Sunday, April 15, 2001,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Congress boycotts all-party meeting
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 14
The Congress today did not attend the all-party meeting convened by the Prime Minister to evolve a consensus approach on issues in Parliament saying that the government was indulging in “witch-hunt” against party President Sonia Gandhi by ordering the CBI probe into charges levelled against her by Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy.

The Congress ally, the Rashtriya Janata Dal also did not attend the all-party meeting. Taking as serious objection to the government’s referring to the CBI “baseless” charges levelled by Dr Swamy against Mrs Sonia Gandhi, the party today said it was impossible for the party to cooperate with the government.

In a strongly-worded statement on behalf of the Congress parliamentary party, Mr Madhavrao Scindia, Deputy Leader of the party in the Lok Sabha, and Dr Manmohan Singh, Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, said it was simply unacceptable to the Congress that “the CBI should be used as an instrument of intimidation and persecution of the Congress and its leadership in a manner wholly inconsistent with the democratic norms.”

The two leaders said the reported decision of the Prime Minister to ask the CBI to inquire “into wholly frivolous and baseless charges against the Congress leadership is an action that the Congress will oppose with all vigour.

This is an attempt by a beleaguered government to divert public attention from its own misdeeds involving grave acts of omission and commission relating to vital areas of national security as revealed by the Tehelka tapes.”

Calling upon the government to give up its nefarious attempts to defame the Congress and its leadership, Mr Manmohan Singh and Mr Scindia said in the background of the wholly unwarranted action of the government which has served to further vitiate the atmosphere, the Congress has decided not to attend the meeting convened by the Prime Minister.

The meeting had been convened to evolve a consensual approach on issues coming before the resumed Parliament session on April 16.

The RJD, which also boycotted the all-party meeting, said the government had failed to take any concrete action after the Tehelka expose on the corruption in defence deals.Back


Meeting convened

New Delhi, April 14
Lok Sabha Speaker G. M. C. Balayogi has convened a meeting of leaders of all political parties in Lok Sabha on Monday, just before Parliament meets again amidst government-Opposition standoff over the Tehelka expose. PTI


No probe against Sonia: PM
Consensus eludes all-party meeting
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 14
In a move to end the boycott of Parliament by the Congress on the Tehelka issue , Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee today made it clear that there was no CBI probe into allegations against Congress President Sonia Gandhi and hoped the main opposition party would attend the Budget session of Parliament beginning on Monday.

Mr Vajpayee told the all-party meeting that no inquiry had been ordered and explained that Janata Party President Subramanian Swamy’s letter, containing various charges against Mrs Sonia Gandhi, was referred to the Personnel Department in a “routine manner”, the Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs, Mr O. Rajgopal, said while briefing newspersons about the two-hour long meeting.

The Congress had announced the boycott of the all-party meeting which had been convened by the Prime Minister for resolving the deadlock in Parliament on the Tehelka issue citing a CBI probe against its President as the reason.

Mr Vajpayee also clarified that there was a misunderstanding that the letter was referred to the department with his knowledge which was not true, Mr Rajgopal said.

Mr Vajpayee told those present at the meeting that he had spoken to Mrs Sonia Gandhi and was expecting that the Congress would take part in the discussion.

The Prime Minister sought cooperation from all political parties to ensure smooth functioning of Parliament.

Besides the Congress, the RJD, the Trinamool Congress and the Janata Dal did not attend the meeting.

However, other opposition parties like the CPM, the CPI, the Samajwadi Party, the NCP, the RSP, the Muslim League, the Forward Bloc and the BSP were present at the meeting.

The NDA constituents attended the meeting.

The meeting, however, could not get any assurance from the opposition parties that the two Houses would conduct business.

Participants at the meeting were of the view that the Tehelka issue actually brought corruption into focus and this should be discussed seriously, Mr Rajgopal said, adding that the meeting was conducted in a “cordial and cooperative manner”.

The minister claimed that the meeting arrived at a consensus that Parliament would be allowed to function normally to discuss grave issues like the WTO, the Railway and the Union budgets and the securities scam.

NCP leader Sharad Pawar said the Prime Minister should have taken the initiative of taking the Leader of the Opposition into confidence earlier and thus the deadlock in Parliament in the first phase could have been avoided.

In the same vein, CPM leader Somnath Chatterjee said it was strange that Mr Vajpayee and his colleagues “went to the people instead of having a debate in the House... They exonerated the Defence Minister. So the inquiry into the Tehelka expose was meaningless”. 

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