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Delhi breaks silence to pacify Badal

New Delhi, July 3: Galvanised by talk of the Shiromani Akali Dal pulling out of the ruling bloc, the National Democratic Alliance today swung into action.

Accompanied by NDA convener George Fernandes, Akali chief Parkash Singh Badal today called on deputy Prime Minister .K. Advani to apprise him of the “witch-hunt” launched by the Congress government in Punjab.

Earlier in the day, Advani set the tone for the meeting by publicly condemning the intelligence raids ordered by the Amarinder Singh government against Badal and his family members.

Deploring Amarinder’s “vindictiveness”, Advani said: “Whatever is happening in Punjab is wrong. This is sheer intolerance against opposition and is against the values of democracy.”

He was speaking to reporters after meeting a delegation of senior Akali and BJP leaders that thanked him for making Gurmukhi an official language in Delhi.

“In a democracy, no one in power should resort to any action with a feeling of revenge. There should be no ill will against a party in (the) Opposition as otherwise democracy and federalism will not be effective,” Advani said. He cited the record of the A.B. Vajpayee government, which he said had not resorted to vindictive action against the Opposition since coming to power in 1998.

“Governments go and come, but the path of intolerance is not right,” Advani said. “I have excellent relations with Opposition(-ruled) states and, in fact, my relations are better with the chief ministers of West Bengal and Tripura than with many of the BJP-ruled states.”

The Akali was sore with the Centre for its failure to condemn the state raids against the former chief minister, his relatives and party colleagues.

Badal, considered close to Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, reportedly apprised him of the strong feelings within his party over the Centre’s silence.

The general elections scheduled for next year, Advani’s public statements today were part of the NDA’s strategy to appease the Akalis. The BJP is in no mood to rub allies the wrong way as it wants the NDA flock intact for the coming polls.

BJP spokesman Prakash Javdekar, too, pitched in to soothe the ruffled Akali leadership. “Amarinder Singh’s actions reflect the vindictive attitude of the Congress government in Punjab. There is no place for vindictive politics in a democracy,” he said.

The Congress’ poor showing in the recent Punjab municipal and panchayat polls had made the government nervous and sparked its desire to harass the Akali leadership, Javdekar said.

Amarinder’s similar allegations against BJP chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal during the Himachal Pradesh polls had died a natural death, he said.

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