Monday, August 11, 2003, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

Vajpayee throws quota ball in Congress court

Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Rajasthan BJP president Vasundhara Raje Scindia
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Rajasthan BJP president Vasundhara Raje Scindia wave to the crowd at a rally in Jaipur on Sunday. — PTI photo

Jaipur, August 10
Kicking off the BJP’s campaign for Assembly elections in Rajasthan, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee today promised to bring a legislation to provide reservation to the economically backward among forward castes in the current Parliament session, if other parties agreed to support it.

Addressing a rally on the conclusion of the BJP state unit’s ‘parivartan yatra’ at the Amroodon ka Bagh here, Mr Vajpayee took strong exception to the latest pandemonium in Parliament over defence procurement during Kargil operations, saying problems could be solved only by working together and not raising an uproar.

Skipping contentious issues of Hindutva and Ram temple, he chose to highlight the reservation issue, which had become sensitive in Rajasthan following the Ashok Gehlot government’s decision to provide quota in government jobs to the economically backward among forward castes.

The BJP had recently suspended its leader Devi Singh Bhati, leading the Social Justice Front, on the issue.

“If other parties support, we are ready to introduce a constitutional amendment Bill, which requires two-thirds majority in Parliament, on Wednesday when Parliament reopens, but first, we should have the confidence that it will not be defeated,” he told the crowd, which listened to him braving a heavy downpour.

Emphasising the need to resolve the issue before the elections, Mr Vajpayee said the reservation issue should not pit brother against brother and lead to bitterness.

In an apparent show of strength and unity, top leaders of the party's Rajasthan unit including Ms Vasundhara Raje, Mr Gulab Chand Kataria, Mr Ramdas Aggarwal, Mr Ghanshyam Tewari, Mr Subhas Maharia, Mr Kailash Meghwal and Mr Jaskaur Meena were present at the rally.

Rebuffing the state government’s allegation about discrimination in central aid to drought-affected Opposition-ruled states, Mr Vajpayee said the Centre had provided Rs 6,000 crore to Rajasthan alone as drought relief.

“We have to face natural calamities together and not draw political mileage out of it”, he said.

Lamenting the behaviour of the Opposition in Parliament, he said for the BJP party’s interest had never been above national interest. “In democracy, the objective should be to serve the people and not to create social tension”, the Prime Minister said.

Mr Vajpayee said during his 50 years in the Opposition, he had neither dreamt of power nor fought for chair. “We have always looked at power as a means to serve the people, to provide justice, to do welfare, to do good and not to indulge in nepotism or fill coffers”.

Referring to the recent uproar in Parliament and stalling of its proceedings over the Public Accounts Committee report, he said, “in our days, we never created a scene. Now it has become a disease and no one knows who can catch it”.

Hundreds of Social Justice Front activists clashed with BJP youth wing workers and raised slogans, demanding reservation for the poor among upper castes, at the venue of the rally, prompting the police to resort to a lathicharge.

The activists, who entered the ground despite heavy security arrangements, were up on their feet with banners and started shouting slogans as soon as the Prime Minister began his speech.

As the police personnel deployed in strength at the venue asked them to sit down, they became more furious, forcing the police to resort to a mild lathicharge, a senior official said.

The police personnel were seen dragging and pushing the activists out of the ground. — PTIBack

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