Congress chief leads vociferous protest, statement withdrawn

Senior BJP leader L.K. Advani on Wednesday plunged the Lok Sabha into turmoil by terming the UPA-II “illegitimate.” But he withdrew the remark after a strong protest from the Congress and its allies, and a directive from Speaker Meira Kumar.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told journalists outside Parliament the remark was “disgraceful and unfortunate.”

Mr. Advani made the statement during a discussion on the situation in Assam, which was taken up on an adjournment motion moved by his party. He admitted that he made a mistake by speaking about UPA-II. He said what he meant was the 2008 vote of confidence that UPA-I won by spending crores of rupees. “My comments were on the confidence vote and not on the election. Those who [acted as] whistleblowers were sent to jail.”

UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi led the ruling coalition’s attack, strongly objecting to the remark.

In his first intervention as Leader of the House, Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde demanded that Mr. Advani withdraw the remark. “Mr. Advani is a senior leader. We all respect him. But today, he has said the entire [2009] election was illegitimate. This is an insult to all of us. I think he should withdraw his words,” he said.

Initiating the discussion, Mr. Advani said UPA-II is illegitimate. “It has never happened in the history of India. Crores of rupees were never spent to get votes,” he said. This evoked a sharp reaction from the Treasury Benches. UPA members were on their feet and demanded an apology from him.

Intervening, Ms. Kumar said the word used by Mr. Advani had hurt the sentiments of everyone. “If you want, you can withdraw it,” she said. Or, she would go through the records and expunge any objectionable or unparliamentary word.

With the Congress MPs continuing their protest, the Speaker adjourned the House for lunch.

However, before the adjournment, Mr. Advani sought to clarify that he had referred to the cash-for-vote scam for which BJP MPs were sent to jail for displaying wads of cash in the House during the debate on the confidence motion, which they said was paid to them for voting for the government.

When Parliamentary Affairs Minister P.K. Bansal said Mr. Advani was digressing from the issue on which he was allowed to speak, Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj clarified that Mr. Advani had not raised any unrelated issue; he was only pointing to the government’s failure on economic and social fronts, including infiltration in Assam.

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