Debating India

LOK SABHA

Walkout over Mulford issue

Tuesday 21 February 2006

Special Correspondent

Left, Samajwadi Party join hands with Opposition; Congress isolated

Mulford should be declared persona non grata: Gurudas Dasgupta Improper for ambassador to have written to Chief Minister: Malhotra

NEW DELHI: The Congress found itself isolated in Parliament on Monday as its allies and supporting parties joined hands with the Opposition to demand the recall of American ambassador to India David Mulford for his statements on the Iran vote and letter to West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee.

While the Left parties and the Samajwadi Party staged a walkout in both Houses to register their dissatisfaction with the Government’s response, the Rashtriya Janata Dal joined them in the Lok Sabha. However, the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance - which echoed the sentiments aired by the Left parties - did not join the walkout.

Earlier, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Priyaranjan Dasmunsi said the views of the members would be conveyed to the Prime Minister. "The Government has never [compromised] and will not compromise with the nation’s dignity, and the honour and authority of Parliament," he said.

Conceding it was not proper for an Ambassador to write directly to a Chief Minister and that it "violated established procedures", Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Suresh Pachauri assured the Rajya Sabha that the sense of the House would be conveyed to the Prime Minister.

In the Lok Sabha, the issue was raised by Basudeb Acharia (Communist Party of India-Marxist) who first mentioned Mr. Mulford writing to Mr. Bhattacharjee on his comments against U.S. President George Bush.

Thereafter, he listed the case of the ambassador writing to Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi offering Federal Bureau of Investigation assistance in a bomb blast case. Lastly, he brought up Mr. Mulford stating that the U.S.-India nuclear agreement "would die" if India did not support the U.S. position on the Iran nuclear issue at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Gurudas Dasgupta (CPI) said Mr. Mulford should be declared persona non grata and the Government should show more courage. "Why hasn’t the Government lodged a protest with the U.S. against Mr. Mulford’s behaviour; thereby giving the impression that you are yielding to American pressure."

Stating that it was improper for the ambassador to have written to the Chief Minister, Vijay Kumar Malhotra (BJP) said more objectionable was the manner in which the Government had succumbed to U.S. pressure as was evident from India’s vote at the IAEA.

Questioning the Government’s silence, Ram Gopal Yadav (SP) said it should demand his recall and summon the ambassador to communicate its displeasure. Devendra Prasad Yadav (RJD) and A. Krishnaswamy (Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam) expressed similar views.

In the Rajya Sabha, Leader of the Opposition Jaswant Singh described the ambassador’s statement and letter as a gross impropriety and violation of existing diplomatic norms.

"Hegemony of power is not necessarily hegemony of wisdom. Such a statement could have been made on the spur of a moment. But a letter is a deliberate act which the entire House condemns."

Sharad Yadav (Janata Dal-United) said it was a serious matter. "A country of 100 crore population cannot be insulted in this manner."

Describing the issue as "shameful", Nilotpal Basu (CPI-M) said while the country’s self-respect was at stake, the UPA Government was "pussyfooting" with the ambassador.

Sitaram Yechury (CPI-M) said it was an "unprecedented" situation involving the self-respect of the country.

See online : The Hindu

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