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Angry BJP gives PM lunch a miss

By refusing to attend the pre-Parliament session lunch hosted by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the BJP signalled a stormy monsoon session. The party’s leadership refusal came just hours before the lunch, via a phone call to finance minister Pranab Mukherjee.

delhi Updated: Jul 24, 2010 01:25 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times

By refusing to attend the pre-Parliament session lunch hosted by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the BJP signalled a stormy monsoon session. The party’s leadership refusal came just hours before the lunch, via a phone call to finance minister Pranab Mukherjee.

Sushma Swaraj, leader of opposition in Lok Sabha, said the PM’s invite could not be accepted since the “environment was not cordial” following the CBI’s summons to Gujarat home minister Amit Shah in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case. She accused the government of misusing the premier investigating agency.

Arun Jaitley, leader of opposition in Rajya Sabha, said: “We believe the CBI is preparing a political agenda on baseless facts and the government has a clear strategy to do a media trial, give half-truths, create a prejudicial environment and use it for votebank politics.”

Bracing for trouble in the House, parliamentary affairs minister P.K. Bansal said, “I wish they have responded to the PM’s invitation. In a democracy, they could have utilised the opportunity to bring the matter to the notice of the PM.”

His deputy, minister of state for parliamentary affairs Prithviraj Chavan said the probe into the fake encounter was ordered by the Supreme Court and “how can the BJP say the agency was functioning on the orders of the government”.

The Congress responded more angrily. “Modi appears to have pressurised senior BJP leaders to obstruct an ongoing investigation because the CBI is zeroing in on the possible complicity of Shah. This has obviously sent shivers down the collective spine of the Bharatiya Janata Party. A press conference (by BJP leaders) on this is a blatant attempt to pressurise investigations. It is a cheap attempt to create an arc of immunity for Amit Shah and indeed for Narendra Modi,” Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said.

The BJP’s move cast a shadow on the government’s plans for 35 legislations to be taken up during the 33-day monsoon session that opens on Monday.

They include the passage of the Women’s Reservation Bill, the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damages Bill, the Goods and Services Taxes Bill and the Direct Taxes Code Bill.

CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat said the biggest issue for the party was the fuel price hike and decontrolling of petrol. The Women's Reservation Bill, on which opposition parties are divided, is listed for consideration and passage in the Lok Sabha. It was passed in the Rajya Sabha earlier. A bill seeking to increase the salary and allowances of Members of Parliament is also on the priority of the government, and that’s one legislation which may be passed without a hassle.

First Published: Jul 23, 2010 13:42 IST