The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Atal dismisses PSU charges

Jodhpur, Nov. 23 (PTI): Atal Bihari Vajpayee today dismissed charges of corruption against six cabinet colleagues accused of “looting” public sector undertakings and said they were free to file defamation cases against those levelling the allegations.

Regretting that some people were making baseless allegations for electoral gains, the Prime Minister cautioned that such tendencies eroded democracy. Addressing a poll rally here, Vajpayee wondered: “Kya yeh chunav ki chaal hai' Jo apradh karega uski jaanch hogi aur saja di jayegi (But is it an election game' Those who commit crimes would be investigated and punished).”

Vajpayee lashed out at the Ashok Gehlot-led Congress government in Rajasthan for “politicising” the Rs 7,000-crore humanitarian drought relief assistance given by the Centre. He said the state administration diverted funds meant for providing drinking water to pay for salaries to its employees. The state should generate its own funds for salaries, he added.

Stating that the Centre had given unprecedented support to Rajasthan which suffered the worst spell of drought in the country, Vajpayee said besides Rs 3,100 crore for distribution of wheat and rice and another Rs 1,954 crore from the National Calamity Fund, the Centre had also waived the state’s loans totalling Rs 442 crore. “I strongly deny the charge that the Centre did not help Rajasthan during drought. Nobody should make such denials, but if false allegations are levelled then I have to refute them.”

Emphasising that “we have not obliged anybody. We have not given any donation. We are custodians of public money and have spent it wisely”, the Prime Minister regretted that the desert state had been left behind in the race for development. “We have resources. We have manpower. Then why can’t India be among developed nations' Whenever I thought about it in my 50 years of parliamentary career I became emotional,” he said, insisting on accountability and transparency in public life.

Vajpayee pointed out that his government was completing its tenure despite predictions by many that it would collapse midway. “We shall come to you for votes in the Lok Sabha elections but that would be next year. Now, it is for Assembly polls and people should ask for accounts from the state government,” he said, alleging that the Rajasthan government had not performed to the desired level and instead politicised relief works.

The Gehlot government, he added, should have the courage to give credit to the Centre for the assistance given by it.

Listing the Centre’s development agenda he said his government’s focus was on electricity and construction of roads for development. “We are correcting the mistakes of the last 50 years,” the Prime Minister said.

At another rally in Ajmer, Vajpayee iterated that six of his ministerial colleagues were unnecessarily being made target of corruption charges by interested parties for political reasons. Calling upon the people to vote for the BJP, he said “we have made Vasundhara Raje the party’s chief ministerial candidate because of her ability and efficiency to shoulder the responsibility of a state like Rajasthan”.

Vajpayee expressed regret that capital investment was not forthcoming in the state where child mortality rate was very high, sex ratio was against girl child and there was rampant unemployment. Saying that the state can leave other states behind in the race for development as it has no dearth of resources, he hoped the scenario would change dramatically after the BJP, led by Raje, comes to power.

The audience, however, missed Vajpayee’s poetry as the Prime Minister did not recite any of his couplets.

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