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Home > News > PTI

Gujjar row: PM discusses crisis with oppn

June 02, 2007 14:05 IST
Last Updated: June 02, 2007 14:37 IST

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As caste rioting broke out in Rajasthan on the fifth consecutive day, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Leaders of Opposition L K Advani and Jaswant Singh met on Saturday to discuss ways to defuse the crisis in the Bharatiya Janata Party-ruled state.

The BJP leaders drove down to 7, Race Course Road, a day after the Prime Minister spoke to his predecessor Atal Bihari Vajpayee about unrest in Rajasthan.

BJP chief Rajnath Singh told media persons that the prime minister had emphasised that restoration of order in the state was an immediate concern.

The prime minister, Rajnath said, also mentioned that all efforts should be made for the release of dead bodies from the possession of protesters in the state for their funeral.

"He (the prime minister) said restoration of peace has to be a top priority. It should be restored in any case," the BJP chief said.

The BJP leaders, however, made no demands from the prime minister during their discussions over Rajasthan.

The BJP chief also ruled out the possibility of replacement of Chief Minister Vasundhra Raje, whose handling of the Gujjar protests has come in for criticism from BJP leaders like Jaswant Singh and Saheb Singh Verma.

He also rebutted news reports that the party's top brass had summoned Raje to Delhi.

Rajnath said demands of Gujjars for classification of the community as a Scheduled Tribe would be considered 'sympathetically.'

"But the priority now is restoration of peace. The chief minister is in constant touch with us and talks with different groups are on," he added. 

In a bind because of the face off between Meenas, who make up 12 per cent of the state's population, and two per cent Gujjars over reservations, the BJP government in Rajasthan is engaged in dialogue with community leaders to restore order in the state.

A senior party leader, who requested anonymity, said Raje had been informed about the 'unease' among the Gujjars some eight months ago over her unkept election promise to work for their classification as a scheduled tribe.

Meenas' fierce resistance to any moves to include Gujjars in the ST category has landed the ruling BJP in a Catch-22 situation as it believes it would fall out of either community in the event of taking any stand at this juncture.

Some BJP leaders supportive of Raje have begun suggesting that Gujjars' classification as a scheduled tribe was not part of the party's election manifesto.

"She could have spoken about it in some Gujjar pockets during campaign. But there was no mention of any such thing in the BJP's manifesto," a BJP leader claimed.

However, Raje's critics, the sources said, do want her removal as chief minister.

Earlier this year, a group of BJP leaders from Rajasthan complained to the party chief about Raje's style of functioning.

"Her critics, whether in Delhi or in Rajasthan, would now certainly want Raje removed from the chief minister's post. But the explosive situation in the state does not warrant any such step," a party source said.

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