M A I N   N E W S

NDA to boycott entire session
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 4
The NDA today decided to continue with its boycott of two Houses of Parliament for the rest of the Budget session till May 13 making light of Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee’s fresh appeal to its Chairman Atal Bihari Vajpayee to reconsider their decision.

A meeting of top leaders of the alliance, chaired by Mr Vajpayee, took exception to the remarks of Congress party General Secretary Ambika Soni expecting the NDA to “apologise” as also the statement of Mr Sanjay Baru, Press Adviser to the Prime Minister that Mr Manmohan Singh would not appeal to the Opposition to return to Parliament. Claiming that the Prime Minister sought to break the ice with him when he had called on him yesterday to discuss some other issue, Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Jaswant Singh regretted that it was followed by an official calling the Opposition “childish”.

“After considering the issue of boycott in detail, the NDA leaders have unanimously come to the conclusion that in view of the government’s undemocratic and intemperate attitude towards the Opposition and its complete disregard of all parliamentary norms and standards, the NDA has no alternative except to boycott the rest of the session until May 13,” a statement read out by NDA Convener George Fernandes at a joint press conference said.

While Mr Fernandes officially gave the above reasons for the boycott, sources said that the NDA leadership, disturbed with media reports over divisions within the alliance over the issue, decided to project a unified picture of the Opposition alliance for dispelling the impression in public perception that the Opposition alliance was in a disarray.

Moreover, the NDA leaders were also miffed that the ruling UPA alliance was not prepared offer an “honourable way out” to them to come back to Parliament, sources pointed out, adding that “some gesture was needed for face saving”.

Another reason being given by some NDA MPs was that the BJP leaders wanted the controversy, triggered over a news report on the alleged misuse of Indian Airforce Aircraft by Justice S N Phukan, to die down before they returned to Parliament.

Earlier, Mr Fernandes said that the Speaker’s letter was discussed at the meeting and stated that “It was felt that since the Opposition’s grievances were against the government and the Treasury Benches, perhaps the honourble Speaker should have written on this issue to the Prime Minister also”.

Interestingly, the TDP, who had so far supported the boycott, was not present at the meeting.

“A letter to the Chairperson of the NDA alone is not enough to end the current stalemate which is entirely the creation of the government and the Treasury Benches”, the NDA statement said.

Making it clear there was “scope” for any further review, Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha L K Advani said NDA members would start attending meetings of various Parliamentary Committees after May 13.

Asked about TDP’s reservation on continuing the boycott, he said TDP was not part of the NDA though it had been extending “cooperation”.

“The decision to continue the boycott has been conveyed to the TDP leadership and it is for them to take a decision. Till now, the boycott has been unanimous and total”, he said.

“The developments that have taken place over the last few days further confirmed the feeling that the NDA has had over the last eleven months that the UPA government is determined to humiliate the Opposition at every possible opportunity.

The Congress party and the government led by it expect the Opposition to apologise to them for asserting its parliamentary rights and demanding that it be heard by the Treasury benches. The Press Adviser to the Prime Minister issues a statement after a meeting of the Congress party that the Prime Minister would not appeal to the Opposition to return to Parliament”, the statement said.

Meanwhile, BJP leaders tonight said given the UPA’s attitude, the NDA may go ahead with its boycott even if the TDP distances itself from the decision.

BJP sources claimed the differences on the issue within the JD (U) have been sorted out and that the party was fully with the Opposition alliance on its boycott decision.

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