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|September 28, 1999||
Fernandes carries the electoral battle to north-east
Defence Minister George Fernandes has said several state governments in the north-east want the Armed Forces (special power) Act to remain in force to effectively tackle insurgency in the region.
Kicking off the Samata Party's election campaign for the Outer Manipur constituency last evening, he said. ''All aspects of the related matter will have to be thoroughly examined before taking any decision.''
Reacting to the demand for repeal of the act, he said the provisions of the act were invoked only with the consent of the state government.
Fernandes lambasted the Congress for the alleged failures during the 48 years of its rule and squarely blamed the party for the present disturbed situation in the north-east.
''Development of the region took a back seat during congress regime leading to alarming rise in the number of unemployed youths,'' he charged.
Fernandes emphasised on development of agro-based industries, handlooms and handicrafts in remote and hilly areas where major industries were not feasible. After assuming office as defence minister he had asked officials in his ministry to buy handloom and handicraft products on a priority basis, he claimed, and suggested the idea to some other ministries, including railways. Such a step would provide a ready market to handmade products and generate huge employment, he said, and emphasised tapping the abundant water resources for generation of power.
Fernandes appealed to all political parties and individuals opposed to the Congress to withdraw their candidates from the Outer Manipur constituency to ensure the victory of Samata Party nominee Kim Gangte. He refuted the allegation that the National Democratic Alliance was a combination of communal forces threatening the security of minorities, and asserted that Atal Bihari Vajpayee would be sworn in as prime minister for the third time within two weeks from now with a clear verdict from the electorate.
Later, talking to newsmen, Fernandes said the NDA was a loose organisation with voluntary participation of some friendly parties and hence contests among constituents of the NDA could not be avoided in some seats. He regretted that Manipur also witnessed similar contests among NDA partners in the outer seat where the BJP, Samata Party, Manipur state Congress and Nationalist Congress Party nominees have locked horns.
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