Monday, February 17, 2003, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Pawar, Mulayam dine with Sonia
Oppn to table adjournment motion on Ayodhya
Tribune News Service and PTI

Mualayam Singh Yadav
Mualayam Singh Yadav

Sonia Gandhi
Sonia Gandhi

New Delhi, February 16
Rattled by the saffron surge in Gujarat, the Opposition parties tonight presented a picture of unity on the eve of the Budget session of Parliament by deciding to bring an adjournment motion on the Ayodhya issue as part of its plans to pin down the BJP-led government.

A dinner meeting hosted by Congress President Sonia Gandhi saw suggestions for a broader secular unity to take on the BJP in the post-Gujarat scenario.

The meeting assumed significance as NCP President Sharad Pawar and Samawadi Party leader Mualayam Singh Yadav, known Sonia-baiters till recently, broke bread with the Congress President at a time when speculation had been rife about a united opposition to take the BJP head on.

While Mr Yadav said an adjournment motion on Ayodhya would be brought, Congress spokesman S. Jaipal Reddy, who spoke separately to reporters, was not forthcoming taking the plea that the Opposition could not divulge all its strategy. “We all are united and will do everything possible to corner the government,” Mr Yadav told reporters.

Asked whether the meeting, attended by Mr Pawar, saw any specific suggestion on Maharashtra, where the Congress and the NCP are sharing power, Mr Reddy replied in the negative.

He, however, said the idea of unity among secular parties to be taken beyond Parliament was emphasised by some participants.

To a query whether there were any discordant notes at the meeting as it was attended by leaders like Mr Laloo Prasad Yadav and Mr Ram Vilas Paswan, who are bitterly opposed to each other, senior Congress leader Shivraj Patil said the meeting saw unanimity on several issues despite personal differences among some leaders.

Mr Reddy said the Opposition was determined to have full floor coordination in both Houses of Parliament and would focus on Ayodhya, “extraordinarily untenable situation in Uttar Pradesh and lack of response from the government on the unanimous report of the JPC on the stock scam.”

The Opposition would also assail the government on its failure to adequately address the drought situation in major parts of the country.

A discussion on the situation in Iraq would also be pressed during the session, Mr Reddy said, adding that the Congress was against any unilateral steps by any country against Baghdad. The session would also witness informal consultations among the Opposition parties on the issues in Parliament.

Asked whether the Ayodhya issue would be taken up on top priority, Mr Reddy said no priority had been fixed for the issues to be raised. He also declined to specify whether the issue would be taken up before or after the matter was heard in the Supreme Court on February 21.

Ms Gandhi, who only made introductory observations at the 90-minute meeting, thanked the leaders for participating in the deliberations.

This is the first time that the Congress President has called a meeting of all Opposition leaders before any session of Parliament. NCP leaders who made news by breaking away from the Congress saw no harm in enjoying the Opposition leader’s hospitality if it served to bring together secular parties in highlighting the failures of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance.

Mr Sharad Pawar drove to Ms Sonia Gandhi’s residence with former Prime Minister Chander Shekhar and party colleague Praful Patel. This was Mr Pawar’s first visit to Gandhi’s residence after May, 1999 when he parted ways with the Congress on the issue of Ms Gandhi’s much-discussed foreign origin.

The Opposition leaders representing non-Congress parties accepted the dinner invitation in the hope of airing their views on issues as the state of economy, government’s inability to take a decision on Iraq despite US belligerence that it has weapons of mass destruction and the BJP-led NDA’s unilteral decision to move the Supreme Court on the Ayodhya issue without discussing the issue in Parliament. PTI

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