Wednesday, May 1, 2002, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

Oppn guns for Modi
Charge against Sonia plunges LS into chaos
Tribune News Service and Agencies

Congress President and Opposition Leader Sonia Gandhi addresses the House
Congress President and Opposition Leader Sonia Gandhi addresses the House during debate on the Gujarat issue at Parliament House in New Delhi on Tuesday. — (TV grab) PTI

New Delhi, April 30
The Lok Sabha plunged into pandemonium, paralysing the proceedings for over an hour today, when an allegation of corruption was hurled at Leader of the Opposition Sonia Gandhi by a Samata Party member Prabhunath Singh, provoking the Opposition to stall the house.

When the issue threatened to go out of control as Mr Singh demanded the arrest of Ms Gandhi, Deputy Speaker P.M. Sayeed hurriedly convened a meeting of the floor leaders in his chamber, after which he ruled that exchanges between members unconnected with the debate on the Opposition-sponsored censure motion on Gujarat had been expunged.

The turmoil started when some Congress members continously interrupted the speech of Defence Minister George Fernandes. At one stage, the agitated ruling party members were on their feet and threatened to troop into the well of the House if the Congress members were not controlled by the Chair.

An angry Defence Minister charged Ms Gandhi with instigating the interruption. Mr Fernandes said his voice was being throttled. Amidst the uproarious scenes, Mr Sayeed walked into the house and allowed Mr Prabhunath Singh to make his submission.

Mr Prabhunath Singh referred to a case filed in the Delhi High court by Janata party leader Subramaniam Swamy relating to smuggling of idols from the country and the alleged involvement of Ms Gandhi. He also demanded that she be arrested since the court has issued notice.

There was a virtual free-for-all in the house for nearly an hour and the proceedings came to a standstill. The Deputy Leader of the Congress, Mr Shivraj Patil, demanded that the unfounded allegations against their leader be expunged.

Mr Singh’s remark came when BJP and Samata Party members were agitated over Mr Fernandes being repeatedly shouted down and not allowed to speak by the Congress benches.

Dismissing charges that there was delay in Army deployment in Gujarat, the Defence Minister said such a campaign was part of a move to demoralise the forces. Though forces were not available in Ahmedabad and Baroda immediately, they were despatched around midnight of February 28 and deployed the next morning, he said.

Earlier, Ms Sonia Gandhi accused Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee of “doublespeak” on the Gujarat issue and called for putting the Narendra Modi government “on notice’’ under Article 355 of the Constitution and an inquiry by a sitting Judge of the Supreme Court.

She reiterated her party’s demand for removal of the Chief Minister for “abetting the riots’’ and “failure’’ to protect the lives and property of the Muslim community.

She also demanded that the Vajpayee government must accept the recommendations of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and order a CBI inquiry into the carnage.

She said any directive by the BJP to Mr Narendra Modi to face the electorate would be a “mockery of democracy’’ when the state was burning. The first priority was for relief and rehabilitation for the affected people. But if elections were imposed on the state, the Congress was not afraid of facing it and would “throw out the the discredited government’’ through democratic means.

She lamented that even after two months, conditions in the relief camps in Gujarat were very bad and alleged that no action was taken against the culprits for the rape or molestation of a number of women in the state during the violence.

The Opposition in general stepped up pressure on the government demanding dismissal of the Modi government and clamping of President’s rule in the state.

Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, who initiated the discussion on the Opposition-sponsored censure motion on the communal carnage in Gujarat, said the issue at stake was the unity and integrity of the country and that the Central Government should not stand on prestige in conceding the Opposition’s demand. Mr Yadav, who was a last-minute replacement for the original mover of the motion, Mr Ramji Lal Suman (SP), did not have the copy of the motion. He, however, managed to have the text of the motion handed over to him by his party colleagues.

Mr Yadav told Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, who was present in the House, that the entire nation was looking up to him for protecting the minorities and pointed out that Mr Vajpayee had been issuing contradictory statements which made his stand ambiguous.

Mr Yadav said the police did not take action when looting and arson were taking place. Nor were any steps taken to prevent people from inciting communal passions. For instance, dead bodies of those killed in the violence were allowed to be taken out on the main roads in a procession instead of being given a quiet cremation.

He asked why communal reaction took place in Ahmedabad and not in Godhra where the massacre of Hindus took place.

Refuting the Opposition’s charges of various sins of omission and commission, Union Minister Uma Bharati, who spoke on behalf of the ruling party, blamed the vote bank politics pursued by the Congress responsible for the communal situation in the country.

Procedural problems cropped up at the start of the debate when Mr Yadav forgot to move the formal censure motion. He was reminded about the lapse by the chair after he had spoken for a few minutes.

Ms Uma Bharti (BJP) charged the Congress with creating communal tensions and said the issue that should be debated is not the dismissal of the Modi government in Gujarat but vote bank politics. She said the Congress was starved for power and ever since the NDA government began its rule was creating problems. She said Congress members were involved in the violence in Gujarat which began with the burning of the train in Godhra. Reading out a report, she said the Godhra incident was an act of international terrorism.

Mr Somnath Chatterjee (CPM) said Mr Vajpayee’s hidden agenda had come out into the open and it was clear that he was not condemning Hindu fundamentalists.

Opposition members supported by the Trinamool Congress today questioned the veracity of a report prepared by the National Commission for Women ((NCW) on the Gujarat carnage saying: “it does not represent the gravity of the crime committed against women in the state.’’

Raising the issue during Question Hour in the Lok Sabha, Ms Krishna Bose of the Trinamool Congress said the report was ‘mild’ and had failed to pen incidents of molestation, rape and killings of women during the two-month-long violence.

Shiv Sena member Anant Geete blamed the Opposition for not condemning the Godhra incident. Had the carnage not taken place, violence would not have occurred in various parts of the state, he argued.Back


Sonia taken to task for chewing gum
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 30
Defence Minister George Fernandes and Sports Minister Uma Bharti today took on Leader of Opposition Sonia Gandhi in the Lok Sabha in their own ways, but their attacks converged on one point: Ms Gandhi’s chewing gum in the House.

“The Leader of the Opposition is provoking her members. She is also chewing gum,” Mr Fernandes said. He also talked of “stories” being told by the Congress about the Gujarat violence, as if it were happening for the first time.

Ms Bharti said Ms Gandhi’s behaviour was not in keeping with the office of the Leader of the Opposition. “It is very childish. Someone should tell her that you do not chew gum in the House,” she said.Back


Voting on censure motion delayed

NEW DELHI: Voting on the Opposition censure motion on Gujarat in the Lok Sabha was delayed on Tuesday and it had not been taken up till 2.30 a.m. on Wednesday.

With all parties wanting to have a say on the issue and frequent clashes between the Opposition and Treasury Benches, the scheduled eight-hour debate prolonged well past midnight. The motion was to be put to vote after Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s reply. PTIBack

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