Wednesday, Aug 20, 2003
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By Our New Delhi Bureau
As against the full galleries on Monday when the debate started at noon, very few turned up in the morning today. Among the recognisable faces was the Maharashtra Chief Minister, Sushil Kumar Shinde. The Rashtriya Janata Dal leader, Laloo Prasad Yadav, made frequent appearances to take stock of the tenor of the debate and, perhaps, check the performance of his party colleagues.
Amid the frequent uproar and charged speeches, the Parliamentary Affairs Minister, Sushma Swaraj, provided some humour. Referring to the Congress leader, Jaipal Reddy's pointed barbs at the Government on Monday, she said that to her "utter surprise'' she discovered most of those in two books, "1001 insults'' and its sequel. She did not know the name of the author but could identify one reader: Jaipal Reddy.
Ms. Swaraj was philosophical about her electoral battle with the Congress president, Sonia Gandhi, in Bellary. "Some defeats," she said, "were more glorious than victories. I claim that glory. Ms. Gandhi cannot claim that glory.''
The two-day debate ran on expectedly partisan lines but there were some exceptions like Yerran Naidu (Telugu Desam Party) and P.A. Sangma (Nationalist Congress Party) who criticised their own sides. Speaking against the motion, Mr. Naidu took a dig at the temple politics of the Bharatiya Janata Party by observing that no Government will be remembered by the number of temples and mosques it built during its tenure. Mr. Sangma sided with the Congress for most part of his speech, but wondered whether the timing of the no-confidence motion was appropriate. There was talk, he said, that it had been encouraged by the Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee.
The intense rivalry between the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the SP in Uttar Pradesh was reflected in the Lok Sabha. To Rashid Alvi's (BSP) charge that Mr. Yadav could not control riots in the State during his tenure as Chief Minister, the SP leader responded by challenging him to name the party which instigated the riots. It required mediation by the former Prime Minister, Chandra Shekhar, and a ruling by the Deputy Speaker, P.M. Sayeed, to calm the members from both sides.
Did the tension in the Lok Sabha spill over into the corridors of Parliament. The Shiv Sena's Suresh Jadhav said he was threatened after he intervened forcefully during the no-confidence motion. The Lok Sabha Speaker, Manohar Joshi, asked the Government to look into Mr. Jadhav's allegations.
Even before the no-confidence debate started, Mr. Yadav charged the Government with imposing an undeclared emergency. He said that overnight raids had been conducted at the residence of the SP leader, Amar Singh, and at some factories in Ghaziabad even though Mr. Singh had severed all connections with these companies six years ago. He demanded a full inquiry into the incident.
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