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Advani and Fernandes hit out at Oppn. Over Tehelka tapes

Advani and Fernandes hit out at Oppn. Over Tehelka tapes

Publication: The Times of India
Date: April 5, 2001

Leaving no one in doubt how the battle between the NDA and the Opposition parties will progress in the days to come on the Tehelka tapes issue, Union Home Minister Advani and former defence minister George Fernandes continued their offensive at a public meeting here declaring that nothing could shake the government at the Centre.

They made it clear that the Congress and the Left campaign for the resignation of the Atal Behari Vajpayee-led government was being sought to be removed on ``mere premises based on lies''. Addressing the meeting, attended by nearly 20,000 people, Advani sought to impress upon the people that the NDA government continued to be a ``government with a difference.'' He repeatedly stressed on the sense of `accountability' and `responsibility' that drives the NDA government.

``When we said we are ready for a debate in Parliament on the Tehelka issue, the Congress did not agree. It also did not agree for any kind of a probe the Opposition wanted into the issue. Here is a government that for the first time in the history of independent India wants to face the charges but the Opposition is shying away,'' he said.

Advani ridiculed the repeated charges from the Congress that the defence of the country had weakened in the wake of the Tehelka expose. ``This was the party that criticised the NDA government when it showed the world that India was a nuclear power after the Pokhran blasts. In fact, it was a decision that showed the world that India has nuclear weapons that it can defend itself with, especially when its two neighbours, Pakistan and China possess such weapons,'' he said.

He said everyone named in the Tehelka expose had resigned. ``Even when his name was mentioned nowhere, George Fernandes resigned because he wanted to uphold the moral probity that everyone in the NDA believes in. All the Congress wants is to come to power by any means. The NDA government will be there as long as people support Vajpayee,'' he said.

Fernandes, taking off from where Advani left, said all that has happened after the Tehelka issue was the defence secrets of the country are now being forced into the open. ``Pakistan is now laughing at us. It says we now know what you have, what you have planned to buy,'' he said referring to the widespread discussions on various defence deals.

Defence deals by their very nature are highly confidential and any purchase is made depending on the needs of the Army, Navy or the Air Force. These are now being forced into the open, Fernandes said.

The former defence minister further said he knew the day he ordered a review of all defence deals since 1989 that he would be attacked as his decision meant the cutting away of huge illegal incomes of several middlemen and others. ``But we went ahead and asked the Central Vigilance Commissioner and the Comptroller and Auditor General of India to review the deals. This is because we wanted a system of ensuring the very best for our armed forces and to keep away middlemen,'' he said.

Fernandes repeatedly stressed on the severe damage to the morale of the defence forces after the Tehelka issue came to the fore. ``It is not enough if the forces have the best weapons. What is needed is the morale and confidence that the people are with them. It is this morale and confidence that the Tehelka tapes and the Congress are seeking to hit,'' he said.

Fernandes further said that the Tehelka tapes were a bunch of lies and these lies were being used by the Congress to grab power. ``The Congress has always used lies to grab power. Now Sonia Gandhi is trying to do the same,'' he said.

The meeting, which began one hour late, was also addressed by Union Rural Development Minister M.Venkaiah Naidu, Union Minister of State for Urban Development Bandaru Dattatreya and was attended by Samata Party president V.V. Krishna Rao, Union ministers from the state and representatives of the Janata Dal (U), Lok Janashakti and Dalit Sena parties.

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