The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Delhi stops Digvijay Canada trip

Bhopal, May 9: The Centre has denied Madhya Pradesh chief minister Digvijay Singh permission to travel to Vancouver for an international meet on Dalits.

Digvijay said he was disappointed but would abide by the decision of the external affairs ministry. “I do not know the reason,” he added.

As chief minister, Digvijay is required to get the Centre’s approval to represent the country at international fora. He can, of course, travel on a private passport but has ruled that out.

Sources in the external affairs ministry said permission was denied because the organisation in Canada hosting the meet was found not to have a “very good standing”. The Association for the International Dalit Conference (Vancouver), which is organising the meet, was set up as a non-profit society in British Columbia in January 2003.

The Digvijay camp privately alleged that politics could be behind the travel restriction as the BJP did not want the chief minister’s stock to go up before the November Assembly elections.

Another explanation was that the Centre was keen to avoid a controversy on the casteism-racism issue that dominated a UN-sponsored conference at Durban last year. The Vancouver meet will debate whether casteism and untouchability can be equated with racism.

The chief minister refused to be drawn into a controversy, saying he was opposed to “discrimination in all shapes and forms”.

Apart from Digvijay, former President K.R. Narayanan, Union minister of state for social empowerment Sanjay Paswan and MPs Buta Singh and Ram Vilas Paswan were scheduled to attend the meet. Narayanan is not going on grounds of ill-health.

Sources said Paswan has also been denied permission by the Centre.

Starting on May 16, the meet is to discuss Digvijay’s Dalit Agenda — Bhopal Declaration — which is praised in the organisers’ website. The BJP last month adopted its own agenda for Dalits, called the Mhow Declaration.

“Our International Dalit Conference on Dalit Vision for the 21st Century is planned at very strategic time and place. India is going to face general elections in 2004. Every major political party is bound to concede to Dalits’ demands in order to seek their votes. This conference will draft a document and pressure national political parties to adopt our Dalit agenda,” the website says.

CM guns for Jaitley

Digvijay criticised Union law minister Arun Jaitley for releasing a document that ranked Madhya Pradesh at the bottom of states on performance. Jaitley had cited a document that its sponsor, the CII, had not made public, the chief minister said.

“What is worse is that he (Jaitley) has quoted selectively from a report prepared from data of the period that does not coincide with the tenure of the government.”

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