Thursday, July 4, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Cong MLAs meet Advani
Say sending NDA team to Punjab unwarranted
Prashant Sood
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 3
A delegation of 38 MLAs from Punjab, including 32 from the Congress, today met Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani to lodge their protest over plans of the NDA government to send a team to the state over the “deteriorating law and order situation.’’

During the half-an-hour meeting, the MLAs told Mr Advani that actions of the Amarinder Singh government were in the interests of the state and there was nothing which could warrant Central intervention of any kind. The Punjab Chief Minister did not accompany the MLAs.

The MLAs, led by Mr Birdevender Singh, state general secretary of the party, met Congress President Sonia Gandhi earlier in the day. Though the MLAs had initially planned to meet Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee in the afternoon, they later met Mr Advani, who is also the Home Minister.

Apart from 32 MLAs from the Congress, two MLAs of the CPI and four Independents were also part of the delegation which met Mr Advani.

The MLAs told Mr Advani that the Congress was opposed to the NDA sending any team as it would convey wrong signals. They pointed out that such a move could adversely affect investor confidence in the state at a time when the state government was making earnest efforts to get investment.

Sources said Mr Advani told the delegation that the demand for sending a delegation had been made by one of the NDA constituents and the issue would be discussed by all parties of the alliance. He said the Centre was willing to help Punjab overcome its financial problems.

The meeting of the Congress MLAs with the Deputy Prime Minister is being seen as a move to counter the meeting SAD chief and former Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal had with Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee. The Akali Dal-BJP MLAs in Punjab had accompanied Mr Badal for the meeting during which the demand for sending an NDA team to Punjab was made by Mr Badal. NDA convener George Fernandes had later said that a team of the alliance would visit Punjab.

Terming the demand of the SAD for sending an NDA team as an “assiduously-planned orchestration,’’the MLAs said the allegation of deterioration of law and order raised by the Akali Dal was ``to subterfuge and sidetrack the indignation building in the public mind,’’ and demonstrated the ``negative politics’’ of the Akali Dal.

The MLAs said the municipal, district boards and panchayat samiti committee elections had proved beyond doubt the popularity of the government and the general feeling of a sense of security in the public.

Pointing out that no suicide case of farmers had been reported during the four months of the Congress rule, they said coordinated policing had led to large-scale detection of important crimes like murders, kidnappings and espionage.

Before they went to meet Mr Advani, the MLAs were briefed about the ``talking points.’’

The MLAs told Mr Advani that the Punjab Government was voted to power on promises of freeing the state from corruption and financial bankruptcy besides providing a transparent and good government.

They said the state Vigilance Bureau was “activated’’ from June 30 this year after which 49 cases were registered against 44 public servants, including gazetted officers who were caught taking bribe.

The most prominent case was registered against Ravinder Pal Singh Sidhu, former chairman of the Punjab Public Service Commission, who was caught taking a bribe of Rs 5 lakh, they said, adding that his investigation had revealed assets worth Rs 22.67 crore.

The MLAs said regular Vigilance raids had been conducted to check absenteeism among doctors and teachers. They said the Congress had inherited empty state coffers.

Talking of the steps taken to streamline the functioning of the government, the MLAs said a transparent excise policy had been implemented, fiscal responsibility and budget management Bill had been tabled and higher MSP given to farmers within 100 days of the party coming to power.

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