The battle between the Bharatiya Janata Party and its recently expelled leader took a new turn on Monday when members of the BJP and its allies stayed away from the first meeting of the Public Accounts Committee convened by Jaswant Singh.

Even as BJP deputy leader in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj made a public appeal to him to "voluntarily resign" from the post of Chairman that "rightfully belongs to the principal Opposition as has been the practice and convention since the Fourth Lok Sabha," Mr. Singh seemed to be in no mood to oblige her.

Mr. Singh said the meeting, attended by 15 of the 22 members, went on well. He expressed the hope that those who had stayed away on Monday would participate in subsequent meetings.The quorum for a 22-member committee is 8, and even if the BJP members were to stay away, the PAC work would go on.

Yashwant Sinha, Gopinath Munde (both BJP - Lok Sabha), Shanta Kumar and Narayan Singh Kesari (both BJP - Rajya Sabha), Adsul Anandrao Vithoba (Shiv Sena - Lok Sabha) and Sharad Joshi of the Swatantra Bharat Paksh, Rajya Sabha) were absent. The seventh absentee had nothing to do with the boycott.

Ms. Swaraj expressed hope that better sense would prevail on Mr. Singh and he would see that he could not take a position that rightfully belonged to the BJP. He was there as Chairman because the BJP had proposed his name, she said.

When the BJP proposed Mr. Singh's name, Mr. Sinha let it be known that he was hurt as he had been Finance Minister in the two BJP-led National Democratic Alliance governments for five years. Now if Mr. Singh were to resign, the BJP could well propose his name.

Ms. Swaraj suggested that if Mr. Singh did not relent, the party would seek a remedy from Speaker Meira Kumar.

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