Saturday, November 16, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Vajpayee: don’t make Godhra poll issue
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 15
Concerned about the VHP’s determination to go ahead with its yatra in Gujarat in flagrant violation of the ban imposed by the Election Commission, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee intervened strongly today, asking all organisations to honour the directive of the constitutional body.

Worried about the atmosphere being vitiated in Gujarat in the run-up to the Assembly elections on December 12, Mr Vajpayee maintained that the Godhra carnage and the violence thereafter should not be made election issues.

It is significant that the Prime Minister has himself decided to issue a statement here, appealing to all organisations to heed the ban of the EC on all religious processions ahead of the Assembly elections.

Mr Vajpayee said, “The Gujarat Government has done the right thing by acting as per the directive of the Election Commission to prohibit religious processions in the state. I appeal to all organisations to honour this directive issued by the constitutional authority and help the state administration in discharging its duty.”

In conceding the democratic right of political and social organisations to go among the people and conduct their campaign, Mr Vajpayee said, “It is also the democratic duty of one and all to exercise it in a lawful way. Even protest has to be expressed in a peaceful manner without inflamming passions. It is only through scrupulous obedience of the law that we can enhance the prestige and efficacy of our democracy.”

Taking exception to the BJP’s mild criticism of the Election Commission for imposing a ban on religious processions and yatras, Mr Vajpayee made it clear that the people of Gujarat “will give their verdict soon and there is no need for making allegations and counter-allegations.”

He urged all political parties and organisations to focus their election campaign on issues of development and governance and not on matters that vitiated the atmosphere. “I hope that after the state government’s decision, all concerned would work towards the peaceful conclusion of the poll,” Mr Vajpayee added.

Responding to questions posed by a television news channel, the Prime Minister said he was in constant touch with the Gujarat Government and had advised everyone to concentrate on the Assembly elections and not do anything that might inflame passions and disrupt the poll process.

Mr Vajpayee said it was difficult to say what the VHP would do in the prevailing circumstances but be felt things would settle down with attention being focused on the elections.

Regretting that politics was degenerating all over the country and not in Gujarat alone, Mr Vajpayee stressed that Godhra should not be made an election issue. Hoping that the Gujarat Assembly elections would usher in a new beginning, he said it should bring communal harmony and end political instability in the state.

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