The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Tape tirade fizzles out

New Delhi, March 7: Into its fourth day, the Samajwadi Party’s anti-Mayavati offensive in Parliament lost much of its aggression as the Congress and the Left parties quietly distanced themselves from the campaign.

Even Samajwadi leader Mulayam Singh Yadav’s charge in the Lok Sabha that the Uttar Pradesh chief minister had threatened to slap anti-terror charges against him could not get the main Opposition party and the Left to join the chorus.

Congress member Margaret Alva, on a couple of occasions, wondered how much longer should the House discuss Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.

For nearly half-an-hour, Samajwadi members disrupted question hour, seeking a discussion on the Mayavati tape, the chief minister’s reported statement that MPs took a cut from their local area development scheme fund and yesterday’s events in the state assembly.

The demand drew noisy protests from Bahujan Samaj Party members as well.

But seeing the waning support for the Samajwadi offensive from within the Opposition, Speaker Manohar Joshi brought the House to order for question hour.

Once question hour had ended and zero hour started, he rejected the Samajwadi members’ adjournment notices for a discussion on the incidents in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly.

“It cannot be a matter for discussion under adjournment notice. As Shivrajji (Congress deputy leader Shivraj Patil) said, there can be a structured debate later on,” the Speaker ruled.

Joshi reserved his ruling on two breach of privilege notices on Mayavati’s reported statement on MPs taking cuts form their development funds. He did not permit the members to speak on the notices either.

A tough Joshi did not yield when the Samajwadi members squatted in the well of the House for over 15 minutes to press their demand. “I will allow a discussion on the issues as per procedure. But I will not allow discussion under pressure,” he said. The Samajwadi members eventually returned to their seats.

The lack of support from the Congress and the Left parties for the Samajwadi’s campaign followed a meeting of the business advisory committee yesterday where they had agreed that the MPs’ cut issue should be discussed by floor leaders behind closed doors and not in the open House.

The Congress has decided to go its own way on Uttar Pradesh. A party delegation is likely to meet President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam on Monday and submit a memorandum to him on the alleged “breakdown of Constitutional machinery in the state.”

Asked if leaders from other parties would be part of the delegation, a source said it would be essentially a Congress protest. But if other parties wished to join the delegation, their inclusion might be considered.

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