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It is an insult: Jayalalithaa

CHENNAI JULY 26. Making it clear that the AIADMK's support to the ruling National Democratic Alliance at the Centre could not be taken for granted, the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, Jayalalithaa, today took strong objection to the Centre not sending her an invitation for the swearing-in ceremony of the President, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.

In a strongly-worded four-page statement, she said her enquiries made through the Resident Commissioner of Tamil Nadu in New Delhi had received a "curt reply" from the Union Home Ministry that Chief Ministers were not going to be invited for the occasion.

Pointing out that she had cooperated with the Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, and the Deputy Prime Minister, L. K. Advani, in selecting the candidates for the President and the Vice-President, she said: ``It is surprising to note that despite my support, which is considerable, I have been slighted and humiliated by the NDA Government at the Centre... In fact, I take it as a deliberate slight to Tamil Nadu, especially when the new President hails from Tamil Nadu. It is not only an insult to me, but also a deliberate humiliation heaped on the people of Tamil Nadu.''

(Later in the evening, Ms. Jayalalithaa said the AIADMK's support for the NDA's Vice-Presidential candidate, Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, would continue. ``I do not go back on my word. I've already pledged my support for the Vice-Presidential nominee.'')

On the Chief Ministers of Andhra Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, and Rajasthan alone being given invitations for the swearing-in ceremony, she asked: ``What is the NDA Government trying to achieve by this act of discrimination? Is it trying to create a caste system among the State Chief Ministers by extending special treatment to a select few and shabby treatment to the other Chief Ministers?''

Describing the decision to omit her from the list of invitees as a "churlish, ham-handed" attempt to "derail democratic values" and an assault on the spirit of "federalism itself," she said the Centre could have invited the Chief Ministers of all the States and the Union Territories. ``It would appear that when the Government of India needs support, the State Chief Ministers are invited to propose the nominations of the Presidential and Vice-Presidential candidates, but when it comes to a prestigious function like the swearing-in ceremony, the Central Government finds it convenient to dispose of the Chief Ministers without even the courtesy of an invitation,'' she said.

Adding insult to injury was the fact that the Ambani brothers had been invited. ``A valid question arises in the minds of the people as in what way the State Chief Ministers are less important than the Ambani brothers.''

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