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Rivals rant at sting silence

New Delhi, Dec. 9: Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s absence in the Lok Sabha today and his failure to make a statement on the cash-on-camera scandal involving Dilip Singh Judeo drew flak from Opposition members, who said he was not taking Parliament seriously.

The government had earlier said Vajpayee would speak on the sting operation in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday and Speaker Manohar Joshi had informed the House accordingly. The Prime Minister is now expected to make the statement tomorrow.

The Prime Minister, who returned from his foreign trip on Sunday night, has not attended Parliament as he was busy with a BJP parliamentary party meeting and a lunch hosted by party president M. Venkaiah Naidu for the party’s new chief ministers — Uma Bharti, Vasundhara Raje and Raman Singh.

Vajpayee’s absence angered some Opposition members, who alleged that he was taking Parliament casually.

As soon as the Speaker told the House that Vajpayee would make the statement tomorrow, the Congress and Left party members were up in arms. They said it clearly showed how the ruling party treated the supreme legislative body.

Congress chief whip Priya Ranjan Das Munshi said Vajpayee had promised he would make a statement soon after his return from the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. It was conveyed also that he would speak today, he said. “It is your decision which is being ignored by the government,” Das Munshi pleaded with the Speaker.

CPM leader Somnath Chatterjee said Lok Sabha secretary-general G.C. Malhotra told him last evening that the statement would now be made tomorrow. “This shows that Parliament is not being taken seriously,” he said.

Responding to the issue, parliamentary affairs minister Sushma Swaraj said the Prime Minister had said he would make a statement according to his convenience.

He had written to the Speaker seeking permission to make the statement tomorrow, Swaraj said, adding that there was nothing in it which should be construed as the government not taking Parliament seriously.

Vajpayee will make the statement tomorrow in the Lok Sabha at noon and in the Rajya Sabha at 12.30 pm, she added.

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