NDA lambasts UPA in anti-corruption rally at Guwahati

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) today lambasted the ruling Congress-led United progressive Alliance (UPA)at the Centre over corruption charges, raising questions about the integrity of the ruling party’s chief Sonia Gandhi.

Taking on the government for its alleged rampant corruption, senior BJP leader L K Advani told an anti-corruption rally here, "If all the black money that is stashed away in foreign banks by the corrupt Congress leaders is brought back into the country, then the common man will not have to pay any tax to run the administration for years together."

Linking the escalating prices of essentials to the alleged corruption in the government, Mr Advani said, "Price rise is a direct fallout of the corruption. If the government wants to deny the corruption charges, they must clarify their position and come out clean convincingly."

To elaborate the level of price rise witnessed in the country, Mr Advani cited the instance of shopping malls offering one kg of onions on purchase of clothes worth Rs 1,000.

NDA leader and Janata Dal (United) chief Sharad Yadav, addressing the rally, said, "Price rise has been sown on the grounds of corruption by the Congress."

He also slammed the government for refusing to concede the Opposition demand for a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe into the alleged 2G spectrum allocation scam.

Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj, hitting out at the government for the multiple scams, said, "In 2010, the UPA was rocked by three scams (Commonwealth Games, Adarsh housing society and telecom). But the beginning of the new year brought back the ghost of its old scam, Bofors."

"The Congress sacrificed their scapegoats in the other scams. Now that their ‘first family’s’ name has emerged in Bofors, let’s see what they do now," she said in a reference to Ms Gandhi.

Ms Swaraj’s counterpart in the Rajya Sabha, Arun Jaitley also slammed the government on corruption and price rise charges.

"Prices are rising such that it appears there is some conspiracy involved and it is due to wrong economic policies," he said.

Referring to the multiple scams that rocked the government in the previous year, Mr Jaitley said, "The Congress has nowhere to hide its face."

BJP national president Nitin Gadkari also criticised the government on corruption charges and said his party was committed to exposing the wrongdoings of the UPA.

Other senior NDA leaders, including Shiv Sena and Akali Dal, were also present at the rally. The rally was organised as part of the NDA's nationwide campaign against corruption.


Toll mounts in Assam-Meghalaya ethnic clashes

Tension continued to mount along the Assam-Meghalaya border in Assam’s Goalpara district with the toll in ethnic clashes between Rabhas and Garos rising to five today.

Overnight violence left one Rabha person and a Garo community person dead in Goalpara. The toll is higher on the Meghalaya side.

"Villages were torched during the past night and two more persons were killed in clashes," confirmed Goalpara deputy commissioner P K Goswami over telephone.

"The situation was tense till the forenoon, but is stable now," he


Some miscreants of both communities had been arrested while trying to torch houses, Mr Goswami said.

Curfew continued to be clamped in Dudhnoi, Krishnai, Dhupdhara and Rangajuli Police Station areas of Goalpara district. It had been lifted on the national highway, he said.

Goalpara has been witnessing tension and clashes since the beginning of the New Year between Garos and Rabhas after Garo community people attacked Rabha villages in Meghalaya’s East Garo Hills district in retaliation to an alleged attack on Garos in Goalpara district (Assam). Thousands of people are taking shelter in relief camps in both the states.


BJP attacks Govt. on corruption, price rise, terrorism and governance

BJP President Nitin Gadkari, Lok Sabha Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj, senior party leaders L K Advani, Arun Jaitley and Murali Manohar Joshi lighting the lamp to inaugurate the two-day National Executive meeting of Bhartiya Janata Party in Guwahati on January 8, 2011. UNI PHOTO
BJP President Nitin Gadkari, Lok Sabha Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj, senior party leaders L K Advani, Arun Jaitley and Murali Manohar Joshi lighting the lamp to inaugurate the two-day National Executive meeting of Bhartiya Janata Party in Guwahati on January 8, 2011. UNI PHOTO

The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) today launched a frontal attack on the ruling Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government on the issues of corruption, terrorism, prices and governance and said the people were looking towards it to provide leadership that would translate their aspirations into reality.

