Delhi keeps Ulfa talks door open

Guwahati, March 20 : The Congress today set the tone for the party’s campaign for the Lok Sabha elections in Assam with Union minister of state for industry, Ashwani Kumar, emphasising that the doors for talks with the proscribed Ulfa would remain open.
However, Kumar said there would be zero-tolerance towards those rebels indulging in acts of terrorism.
The minister stressed security and economic development as the party’s key poll planks.
“Terrorism has a local resonance in Assam and we would inflict crushing blows to those waging war against the state. Doors for talks with Ulfa would remain open but we would not compromise on security,” he told reporters here today.
Kumar’s assertion that there would be no let-up in tracking down those behind the October 30 serial blasts in Guwahati also indicated that the counter-insurgency operations in the state would be on.
“I assure you that those behind these acts would be taken to task. It is not that we are only responding to the Mumbai attacks and not to the one in Guwahati. Whether it is Bangladesh or Pakistan, there would be no let-up in isolating countries, which wage war against our country,” he said.
“This is going to be a watershed election because we are going to the polls under extraordinary circumstances. Never before in our history have we suffered anything like the Mumbai terror attack, which needs a resolute national and international response. Then there is the global economic crisis. Therefore, the thrust of our campaign is security and inclusive economic development. And these issues are of equal importance to Assam,” Kumar said.
The minister of state, however, did not mince words to take digs at the AGP-BJP combine, the AUDF or the “stillborn” third front.
“The choice is between a secular and communal polity. The AGP-BJP combination lurks in the past and has no agenda. The AUDF would be a spoiler to some extent. The people of Assam, I am sure, are wise enough not to waste their votes,” he said.
Besides dwelling on how the gas cracker project would generate direct and indirect jobs to one lakh “Assamese youths”, he also informed that the per capita income had increased from Rs 10,467 in 2001 to Rs 22,081 after seven years of Congress rule in Assam.
“These figures tell their own story. Congress holds out hope for the youths of the state. Instead of a divisive agenda, we have a unifying agenda,” he said. The minister also said the Congress candidates for Dhubri and Lakhimpur would be announced “in a day or two”.