But party ducks question on demand for Ashwani Kumar’s resignation
Even as it dismissed Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj’s allegation that UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi had prevented her from speaking in the Lok Sabha as “completely baseless,” the Congress on Wednesday avoided a direct reply to a question whether the government would concede the opposition demand for the resignation of Law Minister Ashwani Kumar over the CBI affidavit issue.
Finance Minister P Chidambaram, addressing a press conference here, pointed out that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had already said whatever action had to be taken would be taken after he studied the Supreme Court’s observations. “There will be a response,” Mr. Chidambaram said.
As for Ms. Swaraj’s contention, Mr Chidambaram and Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari — after a briefing on Cabinet decisions — stressed that it was not substantiated by visuals of proceedings on Tuesday.
“I was present in the House and my other colleagues were also there,” Mr. Chidambaram said, adding, “The entire broadcast of that time was telecast by some channels later in the day... There is no visual to show that the Congress president interrupted Sushma Swaraj or did anything else to prevent her from speaking.”
‘Personal attack condemnable’
Mr. Tewari said it was “sad” Ms. Swaraj had made a personal attack on Ms Gandhi and that it was “condemnable”.
Mr. Chidambaram expressed the hope that the BJP would rethink its decision not to attend meetings convened by Speaker Meira Kumar and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath so that pending legislative business could be completed before the budget session ended on May 10. Such a boycott would be a “sad” development for democracy.
To a question whether the stand-off with the Opposition would affect passage of key Bills, Mr. Chidambaram said, “I have not given up hope. I hope the Opposition will return to Parliament and these Bills can be passed.” Among the key pending measures are the Food Security Bill, the Land Acquisition Bill and the Insurance Bill.
In his reaction, Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal said, “We can't expect anything from a party [BJP] that doesn't believe in parliamentary democracy.”
Samajwadi Party criticised Ms. Swaraj for her remarks. “There are important issues we want to discuss. Why isn't Sushma Swaraj letting Parliament function? We need to debate issues,” said SP leader Naresh Agarwal.
Mr. Meira Kumar too commented on the parliamentary impasse. On the sidelines of a function at which a bust of K. M. Munshi was unveiled on his 125 birth anniversary at Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan here, she said: “It is important for the House to run, especially when it is the budget session, as we have to pass financial Bills which is a constitutional requirement.” Asked how she planned to resolve the situation, the Speaker said, “I have been appealing to all the members to ensure that the House functions.”
Youth Congress protest
Meanwhile, scores of Youth Congress workers staged a protest outside Ms. Swaraj’s Safdarjung Lane residence for about 45 minutes in the afternoon for her remarks against Ms. Gandhi.