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Dinner over, House faces Gujarat

New Delhi, Nov 17: Lok Sabha Speaker Manohar Joshi hosted a dinner tonight to enlist the support of political parties for the smooth running of Parliament’s winter session, beginning tomorrow.

But the Opposition said the gesture would not prevent it from raising Gujarat, disinvestment in the oil sector, the political turmoil in Uttar Pradesh and the drought in some parts of the country.

Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and leader of Opposition Sonia Gandhi were among those who attended the Speaker’s dinner.

Joshi appealed to the leaders to ensure smooth conduct of business in the House. “We are willing to discuss all the issues with the Opposition,” parliamentary affairs minister Pramod Mahajan said after the dinner. “If there are no adjournments, we can discuss all the issues for a longer period of time.”

But Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Raghuvansh Prasad Singh said the entire Opposition, including the Congress, had agreed to bring an adjournment motion on Gujarat. “Together, we will bring in an adjournment motion,” he said. The CPM has also said it would bring in an adjournment motion on Gujarat.

However, a senior Congress leader said “we are for the orderly conduct of business in the House”.

The Prime Minister chaired a meeting with senior BJP leaders this morning at his 7 Race Course Road residence to draw up a strategy to counter the attack expected to be launched by the Opposition tomorrow.

At the meeting, many members suggested that even if the Opposition seeks discussions on some issues that fall outside the procedural rules, they should be allowed.

Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani, finance minister Jaswant Singh, foreign minister Yashwant Sinha, information and broadcasting minister Sushma Swaraj and Mahajan were among those present at the meeting with Vajpayee.

The BJP, however, feels that their Gujarat defence has been bolstered after the Godhra crisis was defused by the arrest of VHP leaders.

But the Congress, the Samajwadi Party and the Left, who had all been holding separate meetings over the past two days, made it clear that Gujarat was not a dead issue.

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