Wednesday, July 24, 2002, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


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No Central rule in Gujarat: Advani
Tribune News Service and Agencies

New Delhi, July 23
Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani tonight rejected the Opposition demand for President’s rule and removal of Chief Minister Narendra Modi prompting a walkout by the entire Opposition even as the BJP allies opposed early Assembly poll in Gujarat.

Replying in Lok Sabha to a seven-hour debate on the issue of relief and rehabilitation in riot-hit Gujarat, he said the Centre was prepared to consider the proposal for imposing President’s rule in all states one month before the poll process and an exception could not be made only in the case of Gujarat.

Defending the Modi government’s recommendation for an early poll, Mr Advani said “what Gujarat Government has done is within the ambit of the Constitution and politically right”.

The combined Opposition, dissatisfied with Mr Advani’s reply, staged a walk-out.

Earlier, a determined Opposition in both Houses of Parliament today attacked Chief Minister Narendra Modi for dissolving the Assembly for having early elections and demanded the imposition of President’s rule in Gujarat, which was turned down by the government.

Accusing the Narendra Modi government of trying to cash in on the polarisation in the wake of the recent communal clashes, Opposition members said elections could not be held in a free and fair manner in the riot-torn state under the present administration.

They were also against the holding of elections in the state and wanted them to take place in March 2003 when the five-year term of the Assembly came to an end.

The members from the Treasury Benches, however, were not impressed by the Opposition arguments and maintained that the situation in Gujarat was conducive for elections as had been reflected from the peaceful conduct of the Jagannath yatra, free and fair panchayat elections and school examinations, besides the normal functioning of business establishments.

“The entire state administration participated in looting, murder and rape. How can we think of free and fair elections under Modi?”, asked CPM MP Basudeb Acharia in the Lok Sabha, initiating a discussion on relief and rehabilitation of riot victims in Gujarat under Rule 193 which did not entail voting.

Amid noisy interruptions and loud protests by ruling NDA members, Mr Acharia said after the dissolution of the Assembly, Mr Modi had no responsibility and elections there should be conducted under President’s rule.

Referring to a report of a forensic science laboratory that inflammable material was carried inside the Sabarmati Express compartment when the Godhra incident took place in February, the CPM member regretted that the Centre had yet to come up with its response on the issue.

“If the riots were not organised, why were three lakh `trishuls’ distributed and arms training given?”, he asked, accusing the BJP and the Sangh Parivar of creating a similar situation in other parts of the country.

Mr Acharia said the BJP, which had lost 19 of the 22 Lok Sabha and Assembly byelections since it came to power at the Centre in 1998, was attempting to offset the erosion of power.

He charged the state authorities with failing to provide compensation and houses to riot victims, 25,000 of whom were still in relief camps.

Countering the Opposition, BJP member Kirit Somaiya chided the Congress for installing former BJP leader Shankar Sinh Vaghela as its Gujarat chief, saying that the party had in a memorandum to the Governor in 1997 listed a series of misdemeanours against Mr Vaghela before withdrawing support to his ministry.

Mr P.R. Dasmunshi (Cong) said the BJP was attempting to “throw mud” on the Congress on the Gujarat issue in spite of the fact that several of the NDA constituents, including the TDP and the Trinamool Congress, had demanded the removal of the Chief Minister following the riots.

TDP leader K. Yerrannaidu, whose party was supporting the NDA government from outside, said the Election Commission should not be pressured on when the elections should be held.

In the Rajya Sabha, participating in a short-duration discussion on the steps taken by the Centre under Article 355 of the Constitution for intervening in the state affairs, senior Congress leader Arjun Singh said the Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee had been “sidelined in a constitutional coup” by those around him.

“He (Mr Vajpayee) has been sidelined in a constitutional coup and can only sit and look on helplessly at what is happening in the country,” he said, adding that the Prime Minister had expressed his helplessness when the House had passed a resolution in May asking for effective Central intervention in Gujarat.

Asserting that the Modi government had no right to continue any more as it was not accountable to anyone, he said President’s rule should be imposed on Gujarat.

Rejecting the Opposition demand, BJP General Secretary and former Law Minister Arun Jaitley said there was no constitutional breakdown in the state.

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