Congress, BJP members clash in Lok Sabha over Yashwant Sinha's remarks

The killing of 76 security personnel by Maoists in Dantewada on April 6 generated a lot of heat in both Houses of Parliament when they met for the second part of the budget session on Thursday.

Several Opposition members, who had given notice for suspension of question hour, demanded an immediate debate.

In the Lok Sabha, Congress members clashed with BJP members in the Lok Sabha over the remarks made by Yashwant Sinha (BJP) that the UPA-I compromised with all types of terrorism and had shaken hands with some elements for political gains in some States, including Andhra Pradesh. Congress benches demanded an apology from Mr. Sinha. UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Leader of the Lok Sabha Pranab Mukherjee were present in the House.

Earlier, Mulayam Singh (SP) and other Opposition members vociferously sought a statement from Home Minister P. Chidambaram on the issue, immediately after the House paid homage to various personalities, including the police personnel killed by Maoists. Speaker Meira Kumar was forced to adjourn the House till 12 noon.

Later when the House met, Mr. Sinha continued to attack the Congress. The treasury benches were unrelenting in their demand for an apology and forced two more adjournments, one till 1 pm and the other till 2 pm.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal told Mr. Sinha that it was the BJP governments in some States that had links with the outlaws.

As the din continued, the Speaker said: “The House is discussing a very serious matter. This is not the time for allegations but [the time] for all parties to put their heads together and discuss how best we can eliminate such elements.” She advised Mr. Sinha not to level allegations that he could not substantiate.

Earlier, Mr. Sinha embarrassed Mr. Chidambaram by quoting what Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh said in a newspaper article. It spoke of the Minister's “intellectual arrogance” and said he treated the naxal issue as “purely a law and order problem.”

Mr. Sinha did not spare the Trinamool Congress either. In an apparent reference to that party, he said the UPA itself was not united. “Ruling coalition stands severely divided. There are elements in this coalition which are challenging the policy of the government.”

To buttress his argument on the UPA government's handling of the Maoist issue, Mr. Sinha reeled off statistics. He said 4,246 people, including security personnel, were killed in Maoist violence between 2004 and 2009 — 2,524 in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand alone.

This was higher than the number of people killed in the India-Pakistan war between 1947 and 1949. Again, in the war with Pakistan in 1965, as many as 3,000 lives were lost. In the Kargil war, 522 people were killed. During the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) operations in Sri Lanka in the late 1980s, a total of 1,700 jawans/officers were killed.

“Somebody has to take responsibility for it [the Maoist menace],” he said. “The buck stops with this Parliament. We have to unite and fight this war.”

In the Rajya Sabha too, members from the BJP, the Left, the SP and the BSP were on their feet demanding suspension of question hour and immediate discussion on the issue. When they refused to listen to requests from Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Prithviraj Chavan, Chairman Hamid Ansari adjourned the proceedings.

When the House reassembled at noon, BJP members expressed disappointment that the government had shown “no concern” for the jawans killed in the attack.

BJP's M. Venkaiah Naidu suggested that the House pay homage to the security personnel killed. He was supported by Sitaram Yechury (CPI-M). This was accepted and the members observed a two-minute silence.

After the laying of papers, the BJP wanted an immediate discussion. The government said Mr. Chidambaram would make a statement at 2 p.m. and it was ready for a discussion. This did

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