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Peeved NDA to boycott session

A letter to Vajpayee not enough to end Manmohan Singh govt created stalemate: NDA

Our Political Bureau  |  New Delhi 

It's official now. The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) will boycott the rest of the Parliament session latching on to Congress General Secretary Ambika Soni's throw-away remark that if the Opposition apologised for wasting public money by obstructing Parliament, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh might listen to them.
Offended and outraged, the Opposition rejected Speaker Somnath Chatterjee's appeal to NDA Chairman Atal Bihari Vajpayee to reconsider its boycott of Parliament and decided to continue with its protests in both Houses for the rest of the Budget session till May 13.
The absence of the Opposition means that the agenda of the two Houses will be telescoped and the session might end sooner than expected.
A meeting of top leaders of the alliance, chaired by Vajpayee, took exception not just to Soni's remarks but also the statement of the press adviser to the Prime Minister that Singh would not appeal to the Opposition to return to Parliament.
Claiming that Singh sought to break the ice with him when he had called on him yesterday to discuss some other issue, Leader of Opposition in the 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.
Stating that the Speaker's letter was discussed at the meeting, he said, "It was felt that since the Opposition's grievances were against the government and the treasury benches, perhaps the Speaker should have written on this issue to the Prime Minister also".
The Telugu Desam Party (TDP), which has 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 stalemate, which is entirely the creation of the government and the treasury benches," the statement said.
Making it clear there was "scope" for review, Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha LK Advani said NDA members would start attending meetings of various parliamentary committees after May 13.
About the TDP's stand, he said the TDP was not part of the NDA though it had been extending its "co-operation".
"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, which have taken place over the last few days further confirmed the feeling that the NDA has had over the last 11 months: that the UPA government is determined to humiliate the Opposition at every possible opportunity.
"The Congress 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 that the Prime Minister would not appeal to the Opposition to return to Parliament," the statement said.
"The issue is related to the attitude of the government towards the Opposition. The relationship between the two is one of the principal pillars of parliamentary democracy,' the BJP president said, adding the emergency was imposed due to the "same mindset".
In fact, sources in Parliament said Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Suresh Pachauri met the Prime Minister on Tuesday afternoon, to look for ways of breaking the deadlock, but Singh appeared upset that the Opposition had taken his moves at reconciliation lightly.
As of now, there are two options open as far as the rest of the session goes, either Parliament is adjourned early, or it continues to bring issues like the statement on Justice Phukan and the disinvestment into the Juhu Centaur hotel. The jury is out on both options.
Desam stand
The Telegu Desam Party (TDP) appeared to be breaking ranks with the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) on the boycott of Parliament, with the party staying away from a meeting of NDA members, which decided to continue the boycott till May 13. BJP chief LK Advani admitted that as a informal part of the NDA, the TDP could go its own way on the matter.
But he pointed out that the TDP had gone with the NDA on the sixth day of the boycott as well.
Favouring participation in Parliament proceedings, TDP leader Yerran Naidu today said it would take a decision on the boycott tomorrow. It would also discuss whether the boycott was correct.
"It depends (whether to continue the boycott) on my party high command's decision. Today, the NDA took a decision, which they informed the TDP. Advani informed us of the NDA's decision in the morning. I will discuss it with my leader. Tomorrow, I will be convening the parliamentary party meeting and we will decide whether to continue boycotting Parliament or not," he said.
Naidu said members elected by the people have to go to Parliament and discuss people's problems.

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First Published: Thu, May 05 2005. 00:00 IST