KERALA

Antony leaves for Delhi

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, MARCH 3. The Chief Minister, A. K. Antony, left for Delhi on Wednesday for attending to political and official business there.

The Chief Minister will meet the Prime Minister, A.B. Vajpayee, and the Deputy Prime Minister, L.K. Advani, to press for various demands of the State. Besides, he is likely to meet the Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission, K. C. Pant, and the Union Minister for Agriculture, Raj Nath Singh.

Mr. Antony would take up with the Prime Minister and others the State's demand for Central assistance for drought relief. The State had earlier submitted a memorandum seeking Rs. 1,359.03 crores from the National Calamity Contingency Fund for payment of compensation to farmers, undertaking relief works and offsetting the loss suffered by the State Electricity Board.

After Mr. Antony met the Central leaders in this regard last month, the Union Government had sent an official team to assess the losses. He had also sought permission from the Centre for additional market borrowing of Rs. 800 crores. This is yet to be obtained. He might take up the matter now with the Planning Commission also, as the money is required for Plan and other expenditure. A substantial cut in Plan expenditure would become necessary if additional resources are not mobilised, especially in the absence of non-receipt of second tranche of the loan from the Asian Development Bank.

The Chief Minister's trip is also for discussions on the selection of candidates for the Lok Sabha constituencies in the State with the Congress high command.