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Since 1st March, 1999
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NDA lines up multi-pronged strike

New Delhi, June 2: Praise yesterday, censure today — both from the same camp.

A day after the Swadeshi Jagran Manch, a Sangh parivar affiliate, lauded the ruling coalition for bringing out a people-friendly common minimum programme, the National Democratic Alliance launched an attack on the document and the government’s “ambiguous” stand on diplomacy, internal security and tainted ministers.

Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee said there was a “lot of difference” between the United Progressive Alliance’s agenda for governance and the programme (CMP), but did not elaborate. He apparently left the job to Jaswant Singh, the BJP leader in the Rajya Sabha, and NDA convener George Fernandes, who later trashed the document.

Asked about the praise showered on the CMP by the Manch, Fernandes said: “I don’t think I can make a judgement on their view. One should respect their views.”

Armed with two documents — one talked about “prescription for regression” and the other a comparative study of the NDA agenda and the CMP — the former Union ministers held a news conference to attack the government on a range of issues.

Singh said the CMP was drafted hurriedly after the elections and made a lot of promises for economic development, but there was no clarity on where the funds would come from.

“The promise of 100 days of employment to all is an admirable suggestion. But it would be useful if it is clarified where the money will come from,” the BJP leader said.

The NDA leaders said the promise on the employment front was “doomed to fail for the simple reason that the panchayats and municipal bodies, which alone can take up public works, are starved of resources”.

Questioning the new government’s stand on divestment, Singh said: “Our experience says you can’t find buyers for PSUs which do not earn money.” He also dismissed the notion that the disinvestment ministry was being disbanded.

“What I understand, it is going back to where it originally belonged to, that is the finance ministry,” he said.

Fernandes said all the NDA MPs will march to Rashtrapati Bhavan tomorrow and present a memorandum “with all available evidence” to President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam against the tainted ministers. Fernandes refused to say whether the memo would ask for the dismissal of the ministers in question.

Singh also slammed external affairs minister Natwar Singh’s statements on ties with Pakistan and asked the government to clarify whether his prop- osal for a “common nuclear doctrine” was a “fanciful individual notion”.

The former finance minister said if it was a “personal view or fanciful outpourings”, he had no problems. But if there is a “serious intent”, some “elaboration” is expected.

Some of the other points raised by the NDA document were:

The new government was stalling the river-linking project and made no mention of the national highway project and the rural roads schemes initiated by Vajpayee

Although the Congress-led alliance termed itself “progressive”, it is being supported from outside by parties that call themselves “revolutionary”

The financial health of the state governments is precarious. Many of them use development funds to pay staff salaries

The CMP does not recognise the need to bridge the rural-urban divide, much less, propose any specific programme like the provision of urban amenities in rural areas

It does not mention droughts, which have plagued the country for decades

It does not even recognise the need to reform agri markets and remove internal trade barriers

It does not have a single policy or pragmatic measure to boost exports

It has no mention of airport, civil aviation and biotechn- ology and only casually treats the two fast growing sectors — telecom and information technology

While NDA strategists are planning to intensify the campaign against the government’s policies inside and outside Parliament, Vajpayee said his party would play the role of a “constructive Opposition” and its members would not indulge in unruly actions in the House.

Talking to reporters outside Parliament, the former Prime Minister, who was yesterday elected chairperson of the BJP parliamentary party, reminisced on his days in the Opposition. “Old days are back,” he said.

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