NATIONAL

Why this delay, asks Gehlot

JAIPUR JUNE 26. First, it was the Ministry of External Affairs, which held up his request for permission to go abroad. Now, it is the Finance Ministry of Finance, which is taking its own time to give the clearance.

As the Rajasthan Chief Minister, Ashok Gehlot's and his 12-member delegation, which comprises three Ministers are getting ready to leave for New York on June 29 to harness Rajasthani potential and resources, the clearances are yet to come from the Finance Ministry and the Prime Minister's Office. This is Mr. Gehlot's first attempt to go abroad after being in power for the past four-and-a-half-years. The permission from MEA too had come only on this Monday after a good amount of haggle and an initial rejection.

"I am yet to figure out what is so special about the Chief Ministers of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Delhi (all Cong. Chief Ministers). Only our plans to go abroad are put up against so many hurdles," Mr. Gehlot told mediapersons at a breakfast he hosted to film actor Sunil Dutt and his volunteers of communal harmony.

Mr. Gehlot said he found it curious that even the trip of the Maharashtra Chief Minister, Sushil Kumar Shinde, had been cleared. Mr. Shinde is to be in New York on a similar mission. "Maybe the Central Government's showdown with us made things easy for Mr. Shinde," Mr. Gehlot said when pointed out that the former too was a Congress Chief Minister. "The clearances which should have come in a routine manner are taking inordinate time," Mr. Gehlot said while not hiding his embarrassment.

"I have not come across any such case of a Chief Minister being treated like this. That too for a two-day visit," Mr. Gehlot said. "Let them know that the people of Rajasthan are reacting to this."

Mr. Gehlot and his Ministers, Pradhyumna Singh, Chandra Bhan and Shanti Dhariwal, and the senior bureaucrats accompanying them are the guests of the Rajasthani Association of North Americans. The three-day sammelan is a follow-up to the International Rajasthani Conclave organised by the Gehlot Government here in December 2000.

No court stay

In a related development, the Rajasthan High Court today clarified that there was no court stay on the proposed foreign trip by Mr. Gehlot. The court of Justice S.K. Keshote had earlier issued a show cause notice to the State Government taking up the issue suo motu on the basis of reports of the proposed visit appearing in the newspapers.

The vacation judge of the Rajasthan High Court, Mr. Justice Sunil Kumar Garg, said the court had "simply issued notices to the respondents and not passed any interim order restraining the visit of the Chief Minister...".

"In view of the above, no clarification is required as no stay was granted by this court.''

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