, where a rocket launcher was also recovered by the police early today.

Reports said at least 15 persons were injured, including five in private firing and as many in acid bomb attacks, during the past 24 hours in the city as mobs engaged in intense fighting.

Miscreants also reportedly set ablaze more than 36 shops, houses, kiosks, restaurants and godowns in the riot-hit city in the past 24 hours.

Reports said several families belonging to the majority community had fled from Tandalja following mounting communal tension in the area, where the authorities had provided shelter to nearly 2000 members of the minority community. Meanwhile, the police registered a case of attempt to murder against Congress councillor Manzoorkhan Pathan and arrested his brother on the same charge for their alleged murderous attack on a family at Junigadi Harijan Basti on Saturday.

According to the police, violence also erupted in Savli past night, forcing the police to open two rounds of fire to disperse the warring mobs. UNI 


President anguished over Gujarat

New Delhi, April 29 
In his first comment on the raging communal violence in Gujarat, President K.R. Narayanan tonight expressed his deep anguish and pain over the killings in the state and said the foremost task was to restore peace there.

In a message hours before the Lok Sabha takes up the opposition-sponsored motion on Gujarat tomorrow, Mr Narayanan said “I have been deeply anguished and pained at the violent incidents and killings that have disturbed the peace and communal harmony in Gujarat and elsewhere.”


Board exams to be held afresh

New Delhi, April 29
The Gujarat Government today assured the Supreme Court that supplementary examinations would be conducted for all absentee students of classes X and XII in all six papers throughout the riot-affected state within six weeks.

The students, living in relief camps, who had already appeared for the papers can get them cancelled by filing an undertaking and appear in the supplementary exams, the court said.

A three-Judge Bench comprising Mr Justice B.N. Kripal, Mr Justice Arijit Pasayat and Mr Justice H.K. Sema took on record the assurance given by Solicitor-General Harish Salve on behalf of the state government during a resumed hearing of a Special Leave Petition by the Lok Adhikar Sangh.

The petition was directed against the judgement of the Gujarat High Court dismissing its petition seeking the cancellation of the entire examination in view of the continuing riots in the state in the aftermath of the Godhra train carnage.

Rejecting the plea of the petitioner organisation to have the examination centres away from the riot-affected areas, the court said the government would decide and identify centres and publicise them at least 15 days in advance. UNI


NDA allies uneasy with govt: Cong
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 29
The Congress today appealed to the NDA allies to vote “according to their conscience” tomorrow. The party said it was not in touch with the NDA allies on the issue and was not maneouvering anything.

The Congress has also moved for an amendment in the motion which will be put to debate under Rule 184 tomorrow. Congress sources said in place of “ensuring the security of the minority community in various parts of the country specially Gujarat,” the party has suggested that “in preventing large-scale killings, loot, arson of innocent citizens, particularly of the minority community in the state of Gujarat, which are still continuing unabated and the total failure of union and state governments to provide adequate protection, relief and rehabilitation to the victims.” The CPM is also likely to move a similar amendment.


Modi to stay, says BJP
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 29
On the eve of the debate and vote on the Opposition-sponsored censure motion on Gujarat in the Lok Sabha, the BJP today ruled out the resignation of state Chief Minister Narendra Modi.

“There is no move to change the Chief Minister in Gujarat, as reported in a section of the Press party spokesman V.K. Malhotra told newspersons here.


What if UK court issues Modi’s arrest warrant? 
Rajiv Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 29
The Narendra Modi controversy is threatening to be an albatross round the neck of the Atal Behari Vajpayee government as the million dollar question dogging the authorities here is: what happens if a UK court issues arrest warrant against the beleagured Gujarat Chief Minister .

Authorities here are keeping their fingers crossed over the moves of the aggrieved Muslim community based in the UK to file a criminal case against Mr Modi.

According to sources, the authorities here are looking at such moves with trepidation. The UK-based Muslims are also said to be moving ahead with their plans to seek Mr Modi’s prosecution from a UK court. Their case is strengthened by the fact that the three Gujarati Muslims who had gone to Gujarat were British nationals and, therefore, the British courts are competent to take up the case.

The harrowing questions before the Indian officials are:

* What happens if the UK court takes cognisance of the case on the ground that the Gujarat Chief Minister had failed to protect the lives and properties of British nationals?

* What happens if the UK court issues a non-bailable arrest warrant against Mr Narendra Modi?

* Will the Chief Minister be arrested or interrogated if he were to visit London or stop over at the London airport in his official capacity as Chief Minister in future? 


NDA to send team to Punjab
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 29
The National Democratic Alliance has decided to send a delegation to Punjab to study the “deteriorating” political situation in the state.

The decision to send a team to the state has been taken on the basis of complaints made by SAD leader Parkash Singh Badal about the political situation in the state.

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