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November 21, 1997


UF letter ready; Gujral authorised to send it to Kesri

George Iype in Delhi

As the Congress tottered, the United Front today hardened its stand that the question of dropping the Dravida Munnetra Kazagham from the Inder Kumar Gujral ministry did not arise.

After two long core committee meetings, the UF finalised its reply, rejecting the Congress demand. But, instead of dashing off the letter to Congress president Sitaram Kesri, the core committee ''authorised'' Gujral to do so.

This has come as surprise to many political observers who expected prompt action after the core committee meetings, where the UF constituents were in a ''combative mood''.

The Congress made this demand following the Jain Commission report (see table, comparing findings with the action taken report, indicting the DMK ministers for their involvement in Rajiv Gandhi's assassination in 1991).

The UF's pro-DMK campaign was led primarily by two key constituents, the Janata Dal and the Communist Party of India. Their leaders lambasted the Congress and vociferously ruled out the question of dumping the DMK from the government.

''The Congress is trying to take us for a ride. We are not worried about the survival of the UF government. But the Congress is a worried party because a mid-term poll will affect its own survival,'' CPI general secretary A B Bardhan told Rediff On The NeT.

Bardhan and other Front leaders ruled out any patch-up with the Congress on the DMK issue. Karnataka Chief Minister J H Patel expressed similar views. ''Elections will inflict injury on the Congress, not on the UF,'' he said even as the alliance's firm stand triggered off intense speculation.

The focus is no longer on Gujral's survival. But on what will happen if the government falls -- whether there will be a fresh attempt at forming a government or will there be a mid-term election?

Gujral's colleagues are now advising the prime minister to follow the script of his JD predecessors V P Singh and H D Deve Gowda: to seek a vote of confidence and force a discussion on the Jain Commission report in Parliament.

''If there is a no-confidence motion, Gujral will tear apart the Congress by presenting the startling links between the Congress and the LTTE,'' a senior JD leader told Rediff On The NeT.

In April, before he stepped down, then prime minister Deve Gowda mounted a blistering attack on the Congress. Blasting the party's ''zest for power'', Deve Gowda had described Kesri as ''an old man in a hurry''.

The JD leader said Gujral will effectively counter the Congress allegations against the DMK in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case.

While fingers are being pointed at the DMK and its president, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi for aiding and abetting the LTTE, the prime minister will tell Parliament that it was actually Congress leaders Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi who were responsible for training and financing LTTE militants in the country.

Gujral is expected to remind the Congress that, during their regimes, the Research and Analysis Wing invited LTTE chief Prabhakaran to set up camps and operate from Tamil Nadu. The Indian army was ''given charge of training the Tigers''.

The UF constituents were today busy discussing this strategy to discredit the Congress which is expected to face flak for not taking any action on the Justice Thakkar Commission report on the Indira Gandhi assassination. The report had pointed an accusing finger at her secretary R K Dhawan, now a Congress leader.

In any case, the UF today seemed ''fatalistic'' even as some leaders said they would rather go down fighting. In turn, they expect a lot of political mileage out of the crisis.

Meanwhile, both Houses of Parliament were adjourned today.

No business was transacted with Congress members demanding the ouster of DMK ministers from the UF government.

In the Lok Sabha, Deputy Speaker Suraj Bhan adjourned the House within six minutes, following noisy scenes and shouting and counter-shouting of slogans between Congress and DMK members.

In the Rajya Sabha, it began with senior Congress MP Syed Sibte Razi trying to raise the issue of the Jain Commission report.

Vice-President and Rajya Sabha Chairman Krishna Kant adjourned the House at this stage.

As soon as the Lok Sabha was called to order, Bharatiya Janata Party member Harin Pathak and his party colleagues made a noisy bid to raise the subject of India-born Kalpana Chawla going into space on board the US space shuttle. But it was lost in the din.

DMK members rushed into the aisle of the treasury benches to counter the vociferous Congress members. They were heard asking Congress members whether they were ready to discuss the truth of the Jain Commission report on Rajiv Gandhi's assassination.

The deputy speaker's pleas to allow Question Hour went unheard as both blocks shouted at each other. The chair reminded the House that the special session of Parliament two months ago had resolved not to raise slogans inside the House and ensure smooth passage of Question Hour.

At one point, the deputy speaker was heard pleading with Congress leader Sharad Pawar to pacify his party colleagues. But Pawar did not oblige.

The chair then adjourned the House till Monday.

Additional reportage: UNI

UF's tough stand sends Congress scurrying for cover
'We have to face a choice between nationalism and anti-nationalism'
Evasive exercises

Only a miracle will save Gujral
Tamil Congressmen sling mud at each other over Jain report
'How can Congress support Rajiv's killers?' says CPP secretary Prithviraj Chavan
Jain Commission fallout: Political equations get even more complex in Tamil Nadu
We are not going to own up responsibilty for a crime which we had not committed: Karunanidhi
The main observations of the Jain Commission interim report
Action taken report on Jain findings short on action
Militant Congress MPs may seal Gujral's fate
UF softening stand on DMK
JPC to bail out Gujral
Reprieve for Gujral
UF parties warn Gujral against dumping DMK
Gujral may face serious trouble: Sonia aides
Congress calls MPs's meet on Jain panel
Gupta takes Congress to task
Kesri's ultimatum shocks UF
UF buys time with denial
Naidu-Moopanar-Karunanidhi meet spurs speculation
UF sits on 'time-bomb'
Govt will ask Jain panel to provide evidence
Jain report will have serious implications: Congress
Jain panel interim report indicts Karunanidhi, V P Singh, Chandra Shekhar

The leaked report does not feature my testimony before the Jain panel, but before another court: R Nagarajan
No action will follow the Jain Commission report: Aladi Aruna

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