Thursday, January 2, 2003, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Congress, HVP to stay away
All-party meeting on SYL issue
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 1
Haryana Chief Minister Om Prakash Chautala’s bid to wrest the initiative on the SYL Canal completion issue came to a cropper with the Congress today announcing that it would not attend the all-party meeting convened by the Chief Minister in this connection for January 14.

Haryana Vikas Party chief Bansi Lal also indicated that his party would stay away from the meeting. “What is the purpose of holding an all-party meeting on the issue now” asked Mr Bansi Lal while talking to TNS over the telephone from Bhiwani. He said that the correct thing to do now would be to request the Supreme Court and the Prime Minister to expedite the completion of the canal.” At the all-party meeting convened by Mr Chautala in August on the SYL issue, I suggested that all of us should give a memorandum to the Prime Minister seeking his intervention for completion of the canal. However, Mr Chautala insisted on taking a delegation to the Punjab Governor and when we met him, all the Governor said was that he would forward the memorandum to the Chief Minister of Punjab”, Mr Bansi Lal said.

Mr Bhajan Lal, President of the Haryana Pradesh Congress Committee (HPCC), ruled out participation by the Congress in the January 14 meeting and said that the HPCC was all set to make its programme of holding a demonstration in front of the Prime Minister’s residence on January 15 demanding completion of the canal, a big success. “There is no point in holding an all-party meeting now when the court had already given a direction to the Centre to take up work on the canal in case Punjab did not construct the remaining portion of the canal by January 15”, Mr Bhajan Lal said.

While disclosing his plan to hold an all-party meeting on the SYL, Mr Chautala said here yesterday that this was to emphasise that the issue was above narrow political interests. However, far from being a move with such noble intentions, the step is being interpreted as an attempt by Mr Chautala to take steam off the Congress party’s decision to demonstrate in front of the Prime Minister’s residence in Delhi on January 15, announced by Mr Bhajan Lal on Sunday at a rally in Jhajjar.

Mr Chautala’s criticism of the Congress high command for failing to persuade the Congress government in Punjab to complete the canal was also responded to by Mr Bhajan Lal today by saying that Mr Chautala too could not get the work of the canal done when Mr Parkash Singh Badal, a close ally of Mr Chautala, was the Chief Minister of Punjab.

The HPCC chief added that apart from organising the demonstration in Delhi, the Congress would also hold a rally at Rewari on January 12 to press for the completion of the canal.

Mr Bansi Lal also attacked the Congress for its decision of organising a demonstration in front of the Prime Minister’s residence. “They should hold a demonstration in front of Ms Sonia Gandhi’s residence for her reluctance to ask her party’s government in Punjab to abide by the court directive”, he said.

The Haryana Chief Minister’s announcement also received flak from Mr Karan Singh Dalal, the lone legislator of Republican Party of India (RPI) in Haryana, who said that the “all-party meeting was a sham”, adding that there was no question of his attending it.

The Chief Minister, however, would have some consolation with the BJP participation in the meeting. Mr Rattan Lal Kataria, President of the Haryana BJP, told TNS that BJP members of the Lok Sabha had earlier met the Prime Minister as well as the Water Resources Minister and urged them to take up the work of completion of the canal.

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