Tuesday, December 4, 2001, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

All-party meeting on POTO today
Vajpayee offers to consider amendments
Tribune News Service and agencies

New Delhi, December 3
Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee today offered his government’s willingness to consider amendments to the Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance (POTO) and announced that he would convene a meeting of Opposition leaders tomorrow to discuss the issue.

Intervening during an hour-long unscheduled debate on certain remarks that he made yesterday in Hyderabad during zero hour today in the Lok Sabha, the Prime Minister said it would have been better if the government had consulted the Opposition before promulgating POTO.

Mr Vajpayee said the Telugu Desam Party while supporting POTO during the recent Chief Minister’s conference had expressed reservations on certain provisions and hastened to add that the “government is willing to consider certain amendments to POTO”.

Urging the Opposition not to play politics on a issue which was crucial to the country’s unity, the Prime Minister asked the Congress to inform about its objections to the ordinance.

Denying that he had doubted the patriotism of Muslims or any other section during his speech yesterday in Hyderabad, Mr Vajpayee said he had convened a meeting of the Opposition leaders tomorrow at 6.30 pm and expressed the hope that a consensus would emerge at the deliberations.

“The new measures are not aimed at minorities or any other section but meant only to target terrorists”, he said in an obvious effort to allay apprehensions of a certain section.

Lashing out at Samajawadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav, who, according to the Prime Minister, has no business to disrupt question hour by raising the issue, Mr Vajpayee said: “Is Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav not bound by recent norms agreed to by all parties?”.

Saying that heavens would not have fallen had he raised the issue after an hour, the Prime Minister said, “Is this not politics. If not politics, is it a social service”.

Mr Yadav, by raising the issue during question hour, wanted to play politics to show that he was in the forefront in the Opposition on the POTO issue, Mr Vajpayee said.

Referring to the Opposition charge that the ruling party was indulging in politics, the Prime Minister said, “We have come here for politics. But, one has to be above party politics when the interest of the nation are at stake”.

If the Opposition could do politics, the Treasury Benches too could respond appropriately, he observed.

Earlier, the Opposition made a scathing attack on the Prime Minister’s reported remarks in Hyderabad which, they said, had cast aspersions on patriotism of the Opposition and minorities.

Asking the Prime Minister whether he wanted to run the country in this manner, Opposition leaders asserted that they would continue to oppose the “draconian” ordinance.

Appealing to the Opposition to “reconsider their stand” and support the move, Prime Minister asked, “Isn’t it true that the Opposition is not cooperating?”.

He said Congress President Sonia Gandhi had criticised POTO so he, too, should have an opportunity to put across his views. “If I speak, they raise issues of propriety”.

Earlier, as soon as question hour began, the Samajwadi Party President stood up and demanded suspension of question hour in the Lok Sabha today.

Despite protests by Mr Yadav, Congress member Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi and others, Lok Sabha Speaker G.M.C. Balayogi did not allow them to raise the issue.Back

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