TAMIL NADU

Centre submissive to U.S., says Gowda

SEDAM (GULBARGA DT.) MARCH 30. The former Prime Minister, H.D. Deve Gowda, on Sunday, criticised the BJP-led NDA Government for not taking a tough stand against the "unilateral and unjust war" against Iraq by the forces led by the U.S. and the U.K.

Mr. Gowda told presspersons that the response of the Union Government to the war was lukewarm, and the Prime Minister, A.B. Vajpayee, and his Cabinet colleagues were speaking in different tones on the issue. "Total uncertainty prevails in the Government on taking an official stand on the war imposed on the people of Iraq by the U.S. and its allies.''

He said the Government lacked self-confidence in asserting its right to express its opinion about the war against Iraq, a long-time friend of India which had supported the country on crucial issues, including the Kashmir tangle. The Government had been overtly pro-U.S., and several of its decisions gave the impression that it was dancing to the tunes of that country.

Referring to the letter written by the Prime Minister after the 1998 nuclear tests, explaining to the then U.S. President, Bill Clinton, that India was forced to carry out the test as a deterrent on the designs of its neighbours, Pakistan and China, Mr. Gowda wondered why a sovereign country should give an explanation to the U.S.. Every action of the Government proved that it had become submissive to the U.S.. He said that India was the largest democracy in the world, and it should not behave like a subordinate of the U.S.. "The U.S. may be a superpower, but that does not give it the power to impose its will on other countries,'' he said.

He also criticised the Congress for undermining the efforts of the Opposition parties to take a united stand on the war. The Congress, after attending the first meeting of the Opposition parties, including the Janata Dal (S), the Left parties, the Rashtriya Janata Dal, and the Nationalist Congress Party, for drafting a joint action plan in protest against the war, did not attend the subsequent meeting or send its representative to the goodwill team of the Opposition parties which visited Iraq prior to the outbreak of the war. The lacklustre response of the Congress forced other parties to adopt a common action plan without its involvement and decide on the holding of a nationwide protest against the war on Monday.

`Cong should unite

secular parties'

Mr. Gowda also shifted the onus of forming a formidable front against the fascist forces led by BJP in the next general elections to the Congress. The Congress should take the initiative as a "big brother'' to bring together the forces wedded to secularism to fight the fascist forces. The party should initiative a dialogue with other Opposition parties to work out a meaningful arrangement to fight communal forces.

Mr. Gowda did not rule out the formation of a third front with or without the Congress and consisting of secular parties such as the Samajwadi Party, Rashtriya Janata Dal, the Left Parties, the Janata Dal (S), and the Nationalist Congress Party.

He indicated that the proposed front would consist of regional parties. The rumblings within some regional parties supporting the NDA Government had given rise to the hope that some of them might join the proposed front or arrive at a working arrangement with it to fight the elections.

Asked whether the formation of a front without the Congress would result in the split of the Opposition votes, Mr. Gowda said: "The Congress should have this concern and take steps to initiate talks with the Opposition parties for the formation of a front against communal forces."

Mr. Gowda indicated that the proposed front would take a final shape in the coming months before the elections due next year.

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