Special Correspondent

We never expected him to question impartiality of the Chair: Left

  • Speaker ``bulldozing'' House into transacting business: BJP
  • Vajpayee has no respect for the institution: CPI
  • Boycott betrays lack of faith in Parliament: Congress

    NEW DELHI:The Government, the Congress and the Left parties on Tuesday spoke with one voice, criticising the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance and the former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee for his ``insinuating remarks'' questioning the integrity of Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee.

    Earlier, Mr. Vajpayee said ``legislature proceedings can be smooth and constructive only if the Presiding Officer is able to inspire as much confidence in the Opposition as he is able to do in the ruling parties.''

    Replying to the Speaker's August 7 letter asking the NDA to reconsider its boycott decision, Mr. Vajpayee said all sections of the alliance felt deeply disappointed at the manner in which the House was being run now. ``I may add that confidence in one's fairness and objectivity has to be commanded; it cannot be demanded.''

    Mr. Vajpayee said he fully agreed with the Speaker that for parliamentary democracy to function, it was essential to have full participation by the Opposition in the proceedings.

    Dismisses charge

    At a party briefing, BJP spokesman Vijay Kumar Malhotra said the entire Opposition was ``unhappy over the Speaker's conduct.'' He dismissed charges that the Opposition was stalling government business. ``In fact, the House is functioning without any opposition and even amidst din and disorder. It is not because of us, but due to the Government's attitude that important Lok Pal, banking, pension and women's reservation Bills are getting blocked.''

    Mr. Malhotra said the BJP Parliamentary Party, which met on Tuesday, felt that no member could tolerate being humiliated in the House.

    He said the Speaker was ``bulldozing'' the House into transacting business.

    The Speaker, however, chose not to comment on Mr. Vajpayee's letter out of respect for the veteran parliamentarian.

    However, it is learnt that Mr. Chatterjee was upset at the contents as the letter was contrary to what the former Prime Minister told him in the morning over telephone. Mr. Vajpayee apparently called him up by way of responding to the Speaker's letter.

    Mr. Chatterjee told a Left delegation that he wanted to resign from the post instead of being accused in such a manner by the principal Opposition.

    "Saddest day"

    Leading the charge against the Opposition, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Priyaranjan Dasmunsi said it was the ``saddest day'' in the history of Indian parliamentary democracy when a leader of the stature of Mr. Vajpayee made ``unprecedented and highly objectionable'' comments on the institution of Speaker.

    Mr. Vajpayee's "insinuations" and language were surprising, and not expected of one of the seniormost parliamentarians otherwise known for his politeness and understanding of the parliamentary system, the Minister said.

    At a separate press conference, Left leaders said they never expected Mr. Vajpayee to question the impartiality of the Chair and his language seemed to suggest that he wanted the Speaker to quit.

    ``It is an indirect suggestion and the Speaker was hurt. It was a public insinuation by one of the oldest parliamentarians and means that he has no respect for the institution. How can Parliament function in this fashion? If Mr Vajpayee has any decency, he should ask the BJP to move a motion of no-confidence against the Speaker... Mr. Vajpayee is violating the rules of parliamentary system,'' the CPI leaders said.

    Those present included Basudeb Acharia and Mohammed Salim (CPI-M) and Gurudas Dasgupta and S. Sudhakar Reddy (both CPI).

    The Congress deprecated the disruptive approach of the Opposition parties. "Such boycotts show their complete lack of faith in Parliament and lack of faith in the Chair and complete lack of respect for the Chair. It shows they believe in destructive and not constructive politics,'' said party spokesman Abhishek Singhvi.

    Don't quit: Basu

    PTI reports:

    In Kolkata, veteran CPI (M) leader Jyoti Basu said Mr. Chatterjee should not resign.

    ``Why should Chatterjee quit? If he resigns, then there will be election for the Speaker's post. He should not resign under any circumstances,'' Mr. Basu said.

    Mr. Chatterjee's appeal to the Opposition not to boycott the House and to return was in the right spirit, Mr. Basu said. ``I don't know what the BJP is thinking of doing. Mr. Chatterjee's relations with the Opposition were always good. I don't know what has happened again.''