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Dam row: Panel trip off, yet no respite for Keshubhai - [September 10,1998] - The Hindustan Times
September 10,1998
New Delhi


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Dam row: Panel trip off, yet no respite for Keshubhai
GANDHINAGAR, Sept. 9 (From Rathin Das)

The World Commission on Dams (WCD) has averted an imminent confrontation with the Gujarat Government by cancelling its proposed visit to the Narmada dam site on Sept. 17. However, it has in the process, robbed the BJP Ministry of deriving immense political advantage a day prior to the State-wide bandh called by the combined Opposition on Sept. 18.

Nevertheless, the Gujarat Legislative Assembly would hold a one-day special session on Friday to condemn what the State politicians perceive as an ulterior motive to delay the multi-crore dam project on river Narmada.

A high-powered ministerial delegation led by Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel has already air-dashed to Delhi to apprise the Prime Minister of the mood in the State in view of the World Commission on dam's proposed visit to the Narmada dam site.

The delegations is also likely to impress upon the Centre not to allow the WCD to hold its public hearings even in Bhopal as it may jeopardise the case of the dam currently under litigation in the Supreme Court.

Although all hues of political opinions in Gujarat are united in opposing any move to scuttle or delay the construction of the Narmada dam, the six-month-old BJP Government had sought to utilise the issue primarily to defuse the imminent crisis due to the call for a State-wide bandh on Sept. 18 given by the combined opposition m protest against the unprecedented rise in the price of groundnut oil which hovered around Rs 950 per tin of 15 kg.

The BJP's planned demonstrations and possible arrest of the WCD team, as threatened by the Chief Minister, on their visit here on Sept. 17 would have definitely given the State Government sufficient mileage to negate the impact of the bandh on the next day, at least partially.

Even though former Chief Minister Sankersinh Vaghela's Rashtriya Janata Party had extended its support to the BJP Government in opposing the visit of the WCD delegation, the maverick leader had made it clear that the Opposition combine would go ahead with the bandh on the oil price rise issue irrespective of the all-party unity on the dam question.

With the cancellation of the proposed visit of the WCD team to the State, the BJP Ministry has lost the raison de etre of its aggressive posture and the combined opposition is most likely to pursue its Sept. 18 bandh programme more vigorously.