"The nation is facing one of the severest crises of leadership," BJP President Nitin Gadkari told the meeting of the National Executive of the party which began in Guwahati, Assam today.

"From sports to civil supplies and telecommunication to civil aviation, UPA-2 has allowed every arena of governance to be exploited by scamsters. And while looters were emptying the government coffers, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was standing guard with his eyes closed and, perhaps, hands tied," Mr Gadkari said.

The BJP President referred to the alleged 2G spectrum scam and the allegations about the Adarsh Housing Society in Mumbai, the conduct of the Commonwealth Games and the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal's report on the Bofors gun deal.

"We have every reason to believe that these scams are not just systemic failures much less any kind of just aberrations. These scams are some kind of a planned loot of national coffers," he said, calling for a Special Investigation Team to probe the Bofors issue.

He wondered why the Government was shying away from appointing a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) to probe the 2G issue, as demanded by the Opposition.

Mr Gadkari listed the various measures taken by the previous BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) Government to fight corruption and ensure transparency and accountability in governance, including the limit on the number of ministers and steps to streamline funding of elections.

He said the BJP had asked all the State Governments headed by it to introduce e-tendering systems and other measures for ensuring clean and corruption-free governance.

The BJP chief said the UPA's track record in fighting terrorism was also extremely poor. He said there was confusion on the Kashmir front and rudderlessness on the Naxal issue.

"While we all in BJP and many of our Chief Ministers are consistently asking for a common strategy and concerted efforts to fight with the Naxalite menace, UPA is speaking in many voices on every terror related issue. Within the ruling party, there are elements who hobnob with the Naxals, pamper those who see India as an encroacher in Jammu and Kashmir and try to play with the sensibilities of the majority community by blowing up the threat of peripheral groups to rake up the so called Hindu terrorism," he said.

He said the "irresponsible utterances" of some UPA leaders were bound to weaken India's case and give a fillip to those from across the border.

"At this juncture, we demand that the government publish the entire data pertaining to terrorist attacks since 2004 and give details of the investigations completed, cases filed and conviction made of the guilty. The nation also seeks information about the relief and rehabilitation measures taken by the government for those who are victims of terror in one way or the other," he said.

On inflation, he alleged that, instead of bringing the prices down, there was an increase in the list of items becoming dearer.

Mr Gadkari accused the Congress of neglecting the development needs of the North-East region and recalled that the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led NDA government had set up a Ministry for the Development of the North-East Region (DONER). He listed the steps the party is taking with regard to the region, against the background of the coming Assembly elections in Assam.

He also talked about the achievements of the various state governments headed by the BJP and their commitment to good governance.

The BJP President hoped the Government would take all necessary steps to build upon the recent visit of United States President Barack Obama to India’s advantage; especially in respect to India’s war against terrorism.

He crititicsed the Government's policy on Pakistan and urged the Government to take a discerning view of "enlightened self-interest" in its interactions with China.

He welcomed the Allahabad High Court verdict on the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title suit and hoped that all sections of society would now help make a grand Ram temple at Ayodhya possible.

Mr Gadkari urged the party to prepare itself for assembly elections in Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry, saying they would give the BJP an opportuity to expand its support base.

"I earnestly appeal to the people of Assam to give BJP a chance. Let me assure them that if we are given an opportunity, our government will not only prevent any further infiltration resolutely but also drive away all those who are not citizens of India and are staying here illegally" he said.

He spoke about the importance of the BJP's stellar performance as part of the NDA's victory in the recent Bihar assembly elections.

"The strike rate of 89% is a historic feat in the annals of India’s electoral history. There are multiple factors that made this success possible and we must understand them. Our State leadership as well as all 'karyakartas' deserve all congratulations for this success. United party organisation, micro-management at the grass root level, right selection of candidates and above all the credibility that we have painstakingly earned on the front of good governance are some of the key factors," he said.

