Sonia's charges baseless: PM

NEW DELHI, APRIL 29. The Prime Minister, Mr. Atal Behari Vajpayee, today said there was ``nothing objectionable'' in his closing remarks on the last day of the budget session of Parliament on April 27 which could have provoked the angry remarks made by the Leader of the Opposition, Ms. Sonia Gandhi, immediately afterwards.

While trying to sound conciliatory - ``I am pained by the emotional outburst... I personally look forward to a constructive dialogue and cooperation with Ms. Sonia Gandhi...'' - he did not let go of another opportunity to hit out at her saying ``such episodes lower the prestige of Parliament.'' On Friday, winding up the budget session, the Prime Minister charged that never in his 40-year political career had he been forced to hear the kind of abuses hurled at him as was done by the Opposition during the session. The implication was that Ms. Gandhi had failed in controlling her party MPs.

Immediately after the session was adjourned sine die by the Speaker, the Union Home Minister, Mr. L. K. Advani, had walked towards Ms. Gandhi, presumably to exchange pleasantries. However, Ms. Gandhi in an emotional outburst charged that Mr. Vajpayee as the Leader of the Opposition earlier had ``crucified'' her husband, Rajiv Gandhi, and ``rubbished'' her mother-in-law, Indira Gandhi, and that even now she and her children were being abused daily.

Govt. not vindictive

In his statement today, Mr. Vajpayee virtually disowned all that the Bharatiya Janata Party had done and said when he was the Leader of the Opposition. ```As the Leader of the Opposition, and even when I was an ordinary MP, I always stood up to stop the use of derogatory and unbecoming remarks in Parliament.'' He also denied that his Government had been vindictive towards her and her family, saying her charge on this count was ``baseless''.

The now soft now hard stance adopted by Mr. Vajpayee was evident throughout the one-page statement. While he appealed to her for cooperation and said ``this unfortunate episode'' should be ``put behind us'' and that both the treasury and opposition benches should ``make a new beginning,'' he also admonished her for expressing her anger in the way she did adding the episode had lowered the prestige of Parliament.

``I refute Ms. Gandhi's charge that we in the BJP allowed this kind of abusive language to be used against Indiraji and Rajivji, which several Congress MPs used against me in the House,'' was the Prime Minister's plaint.

Although those who heard the Prime Minister on the last day of the session found him unusually combative, he himself clearly felt he had done no wrong. ``I had said nothing objectionable in my concluding session-end speech in the Lok Sabha. I fail to understand how my speech provoked such an angry and personalised outburst from the Leader of the Opposition.''

Privatisation vital

Earlier in the day, the Prime Minister addressed a gathering of the vaishya community (trading community) where he spoke of the need to go forward with economic reforms. Privatisation was the need of the hour for the times had changed and it was not the Government's job to be in business.

The meeting was organised by Mr. Naresh Aggarwal, Uttar Pradesh Power Minister, and Mr. Rajnath Singh, Chief Minister, was present. It was meant to be a show of strength of the trading castes and Mr. Aggarwal said these castes expected better representation in the State and at the Centre.

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