Rajnath won't let NDA wither
Singh has been looking at the Singur issue as a uniting factor for the NDA, reports Shekhar Iyer.india Updated: Dec 26, 2006 20:47 IST
Though he played to the saffron gallery, swearing by Ram temple at the Lucknow conclave of the party, BJP president Rajnath Singh is keen to keep the NDA coalition together too.
Singh believes that even if the BJP has to keep the core constituency happy in a state like Uttar Pradesh, he has to work to project the NDA as a strong alternative to the Congress and Left combine.
In his first political act after the ratification of his election as BJP president for the next years, Singh reached out to Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee in Kolkata on Tuesday. Her fast entered the 23rd day in protest against the grant of farmland to a Tata car project in Singur, 50 km from Kolkata in Hooghly district. In fact, it was his second first. He had gone to Kolkata earlier to express the BJP's solidarity with her on the issue, and got arrested.
Singh also spoke to Janata Dal(United)chief Sharad Yadav and, in consultation with former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and LK Advani, called a meeting of the NDA leaders on Wednesday.
Interestingly, both Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and Sharad Yadav have dismissed Singh’s assertion on the Ram temple issue, saying the NDA stood by the agenda of governance and not what the BJP says.
Yadav even said, "We are not taking Rajnath Singh's statement on constructing the Ram temple seriously. We will not pull out of the NDA over it as it is a non-issue for us."
Singh has been looking at the Singur issue as a uniting factor for the NDA, with Nitish Kumar and the Janata Dal(U) ruling out setting up any Special Economic Zones (SEZs)in the BJP-JD(U)coalition-ruled Bihar.
In his presidential address to the Lucknow concalve, Singh referred to the Singur issue, signaling that the BJP has shed its initial inhibition to take a stand against the SEZs, as states ruled by it had favoured them. Singh set up a BJP panel under Venkaiah Naidu that came out with guidelines on setting up SEZs and compensations for farmers.
"I met Mamata Banerjee at the site of her fast after my return. I assured her that the BJP is with her in this movement in the interests of farmers," Singh told BJP leaders.
He said the BJP’s line would be that cultivable land should not be acquired for setting up SEZs as far as possible. If necessary, after non-agricultural land, single crop land should be acquired first. Multi-crop land should not be acquired at all.
Speaking after being with Mamata Banerjee for more than two hours on Tuesday, Singh said, "I want to tell Mamata that she is not alone. I have spoken to Vajpayee and Advani. We want to spread the protest countrywide. Mamata must know that not only West Bengal but the whole of India is looking up to her and is concerned about her."
Singh drove to where Banerjee has been on fast against the Tata project in Singur for 23 days, spoke to her. He stayed there for nearly two hours. His punch line was directly against the Marxist Chief Minister. "I was also a chief minister. In a democracy you cannot just play with the sentiments of the opposition. I urge the chief minister not to do that, especially when the issue is related to farmers. We are not against industrialisation. Neither is Mamata. But grabbing fertile farmland will create food scarcity in India," he said.