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Cricket edges out Ayodhya

New Delhi, Feb. 26: For once, temple failed to stir the House as cricket and the rail budget combined to derail a scheduled discussion on Ayodhya in the Lok Sabha today.

While some Opposition leaders feared that the discussion would not get much coverage in the media because of the crucial India-England World Cup tie, the railway budget and the Assembly polls in four states, others were in no mood to talk mandir.

Opposition members wanted the discussion, originally slated for February 18, to be held on March 4 or 5, but Speaker Manohar Joshi ruled it would be held tomorrow. The decision spurred protests from BJP leaders Vinay Katiyar and Kirit Somaiya, who insisted that the discussion should be held as scheduled.

BJP chief whip V.K. Malhotra asked how the Speaker could take a decision without a meeting of the Business Advisory Committee, which had decided to have the debate today. The BJP also accused the Opposition of “running away from the discussion”.

The Left parties had wanted a discussion on February 18. But the Congress — aware that any anti-temple statement might affect its chances in Himachal — managed to get the date deferred to February 26, the polling day.

The discussion was scheduled to begin this afternoon. By then, voting in Himachal would have been over. But Congress chief whip in the House Priya Ranjan Das Munshi, Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and CPM member Roopchand Pal met Joshi and told him to defer the discussion to March 4 or 5. Joshi consulted parliamentary affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, who said the government had no problem with a discussion either today or tomorrow.

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