Invoke Article 355 on Nandigram: Advani to Centre

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New Delhi, Nov 21: Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha L K Advani today urged the Government to issue a set of directions to the West Bengal government on the Nandigram violence under Article 355 of the Constitution and in case of non-compliance impose President's rule in the Left-governed state.

Initiating discussion on the Nandigram issue under Rule 193 which does not entail voting in the Lower House, the senior BJP leader also urged the Centre to call the state Governor and seek a formal report from him on the issue.

He pointed out that West Bengal Governor Gopal Krishna Gandhi had described happenings in Nandigram as ''unlawful and unacceptable'' while the Calcutta High Court termed them ''unconstitutional''. A senior CRPF official also claimed lack of cooperation from the state government, Mr Advani added.

He suggested an all-party delegation visit Nandigram to assess the situation on the ground. In the meantime, he said the House and the Union government should seek an ''official report'' on the happenings in the violence-scarred areas of West Bengal and decide on the future course of action accordingly.

Mr Advani, during his 45-minute speech on the events in Nandigram since March 14, informed the House that during his recent visit to the strife-torn area as the head of an NDA delegation, he had met the Governor and impressed upon him to send a formal report to the Centre on the situation there. He said Centre was empowered to issue directions to the West Bengal government under Article 355 as the Governor had already expressed his anguish over the violence calling it ''cold horror''.

If the state government did not comply with the directions then the Centre can invoke Article 356, clamping President's rule on the state, Mr Advani added.

At least 14 people had died and over 100 were injured in the police firing at Nandigram on March 14 when the state government tried to quell resistance to acquisition of land for setting up a chemical hub by an Indonesian company, Salim Group.

Recounting events leading to decline of Communism in the world, the senior BJP leader claimed Nandigram was going to be the ''turning point'' in the history of Indian Communists. He also recounted with sadness the comment of West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattarcharjee that those in Nandigram had been paid back in their own coin, alluding to the violent recapture of the areas, allegedly by cadre of the ruling CPI(M).

When the CPI(M) members repeatedly objected to naming of the Governor, CRPF DIG Alok Raj and former West Bengal Finance Minister Ashok Mitra by Mr Advani during his long exposition on Nandigram, Speaker Somnath Chatterjee promised to look into it.

The Speaker at the same time told Mr Advani not to use published statements of the Governor as it was not permissible under rules.

He, however, said the BJP leader could use the gist of various statements on the issue.

When Mr Advani tried to build up a case, stating that the Governor was their own choice and Ashok Mitra had given his consent to the appointment of Mr Gandhi, the Speaker quipped ''I had also recommended...I am not ashamed to proclaim (that) I also wanted him(Gandhi).''

Information and Broadcasting Minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi blamed the BJP-led NDA and the Left parties for the violence. He said the SEZ policy notified by the NDA government in February 2004 was the cause for the unrest over land acquisitions, while the Left front government in West Bengal had ignored the plight of the actual farmers who were tilling the land in Nandigram.

The state government had announced compensation only for the farm land owners who had migrated to Kolkata and other urban areas, leaving their lands to tillers under the ''share crop'' scheme.

Carefully avoiding any direct, harsh attack on the Left, he said the Nandigram episode should be allowed to be judged by Left-leaning intellectuals who had made a mark in various fields with their objective and impartial views, be it writing, painting or film making.

Such isolated incidents in a small area had never lingered for nine months in West Bengal, he said.

It was only those who had been affected by the land acquisition notification on Nandigram had initially launched the agitation, he said.


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