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House grief over terror hits turns into jibes

New Delhi, July 22: The Opposition and treasury benches in the Lok Sabha today nearly ruined their united resolve to mourn last night’s terror victims of the Vaishno Devi pilgrimage.

Cutting across party lines, the House convened with the determination to place on record Parliament’s deep sense of grief over the killing of at least seven devotees at Katra in Jammu and Kashmir.

But with the MPs’ propensity to derive partisan political mileage from any debate, their condolences came laced with political jabs as soon as Speaker Manohar Joshi allowed floor leaders of various parties to express their grief.

Congress chief whip Priya Ranjan Das Munshi started it off, doubting the adequacy of the security provided to the pilgrims by the Centre and its alertness to likely terrorist attacks.

Then he wondered aloud whether deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani had done enough to fulfil the promises he had made since assuming charge of the home ministry five years ago. He said “it is in the fitness of things that Advani came out with a satisfactory statement” over the terror attacks last night and a fidayeen hit at an army camp this morning.

Das Munshi’s BJP counterpart Vijay Kumar Malhotra immediately jumped to the government’s defence, ruining the solemnity of the occasion.

Launching an outright offensive, Malhotra said the Congress, being part of the ruling coalition in Jammu and Kashmir, was more responsible for the security in the state. He took the opportunity to credit the Centre with the vastly improved situation in the state.

Then on, there were repeated verbal skirmishes between the Congress and the BJP.

Shiv Sena’s Chandrakant Khaire, too, jumped in, though his tirade was ignored by the Opposition benches. Speaker Manohar Joshi, elected to the House on a Sena ticket, finally had to cut him short.

The occasion was saved from further deterioration by the Speaker, CPM’s Somnath Chatterjee and the Samajwadi Party.

But the one who made the real difference, though unacknowledged, was Omar Abdullah, chief of the National Conference, the main rival of Jammu and Kashmir’s ruling coalition.

He reminded both the BJP and the Congress that they shared equal responsibility for restoring normality in the troubled state.

Advani, while giving the details of the attacks, said the state and the Centre were working in harmony for the security and development of Jammu and Kashmir.

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