Special Correspondent

Return to House, says Speaker

  • Members criticise attack on office of Speaker
  • Questions, calling attention motion put off

    NEW DELHI: The National Democratic Alliance boycotted the Lok Sabha for the entire day on Tuesday, saying Speaker Somnath Chatterjee did not allow Opposition members their say.

    Even as its decision drew unanimous criticism from all other members, the Speaker urged the NDA to return to the House and participate in the proceedings, as "parliamentary democracy cannot function without the Opposition."

    Protest outside

    Outside the House, NDA members with their mouths gagged staged a dharna in front of Mahatma Gandhi's statue around the time their leaders normally attended a routine meeting in the Speaker's chamber before the start of the day's proceedings.

    During the meeting, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Priyaranjan Dasmunsi took exception to the boycott and said a strong message should go out from the House as the attack was not on an individual but on the office of Speaker.

    He found immediate support from leaders of other parties and it was decided that brief interventions be made at the start of the proceedings.

    The proceedings began with the Speaker's appeal and for the next 15 minutes party leaders, while stressing the role of the Opposition, condemned the boycott of the Chair.

    Wrapping up the interventions, Leader of the House Pranab Mukherjee urged the Opposition to return and said it was "extremely sad that the principal Opposition party and its associates are abstaining from proceedings as a mark of protest against the Chair."

    Maintaining that the Opposition might have differences with the Government and could boycott proceedings, he said it was painful that its members were protesting against the custodian of the prestige of the House. Mr. Mukherjee said he would personally call up Leader of the Opposition L.K. Advani and ask him to lift the boycott.

    The interventions were made by D.P. Yadav (Rashtriya Janata Dal), Basudeb Acharia (Communist Party of India-Marxist), Ram Gopal Yadav (Samajwadi Party), Rajesh Mishra (Bahujan Samaj Party), A. Krishnaswamy (Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam), Gurudas Dasgupta (CPI), M. Ramadass (Pattali Makkal Katchi), C. Krishnan (Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam), M. Jagannath (Telugu Desam), Joachim Baxla (Revolutionary Socialist Party), Subrata Bose (Forward Bloc), Ramdas Athawale (Republican Party of India-A) and Francis George (Kerala Congress).

    Speaker urges restraint

    As some members sought to single out one party for criticism and others made some particularly harsh observations while condemning the Opposition, Mr. Chatterjee time and again asked them to desist from doing so. "Let us not complicate matters further."

    He decided to postpone all questions Opposition members were to raise. Similarly, a calling attention motion on female foeticide was put off as three of the five members who moved it were from the Opposition.

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