He also said that Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, of the Janata Dal (United), had contributed greatly in this victory of the NDA.

"After we had met at Patna in June last, many of our state units have achieved remarkable success in different elections. In Jammu and Kashmir, in the elections for Ladakh Autonomous Region, for the first time we have a representation with five of our candidates emerging victorious. In Gujarat, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, people have reposed their faith in a big way in the BJP in local elections. In Kerala also we have increased our tally in local elections. Let me also share a sense of satisfaction over noteworthy electoral success achieved by our units in Karnataka and Himachal Pradesh as well as Andaman Nicobar and Dadara Nagar Haveli," he added.


BJP focuses on corruption at National Executive meeting in Guwahati

Incensed over Communications Minister Kapil Sibal's outright rubbishing of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report on 2G spectrum allocation and the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal Order that the Rs 41 crore kickbacks paid to Bofors agents were taxable, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) today launched a broadside against the Government and said the party would thwart all hush-up operations.

The party's National Executive, which started here today, is all set to come up with a resolution on corruption, which according to party sources, will highlight the alleged corruption of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Government and draw up a blueprint to take up the issue both in and outside Parliament, even at the cost of stalling the coming Budget Session.

The Winter Session of the Parliament was entirely washed out without transacting any business.

The leaders attending the conclave aired serious concerns over Mr Sibal's latest stand that the CAG had arrived at an erroneous conclusion that the loss to the exchequer was Rs 1.76 lakh crore and said that, with this development, there would be no compromise at all on their demand for a probe by a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) into the affair.

If there was no loss to the exchequer, the Government must explain why they made DMK's A Raja resign as Communications Minister, they said. They also said Mr Sibal's argument had negated the existence of the CAG, Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), a top BJP leader said.

The party averred that it would not get into the trap of the Congress attempts to divert the issue of corruption and terror and the party would stick to its stand.

The verdict of the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal, that the Rs 41-crore commission paid to Bofors agent Win Chadha and Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi was taxable, has given the BJP a big stick to hit a combative Congress with at the two-day meeting taking place in this picturesque city on the banks of the Brahmaputra.

With the Congress dumping the 2G spectrum issue, the BJP has caught on to the age-old Bofors issue which got revived by the ITAT order which directly links with the Bofors agents -- Win Chadha and Italian fugitive businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi, believed to have direct connections with the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi's house when the scam broke out in the mid-1980s.

Top party leaders including Chairman of the BJP Parliamentary Party L K Advani, BJP President Nitin Gadkari, Leaders of Opposition Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley and Chief Ministers of BJP-ruled states, have all arrived in this state, which is due to elect a new legislative assembly before May 26 this year.

The party will link its corruption resolution with the rising prices to pursuance of wrong policies and non-governance and a massive rally against corruption has been proposed to be held on Sunday.

A whopping 18 per cent rise in food commodity prices, denial of development to the masses and governance are the other issues that will be under sharp focus.

Although the party has announced its decision to go it alone in the Assam elections, the leadership has not ruled out the possibility of a tie-up with the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP).


Tension continues along Assam-Meghalaya border after ethnic clashes

Tension continued to mount along Goalpara and East Garo Hills districts in Assam-Meghalaya border following ethnic clashes between Rabha and Garo tribes since the past weekend.

Efforts are on by both the state governments and respective district administrations to maintain peace and calm even as fresh flare-ups were reported.

Reports said villages of both communities were torched inside Assam as well as Meghalaya since last night in fresh incidents.

One person has died in the incident so far in Assam’s Goalpara district. The toll in Meghalaya’s adjoining East Garo Hills district is reported to be seven so far.

Senior Assam Cabinet Ministers Bhumidhar Barman, Nurjamal Sarkar, Rockybul Hussain and Promila Rani Brahma today visited areas in Goalpara district to take stock of the situation.

