The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Baby boom debate & firefight
- BJP dusts 2-child norm, takes glare off minorities

New Delhi, Sept. 11: BJP president M. Venkaiah Naidu has 'advised' party chief ministers to help control population by propagating the two-child norm 'uniformly' among all sections of society.

Addressing a conference of BJP chief ministers here today, Naidu termed the rise in population as a 'national challenge' and added that he prefers a policy of 'incentives and disincentives' to curb it. He sought a public debate on the issue.

But the BJP chief was keen to allay the impression that he had sought to communalise the latest census data which initially suggested substantially higher growth among Muslims compared to Hindus but was later rectified. Naidu said he looks at the problem in its entirety and not at any particular social section.

'Is it a crime to talk about population control' Any person or party not paying attention to the problem is doing disservice to the nation. There can be no progress till population growth is controlled. If there are imbalances in growth, there are going to be problems considering the country's make-up,' Naidu said.

Former deputy Prime Minister .K. Advani said at the conference that the BJP was not trying to communalise the population rise. 'Why is it seen as communalism when we speak about it' If we talk about the national flag, that is also seen as communal,' he said.

Naidu said he was against the use of coercive family planning because of the notoriety such measures earned during the Emergency.

But BJP chief ministers did not appear enthused by the idea. Rajasthan's Vasundhara Raje said all states should enforce a two-child norm while her counterparts from Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh felt it was 'enough' to legislate it at the panchayat level, saying the time was not 'ripe' to have a law for MLAs and MPs. Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, whose 'hum panch, hamare pachees' dig at Muslims attracted flak, kept quiet.

The conference of Goa, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand chief ministers was called to discuss issues of governance, challenges, Centre-state relations, population and preservation of cultural heritage.

Naidu was clear that despite acrimony between the Centre and the Opposition, BJP governments would be advised to maintain cordial relations with Delhi, at least for some time.

Asked if BJP chief ministers had complained against the Centre, the party chief said: 'Yes, some complaints of discrimination in flood and drought relief. But as far as we are concerned, our chief ministers will have cordial relations with the Centre because of the mutual inter-dependency.'

He added that he had no problem with the Planning Commission monitoring state governments' spending of central funds, saying: 'There should be a clear idea of how the money is being spent.'

Naidu said if problems arose it would not be because of BJP chief ministers. 'Our conference is taking place at a time when the Congress-led government at the Centre has made it amply clear that its approach towards the Opposition, especially towards the BJP, will be one of confrontation and vendetta. It has no intention of continuing the fine example set by the A.B. Vajpayee government, which treated all the state governments, irrespective of the party or the coalition that led them, with an equal and sympathetic approach,' he said.

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