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Cong, Mayavati clash over Indira plot

Lucknow, Sept. 19: Uttar Pradesh Congress workers are up in arms against chief minister Mayavati’s decision to annex a 25-acre plot set aside for the Indira Gandhi Pratishthan and merge it with her pet Ambedkar Park project in Lucknow’s premium Gomti Nagar area.

While Congress chief Sonia Gandhi has sought Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s intervention, hundreds of party workers today staged violent demonstrations at the disputed site.

“All of us respect Dr Ambedkar. But this doesn’t mean that Mayavati should denigrate other national leaders. We will fight the move with all our might,” said state unit chief Arun Kumar Singh Munna.

Congress workers have decided to launch a state-wide agitation to press for the return of the land allotted to the Pratishthan by the N.D. Tiwari government in 1989. The agitation will be marked by rallies in all districts.

An emergency meeting of the party's state executive this evening urged Congressmen from all over the state to reach Lucknow on September 30 for a protest march to Vidhan Bhavan.

An unfazed Mayavati has refused to return the plot and has offered to give another instead. She acknowledged that AICC treasurer Motilal Vora had written to her protesting against the takeover but said the Congress did not think the land was suitable for building the Pratishthan. “The Congress itself considered the land so bad that it did not think it fit to construct the Pratishthan since N.D. Tiwari laid the foundation stone in 1989.”

Vora denied the charge, saying: “I myself had released nearly Rs 8 crore for development of the parthisthan in my capacity as the Governor of the state in 1993.The boundary walls were erected and construction work also got under way but successive governments did not evince much interest in the project.”

The Congress has rejected Mayavati’s offer of land at another site. “Diverting the land earmarked for memorial to one national leader for memorial to another political leader is not only illegal but also unethical,” legislature party deputy leader Jagdambika Pal said.

Pal said while his party was seeking legal opinion to challenge the decision in court, the government had forcibly moved in, bulldozing the Pratishthan’s boundary wall and removing the foundation stone.

Former Governor Romesh Bhandari also joined the scrap, demanding that the Mayavati government make public all relevant papers to establish the charge that he had approved utilisation of the allotted area for a different purpose. Referring to media reports, Bhandari, who wrote to the chief minister, said he did not recall giving any such order .

Mayavati’s attitude has now turned Congressmen against the controversial Ambedkar Udyan Yojana. Senior leader Pramod Tiwari charged her government with squandering public resources to enforce her political agenda. Quoting a report of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India, he said Mayavati had allotted astronomical sums for the project from the chief minister’s contingency fund.

Political observers feel that Mayavati’s move might force the state Congress to join hands with Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, who recently described the Ambedkar Udyan as “aiyyashee ka adda” (a den of vice) and demanded a CBI enquiry into the project.

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