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Updated: March 23, 2011 05:56 IST

Opposition demands discussion on Manmohan statement

Special Correspondent
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BJP leader LK Advani speaks in the Lok Sabha in New Delhi on Tuesday.
PTI BJP leader LK Advani speaks in the Lok Sabha in New Delhi on Tuesday.

A determined Opposition on Tuesday stalled the proceedings in Parliament, demanding a discussion on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's statement, following the WikiLeaks expose — published by The Hindu — on alleged bribes during the 2008 trust vote, while Leaders of the Opposition in both Houses said they gave notice of privilege against Dr. Singh.

Disagreeing with the government's plea that a discussion in the Lok Sabha could be taken up after the House considered the Finance Bill, the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance staged a walkout and stayed away in the post-lunch session when the Bill was passed. When the proceedings began, Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj said she gave notice of privilege against the Prime Minister which, Speaker Meira Kumar said, was being examined by her. Ms. Swaraj maintained that a discussion on another notice under a rule that did not entail voting be taken up.

Prior to the walkout, Ms. Swaraj was joined by her colleague Yashwant Sinha and Sharad Yadav of the Janata Dal (United), all of whom had given notice for discussion. Ms. Swaraj said the House could have a debate within the allotted time and then proceed to take up the Finance Bill. Mr. Sinha said the government should not stand on technicalities.

However, Leader of the House Pranab Mukherjee wanted the Bill taken up first to ensure that it was taken up early in the Rajya Sabha. “I do not think heaven is going to fall if we take up the Finance Bill first. I assure you that we will have the discussion after the Finance Bill is passed. I am not making it a prestige issue,” he said.

Taking exception to interruptions during Ms. Swaraj's intervention, senior BJP leader L.K. Advani said that in the history of Parliament, the House could not run for an entire session because the Leader of the Opposition was not allowed to speak.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal responded, saying the government gave the utmost importance to the office of Leader of the Opposition.

In the Rajya Sabha, Leader of the Opposition Arun Jaitley said he gave two notices, one a privilege and the other to discuss the issue on the trust vote. Deputy Chairman K. Rahman Khan said the Chairman was seized of the matter.

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