TAMIL NADU

High Command will decide next CM: Sharief

BANGALORE OCT. 13. S.M. Krishna might not lead the Congress Government after the next elections, C. K.Jaffer Sharief, MP and former Union Minister, said here today.

He was speaking at a function organised by the Karnataka Minorities Development Corporation to distribute autorickshaws and loans to minority beneficiaries.

Referring to a statement made by the Public Works Minister, Dharam Singh, that Mr.Krishna would remain Chief Minister, Mr. Sharief said it was for the high command to decide who will be the next Chief Minister.

He also expressed displeasure over the absence of the Chief Minister at the function. He said Mr. Krishna and Ministers such as Mr. Dharam Singh and Mallikarjuna Kharge should have been present at the programme to show solidarity with the minority and backward classes. Their absence might create some ill will, he added.

Referring to the Vishwa Hindu Parishad's proposed meeting at Ayodhya on October 17 and the Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee's statement that the VHP should be trusted, Mr. Sharief said: "This is on old trick.'' It is a pity that Lord Rama is invoked by the Sangh Parivar whenever the elections are around the corner. We do not fear them. India is as much ours as theirs.''

Margaret Alva, MP, said the minorities and backward communities should converge on a common platform and demand their rights instead of being isolated.

She criticised the NDA-led Government for "having failed'' to protect the minorities.

"Muslims and Christians are being targeted and attacked. We all know what happened in Gujarat. If the Centre does not protect the rights of the minorities, who else will ?,'' she asked.

"The Constitution speaks of equal rights and protection to minorities. We are not begging for anything; we are asking for what is rightfully ours,'' Ms. Alva said.

Whenever elections were nearing, VHP started its vote bank politics, she said.

Referring to the VHP's proposed meeting at Ayodhya, Ms. Alva said the Prime Minister should have stopped the VHP activists from going ahead with the rally. She wondered how Mr.Vajpayee could say that the VHP should be trusted.

Reading out the speech of the Chief Minister, who was unable to attend the function, K.H.Ranganath, Minister for Forests, said the Karnataka Minorities Development Corporation had disbursed Rs.13.09 crores among 10,000 people as loans in the current financial year.

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