Monday, August 12, 2002, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

Gujarat situation quite delicate: CEC
Meeting on Assembly poll likely today
Tribune News Service and Agencies

New Delhi, August 11
The full Election Commission (EC) consisting of Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) J. M. Lyngdoh and Election Commissioners T. S. Krishnamurthy and B. B. Tandon returned here today after a tour of riot-hit Gujarat to assess the state’s preparedness to hold free-and-fair Assembly elections.

“We will not sit over this for long. We will take a decision in a few days’ time,” Mr Lyngdoh said, adding that the situation in Gujarat was quite delicate.

The commission, which has returned after its three-day tour, is likely to meet here tomorrow to discuss the appropriate time frame for holding elections in Gujarat, sources in the commission said here.

The full commission decided to undertake this rare trip to Gujarat after receiving the report of the nine-member commission team, which toured Gujarat earlier this month, and is understood to have said that the minority community members may find it difficult to participate fearlessly in the elections, if these are held early. Mr Lyngdoh was reportedly not happy with the state administration’s measures for relief and rehabilitation of riot victims.

The full commission led by Mr Lyngdoh visited several relief camps and riot-hit areas of Ahmedabad and Vadodara, where it witnessed first-hand the continuing plight of riot victims.

Besides meeting representatives of major political parties, the commission also met three former judges — U. T. Mehta, B. G. Diwan and P. D. Desai.

It also met representatives of non-governmental organisations such as Citizens’ Initiative, we the People, Socialist Unity Centre of India and Prashant. The NGOs said they were not in favour of early Assembly elections.

With voter lists in hand for ready reference, the CEC and his two colleagues toured various riot-hit areas of Ahmedabad and Vadodara and tried to ascertain how many of the riot victims had returned home. On being asked about the elections, most of the victims told the commission that rehabilitation and not elections should be the priority of the administration.

The Gujarat BJP, during its meeting with the commission, demanded early elections while Opposition parties, including the Congress, and non-governmental organisations favoured their postponement.

A BJP delegation, including state unit President Rajendrasinh Rana and Industries Minister Suresh Mehta, told the EC that there was no social or administrative hurdle in holding early elections.

A delegation of the Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee, comprising Himmatsinh Patel, Yatin Oza and Magan Barot, however, told the commission that elections should not be held immediately as the situation in the state was not conducive for the poll.

Representatives of the Nationalist Congress Party, the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Gujarat Janata Congress also demanded that elections should not be held soon.

The CEC yesterday lashed out at the district authorities in Vadodara, chiding them for not giving proper information on the situation after the recent riots.

Apparently questioning the conclusion drawn on the normalcy of the situation, a visibly angry Lyngdoh told the District Collector: “How are you saying that the situation has improved?”


Kalam leaves for Gujarat today
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 11
In the first sojourn outside the national capital since he assumed the office of the President on July 25, Dr A.P.J Abdul Kalam will be visiting the violence-ravaged Gujarat.

He will begin his programme there by visiting Mahatma Gandhi’s Sabarmati Ashram near Ahmedabad and will also visit the house of the late Vikram Sarabhai whom he regards as his respected guru and a great visionary.

While in Ahmedabad and Bhuj, the President will meet schoolchildren and apprise himself of the rehabilitation and other measures undertaken by the Gujarat Government and NGOs for those affected by the recent communal violence.


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