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Govt., Opposition bracing for battle

17 Apr 2002


By Javed Ansari and K.V. Prasad

NEW DELHI APRIL.16. The standoff between the Government and the Opposition parties on Gujarat issue continued in Parliament today forcing both the Houses to adjourn for the second consecutive day without transacting any business.

The BJP emphasised that it was not willing for a discussion on Gujarat either through an adjournment motion or under Rule 184 in the Lok Sabha, which entails a vote. The Opposition insisted on settling for nothing less than a discussion under the rule. "How can the Government decide under which rule we should get the matter discussed'' the Congress spokesperson, Jaipal Reddy, asked.

The Opposition appears prepared for a protracted battle. The Congress Parliamentary Party executive decided at its meeting today to stick to its demand for a discussion under Rule 184 and to consolidate opposition unity in Parliament. The Left and the other non-Congress Opposition parties too adopted a similar stand and gave notices for discussion under the same rule. This was finalised at a meeting convened by the CPI(M) leader, Somnath Chatterjee, and attended by leaders by SP and RJD rulers as well as Sharad Pawar, H.D. Deve Gowda, G.M. Banatawala.

The Opposition is insisting on a discussion under the rule as it amounts to censuring the Government, besides entailing a vote at the end of the discussion. It also wants to exploit the divisions within the ruling National Democratic Alliance on the issue with some demanding the removal of the Gujarat Chief Minister, Narendra Modi. The Telugu Desam Party and some other allies of the Vajpayee have also demanded a discussion. The Government wants to avoid the embarrassment of some its allies voting for the Opposition motion.

Today, the Lok Sabha met barely for a few minutes before scenes of bedlam forced an adjournment. It reconvened briefly at 12.15 p.m., just enough to allow the Deputy Speaker, P.M. Sayeed, to read out a statement expressing pain and anguish at the violent incidents that took place at Sabarmati Ashram. The BJP MPs tried to shout down the Opposition by raising anti-Sonia Gandhi slogans and demanding that she apologise for her remarks against the Prime Minister.

Events in the Rajya Sabha followed a similar pattern and the House was adjourned minutes after it assembled this morning. Slogans demanding the removal of Mr. Modi were raised with the Chairman, Krishan Kant, asking them not to do so.

In a joint statement, the Opposition leaders in the House gave notice for a discussion on Gujarat under rules entailing voting. The motion reads that the House expresses anguish at the continuing violence in Gujarat and the inability of the Union Government to intervene effectively under Article 355 of the Constitution to protect the State from the "internal disturbance" since the State has failed to discharge its constitutional responsibility.

The Opposition leaders said that even if the motion was carried (since it has the majority in the House), it would not amount to a censure motion as the Rajya Sabha was not competent to pass such a motion against the Government. They however admitted that the move would have an impact in creating the opinion of the people. They blamed the Government's "rigid attitude" in not agreeing to a discussion was the hurdle. The signatories to the statement included Manmohan Singh and Pranab Mukherjee (Congress), Laloo Prasad Yadav and Prem Chand Gupta (RJD), Nilotpal Basu (CPI-M), Debabrata Biswas (AIFB) and Manoj Bhattacharya (RSP).

In another development, the Janata Dal (United) Parliamentary Board at its meeting decided to continue with the demand for the removal of Mr. Modi, the party leader, Devendra Prasad Yadav, said.

The Alliance for a Secular and Democratic South Asia was formed in 1993 to combat rising religious intolerance in South Asia and to campaign for peace and justice in the region. We are committed to working towards a just, non-violent resolution of the crisis we are currently living through. If you are interested in joining us in this work, please call 617-983-3934 or e-mail

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