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Opposition has been gagged: Jaitley

Special Correspondent

BJP leader's allegations against the Chair ‘very serious,' says Bansal

NEW DELHI: Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal on Friday said he was aghast at the “serious allegation” made by Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley against Chairman of the Rajya Sabha Hamid Ansari shortly after Mr. Jaitley said at a press conference that the Chairman's ruling disallowing clarifications on the Prime Minister's statement amounted to “gagging the Opposition.”

The bone of contention was a ruling (based on a precedent of a ruling given by R. Venkataraman on 24 July 1987) that on a statement made on the specific demand from the Opposition, no clarifications are to be allowed. The ruling was with reference to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's statement on the WikiLeaks exposé.

While the BJP intends to find a remedy by asking for a debate on the subject flowing from the Prime Minister's statement of Friday – that could, if allowed, be scheduled next week —Mr. Jaitley said the ruling virtually amounted to a gag order by the chair.

“We say the Opposition has been gagged. But because it was a ruling by the Chair, we have accepted it,” Mr. Jaitley said. “What we could not ask in the House we will now ask through the media,” he said.

Mr. Bansal later responded saying that a person with “high legal acumen and intellect should not have made serious allegations against the Chair.” He added that records showed that on every subject the BJP was given more time to speak than other parties.

Mr. Jaitley also said the Prime Minister's statement on the WikiLeaks affair relating to the ‘cash-for-votes' episode on July 2008 was “completely at variance with the truth.” The BJP leader charged the Prime Minister with saying “the majority opinion of the parliamentary committee that probed the matter did not find the bribery allegation to be true.”

Mr. Bansal said the Prime Minister's statement was different. It was based on facts and one hundred per cent true. Quoting from the Prime Minister's statement, he pointed out that Dr. Singh in fact said: “The Committee had concluded that there was insufficient evidence to draw the conclusion of bribery.”

Another charge by the BJP was that by speaking at the India Today conclave before he spoke in Parliament, the Prime Minister had committed breach of privilege. “If they give notice of breach of privilege the presiding officers will deal with it, but my view is that a breach of privilege is committed only when a policy statement is made outside the House when Parliament is in session.”

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