M A I N   N E W S

More heat on Patil, PM calls meeting
Anita Katyal
Our Political Correspondent

New Delhi, September 16
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has convened a special Cabinet meeting tomorrow evening to review the internal security situation in the country following growing criticism that the UPA government has been reduced to a helpless spectator in the light of the recent spate of terror strikes and the violent attacks on minorities in BJP-ruled states.

Worried over this growing public perception, railway minister and RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav had asked the PM to convene an emergency meeting of the Cabinet to discuss terrorism when he met him yesterday to convey his concern over the deteriorating internal security situation.

UPA ministers, however, maintain that the ruling coalition is hamstrung by the present legal framework on Centre-state relations. The Congress, on its part, is struggling to come out with an effective political response to these violent incidents.

With the BJP building up a campaign against the UPA government for being soft on terror, panic-stricken Congress leaders are mounting pressure for the removal of home minister Shivraj Patil on the plea that he has been ineffective in handling terror strikes. This, they believe, will blunt the opposition attack and also send out a message that the government is acting decisively on this important matter.

“The Congress is seriously concerned about terrorism and expects the government of India to act strongly,” remarked AICC general secretary Digivijay Singh, reflecting the mood in the party. Although Singh did not openly seek Patil’s resignation, the message was quite clear. “Law and order is the responsibility of state governments. In Delhi, it is handled directly by the Centre. When something goes wrong, the responsibility starts with the police commissioner and moves upwards,” he added.

Terror strikes apart, the UPA government has also to contend with the serious problem of growing communal violence in Orissa and Karnataka as Sangh Parivar outfits like the Bajrang Dal and the VHP are deliberately attacking Christians and vandalising churches in an apparent attempt at polarising society in the run-up to the coming elections. Here again, Patil has been at the receiving end of his party colleagues and allies for not being tough with the state governments concerned.

UPA ministers, however, argue that the Centre is quite helpless in such cases. “Law and order is a state subject and it is for the state police to take action. Short of sending in troops what can we do,” said a harassed UPA minister, adding that the only two instruments available to the Centre are under Articles 355 and 356.

The first, he said, is a mere advisory to the states to get their house in order while the second calls for the imposition of Central rule. Although minsiter of state Prithviraj Chavan, who is also AICC general secretary in charge of Karnataka, has given a report to PM suggesting President’s rule, it is unlikely to meet the approval of UPA allies.

While the Centre finds itself handicapped, the Congress has asked all its state leaders in Karnataka to fan out to the affected areas to counter the Sangh Parivar’s “divisive agenda”.



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