The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Cong readies House ammo on Gujarat

New Delhi, Nov. 16: The Congress plans to corner the Atal Bihari Vajpayee regime on Gujarat, national security, disinvestment and the draught situation in several states when Parliament’s winter session begins on Monday.

The party is working on a strategy to bring an adjournment motion on disinvestment and get the support of other Opposition parties like the Left, the Samajwadi Party, the Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Nationalist Congress Party. The pro-reforms lobby within the Congress has been vetoed with Sonia Gandhi deciding to oppose sale of all profit-making public sector undertakings.

Gujarat is set to dominate the session. The Congress’ political affairs committee met tonight to discuss the attack on the Swaminarayan temple. The party wants to link the attack with the decline in national security. It has also decided to go all out against chief minister Narendra Modi and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s plans to defy the ban on its Vijay Yatra.

Speaker Manohar Joshi has convened a meeting of party leaders tomorrow to set norms for smooth business in the House but indications are that the session will be marred by adjournments, walkouts and stalemates.

Buoyed by the success in Kashmir, where the Congress formed a coalition with the People’s Democratic Party, Sonia hopes to lead from the front. “You will see a different Sonia in the Lok Sabha. There will be greater participation and more interventions from the leader of the Opposition,” said a party leader.

The Congress is also keen to continue its boycott of defence minister George Fernandes. Towards the end of the monsoon session, the Opposition had come closer to ending the stalemate on Fernandes, but now the two sides are back to their hostile positions.

The Samajwadi plans to focus on the political situation in Uttar Pradesh and drag in the role of Governor Vishnu Kant Shastri. The debate over Uttar Pradesh may again see the Samajwadi criticising the Congress along with the Centre. Mulayam Singh Yadav is unhappy with the Congress for not doing “enough” to ensure the fall of the Mayavati regime.

The ruling NDA coalition has taken steps to guard its flanks and see that no constituent embarrasses the government on thorny issues like disinvestment or Gujarat. Vajpayee’s appeal to the VHP to honour the Election Commission’s order is being seen as a move to keep the “secular” allies in good humour.

Candidates’ list

The Congress tonight cleared the names of 140 candidates for the 182-member Gujarat Assembly going to polls on December 12. The final list will be released within a day, Congress general secretary Kamal Nath said.

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