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Give up confrontationist attitude: Vajpayee

By Gargi Parsai


NEW DELHI, AUG. 26. The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) today rejected Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's offer to "forget and forgive" any insult felt by their leaders at a meeting with him on Wednesday, and boycotted the entire Parliamentary proceedings in protest, including the passage of the Finance Bill, 2004-05.

After chairing a two-hour meeting of the NDA attended by MPs from both the Houses, the former Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, urged the Government to give up its "confrontationist attitude" with the Opposition parties and engage them in a constructive dialogue before the next session of Parliament to ensure that it was more productive.

Deploring Mr. Singh's behaviour with the Opposition delegation that went to meet him with amendments to the Finance Bill on Wednesday, he said: "I have regards for Dr. Manmohan Singh as a person, but he does not seem to be aware of the unwritten code of political conduct that should guide the interaction between the Prime Minister and senior leaders of the Opposition. Only the other day, he exhorted the political class about a "code of conduct." He has certainly not set a good example by being impolite with the NDA delegation, not showing the basic courtesy of receiving their memorandum."

Not enough, says NDA

Although the Prime Minister had yesterday called up L.K. Advani and Jaswant Singh in a conciliatory gesture, the NDA felt that "it was not enough." What seems to have precipitated the standoff is a note circulated by the Defence Minister, Pranab Mukherjee, today in which he gave the Congress version of yesterday's meeting which is contrary to what the NDA leaders have said. The NDA is also peeved at the Congress spokesman and other leaders justifying the incident.

It has now decided to take to the streets and announced a countrywide agitation from tomorrow, ending in a rally to be addressed by Mr. Vajpayee in Bangalore on September 8.

Addressing the media here, Mr. Vajpayee, who was flanked by the NDA convener, George Fernandes, and leaders of the Opposition L.K. Advani and Jaswant Singh, said though the NDA had lost the elections, from the outset it had declared its cooperation with the Government. Despite differences, it had played a constructive role in national interest.

"But some such incidents have taken place that it seems the Government does not want our cooperation or wants it on its own terms. We are the Opposition. We have our point of view and want to play our role. But if the Government does not allow the Opposition to play its part then there would be difficulty and democracy would not work well." He also raised the issues of "tainted" Ministers, Uma Bharti and Savarkar.

`New low'

Mr. Advani said the Government's confrontationist attitude marks a "new low" in Opposition-Government relationship. "It is not acceptable." Asked about a reported comment from the Left parties on NDA blocking parliamentary proceedings as undemocratic, Mr. Advani said: "We need not learn about democracy from the Left parties and the Congress. The Marxists do not believe in democracy at all and the Congress almost destroyed democracy by imposing Emergency for 19 months. They have no right to say this to us."

Pointing to the "disinformation'' in Mr. Pranab Mukherjee's note, Mr. Jaswant Singh said: "Then why did the Prime Minister call me and Mr. Advani — to ask about our health?"

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