Friday, March 7, 2003, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Mayawati tape rocks Parliament
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 6
The Mayawati videotape scandal reverberated in both houses of Parliament for the third consecutive day today as proceedings in the two Houses were stalled for hours by a determined Opposition demanding the dismissal of the Mayawati government in Uttar Pradesh.

The issue took a dramatic turn in the Rajya Sabha during zero hour when Chairman Bhairon Singh Shekhawat threatened to resign to protect the dignity of the House, saying he would prefer to resign than allow violation of norms and rules of the House.

“I will not allow the autonomy of states to be infringed upon, even if I have to resign as Chairman. We must draw a line on how far Parliament can discuss an issue pertaining to state legislatures.” The Chairman added that a meeting of the Business Advisory Committee had been convened to discuss the issue.

Furore erupted on this issue in the Lok Sabha too and the matter came to a boil when Mr Akhilesh Singh (Samajwadi Party) threw his coat on the table and threatened to resign from the House, saying he had “lost faith in Parliament.” Deputy Speaker P.M. Sayeed, who was in the chair, described the behaviour as inappropriate and adjourned the House for 15 minutes.

The Congress and Samajwadi Party members demanded the dismissal of the Mayawati government on grounds of breakdown of Constitution in the state. Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and Congress deputy leader Shivraj Patil sought the resignation of Mayawati, saying the Governor’s address, the state budget and the no-confidence motion against the Chief Minister were all passed without any discussion in total violation of constitutional norms.

“The Chief Minister should resign. If she does not, the Centre should impose President’s rule as constitutional machinery in the state has broken down. There is no rule of law and arbitrariness is prevailing,” they contended. Mr Yadav also demanded a CBI probe into charges of corruption against Ms Mayawati and alleged that development funds allotted to MPs and MLAs were being “looted” on orders of the Chief Minister.

BJP Chief Whip V K Malhotra countered by saying that in the past too charges of corruption had been levelled against Chief Ministers but the Centre had not dismissed them or imposed President’s rule. “If there is a court case against a Chief Minister, can the matter be referred to CBI? The Opposition raises what suits them,” he said.

Earlier, giving his ruling on the issue of the tabling of Mayawati’s letter to the Centre, Speaker Manohar Joshi observed that it was “a sensitive matter” and agreed with the Government that it should not be tabled in the House.

The Speaker said communications between states and the Centre were confidential in nature and, therefore, the government had the right not to make them public.

The Speaker rejected adjournment motions moved by Ramjilal Suman and Akhilesh Singh (both Samajwadi Party) and Sriprakash Jaiswal (Congress) to discuss developments in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly yesterday.

In the Elders’ House, the Opposition members were up on their feet soon after the House assembled and vociferously demanded the suspension of question hour.

The Chairman said though he had received a notice from Mr Suresh Pachouri (Congress) in this regard, he would not allow the matter till a decision was taken in consultation with leaders of all political parties on whether the House could discuss a matter pertaining to state legislatures.

When the Opposition members continued to harp on the issue vociferously, Mr Shekhawat said even if he had to sit late in the night, he would do so and not adjourn the House. As the din continued, the House was adjourned for lunch after two hours of acrimony on the issue.

Mr Shekhawat said the basic question was how far state issues could be discussed in the House and added that he wanted to settle the issue once and for all by arriving at a consensus among political parties.

“I can go to any extent to protect the rights of states,” he said, appealing to members to allow legislative business till a decision on the issue was taken in the Business Advisory Committee.

To this, the Opposition maintained this was a matter of urgent public importance and they wanted it to be taken up ahead of other scheduled business and hence a notice had been given.

The Leader of the Opposition, Dr Manmohan Singh, suggested that the House be adjourned for a while to enable a meeting of leaders of political parties with Chairman to resolve the impasse.

“It is most unfortunate that a situation has developed the way it had developed. It is not our intention in any way to raise an issue or discuss matters which are within the exclusive purview of state legislature”.

Dr Manmohan Singh’s argument was that there could be genuine differences on the jurisdiction of state assemblies and Parliament and the members were agitated over “gross violation” of constitutional framework in UP.

He suggested the House be adjourned for a while to enable a meeting of leaders of political parties with Chairman to resolve the impasse. 

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