Sunday, March 30, 2003, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Vajpayee dares Sonia
Clarify stand on coalition politics
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 29
Lashing out at the Congress for not disclosing its stand on coalition politics, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee today dared the main opposition party to have an alliance in Uttar Pradesh like it has in Maharashtra.

“Like in Maharashtra, the Congress should enter into an alliance in Uttar Pradesh also. It should clarify its stand on coalition politics. In several areas, the Congress policy is not clear,” the Prime Minister told a rally on the completion of five years of the NDA government.

Apparently rattled at the opposition criticism of the government’s stand on Iraq war, Mr Vajpayee said there must be unanimity on issues concerning foreign policy.

“We are told that we are not clear on our stand on the Iraq issue. We say we have made it as clear as possible,” he said.

Asserting that the government stood for Iraq’s freedom and world peace, the Prime Minister said: “We will take decisions independently and we will not come under pressure”.

Stating that this issue was not a matter for settling political scores, he said his government was being “diplomatic” and wanted to know from the Congress whether it did not do so when it was in power.

His government had made its position clear in the United Nations and the NAM, he said.

Reports appeared in the press that President Bush had thrice approached him for military support in the Iraq war, he said, adding that neither he had given him (Bush) any assurance nor did he approach him.

“These reports have created confusion.... then the Congress will say that the government has come under pressure,” he said.

Mr Vajpayee said whether it was his government or any other, it would protect country’s unity and integrity.

“A unanimous view (foreign policy) would help the nation,” he said, remarking that “who is greedy and who is corrupt, will be known during elections.”

Ridiculing the Congress for its new slogan “Congress ka haath, garib ka saath”, Mr Vajpayee made light of Indira Gandhi’s slogan of “garibi hatao” saying that “I thought poverty has been eradicated but from where has it resurfaced.”

To remove poverty what was needed was dedication and determination, he asserted.

Claiming that the NDA coalition had run smoothly during the past five years, Mr Vajpayee said there was no confrontation among the allies and they worked together.

Regional parties were also “patriotic” and served the nation in their own ways, he said.

“I alone should not be given credit for the NDA government’s achievements but it is collective,” he said asserting that it would reach its goal together.

Criticising the Congress for “gloating” over its victory in Himachal Pradesh Assembly elections, Mr Vajpayee said: “We lost in Himachal Pradesh but those who lost in Nagaland do not discuss it because winners are non-Congress and it was a Congress-ruled state.”

He said people in Nagaland had come together to oppose the monopoly of one party and now had voted a coalition to power.

“In Nagaland there has been a decline in insurgency and they were coming in the right path,” he said.

Citing the instance of development of backward region of Chitrakoot in Madhya Pradesh, the Prime Minister said the lifestyle of people in the region had changed.

“The winds of change are blowing in the country as expected by the people. The Congress is incapable of giving this,” he said criticising the “misgivings” among a section of the people that the country was going down.

He said this feeling of despair and pessimism did not augur well for the country’s progress and posed that if the world could change, why not India.

Addressing the rally, Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani said Mr Vajpayee would rule the country for a “long time to come”. He said the NDA had removed people’s apprehensions about the longevity of coalition governments at the Centre.

“Today after completing five years and 10 days (of the NDA government) I can say with confidence that the country will be ruled under Vajpayee for a long time.

He will continue for a much longer time,” Mr Advani said.

He said when the government was formed five years ago, there were several doubts in people’s minds and they were not convinced of the smooth functioning of coalition governments at the Centre.

“Because of so many years of experience, they felt if anyone can run the government for five years, it could be only by one party,” he said.

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