The Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) targetted Speaker Somnath Chatterjee once again, as its relations with the presiding officer and the government nose-dived on Monday.
The main Opposition party boycotted the House and the Lok Sabha Business Advisory Committee (BAC) for the day to protest at the Chair conducting the proceedings amid commotion over party chief Rajnath Singh's arrest and the manner in which Parliamentary Affairs Minister PR Dasmunsi held one-on-one discussion with the Speaker in the House.
The issue of Rajnath's arrest and the desecration of Ambedkar's statue--raised by the BSP--derailed proceedings in the Rajya Sabha as well.
With the BJP attacking him, Dasmunsi said Leader of House Pranab Mukherjee will try to persuade Leader of Opposition LK Advani to shed his non-cooperation.
He, however, denied the BJP's charge that the Speaker was acting at the government's behest by clearing the agenda of the day--including the Uttaranchal renaming bill, the resumption of the price rise debate and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar's reply to it-amidst an uproar.
``Everyone knows the Speaker's personality... Everyone knows that he pulls up Congress ministers also,'' said Dasmunsi.
Refuting the BJP's charge, he said that as Parliamentary Affairs Minister has to act, as bridgehead between the Treasury, the Opposition and the Chair and conversing with the presiding officer did not mean that the latter was being controlled.
Sources rule out the possibility of Chatterjee talking to BJP leaders, firstly because the Opposition party had not informed him of its ``boycott'' and secondly, it was for the government to resolve the brewing standoff. The Speaker would also be wary of intervening after the NDA parliamentary party cast aspersions on his conduct and boycotted the House for a day during the Monsoon session.
While admitting that any party would be agitated over its leader's arrest, Dasmunsi said that the BJP did not give any notice for raising the matter on which even its allies did not join in the protest. Also, at the morning meeting in the Speaker's chambers before the House assembled, BJP's Santosh Gangwar only wanted permission to raise the Bhagalpur train accident issue. ``But suddenly they raised the issue of Rajnath's arrest and stormed the well of the House. In fact, each time there is a chance to discuss an issue, the BJP disrupts proceedings,'' alleged Dasmunsi.
Congress spokesman Satyavrat Chaturvedi also alleged that the Opposition's lack of interest in people's issues showed in the fact that less than a dozen BJP members were present for the discussion on the BJP-sponsored notice on price rise and the party was not interested in hearing Pawar's reply to the debate. The thin attendance of Congress MPs was dismissed with the explanation that it was the BJP's responsibility to ensure the presence of its members on an issue on which it has given notice. There were hardly any members present also for the discussion on panchayati raj.
In fact, frayed nerves were on display right through the day, starting with Chatterjee wondering at the relevance of holding morning meeting with leaders when its decisions were not implemented in the House. Dasmunsi and other leaders, however, urged him to continue with it. Chatterjee's remarks came when CPM's Basudeb Acharia and Congress' Madhusudan Mistry insisted on being allowed to raise the Gujarat issue following the fact-finding team's visit.
Once they assured him that they would not criticise anyone, Chatterjee relented, but not without commenting that their insistence jettisoned the earlier decision that the Chair would decide on the five issues to be raised during Zero Hour. His apprehension that the matter would create uproar was borne out by the turn of events.
The Speaker noted the BJP's absence at the BAC, which decided that the House will take up on Tuesday the approval of the Supplementary Demand for Grants for Railways, the introduction of the Supplementary Demand for Grants (General) and the passage of the bill renaming Uttaranchal. ``What is the point of having such meetings when the main Opposition is not there?'' he said.
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