Friday, April 16, 2010

PC sticks to tough line on Naxals, Cong rallies behind

TNN, Apr 16, 2010, 01.00am IST

NEW DELHI: Home minister P Chidambaram on Thursday defied in-house criticism to stick to his toughspeak on naxalism, exhorting the political class to dump "romantic notions about naxalites", and asserting that he had support of both Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

His strong reply to a debate in Parliament, triggered as much by Dantewada massacre as by voices of dissent from Congress party, also signalled that the Congress leadership was not contemplating any abrupt course correction in the aftermath of the latest naxal savagery leading to the killing of 76 policemen.

The killing of policemen marked a setback to the home minister, and the subsequent public criticism by Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh and former Union minister Manishankar Aiyar had raised doubts whether Chidambaram would be allowed to stay the course.

His reference to Congress chief, who was present in the House, was particularly significant in view of the perception in certain Congress quarters that Digvijay Singh merely reflected the party leadership's discomfort on the undiminished violence.

There were other indications of leadership's continued backing for him. In the Rajya Sabha, Congress general secretary Janardan Dwivedi, in response to jibes from the Opposition over the feuding in Congress, described Digvijay Singh's criticism as the "opinion of an individual". Likewise, party managers did not let Manishankar Aiyar, former Union minister who had publicly supported Digvijay Singh, speak on behalf on the party, citing a technicality which could have easily been negotiated.

The home minister showed little sign of any re-think. He countered the charge that he had made any deviation from Congress's stand, asserting that the Centre's response was in line with the Congress policy spelt out by an AICC resolution in 2006.

The home minister said the resolution, even as it underlined socio-economic factors, had counselled a tough approach to rising Maoist threat.

Under fire from partymen for being over-aggressive, Chidambaram's anchoring of anti-naxal policy in Congress resolution and his statement that the PM and were with him.

Importantly, Sonia sat through the debate and marshalled the resources. When BJP's Yashwant Sinha slammed the Centre for laxity in Dantewada and later said the naxal problem started with UPA compromising with the outlaws in Andhra Pradesh for electoral gains, Congress chief was seen directing the MPs to give it back on accountability of BJP regime in naxal states.

The debate, however, also showed Congress adopting the traditional approach of being the umbrella accommodating rival views. In sharp contrast to Chidambaram, the speakers fielded by the ruling party virtually echoed the views of AICC general secretary Digvijay Singh sans the personal comments about home minister.
Charan Das Mahant and Keshava Rao from naxal hotbeds of Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh were the main speakers and they called for a holistic approach of talks, police action and tribal-friendly development.

Mahant did the Congress work as he made a strong bid to insert the Raman Singh regime in the frame to blunt the attack on Centre after Dantewada massacre.

Mahant accused Raman Singh regime of striking deals with naxalites for protection of contractors and industrialists, and for help in elections.

Mahant said the ruling party won 11 of 12 assembly seats in Bastar, while son of an MP and a BJP leader were killed after they did not fulfill their poll-time commitment to naxalites.

He said the state had taken away tribal-friendly system by allowing contractors in collection of tendu leaves, IMFL liquor in place of letting tribals to brew their own. He said the decision to pay contractors 12% money above the contract agreements was the government paying cuts to naxalites. "How is it that no naxalite bullet has hit an industrialist till date," he asked to buttress his charge that the state was hand in glove with naxalites.

Rao made a strong case for empowerment, quoting Rahul Gandhi, as he urged talks with Maoists even if it did not ensure the disbanding of naxal outfits. "We realise this, we are conscious of this, yet we need to do it because it is our responsibility, we have been elected for that," he said.

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