Chidambaram withdraws remarks on by-elections

New Delhi: Home Minister P Chidambaram today withdrew his remarks referring to by-elections in the context of the Mullaiperiyar dam issue which has created a furore in Kerala.

"Like some other speakers, I also made a passing reference to the forthcoming by-election. I take back that remark," he said in a statement here. He went on to add, "that reference was not necessary and it was not my intention to hurt the feelings of anyone.

"I continue to believe that the issue must be resolved in a spirit of cooperation and brotherhood between the people of the two states". The Home Minister appealed to the people of Kerala and Tamil Nadu to read the whole of his speech delivered at a Congress Party meeting in Chennai on Saturday.

"I appeal to everyone that we must act with dignity, restraint and patience. I said fears over the safety of the dam were not justified but it was our duty to allay the apprehensions on the safety of the dam," the statement said.

Chidambaram said, "I said that the safety of the dam was the concern of not only Kerala but also Tamil Nadu, because Tamil Nadu was dependent on the water from the dam. I also appealed to everyone to await the report of the three-judge panel and the decision of the Supreme Court".

In his speech on Saturday, the Home Minister had termed the Kerala government`s apprehension over safety of the Mullaperiyar dam as "unnecessary" and claimed it was borne out of "bypoll fear".

Cutting across political lines, leaders in Kerala today reacted sharply to Chidamabaram`s statement. CPI(M) leader and state opposition leader V S Achuthanandan wanted Chidambaram to be dropped from the Union cabinet.

Congress MPs from Kerala M I Shanawas and P T Thomas, senior party leader V M Sudheeran, CPI-M politburo member Kodiyeri Balakrishnan and former water resources minister and RSP leader N K Premachandran also slammed Chidambaram`s statement.