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Speaker hosts dinner for Congress, BJP leaders today

By Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI, NOV. 21. On the eve of an all-party meeting to ensure the smooth functioning of Parliament in the coming winter session, the Lok Sabha Speaker, Somnath Chatterjee, will host dinner for the leaders of the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party tomorrow.

Having held separate meeting with the leaders of both parties last month, Mr. Chatterjee has now invited the Congress leaders, Pranab Mukherjee, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Karan Singh, Suresh Pachouri and Pawan Bansal. The BJP leaders who have been invited include L.K. Advani, Jaswant Singh and Vijay Kumar Malhotra, sources in the Speaker's office say.

The series of meetings was primarily to make sure that the winter session of Parliament scheduled to begin on December 1 gets going without any major disruptions as was witnessed during the last session. The Budget session was marked by a standoff between the ruling coalition and the Opposition, and this led to it being adjourned ahead of schedule.

As it is, the Communist Party of India, which is supporting the UPA Government from outside, had objected to reduction in the number of sittings of Parliament. The party had demanded that at least 100 days' sitting be held in each calendar year.

Assurance to BJP

At his meeting with the BJP leaders earlier, the Speaker had assured them that he was prepared to permit the Opposition to raise issues it deemed fit, provided the rules of the House allowed it.

The Opposition had accused the Government of trying to muzzle its voice and said that the BJP had prepared a list of issues it sought to raise but it had been denied the opportunity.

The BJP had promised to cooperate with the Speaker while asserting that it would continue to play the role of a vigorous opposition.

The Congress, which leads the ruling coalition, too, had assured the Speaker that it would cooperate with the chair for the smooth functioning of the House.

The all-party meeting on November 23 will be held at the Parliament House Library building at 11 a.m.

Meanwhile, the United Progressive Alliance partners and supporting parties have been invited for a meeting on November 26 ahead of the winter session of Parliament.

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