Raje on damage control; invites Gujjars for talks

New Delhi, May 30 | Updated: May 31 2007, 05:30am hrs
Under pressure for mishandling the agitation by Gujjars demanding Schedule Tribe (ST) status, Vasundhara Raje-led Rajasthan government on Wednesday invited leaders from the community for talks to resolve the crisis in the wake of the violence that has left 14 dead so far.

Problems for Raje, however, compounded when five BJP MLAs including the panchayati raj minister threatened to resign over the issue.

The Opposition Congress, meanwhile, charged Raje with being engaged in her own deificationa reference to the recent controversy in which posters appeared in Jaipur with Raje's image morphed as a Goddesswhile Rajasthan burned. Atleast 14 people died and several others were injured on Tuesday when a chakka jam agitation by the Gujjar community in Dausa and other places along the Delhi-Jaipur highway turned violent.

Accusing the BJP government in the state for adopting a callous attitude in handling the issue, Congress MP from Dausa Sachin Pilot demanded imposition of President's rule in the state. He claimed that not a single state government official had visited the districts of Dausa, Karauli and Bundi where people were killed in clashes and police firing.

He also denied the allegation that the state Congress was behind the demonstration. It is a community demonstration. To say it is a political movement would be wrong, he added.

Terming the state government being barbaric and feudal, former chief minister Ashok Gehlot demanded a judicial inquiry by a sitting judge of Rajasthan High Court. He said Vasundhara Raje should resign owning moral responsibility for the criminal negligence leading to the incident, which claimed innocent lives. Asked if the Congress favoured the Gujjar quota demand, Gehlot said the ruling party had to decide whether to make the recommendation to the Centre. The Congress never promised such reservation to any castes, including the Gujjars, he said.

That the state government was on a weak wicket was evident when even the BJP central leadership issued an appeal to all parties to show restrain and desist from politicking on the issue.