TAMIL NADU

Nagappa kidnap: Govt.'s inaction criticised

BANGALORE NOV. 9 The Opposition parties today met and chalked out an action programme to pressure the Government to get the former minister, H. Nagappa, who is being held hostage by the forest brigand, Veerappan, freed.

The meeting convened by the Leader of the Opposition in the Legislative Assembly, Jagadish Shettar, was attended by the Janata Dal (U) Floor Leader in the Assembly, P.G.R. Sindhia, the former Speaker, Ramesh Kumar, the JD(U) State unit President, C. Byre Gowda, B. Somashekar, MLA, the BJP State unit President Basavaraj Patil Sedam, the deputy leader of the BJP in the Legislative Council, `Mukhyamantri' Chandru, B.S. Yediyurappa, MLC, Mahadeva Prasad, MLA, and the Kollegal JD leader, Ponnachi Mahadevaswamy. Mr. Nagappa's son, Preetam, and son-in-law, Kiran, were invited to the meeting.

They shared information they had with the leaders. The JD(S) State unit President, Siddaramaiah, who was out of town, had expressed himself in favour of such a meeting, Mr. Shettar said.

Speaking to presspersons on behalf of the leaders, Mr. Shettar urged the Chief Minister, S.M. Krishna, to immediately meet his Tamil Nadu counterpart, Jayalalithaa, to find a solution to end the crisis and spare the hostage and his family of the agony. They criticised Mr. Krishna for his "total disregard" for the life of Mr. Nagappa. Mr. Shettar said the leaders would urge the Deputy Prime Minister, L.K. Advani, to bring the two chief ministers to the negotiating table, at least on this issue.

Mr. Ramesh Kumar alleged that Mr. Krishna was not taking the present crisis as seriously as he took the abduction of Rajkumar by the brigand two years ago.

At that time he was afraid of the consequences if he failed to get the actor released. He could even have lost his position. Perhaps he was not serious now because Mr. Nagappa was not as popular as Rajkumar, he said.

When Rajkumar was kidnapped, the entire Opposition had backed the steps taken by Mr. Krishna. But now, Mr. Krishna seemed to have abdicated his responsibility, he said.

Mr. Shettar warned that the Government would be held responsible if Mr. Nagappa suffered any harm. Mr. Nagappa's voice sounded feeble in the cassette sent by Veerappan and it indicated that Mr. Nagappa, a diabetic, was not in good health, Mr. Shettar said.

Mr. Byre Gowda reiterated his party's demand to withdraw all cases against Veerappan.

When notorious terrorists had been released to save the lives of passengers of a hijacked plane, what was the problem in withdrawing the cases against Veerappan? he asked.

All measures should be taken to send Kolathur Mani as an emissary, as demanded by Veerappan. He admitted that his party also wanted police operations against Veerappan suspended, as the life of Mr. Nagappa was in danger. The forest brigand could go berserk if the operations continued, he said.

Mr. Yediyurappa and Mr. Gowda were critical of the Government's stand against sending the Minister of State for Agro Processing, Raju Gowda, who allegedly had close contacts with Veerappan, to negotiate with the brigand.

They suggested that Mr. Raju Gowda resign before taking up the assignment and that he be promoted as a Cabinet minister if he succeeded in getting Mr. Nagappa released. Mr. Raju Gowda himself had said he was ready to meet Veerappan, they pointed out.

Mr. Shettar said leaders, legislators, and office-bearers of all Opposition parties would observe a dharna on November 12 near the statue of Kengal Hanumanthaiya to bring pressure the Government to act.

The Opposition parties would meet again on November 13. Kannada organisations and political parties, which did not have representation in the Legislature, would be invited to the meeting, he added.

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