Appealing for calm and restraint, they also assured complete security to the displaced people.

About 20,000 Rabha tribal people have been forced to flee East Garo Hills district in Meghalaya since the clashes erupted.

The displaced people are being lodged in relief camps in Goalpara, while many are taking shelter in relief camps inside Meghalaya itself.

The area has been witnessing tension and clashes since the weekend between Garos and Rabhas after Garo community people allegedly attacked Rabha villages in East Garo Hills districts in retaliation of an alleged attack on Garos in Goalpara.


ULFA "chairman" meets peace interlocutor P C Halder after release

United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) "chairman" Arabinda Rajkhowa and "deputy commander-in-chief" Raju Baruah today met Centre-appointed peace interlocutor P C Haldar to discuss on formal initiation of peace parleys between the banned outfit and the government.

This was the first meeting with the peace interlocutor after Rajkhowa’s release on bail from Guwahati central jail on January 1.

Talking to reporters after the meeting, Rajkhowa said, "A formal announcement on talks is yet to be made by the ULFA. We discussed ways to facilitate such an announcement."

He said any formal decision on talks had to be first taken by the executive council of the ULFA and it had to be ratified by the General Council.

"We will go to the public and all ULFA members before the final formal declaration on talks," he said.

Rajkhowa said the matter of ULFA "general secretary" Anup Chetia’s extradition from Bangladesh was also raised by him during the meeting.

"We have appealed to the government to facilitate Chetia’s return to Assam for the sake of peace talks," the rebel leader said.

The two-hour long meeting, held at the Circuit House here, was also attended by Assam Police Special Branch Additional Director General Khagen Sharma.


Our aim is always peace: ULFA 'chairman' Rajkhowa

Chief Minister of Asam Tarun Gogoi addressing a press conference at CMs residence in Guwahati on Saturday to wish people on January 1, 2011. UNI PHOTO
Chief Minister of Asam Tarun Gogoi addressing a press conference at CMs residence in Guwahati on Saturday to wish people on January 1, 2011. UNI PHOTO

United Liberation Front of Asom "chairman" Arabinda Rajkhowa, who was released on bail from the Guwahati Central Jail yesterday, today reached his ancestral residence at Lakuwa in Sivsagar district.

Rajkhowa arrived in his home district after receiving felicitations and addressing meetings en route and spending the night at Kaziranga.

Before proceeding home, the rebel leader addressed the public and media at Rang Ghar, the very place where ULFA was born.

Reiterating the outfit’s willingness for talks, Rajkhowa said, "The ULFA is ready for political resolution of our demands. There is no division in the outfit on this."

"We may have chosen means of armed struggle, but our aim is always peace," he said.

Rajkhowa said the ULFA was ready for unconditional talks and also urged the government to come with an open mind to the negotiating table, in an apparent reference to Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi’s statement yesterday that "sovereignty was non-negotiable".

Rajkhowa also said it was necessary that the outfit’s "general secretary" Anup Chetia be brought from Bangladesh for the ULFA to take a formal decision on initiating peace talks with the government.

The ULFA "chairman", who was handed over to India by Bangladeshi authorities in December 2009, was released on bail to facilitate peace talks with the outfit.


ULFA chairman released on bail, Gogoi hints at lifting ban on group

ULFA "chairman" Arabinda Rajkhowa was released from jail on bail on Saturday and Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi later said the government would consider lifting the ban on the outfit when it sits for formal talks.
Chief Minister of Asam Tarun Gogoi addressing a press conference at CMs residence in Guwahati on Saturday to wish people on January 1, 2011. UNI PHOTO
Chief Minister of Asam Tarun Gogoi addressing a press conference at CMs residence in Guwahati on Saturday to wish people on January 1, 2011. UNI PHOTO
United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) "chairman" Arabinda Rajkhowa was released from jail on bail today and  Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi later said the government would consider lifting the ban on the outfit when it sits for formal talks.

