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Advani urges Centre to invoke Article 355 on Nandigram
UNI, Onkar Singh in New Delhi | November 21, 2007 14:15 IST
Last Updated: November 21, 2007 15:25 IST
Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha L K Advani on Wednesday urged the government to issue a set of directions to the West Bengal government on the Nandigram violence under Article 355 of the Constitution (which deals with the duty of the Union government to protect states against external aggression and internal disturbance and to ensure that the state's governance is carried on in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution), and in case of non-compliance, impose President's rule in the Left-governed state.
Initiating discussion on the Nandigram issue under Rule 193, which does not entail voting, in the Lower House, the senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader also urged the Centre to call the state governor and seek a formal report from him on the issue.
He pointed out that West Bengal governor Gopal Krishna Gandhi had described happenings in Nandigram as 'unlawful and unacceptable' while the Calcutta high court termed them 'unconstitutional'. "A senior Central Reserve Police Force official also claimed lack of cooperation from the state government," Advani added. Advani demanded that home ministry should call Governor Gopal Gandhi and ask him how he felt about the situation and ask the state government to follow the directive of the Union government. " If they fail then impose President's Rule in the state," Advani demanded.
He suggested an all-party delegation visit Nandigram to assess the situation on the ground. In the meantime, he said the house and the Union government should seek an official report on the happenings in the violence-scarred areas of West Bengal and decide on the future course of action accordingly.
He also alleged that CPI-M cadres were roaming around Nandigram in police uniform to ensure law and order and allow the smooth functioning of the two houses. He asked that compensation be given to families of all the victims of Nandigram and rape victims be looked after by the state government.
Advani, during his 45-minute speech on the events in Nandigram since March 14, informed the house that during his recent visit to the strife-torn area as the head of a National Democratic Alliance delegation, he had met the governor and impressed upon him to send a formal report to the Centre on the situation there. He said the Centre was empowered to issue directions to the West Bengal government under Article 355 as the governor had already expressed his anguish over the violence calling it 'cold horror'.
At least 14 people had died and over 100 were injured in the police firing at Nandigram on March 14 when the state government tried to quell resistance to the acquisition of land for setting up a chemical hub by an Indonesian company, the Salim Group.
Recounting events leading to the decline of communism in the world, the senior BJP leader claimed Nandigram was going to be the ''turning point'' in the history of Indian communists. "When I first came to the House for the first time, my friends from the Left said that the Sun never sets on Communist rule. Now barring Cuba, China and Russia [Images], all other communist countries are no longer there and I believe Nandigram would be a turning point of the end of communisism in India," he said amidst applause from his party members.
He also recounted with sadness the comment of West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattarcharjee that those in Nandigram had been paid back in their own coin, alluding to the violent recapture of the areas, allegedly by cadre of the ruling Communist Party of India-Marxist.
When the CPI-M members repeatedly objected to the governor being named, CRPF deputy inspector general Alok Raj and former West Bengal finance minister Ashok Mitra by Advani during his long exposition on Nandigram, speaker Somnath Chatterjee promised to look into it.
The Speaker at the same time told Advani not to use published statements of the governor as it was not permissible under rules. He, however, said the BJP leader could use the gist of various statements on the issue.
When Advani tried to build up a case, stating that the governor was their own choice and Ashok Mitra had given his consent to the appointment of Gandhi, the Speaker quipped, "I had also recommended him. I am not ashamed to proclaim that I also wanted Gandhi."
Information and Broadcasting Minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi blamed the BJP-led NDA and the Left parties for the violence. He said the SEZ policy notified by the NDA government in February 2004 was the cause for the unrest over land acquisitions, while the Left front government in West Bengal had ignored the plight of the actual farmers who were tilling the land in Nandigram.
Such isolated incidents in a small area had never lingered for nine months in West Bengal, he said. It was only those who had been affected by the land acquisition notification on Nandigram who had initially launched the agitation, he said.
BJP leader Vijay Kumar Malhotra also pointed out the absence of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh [Images] in the Lok Sabha during Question Hour, saying he had been out of the country during half of the current session.
Requesting Malhotra not to make an issue of it, Speaker Somnath Chatterjee said the prime minister had informed him that he would be going abroad and that he had given him permission.
"He is always present in the house on Wednesdays when questions related to his ministries are taken up," Chatterjee said.