M A I N   N E W S

Gagged, Opposition boycotts LS
Manoj Kumar
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 8
The UPA government faced an embarrassing situation in the Lok Sabha today when the entire Opposition led by the BJP boycotted proceedings against the Speaker’s refusal to take up privilege motion against the Prime Minister.

The Lok Sabha bore an empty look as the Opposition members, led by Leader of Opposition L.K. Advani, staged a dramatic protest outside Parliament near the statue of Mahatma Gandhi with black bands strapped across their mouth. The Opposition leaders refused to attend their daily meeting with the Speaker and sign the daily register.

MPs belonging to the BJP, Shiv Sena, BJD, SAD and the JD (U) wore gags during their sit-in. However, the National Conference did not join them.

In the House, Speaker Somnath Chatterjee, who is usually strict while running the proceedings, was very soft and urged the Opposition to return to the House and participate in the proceedings.

“I may have committed mistake. But it is very unfortunate that this protest is happening. The House cannot function without the Opposition and I am asking them to return,” Mr Chatterjee said.

While snubbing some MPs for their suggestion to pass a resolution against the Opposition, the Speaker said, “After all, they are our friends and there are always ways to sort out differences”.

Besides leaders of other parties, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Priyaranjan Das Munshi beseeched the MPs to call off their protest and said he was pained. He also reposed faith in the Speaker’s abilities and talent to run the House.

Leader of the House and Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee appealed to the MPs to return to the Lok Sabha and said he would personally talk to Mr Advani to make a request.

Meanwhile, Mr Advani told reporters that the Speaker’s conduct had forced the NDA to boycott the House. “We too do not like this kind of move. But the NDA is compelled to protest because of the conduct of the Speaker,” Mr Advani said. “It’s a collective decision of the Opposition alliance”.

BJP deputy leader Vijay Kumar Malhotra had yesterday given notice of privilege motion against the government on the leakage of the R.S. Pathak panel report, which indicted former External Affairs Minister K. Natwar Singh for misusing his position in securing contracts in Iraq’s oil-for-food scam.

Later Samajwadi Party leader Mohan Singh raised the issue of the leakage of the report and insisted that the Prime Minister should have expressed regret on the issue.

Raising the issue during Zero Hour, he said it was now being clarified that the findings of the report were being disclosed by television news channels when Justice Pathak was presenting the report to the Prime Minister.

He said courtesy demanded that the Prime Minister should have come to the House to explain the situation and express regret.

SP leader Ram Gopal Yadav accused the government of “gross neglect” of the House and staged a walkout with his party members. Speaker Somnath Chatterjee observed that he was considering the notices of privilege on the issue.




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