BJP says its demand of PM's resignation not negotiable

With an entire week of Parliament proceedings washed out over the BJP’s demand for the Prime Minister’s resignation, the standoff between the government and the Opposition on coalgate looked set be carried over to Monday.

On Friday, the government made hasty moves towards a resolution, aware that the Prime Minister was set to head out to Tehran on Tuesday for the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summit. Senior Ministers Sushil Kumar Shinde and Pawan Kumar Bansal reached out to BJP leader Sushma Swaraj even as her party insisted that it was not interested in a debate and would settle for nothing less than the Prime Minister’s resignation. On his part, Finance Minister P. Chidambaram issued an appeal to the Opposition asking it to return immediately to Parliament.

And yet for all the BJP’s intransigence, it was clear that pressure was mounting on it from other quarters too. The Left parties, which have already expressed their desire for a formal debate on the floor of the House, asked Manmohan Singh to appeal to the principal Opposition party to join the debate, which could flow from a statement from him on the subject. The CPI (M)’s Sitaram Yechury said the government needed to do this urgently in view of Dr. Singh’s upcoming tour. “Otherwise another week will be lost,” he said.

However, at a press briefing, the BJP said its stand was non-negotiable and that it would keep up the pressure on the Prime Minister even if it had do so all by itself. The party’s spokesperson, Ravi Shankar Prasad, strongly defended the blockade of Parliament and said it was legitimate. If discussion was important, so was accountability, Mr. Prasad said.

He asked reporters not to take a narrow view of the BJP’s rigid stance but to see it as part of a movement against corruption: “We are now in a movement,” he said. Mr. Prasad also cited the example of the inconclusive Lokpal debate to make the point that the BJP was unwilling to enter into a “pro forma” discussion.

Mr. Prasad was, however, unable to say if the rest of the Opposition would back it to the hilt on its fight. He offered no clarity whether a meeting of the entire Opposition would be held on Tuesday under Ms. Swaraj’s leadership, as it had earlier indicated. Later, sources in the BJP said the Samajwadi Party was likely to align its position with the Left, rather than go along with it. Given this, the meeting could be attended only by members of the NDA.

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