New Delhi — What exactly did the Prime Minister, Mr. Rajiv Gandhi, say about Punjab while addressing his party MP’s on Thursday morning?

Confusion reigned supreme among. Congress (I) functionaries on this question with the parliamentary party dishing out two versions and the AICC (I) later take the extraordinary step of contradicting both the versions.

Since meetings of the Congress (I) parliamentary party are not open to the press, correspondents rely on official briefings that follow these meetings and also speak to party MP’s to report the proceeding.

While the secretary of the Congress (I) parliamentary party, Mr. J. K. Jain, told correspondents that the Prime Minister spoke of restoration of normalcy and withdrawal of the army from Punjab, the AICC (I) general secretary, Mr. Srikant Verma, asserted that Mr. Rajiv Gandhi made no mention of army withdrawal. “This is the authentic version and I have been authorized to say this. Mr. Verma said adding, “I strongly contradict the version given by the parliamentary party secretary, Mr. J.K. Jain.”

According to the first version given to correspondents by Mr. Jain at 1] a.m. Mr. Rajiv Gandhi spoke of his government’s desire to restore normalcy in the troubled state and then said, ‘“We will withdraw the army and restore a popular government.”

Mr. Jain, however, returned an hour later to the press room in Parliament House, individually met correspondents who attended his briefing and gave the revised version of the Prime Minister’s remarks which read as follows: ‘“We have to see that normalcy gets back in Punjab so that we can withdraw the army and Governor’s rule and have a popular government.” Later, in the day, Mr. Srikant Verma contradicted both the version given by Mr. Jain and said the Prime Minister never spoke about army withdrawal or restoration of popular government in Punjab. He did not mention it at all, Mr. Verma asserted, adding that even the second version given by Mr. Jain was wrong. ‘“‘The AICC (1I) contradicts it,’’ Mr. Verma said.

Article extracted from this publication >>  March 29, 1985