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All issues can be discussed, says Manmohan

Vinay Kumar

Monday 5 July 2004, by KUMAR*Vinay

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Getting set for the session
The Lok Sabha Speaker, Somnath Chatterjee (centre), seen with (from left) the BJP leader, V.K. Malhotra, the Deputy Speaker, Charanjit Singh Atwal, the Lok Sabha Secretary, G.C. Malhotra, and the Defence Minister, Pranab Mukherjee, at the all-party meeting in New Delhi on Sunday on the eve of the budget session. Photo : V.V. Krishnan

NEW DELHI, JULY 4. The Budget session of Parliament beginning tomorrow is set to be stormy over the sacking of four Governors and the "tainted" Ministers issue.

Making an appeal to the Opposition to facilitate the smooth functioning of Parliament, the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, today expressed readiness to discuss all issues. "All issues can be discussed. Whatever bothers [the] Opposition can be discussed. Parliament is a forum for discussions and debates. I seek [the] cooperation of Opposition parties and appeal to all parties to ensure [the] smooth functioning of Parliament," he said.

Dr. Singh was talking to reporters in Parliament House after a luncheon meeting of leaders of all political parties, convened by the Lok Sabha Speaker, Somnath Chatterjee. While declining to comment on the Governors’ dismissal, he said all matters could be discussed.

"We are ready to talk to everybody. A great institution like Parliament should be allowed to function normally. All political parties, regardless of our differences, should respect this institution and allow it to function smoothly," he said.

Stressing that he respected the Opposition parties’ rights, Dr. Singh said he had talked to the Leader of the Opposition, L.K. Advani, last night. "I would have met Mr. Advani today but he is away in Ahmedabad."

The Speaker too appealed to all leaders to cooperate for the smooth functioning of Parliament. "I appeal to all leaders and MPs as they represent the people in [the] Lok Sabha. It is the House of People. All of them are responsible MPs and I hope they will cooperate," Mr. Chatterjee said.

Opposition unrelenting

The Opposition, however, appears to be in a combative mood. It charged the Government with failing to come up with a "concrete proposal" to end the stalemate in Parliament over the issue of "tainted" Ministers. The National Democratic Alliance is scheduled to meet at 10 a.m. tomorrow to draw up its strategy; there are indications that it will continue its protest. The NDA will now have more ammunition as the Governors’ sacking threatens to snowball into a major controversy.

The BJP’s Deputy Leader in Lok Sabha, Vijay Kumar Malhotra, who attended the all-party meeting, charged the UPA Government with aggravating the situation by dismissing the four Governors.

"Till today, we do not know anything about the Government’s formula to end the deadlock in Parliament," he told reporters. Issues such as the Amarnath Yatra, suicides by farmers, starvation deaths in West Bengal, changes in textbooks, train dacoities and the sacking of Governors would be raised in the Budget session.

Mr. Malhotra accused the Government of omitting the BJP from the invitation list for the two-day minority welfare and education conference that ended today. "It was a government-organised conference, not a party affair. This kind of fascist attitude towards the main Opposition party is shameless and unconstitutional,’’ he said.

’BJP behaving like a bad loser’

On the other hand, the Congress is in no mood to appease the BJP. "The BJP is behaving like a bad loser. The party does not seem to realise that it has been rejected by the people of India. We will not let the BJP walk all over us," said a senior Congress strategist.

At today’s all-party meeting, it was agreed to increase the number of Parliamentary Standing Committees from 17 to 24 or 25.Mr. Chatterjee said this decision was prompted by the complexity of subjects and for better functioning of such panels.

See online : The Hindu


in The Hindu, Monday, July 05, 2004.

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