The latest round in the war of words between the Congress and the BJP over Leader of Opposition L K Advani’s decision to “boycott” the farewell dinner hosted by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee escalated on Wednesday.
The Congress accused Advani of insulting the office of Speaker, while the BJP said the invite came too late for the leader to rework his poll schedule. BJP sources had told HT on Tuesday that the PM did not invite Advani.
“It’s shocking and shameful. It is also clear from this graceless act, what little respect the BJP, and its prime ministerial candidate, have for the parliamentary democracy,” Congress spokeswoman Jayanthi Natarajan said.
Singh and Advani are in a bitter war of words for several days now, but the chill in their relations was for all to see at a function held to commemorate the birth anniversary of B R Ambedkar on Tuesday. Advani later skipped the dinner hosted by the PM for Chatterjee.
“…Advani has devalued his own post and damaged it beyond repair by this action. In fact, he has voluntarily abdicated his duties as the Leader of the Opposition,” Natarajan said.
Responding to the charge, BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said, “The farewell to Chatterjee could have been fixed at the end of the campaign. Insistence (of the PM) to have it midway… doesn’t make sense...”
When the dinner plan was being talked about, Advani had told PM he wouldn’t be available as he would be busy with poll tours and suggested it be held at the end of electioneering. The invite came too late and Advani was in no position to cancel his schedule, BJP leaders said.
The Left leaders, erstwhile colleagues of Chatterjee, too, stayed away, but had announced their decision in advance.
While the Congress went all out against Advani, it was soft on the Left over the issue. Natarajan’s statement made no mention of the Left’s decision to skip the function.
Perhaps another indication of the two sides warming up to each other. When Natarajan’s attention was drawn to her statement, she said, “It is regrettable that Left parties have politicised the dinner. We condemn their boycott in unequivocal terms”.