`EC should ban VHP from campaigning in Gujarat'

AHMEDABAD Nov. 9. The Congress will demand that the Election Commission ban the Vishwa Hindu Parishad from campaigning in the elections to the Gujarat Assembly, the State party president, Shankarsinh Waghela, said here today. And it would do so on Monday when the Chief Election Commissioner, J. M. Lyngdoh, and the two Election Commissioners would be here on a two-day visit to the State to oversee the security arrangements for the December 12 elections, Mr. Waghela told mediapersons.

Describing the VHP and the Bajrang Dal as the "paid servants'' of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, Mr. Waghela said that the leaders of the organisations had been "instigating'' the people. And that the VHP should not be allowed to take out its proposed yatra, which in the name of Hinduism would be nothing but election campaign for the BJP.

The PCC president, who spent 30 years in the BJP before joining the Congress, said if the VHP's prime objective was religion as it professed, it had no role in the elections. The Election Commission should ensure that it kept itself out of the polls, he said, congratulating the Commission for keeping the "caretaker BJP Government on a tight leash.''

Charging that the BJP was fomenting the recent disturbances in Ahmedabad and some other parts of the State, Mr. Waghela said the people had seen through its game. They would not fall in its "communal trap" any more. The Gujarat Chief Minister, Narendra Modi, was "not fit to become even a municipal president.'' And under a "leader of such small stature,'' the BJP was in total disarray; groupism in the party was coming to the surface forcing most of the Ministers and other party leaders to scurry for "safer seats.'' Not only had the BJP Government ruined the State's economy — which was evident from the fact that it had to overdraw 22 times in the last couple of years — it had also failed to keep its promises to the people.

Replying to a query, Mr. Waghela said that at least 90 per cent of the Congress' sitting MLAs were likely to be re-nominated. The first list of its candidates for the Assembly elections was expected to be announced by the central election committee after a meeting in Delhi on November 12 and 13. Both he and his predecessor, Amarsinh Chaudhary, would attend the meeting.

The Congress had an open mind on "seat-sharing,'' particularly with the Nationalist Congress Party, the Samajwadi Party, the Lokshakti Party and the Left but it would not accept any "quota system.'' The understanding could be reached if the parties approached the Congress with the names of specific candidates. Seats would be given to them if the Congress was convinced of their "winnability,'' which would be the main criterion — the party would not like to waste any seat just for the sake of an understanding with another party. As for launching the Congress campaign from Karamsad, birthplace of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, on Monday, Mr. Waghela denied a report in a section of the press that the party's national president, Sonia Gandhi, would be present. Ms. Gandhi would address nine public meetings later in various phases. The details of her campaign meetings were being finalised, he said.

Togadia's charge

The VHP international general secretary, Pravin Togadia, meanwhile, charged Ms. Gandhi with "virtually turning her party into a protector of militant Islamic forces.'' Sharply reacting to her statement in Mount Abu on Friday, Dr. Togadia said that this was evident from Ms. Gandhi's "silence" vis-�-vis the Godhra carnage and the Akshardham terrorist attack.

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