Until Prime Minister makes a statement on Hazare, Parliament cannot function: Sushma Swaraj

Opposition parties led by the Bharatiya Janata Party and supported by the Left on Tuesday worked out a common strategy to corner the government on its “undemocratic” suppression of social activist Anna Hazare's “movement” against corruption.

At the initiative of the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj, leaders cutting across the Right-Left spectrum, gathered in her chamber in the Parliament House and conferred for about an hour from 2 p.m.

While they rejected a “3-day boycott of Parliament” proposal of CPI leader Gurudas Dasgupta, they decided to insist on a statement from the Prime Minister on the early morning arrest of Mr. Hazare and his companions. Ms. Swaraj later said that until this statement was made, Parliament could not function. And they wanted the right to discuss issues arising from that statement.

While there was no clarity from the government on what its response would be, Ms. Swaraj's counterpart in the Rajya Sabha, Arun Jaitley, indicated that the Upper House would run on Wednesday afternoon irrespective of anything else as “the House will have to perform its judicial function” in the matter of impeachment of Justice Soumitra Sen of the Kolkata High Court.

He defended the decision to stall Parliament if a statement from the Prime Minister was not forthcoming as “the right to dissent was the essence of democracy” and the government was trying to hide behind “police action” on Mr. Hazare. The joint demand of the Opposition parties includes immediate release of Mr. Hazare (he was released later but refused to come out of jail) and supporters and their right to carry forward their agitation peacefully.

Initially, the CPI(M) was reluctant to join the deliberations in Ms. Swaraj's chamber — party leader Basudeb Acharia said as much — but later Ramchandra Dom and Sitaram Yechury participated in the closed-door deliberations. Representatives of the Rashtriya Janata Dal, the Telugu Desam Party, the Samajwadi Party and NDA allies, the Shiv Sena and the Janata Dal (United), were also present. The Bahujan Samaj Party did not respond to Ms. Swaraj's invitation and the Biju Janata Dal was absent as “it could not be contacted,” Ms. Swaraj said.

The Left stance, as articulated by Mr. Dasgupta and D. Raja, is they were with the other Opposition parties on the limited issue of guarding the fundamental democratic right to protest.

Mr. Dasgupta said: “The issue is the democratic right to hold a peaceful agitation … Opposition parties?have joined ranks to prevent the government from curbing this right.”

On teaming up with the BJP, he added: “There can be no [political] untouchability” on the issue of democratic rights.?

Mr. Raja asserted it was neither the start of the Left sharing a “larger political platform with the BJP,” nor the beginning of what happened during the JP movement or later when V.P. Singh took up Bofors as the main issue.

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