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Manmohan calls on Somnath

By Our Special Correspondent



The Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, at a breakfast meeting with the Lok Sabha Speaker, Somnath Chatterjee, in New Delhi on Wednesday. — PTI

NEW DELHI, MARCH 16 . The Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, today called on the Lok Sabha Speaker, Somnath Chatterjee, and conveyed to him that the Government was with him on the issues he had raised recently.

The meeting assumed importance in the wake of reports that the Government had distanced itself from the suggestion of the Speaker on the Presidential reference.

Dr. Singh, along with Pranab Mukherjee, Leader of the Lok Sabha, and Ghulam Nabi Azad, Parliamentary Affairs Minister, met the Speaker at his residence this morning over breakfast.

The Prime Minister conveyed the Government's position to Mr. Chatterjee since there was some misinformation that it did not agree with the Speaker's stand, sources in the Speaker's office said.

The meeting, fixed at the request of Dr. Singh, lasted 40 minutes.

On Tuesday, responding to questions from television networks that the Government had apparently decided not to make a Presidential reference, Mr. Chatterjee was quoted as stating that he was not bothered about what the Government was to do. Today's message was that the Government was in agreement with the issues raised by the Speaker.

There was no reference to the upcoming meeting of Speakers of the State Legislatures called by Mr. Chatterjee on Sunday.

Later at the regular briefing, the Congress said there was no question of the party offering any suggestion to Mr. Chatterjee on whether or not to hold the meeting.

"The Speaker is the head of the legislature and it is his prerogative to convene a meeting of presiding officers," the party spokesperson, Anand Sharma, said.

The Communist Party of India joined issued with the Bharatiya Janata Party/National Democratic Alliance (NDA) for attacking the office of the Speaker and suggested that it could move a no-confidence motion him.

It said that while the Speaker in his wisdom had called a meeting of leaders of different parties to discuss in camera the situation arising out of the Supreme Court judgment with regard to the Jharkhand Assembly, the BJP walked out.

It said the NDA suggestion to Speakers of Assemblies, where it was in power, to stay away from the Sunday meeting was tantamount to "dilution of the status" of the office of the Speaker — asking them not to act according to their own conscience but submit to the party directives openly.

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