BJP takes aggressive stance at all-party meet

Last Updated 20 February 2013, 14:01 IST

On the eve of Budget Session of Parliament, the government today sought to buy peace with the Opposition saying it was ready for any kind of inquiry into the chopper scam on which there was a political consensus.

It also sought to mollify the BJP, which is incensed over Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde's "Hindu terror" remarks, saying it would try to sort out the issue through dialogue.

Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj demanded that Shinde withdraw his remarks and apologise so as to ensure smooth functioning of the House.

Taking an aggressive stance at the all-party meeting convened by Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar, Swaraj said that if BJP was training terrorists, as alleged by Shinde, then she should cease to be the Leader of the Opposition and BJP members should not be allowed in Parliament.

"As custodian of the House, we seek your protection as the Home Minister, who is also Leader of the House, has alleged that BJP is running terror camps," she told the Speaker during the meeting.

"If we are doing so, then I have no right to be Leader of Opposition and BJP members should not be allowed to sit in the House. We should be probed. But first resolve this matter," Swaraj said.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh hoped that the session would see "productive and constructive debate leading to agreed solutions" to many national problems.

Noting that all parties have an obligation to ensure that Parliament runs smoothly, Singh said, "I am hopeful and confident that this is going to be a fruitful session."

He expressed the hope that at a juncture when the country is facing many economic challenges, all political parties would join hands for productive and constructive solutions.

Swaraj said political parties want discussion on several issues including VVIP chopper scam, Indo-Pak ties in the backdrop of beheading of two Indian soldiers, situation in Maldives, attempts by China to encircle India, severe drought in Maharashtra and plight of farmers due to hailstorm in Madhya Pradesh as also the burden of rising prices on the common man.

Ahead of the session, government gave clear signals of backing Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman P J Kurien, whose resignation is being sought by Left parties on the Suryanelli rape case issue.

"Kurien's case is very clear. It has been cleared by the Supreme Court... We will not agree to hold a discussion in any House of Parliament on a subject of state politics," Nath said.

In a bid to resolve the standoff with the BJP on Shinde's remarks, the Home Minister and Nath held discussions with Swaraj soon after the all-party meeting.

There were indications from both sides that efforts were on to find a way out on the issue and ensure smooth functioning of Parliament.

"Both sides will make efforts to find a way out for the house to function," BJP veteran L K Advani said.

Nath said he would hold discussions today and tomorrow with the Opposition and was hopeful that convergence would emerge in a day or two.

On the controversial chopper deal, he said government was willing for any type of inquiry for which there was a political consensus.

"I have told all political parties that the government is willing to have any type of inquiry for which there is political consensus on the helicopter issue because this is not just an issue concerning corruption. This is an investigation carried out overseas which is a slur on India," Nath said.

He maintained that it was the responsibility of political parties to arrive at a consensus and that the government was ready for any kind of inquiry.

"We must have complete, transparent and very incisive inquiry," he said.

NDA convenor and JD(U) chief Sharad Yadav raised the issue of frequent disruptions of parliamentary proceedings.

"I have requested the Speaker and others to ensure smooth functioning of the House... The attitude which has developed in the last eight years of not letting the House function should end," he said.

Yadav wanted a proper probe and a detailed debate on scams, especially the one relating to kickbacks involved in the purchase of helicopters for VVIP transportation.

He also demanded debate on the land bill and rising prices during the Budget Session.
The meeting was also attended by Deputy Speaker Karia Munda, T K S Elangovan (DMK), Neeraj Shekhar (SP), Basudeb Acharia (CPI-M), Sharifuddin Shariq (NC), P Kumar (AIADMK), Sudip Bandyopadhyay (Trinamool Congress), Lalu Prasad (RJD) and E Ahamed (IUML).

Minsters of State for Parliamentary Affairs Rajiv Shukla and Paban Singh Ghatowar also attended the meeting.

The session has a heavy legislative agenda, including getting Parliament nod to three ordinances, introduction of as many as 16 bills, consideration and passage of 35 bills.

These include the national food security bill, the criminal law amendment bill, reservation for SC/STs in promotion bill and a bill aimed at prevention and prohibition of sexual harassment of women at work place. Besides, 13 items related to financial business, including discussions on General and Railway budgets, and budget for Jharkhand which is under President's rule.

The enactment of key legislations like strengthening of anti-rape laws, land acquisition bill and Lokpal bill is likely to be delayed.

This means that the session having 34 sittings spread over two parts could mainly deal with the financial business due to lack of consensus and the heat generated over a variety of issues.

(Published 20 February 2013, 13:58 IST)

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