The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Exit sealed, govt gropes to save face
- Centre to call all-party meet to devise strategy
A boy with his mother after they had to vacate a guesthouse during the sealing drive in Delhi on Thursday. (PTI)

New Delhi, Nov. 9: With all options to stop the sealing of illegal commercial establishments in Delhi’s residential areas exhausted, the Centre is planning an all-party meeting on the issue.

A “fresh strategy” will be evolved at the meeting, Congress leader Kapil Sibal said today after the group of ministers looking into the sealing issue met other cabinet colleagues.

Neither Sibal nor any other Congress leader could explain what the “fresh strategy” might be like but privately Delhi leaders confessed that the real aim is to present a united polity before the Supreme Court, which has been firm that the sealing must go on.

“It is not often that all parties agree on a matter. In this case, if instead of bickering with each other, we go together to the honourable court, they will hopefully realise that almost all the people are behind us,” a Delhi minister said.

Earlier, a veiled threat of law and order problems if sealing was not stopped had only served to stoke the court’s ire, and Sibal did not appear too confident today as he announced the fresh plans.

The decision to seek the support of all parties is in stark contrast to the accusations and counter-accusations that the ruling Congress and the Opposition BJP have traded so far, in the Assembly and on the streets.

Chief minister Sheila Dixit has accused the BJP of provoking violence while the Opposition party has laid all the blame at the door of the Congress, ignoring the fact that many of the illegal structures came up when it controlled the Municipal Corporation of Delhi.

Today, the BJP said it had not received a formal “invitation” yet but would participate in any all-party meeting “in the people’s interest”.

Protests against sealing — carried out again in upscale south Delhi localities along Ring Road — were muted today but traders have called a 24-hour bandh tomorrow.

With three trader leaders — Pravin Khandelwal, Murli Mani and Satish Garg — in preventive detention since late last night, there is a question mark on how effective tomorrow’s bandh will be. Schools have been asked to stay open.

Suicide bid

Forty-two-year-old Satish Kumar, whose garments shop in South Extension was sealed, is battling for life in Safdarjung Hospital’s intensive care unit after he set himself on fire.

As shop after shop — from Ashram Chowk to Lajpat Nagar — was sealed, the capital was abuzz with rumours. SMSes did the rounds claiming — falsely — that a building had collapsed while MCD officials were sealing it.

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