"The ban on the ULFA has not been lifted yet. But if needed, the ban will be withdrawn," he said, interacting with reporters on New Year’s Day at his official residence here.

He pointed that a section of the outfit was still outside the talks group and was attempting violent strikes, which makes it difficult to lift the ban at the present moment.

On the government allowing "ULFA zindabad" slogans and meetings by the outfit’s leaders, Mr Gogoi said the government had decided not to interfere as long as the outfit uses such platforms for talking peace.

"Now ULFA will decide when the formal peace process will start.

We are doing our bit, but they have to take the decision on their part too," the Chief Minister said.

He said that security forces’ operations against the militants won’t be stopped till all members come into the mainstream.

On ULFA "general secretary" Anup Chetia’s extradition from Bangladesh, Mr Gogoi said there was no immediate proposal for such a move.

"The state government has asked the Central Government for Chetia’s extradition, but we don’t know the current status," he said.

On ULFA rejecting his safe passage offer, the Chief Minister said his offer still stood open. He also hoped that all cadres of the outfit, including "C-in-C" Paresh Barua, would join the peace process.

The New Year brought with it hopes of peace finally returning to Assam as Rajkhowa walked out to freedom from the Central Jail here today and stated categorically the outfit’s support for unconditional talks.

After securing bail in all cases against him on December 30, the bail formalities were completed by Rajkhowa’s family yesterday and the rebel leader was released from the prison here at 0800 hours.

Talking to waiting mediapersons, Rajkhowa said, "ULFA is ready for unconditional talks. A formal declaration on this will be made soon."

Arbinda Rajkhowa, Chairman of United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), talks to the media outside the Central Jail in Guwahati on January 1, 2011, after being released on bail for the ULFA- government peace talk. UNI PHOTO
Arbinda Rajkhowa, Chairman of United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), talks to the media outside the Central Jail in Guwahati on January 1, 2011, after being released on bail for the ULFA- government peace talk. UNI PHOTO

He said bail of two top jailed ULFA leaders, "finance secretary" Chitrabon Hazarika and "foreign secretary" Sasha Choudhury, was necessary for starting talks with the government.

"The government must take steps to bring back our general secretary Anup Cheita from Bangladesh for the peace talks to start," he said.

The rebel leader also claimed that there was no division in the ULFA on ideological links.

"There is no opposition from any ULFA member, including c-in-c Paresh Barua, to political resolution of the India-Assam conflict," Rajkhowa asserted.

He also expressed his gratitude to the Jatiya Abhibartan for placing before the government the public’s great longing for peace and the government paving the way for the outfit’s leaders to start

talks and bring back peace.

"We are also grateful to our lawyers and the court for the release," he said.

Rajkhowa’s wife Kaberi, ULFA "vice-chairman" Pradeep Gogoi and his relatives had come to Guwahati to take the rebel leader home to his ancestral Lakuwa in Sivsagar district.

Thousands of people are expected to felicitate Rajkhowa on his way home and a massive feast has been organised at Lakuwa to welcome home its son.

Rajkhowa was handed over to the Indian authorities by Bangladesh in December 2009.


SoO agreement with NDFB (Pro-Talk Faction) extended by 6 months

The Government today said it had been decided and mutually agreed to extend the Suspension of Operations (SoO) Agreement with the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (Pro-Talk Faction) in Assam for a further period of six months upto June 30, 2011.

Tripartite talks on the demands of the group are continuing, an official statement from the Ministry of Home Affairs said.


SoO agreement with DHD (N) in Assam extended by six months

The Union Government today said it had reached a mutual agreement to extend the Suspension of Operations (SoO) agreement with Dima Halam Daogah (Nunisa) (DHD/N) group in Assam for a further period of six months upto June 30, 2011.

An official press release from the Ministry of Home Affairs said the tripartite talks on the demandsof the DHD/N were continuing.


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