Sparks flew on the first day of Parliament’s monsoon session as an unusually aggressive Sonia Gandhi took on BJP veteran LK Advani after he stirred a hornet’s nest by making adverse comments about the UPA government.
Gandhi, usually known for her measured approach to political debates, angrily turned around and signaled her party members to protest at the comments, made in connection with the cash-for-votes scam of 2008.
Prodded by Gandhi, new leader of the House Sushil Kumar Shinde made his first intervention: “Advaniji is a very senior leader and we all respect him. But today… he should withdraw his words.”
HT is not publishing Advani’s remarks as they were expunged.
After a 10-minute disruption marked by shouting from both sides, Speaker Meira Kumar adjourned the House for half an hour.
On returning to the House, Advani withdrew his remarks, which had been made during a debate on an adjournment motion over the recent violence in Assam.
The BJP leader clarified that his latest remarks were a reference to the first UPA and not the current coalition.
PM Manmohan Singh later termed Advani’s remarks “disgraceful and unfortunate” and several cabinet ministers slammed Advani.
Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi refrained from commenting. “He is a senior person. He knows what he is saying. I do not want to comment,” he told reporters.This was the first day in Parliament for the UPA after its seasoned leader Pranab Mukherjee left the Lok Sabha following his election as President.
Sonia’s hard stance was interpreted by some as an indication that she will increasingly lead from the front in crisis situations.
The BJP later accused the Congress of not wanting a discussion on Assam and deliberately disrupting the House, saying Advani had just wanted to draw attention to the cash-for-votes scam.
“The Congress did not have replies to the Assam issue and diverted attention. Sonia Gandhi should have controlled her MPs rather than provoking them. The parliamentary affairs minister acted like a street worker of the Congress and the PM was silent as ever in the House,” BJP spokesman Shahnawaz Hussain said.
“Leadership is seen in Parliament by citing rules; it doesn’t mean provoking members to disrupt proceedings.”