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?Direct Haj flights from City by next yr?

MEMBER OF Parliament Obeidulla Azmi announced here today that the Ahilya Bai Holkar Airport at Indore would get the status of an international airport by next year and Haj pilgrims from entire State would be able to take direct flights to Saudi Arabia, instead of having to go through Mumbai.

india Updated: Dec 10, 2005 14:00 IST

MEMBER OF Parliament Obeidulla Azmi announced here today that the Ahilya Bai Holkar Airport at Indore would get the status of an international airport by next year and Haj pilgrims from entire State would be able to take direct flights to Saudi Arabia, instead of having to go through Mumbai.

Azmi, who is on a three-day visit to the City, disclosed that Union Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel had told him that he could give this assurance in front of the media in Indore. He was talking to media persons at the Indore airport this evening after his arrival from Delhi.

Asked about his development priority for the region, Azmi said that he would try and expedite the electrification of the Indore-Ujjain rail segment and also to complete the work of converting the single track to double track for the entire stretch. He said Ujjain was the main centre of pilgrimage for the Hindus and it was essential that it be properly connected to Indore.

Commenting on the defeat of the Congress party in Bihar, he said part of the blame lay with the Election Commission. Though not going as far as labelling him as ‘agent’ of the NDA, Azmi, however, said that the Election Commission was ‘inclined’ towards the NDA.

Elaborating, he said that the role of the EC should be to hold free and fair polls, but excessive police presence in Bihar during elections made it appear as if the entire state was under curfew. As a result, many poor people and Laloo supporters did not vote. At the same time, he admitted, it was mainly due to the EC strictness that Bihar elections were more or less free from violence. He regretted that the only person killed was a voter, that too by police bullets.

On the impact of Paswan’s refusal to join the Congress-RJD combine in Bihar, Azmi said that 80 per cent of the Muslim votes went to RJD-Congress combine, despite Paswan’s announcement that he would like to have a Muslim as Chief Minister.

Taking a dig at Paswan, Azmi said it was strange call to be given by a man who made a Muslim man from Uttar Pradesh his party president in Bihar. “Had all the Muslims of Bihar died that he could not find one who could be made president of the party.”

On Congress’ dismal performance, he said that it was not the end of the road for the party and these were part of politics. He also said that the Congress in Bihar had reached its nadir and it would only rise now.

Asked to comment on Uma’s dismissal from the BJP, he laughed and said, “What can I say, you all know better than me.”Earlier, Azmi was given a rousing welcome by his supporters at the airport. His main lieutenant in Indore, Tariq Khan, who is also his official representative, was present along with City Congress president Ujagar Singh, former IDA chairman Kripa Shankar Shukla, Congress vice-president Tulsi Silawat and former MLA Ramlal Yadav among others.

First Published: Dec 10, 2005 14:00 IST