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Row over Vajpayee remarks

New Delhi, Dec. 2: The Congress and other Opposition parties today reacted angrily to Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s remarks “outside” Parliament that there was possibility of more attacks on temples across the country.

The Congress also targeted the BJP for making security and terrorism its major plank in the Gujarat polls, pointing out that its governments in Delhi and Gandhinagar had “failed” to combat terrorism. “It is ridiculous and objectionable of them to convert their failure into a propaganda point in the coming Assembly polls,” AICC spokesman Jaipal Reddy said.

In the Lok Sabha, agitated Congress and CPM MPs demanded that Vajpayee come to the House and explain his remark that he had information about more terrorist attacks on temples. The Congress also reacted sharply to his reported comment that the previous government had “neglected” the country’s defence under international pressure. Outside Parliament, Reddy pointed out: “It was during the Congress regime that the country won three wars.”

The issue of Vajpayee’s remarks was raised during zero hour by Congress leader Priya Ranjan Das Munshi.

who said the Prime Minister could not accuse the Opposition in this manner. “Let him come here immediately and explain,” he demanded.

Das Munshi took serious exception to the Prime Minister and deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani making statements outside when the House was in session. “This is not a good practice. We cannot treat this House as a secondary institution. It is supreme,” he said.

Das Munshi’s remarks drew loud protests from BJP spokesman Vijay Kumar Malhotra and other NDA members. Malhotra said leader of Opposition Sonia Gandhi, too, had made a sensitive statement at Oxford. Her statement should also be discussed, he said.

Amid heated exchanges, Das Munshi recalled that after the December 13 terrorist attack on Parliament, Advani said that the government had prior information about it and now Vajpayee was talking about more terrorist attacks on temples.

“The country’s security is of utmost importance and government must take the members into confidence,” he said. The fight against terrorism was not the individual task of the Prime Minister and the deputy Prime Minister but the responsibility of the entire country, asserted the Congress leader. “Instead of sharing his perception with the members, Vajpayee has made such an important statement outside the House,” he said.

The Congress also accused the BJP regimes at the Centre and Gujarat of political and administrative failure. Jaipal Reddy said the BJP owed an explanation for its failure as it has been ruling Gujarat for more than 10 years.

Training guns at the Centre, the AICC spokesman said the BJP regime had failed to combat terrorism in spite of the “unstinted” support of the Congress on the issue. “What they did' They mobilised seven lakh troops on the border and kept them for 10 months, a record in military history. Nowhere have troops been kept on alert for such a long period,” Jaipal said, referring to an admission by Advani in the Lok Sabha that the mobilisation did not pay any dividend “either politically or militarily”.

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