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NDA leaders plan to meet Speaker

By Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI, DEC. 20. A meeting of National Democratic Alliance leaders today described as "unfortunate'' the statement of the Lok Sabha Speaker, Somnath Chatterjee (on December 16) that he had reluctantly and "with great sorrow'' adjourned the Lok Sabha the previous day at the request of the NDA chairman, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, and the Leader of Opposition, L. K. Advani.

The Bharatiya Janata Party leader, V. K. Malhotra, later told reporters that a group of NDA leaders intended to take an appointment with Mr. Chatterjee to discuss "various objections'' raised by leaders of different parties comprising the NDA at the meeting today. The Telugu Desam Party, which normally does not attend NDA meetings, was represented by Yerran Naidu today. Leaders of the Janata Dal (United), the Akali Dal, the Biju Janata Dal, the Shiv Sena and the Trinamool Congress also attended the meeting held in Mr. Advani's chamber in Parliament House.

The one-page statement adopted by the NDA was critical of the Speaker for having blamed the Opposition for the adjournment when "the sole cause of the Opposition protest on December 15, leading to the adjournment of the Lok Sabha, was the absence of the Railway Minister [Lalu Prasad], who shirked his responsibility to make an obligatory statement in Parliament on the horrible railway accident in Punjab the previous day.''

The NDA asserted that barring this episode both Houses of Parliament had functioned smoothly, and if the winter session was truncated it was only because the Government did not have adequate legislative business. It added that the NDA was "committed to contributing to a consensus approach to ensure smooth functioning of the two Houses of Parliament.''

The NDA stated it was "distressed'' at repeated allegations that the Opposition was responsible for disrupting parliamentary proceedings. It also described as "unmerited'' the allegation that the Opposition had shown disrespect to the Speaker. The NDA statement was alluding to the Speaker's remarks that members had alleged he was indulging in "tanashahi" (behaving like a dictator) and the BJP had to clarify the next day that its members had described the Government as "tanashah" and "not the Speaker.''

Today's meeting also touched on three other issues — the blast on the railway tracks near Sasaram in Bihar yesterday which had delayed the Rajdhani Express carrying four JD (U) leaders from the State to Delhi, the alleged "involvement of the Punjab Chief Minister, Amrinder Singh, in violation of Foreign Exchange Regulation Act and some other cases,'' and the non-presentation of a Bill on patents by the Government in this session.

Mr. Malhotra told reporters that the Sasaram blast, which affected 10 km of railway track, was "targeted at the JD (U) leaders (George Fernandes, Nitish Kumar, Sharad Yadav and Shiv Kumar) and was part of a conspiracy to target the opposition in Bihar.'' He said the BJP had also approached the Election Commission on the issue of "distribution of currency notes'' to some people in Bihar by the Rashtriya Janata Dal leader, Lalu Prasad.

The NDA was unhappy that the Government would be enacting a law on patents through ordinance rather than presenting the Bill in Parliament and enacting legislation after a full discussion.

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