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Advani showers sops & praise

Itanagar, Nov. 15: Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani today showered praises and funds on Arunachal Pradesh while wrapping up his two-day visit to the state which gave the BJP its first government in the Northeast.

In all, Advani has committed Rs 250 crore for three projects, mobile phone service for all districts of the state by next December and a favourable look into its loan burden.

Arunachal Pradesh became the second northeastern state to benefit from the Centre’s largesse in the past month. Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had, during his three-day recent visit to Nagaland from October 27, announced an economic package of Rs 520 crore, besides launching the Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) CellOne mobile phone service in Kohima.

At a reception hosted in his honour here today, Advani announced Rs 200 crore for the 500-bed referral hospital of which he had laid the foundation stone yesterday, Rs 20 crore for upgrading the Arunachal University and Rs 30 crore for constructing the Assembly building. Advani also said that he would see if the Rs 200 crore loan interest the state had to pay to the Centre could be transformed into a one-time grant.

Acknowledging the “overwhelming” hospitality Arunachal Pradesh had extended to him, Advani, in reply to a memorandum from chief minister Gegong Apang, said he would “ask the ministries looking after the Northeast to ensure speedy completion of projects.” Apang had requested Advani for an assistance of Rs 900 crore to enable the state to be relieved of its loan burden and meet some essential and overdue expenses for ongoing projects.

Advani’s largesse is being viewed as a sop to consolidate the party’s new-found strength in the state. In August, Apang had led an exodus of 38 Arunachal Congress and Congress (D) MLAs to join the BJP to form the first BJP-led government in the region. The party had no legislator in the 60-member Arunachal Assembly till then, but today it has 43 members.

Observers here feel the announcements were more of a temporary palliative rather than anything concrete.

Advani, for example, remained silent on the last point of the memorandum where Apang had mentioned the Chakma-Hajong impasse and urged him to settle the refugees outside the state as that was the popular demand.

He also remained non-committal when former chief minister and Opposition leader Mukut Mithi called upon him yesterday with a similar demand for refugee deportation. When Advani wanted to know about the Congress stand on the issue, Mithi told him that all political parties, students’ organisations and non-governmental organisations had no second opinion other than deportation of the Chakma-Hajong refugees.

Advani, like Vajpayee, also skirted the demand for integration of all Naga-inhabited areas of the Northeast saying there was no political consensus on the issue.

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