Tuesday, February 18, 2003, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Gujarat reference irks Cong
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 17
The Congress today took exception to the reference to “partisan” Gujarat Assembly elections in President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam’s address to the joint session of Parliament, saying that Chief Minister Narendra Modi and other BJP leaders had run an election campaign in the state in “total contravention” of the Constitution.

“Today, we lodge our strong protest and serious objections to the manner in which the President’s address contained reference to the highly controversial and partisan elections in Gujarat”, party spokesman S. Jaipal Reddy told reporters here.

Stating that the party was not finding fault with the President but with the NDA government, which is the author of the document (speech), he said Mr Modi and other BJP leaders ran an absolutely “fascist” campaign which was in “total contravention of constitutional tenets and democratic decencies of parliamentary parameters”.

He said BJP leaders had set absolutely new norms for electioneering and referring to the Gujarat poll as a victory of democracy was an “insult to the intelligence of the people of the state.” “While the results are binding on everybody, these did not justify malpractices. People in Gujarat were divided in a cynical and brazen manner on communal lines. We, therefore, take strong exception to Gujarat being mentioned in the President’s address”, he said.

The Congress said that the charges levelled by the Gujarat Government against three Congress leaders, including two Punjab ministers, were baseless, malicious and extremely mean.

“This is the job of the dirty tricks department of the Narinder Modi Government. These charges were made deliberately to influence voters in Himachal Pradesh. This is the measure of the level to which the BJP leaders can stoop in their bid to win elections,’’ Congress chief spokesman Jaipal Reddy told mediapersons here.

“Apart from being a very malignant trick, it also sets a bad precedent,’’ he said.

Responding to queries, the spokesman said it was not the party’s intention to vie with the BJP in “vile moves.’’

“Two of our ministers in Punjab are filling defamation suits. This also shows that the BJP has become desperate about its position in Himachal Pradesh elections. We condemn this unwholesome approach on the part of the BJP Government in Gujarat,’’ he said.



Shekhawat falls ill during Address
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 17
There was a flutter in the Central Hall of Parliament today as Vice-President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat felt unwell and staggered a little while reading out the Hindi version of the President’s Address to the joint session.

Later, the Vice-President left Parliament without completing the Hindi version of the Address. The Vice-President was nearing the end of the 75-minute President’s speech when he felt uneasy. As he staggered a little, the security personnel standing next to him helped the Vice-President sit down. As Union Minister and physician C.P. Thakur, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and a Parliament doctor attended to Mr Shekhawat, President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam announced that the speech should be taken as read.

However, Mr Shekhawat stood up amid a thundering applause from members for the National Anthem. He was then taken out of the Central Hall in a wheelchair. 


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