Chouhan’s fast U-turn dented party’s image: BJP leaders

Sunday, February 13, 2011

BHOPAL - The cancellation of the indefinite fast by Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan was “un-BJP-like” and had dented the party’s image, a senior leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party said Sunday.

“The party is not known to strike deals with an open adversary like the Congress,” a BJP leader said citing several past instances, including the demand for a joint parliamentary committee probe into the 2G spectrum row and the recent Tiranga Yatra to Jammu and Kashmir.

“If the chief minister had to accept the assurance from the prime minister, then these arrangements (for the fast) should not be made as the prime minister has been saying it for long”, he said.

None of the BJP leaders who commented on the issue wished to be named.

Early in the day, Chauhan dramatically announced the cancellation of his indefinite fast at the BHEL Dashara ground after sitting there for a few minutes.

The fast was to protest against the union government’s inaction over his demands for relief packages for Madhya Pradesh

Chauhan told BJP leaders that following an “assurance” by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh over phone that the centre will look into the relief package issues raised by him, he was cancelling the fast.

He also said he will meet Manmohan Singh and hold talks with Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia around Feb 20.

According to some political observers in the state, Chouhan cancelled the fast to avoid a direct confrontation with union government.

Before arriving for the fast, Chouhan had met Governor Rameshwar Thakur, a former Congress minister, who is learnt to have made him realise that a serving chief minister starting an indefinite sit-in was unprecedented and that it was against the values of the federal structure.

Thakur was not exactly correct. Then West Bengal chief minister Ajoy Mukherjee went on a fast during his second term as head of a rebel Congress-Communist Party of India-Marxist government (February 1969-March 1970) - to protest against his own government.

Meanwhile, former chief minister and Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh said: “If Chouhan continued to listen to the advice of the prime minister and the governor, it would be very good for the welfare of Madhya Pradesh”.

“A lot of money had been spent at the venue (of the fast) for constructing an air-conditioned room and other facilities. This must be recovered from Chouhan’s salary,” he added.

State Congress president Suresh Pachouri, who recently went on fast to protest the state government’s inaction on the farmers’ suicides, said: “The fast by the chief minister was unconstitutional as described by Supreme Court.”

“And here, the chief minister not only spent government money running into crores of rupees on the arrangements, but also used civil servants to do it”, said Pachouri.

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