PM assures state on Narmada
By A Staff Reporter
AHMEDABAD: Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee on Thursday assured the people of Gujarat that if returned to power the National Democratic Alliance would resolve the controversial Narmada project issue on the lines of the Cauvery settlement through negotiations with the other three states concerned Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Rajasthan.
Addressing an election meeting at Memnagar in the Gandhinagar Lok Sabha constituency from where Union home minister L K Advani is contesting, Mr Vajpayee regretted that due to stiff opposition from the Congress-ruled states, the Narmada project, which could prove to be a lifeline for the state, was caught in bitter legal wrangles even as large areas of the state were in the grip of an acute shortage of drinking water.
He exuded hope that once elected the new government would accord priority to the project, as we did in the case of Cauvery, by inviting chief ministers of states concerned. As a result of the accord, water from the Cauvery was now quenching the thirst of millions. The rehabilitation of the project affected persons (PAPs), which has been a bone of contention for long would also be settled amicably among the states concerned, he announced.
This is for the first time that the prime minister has given such a categorical statement on Narmada, perhaps, sensing the mood of the people on account of drinking water shortage. The assurances by Mr Vajpayee was applauded by the not-so-large gathering.
Mr Vajpayee said it was unfortunate that differences among states and warring groups had often dragged many a river project into controversy. And, this, he felt, was at the cost of national interest. Our efforts would be to settle such water disputes through negotiations across the table, as we did successfully in case of the Cauvery water dispute, he said.
Mr Vajpayee lashed out at the Congress for making charges of inept handling of the Kargil crisis against the government, saying that such a campaign would adversely affect the moral of the armed forces, and that it would only encourage Pakistan to escalate further the problem.
He further said, Our relations with Pakistan could improve only when it reciprocated our gesture of peace, and, not otherwise. He criticised the terrorism unleashed by Pakistan in border states. Pakistan would have to change its offensive posture if it wished peace in the sub-continent, he observed. After flushing out intruders from Kargil, the forces could have crossed the LoC but refrained as India was wedded to peace and not the hatred like that of our neighbour. He claimed that after independence, India had received tremendous support from world nations for effectively and diplomatically dealing with Pakistani aggression.
Mr Vajpayee said a pro-NDA wave was sweeping across the country and people of the state would not lag behind in this march to victory. The NDA government would also accord high-priority to provide safe drinking water, health care and education for all.
Union home minister L K Advani alleged that the Congress, realising the ground reality of defeat in the election, had changed its stand on single-party government and had favoured a coalition instead.
He said the Congress was in a bad shape, and, therefore, its leaders had resorted to making irresponsible statements against the ruling party.
Split in the Congress, Ms Gandhis foreign origin and Kargil victory were some of the vital issues on which the people would base their verdict in favour of the NDA, he said.