Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday apologised in the Lok Sabha for the objectionable references made by Congress member Beni Prasad Verma against the former Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, on Tuesday during the discussion on the Report of the Liberhan Ayodhya Commission of Inquiry.
The Prime Minister stepped in to apologise on behalf of the government as soon as the Bharatiya Janata Party sought to rake up the issue when the House met in the morning. Eager to put an end to the episode that disrupted the discussion, Dr. Singh conceded that such a reference to Mr. Vajpayee was not appropriate, and tendered the apology.
Dr. Singh’s intervention pacified the BJP members who were till then demanding a proper apology despite Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram rushing in on Tuesday to apologise on Mr. Verma’s behalf when he refused to do so himself at first.
On the intervention of Congress MPs and his erstwhile political companions from the socialist stock — Mulayam Singh of the Samajwadi Party and Sharad Yadav of the Janata Dal (United) — Mr. Verma had yielded to state that he was sorry if he had hurt anyone’s sentiments. However, BJP leaders Rajnath Singh and Sushma Swaraj insisted this was not enough and sought to dictate the contours of the apology they expected from him.
With Mr. Prasad refusing to relent any further and the BJP picketing the well of the House, the debate had to be cut short and Mr. Chidambaram replied through the din. Asked why the Prime Minister apologised for Mr. Verma’s remark, Congress spokesperson Jayanthi Natarajan told mediapersons that it was a mark of his graciousness and total commitment to parliamentary democracy.
Sources in the Congress said the Prime Minister’s move was dictated by the need to ensure the smooth functioning of the Lok Sabha. Apparently, Mr. Verma was unwilling to yield any further and there was every evidence that the BJP would not allow matters to rest.