The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Boycott cloud back on George

New Delhi, Aug. 20: The Left parties will not lift its boycott of defence minister George Fernandes, CPM MP Somnath Chatterjee said today, a day after the Vajpayee government won a vote of confidence in Parliament.

The Opposition moved a no-confidence motion against the National Democratic Alliance government following the defence minister’s refusal to table before the Parliamentary Accounts Committee (PAC) the report of the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) on Operation Vijay. In a way, it was the row over the CVC report that triggered the no-confidence motion.

Today, CPM leaders said they were far from satisfied with the government’s and the defence minister’s responses to the Opposition’s charge that the Centre was trying to brush under the carpet bunglings in the purchases of Operation Vijay.

“All parties have decided to continue with the boycott of George Fernandes,” Chatterjee told the media this afternoon. “Yesterday morning, we had a meeting of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha and all, including the Congress, decided to continue with the boycott,” said Nilotpal Basu, a CPM leader in the Rajya Sabha.

The Congress, however, said it would take a final decision on the boycott tomorrow. The Samajwadi Party — a key partner in the Opposition ranks — will continue with its stand of not participating in the boycott.

Till recently, there were two opinions in the Congress on the issue. A section, including party president Sonia Gandhi, wanted to participate in the discussion on defence and national security issues and confront the defence minister. The Left parties, however, prevailed on the Congress not to lift the boycott since it would give the BJP an additional handle against the Opposition.

Chatterjee said the no-trust debate had exposed the government’s hollow claims and that his party was ready to support a Sonia-led government as an alternative to the Vajpayee dispensation. At the same time, the CPM, Chatterjee clarified, will not join a front or a coalition led by the Congress. “We will certainly, however, extend our support to a secular government from outside,” the CPM MP stressed.

The question of leadership, he said, should be decided by the Congress and not any other party. “Nobody within the Congress has asked us whether we want Sonia as a leader or not. We also have not given any suggestions.”

Mulayam, however, remains an unstable partner on Sonia’s leadership issue, though he has ostensibly agreed that the main objective of the Opposition is to get rid of the NDA government. The Samajwadi Party had in the past reneged on a similar assurance, thereby, paving the way for the installation of the Vajpayee government.

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