NATIONAL

Paswan against polls before normality is restored

NEW DELHI JULY 26. Former Union Minister and Lok Janshakti chief, Ram Vilas Paswan, today urged the Election Commission not to hold Assembly elections in Gujarat before `normality' was restored. He also backed the idea of imposing President's rule in the State.

Mr. Paswan, who returned here after a six-day tour of the State, submitted a memorandum to the EC stating that in order to restore normality, the victims of violence must be rehabilitated and brought back to their original places of residence where they were registered as voters so that they could exercise their franchise. Accompanied by the former Union Minister, Arif Mohammed Khan, and the former Cabinet Secretary, Zafar Saifullah, Mr. Paswan said during the tour it was found that the situation in Gujarat was "far from normal" and the atmosphere was such that people belonging to a particular community were feeling "totally insecure and living under fear.'' He said although the State Government had announced a rehabilitation package, no steps had been taken to rehabilitate those affected by the communal violence. Mr. Paswan said his party has decided to hold `Sadhbhavna yatra' in Saurashtra region between August 5 to 8 and other areas between August 26 to 29. The party had not yet made up its mind whether it would contest the Assembly elections with some adjustments or go it alone.

Meanwhile, the CPI-ML (Liberation) also urged the EC to ensure that the victims of the carnage in Gujarat and activists and organisations engaged in relief and rehabilitation work have direct access to the EC officials when they reach Gujarat so that they could apprise them of the "ground reality.'' The party also endorsed the Opposition demand for imposition of President's rule before elections are held.

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