Special Correspondent

Meeting on Vajpayee's request

  • Both exchange letters
  • Meeting was "cordial"

    NEW DELHI: The former Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, called on Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee at the latter's residence on Wednesday evening. The 30-minute meeting follows a request from Mr. Vajpayee soon after Parliament was adjourned sine die on August 25.

    Both the Speaker's office and that of Mr. Vajpayee preferred not to say anything about the meeting, except that it was "cordial."

    On August 7, Mr. Chatterjee wrote to Mr. Vajpayee, requesting him to reconsider the decision of the National Democratic Alliance to boycott the parliamentary proceedings the next day.

    Saying he was sorry that the NDA had taken such a decision, the Speaker said, "May I earnestly request you for reconsideration of the decision and join the proceedings of the House as before?" He also wrote that he considered participation of the Opposition necessary for parliamentary democracy.

    Mr. Vajpayee wrote back, saying: "Legislature proceedings can be smooth if the presiding officer is able to inspire confidence in the Opposition party as much as in the ruling party ... confidence in one's fairness and objectivity has to be commanded, not demanded."

    A member served notice for a privilege motion against Mr. Vajpayee, but the Speaker rejected it, preferring to end the matter.

    The entire episode led to an eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation between the NDA and the United Progressive Alliance.

    The NDA adopted a resolution in the chamber of Leader of Opposition L.K. Advani that it "stood by every word" written by Mr. Vajpayee.

    What had added a twist to the story at the time were reports that Mr. Vajpayee had in fact telephoned Mr. Chatterjee on August 8 morning and had spoken to him very courteously. The letter followed later. Authoritative sources indicated that Mr. Vajpayee was pressured into writing what he did to the Speaker. . Apparently, Mr. Vajpayee meeting Mr. Chatterjee on Wednesday morning was an attempt to clear the air.

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