Saturday, May 31, 2003, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

Govt vacillating on Pak: Sonia
S. P Sharma
Tribune News Service

Srinagar, May 30
Ms Sonia Gandhi, Congress president, said today that the BJP-led NDA government’s policy on Pakistan lacked clarity, consistency and conviction. It has vacillated from one extreme to another. She said that the Congress has been clear and unwavering and we have all along believed that diplomatic channels and doors of dialogue with Pakistan should always be kept open and active.

Congress President Sonia Gandhi with the Chief Ministers of 15 Congress-ruled states
Congress President Sonia Gandhi with the Chief Ministers of 15 Congress-ruled states in Srinagar on Friday. — PTI photo

Ms Gandhi, who inaugurated the fifth conclave of the Chief Ministers of 15 Congress-ruled states here, speaking on the initiative towards Pakistan taken by Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, said that despite contradictions in the stand of the Centre on Pakistan, we would continue to extend broad and sustained support to the Centre on matters of national security, cross-border terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir and on Indo-Pak relations.

There will be no flagging in our determination to defeat terrorism. Cooperation, collaboration and contact across political, economic and other social fronts must be fostered and kept going. We were criticised for this by the BJP in all recent Assembly election campaigns, but our stand has been vindicated.

Describing the meeting of the Chief Ministers here as of profound significance, Ms Gandhi said our presence here reciprocates in small measure the faith that people had reposed in the democratic process and it also reflected how deeply we felt for them.

She said that together with the PDP and other allies, the Congress was committed to bringing J&K back on the path of enduring peace, amity and development. The dialogue for normalcy should be held with sincerity, transparency and a sense of purpose and we believe very strongly in the need to interact with all sections of society here.

Substance and style of the dialogue should inspire confidence that the process of reconciliation had begun in right earnest.

She said that we would make generous efforts that quotas for students of J&K and migrants are set aside in colleges, universities and technical institutions in the Congress-ruled states. Punjab, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh have already come out with such offers.

Election mode: On elections Ms Gandhi said that she was confident that we would overcome the so-called anti-incumbency syndrome in four of the five Congress-ruled states where Assembly elections are forthcoming. In these states the Congress has record of achievements that have to be projected and propagated by everyone of us.

She was hopeful that people of these states would give the Congress renewed hallmark of Congress administration.

Ms Gandhi said that taking advantage of the presence of the Chief Ministers here, the election strategies for these states would be discussed later in the evening.

She emphasised that the victory in these polls would need united effort and coordination between the state governments and the party’s machinery.

Ms Gandhi complimented Rajasthan Chief Minister, Ashok Gehlot, for tackling attempts of the VHP to disturb harmony and amity in the state. With elections around the corner, we cannot afford to slacken vigil for this is the time when the merchants of hate get overactive to polarise society.

Enemies of amity are everywhere and in every community. They have to be dealt with ruthlessly. She called for the setting up of district-level peace committees to take care of this aspect.

Ms Gandhi extended a special welcome to Himachal Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, to the council of Congress Chief Ministers and without naming the BJP said that the people of Himachal rejected the efforts of our political adversaries to communalise the campaign.

She said that the people of Himachal had showed the way to the rest of the country.

Ms Gandhi stressed the need for taking some bold initiatives to manage special problems of drought-prone and rain-fed regions. These regions required a Maharashtra type employment guarantee scheme.

Spelling out priorities of the party, Ms Gandhi said that we would strengthen the foundations of our agriculture by giving the farmers better seeds, assured irrigation, reliable power, cheaper credit, remunerative prices and adequate insurance. We will focus on the creation of productive employment opportunities both in organised and unorganied sectors. The investment momentum in economy, especially in the manufacturing industry and infrastructure like power and water would be revived and we would launch massive food for work programme, a national employment guarantee scheme and make sure that the public distribution system provides adequate security to the poor, particularly the destitute.

She said that the burden of the grave financial crisis is being felt by the poor.

Stressing for austerity in the Congress ruled states, Ms Gandhi stressed the need for institutionalising code of austerity which she had already sent.

Size of ministry: She said that the Chief Ministers should consider laws for limiting the size of the Council of Ministers in their states.

She said that unlike the dilution by the BJP led NDA government, the Congress will support the order of the Supreme Court order for compulsory declaration of assets by the candidates.

Besides 15 Chief Ministers, senior members of the AICC are also participating in the conclave.

Earlier, Ms Gandhi was received at the airport by Chief Minister, Mufti Sayeed and Deputy Chief Minister, Mangat Ram Sharma.

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