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BJP springs Atal on Manmohan

New Delhi, Aug. 26: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his predecessor Atal Bihari Vajpayee moved to the forefront of a debate on decorum as the most acrimonious Parliament session in recent memory was brought to a premature end today.

Singh, at the centre of a storm after the Opposition alleged that he threw back a memorandum, this evening made an impassioned plea for a code of conduct to avoid disruption of Parliament in future.

“Where are we leading the country to'” the Prime Minister asked in Parliament while expressing anguish at the House being not allowed to run.

Singh did not mention yesterday’s memorandum controversy but said he hoped that a mechanism would be found before the winter session to ensure that “what has happened in recent months truly becomes a thing of the past”.

Speaker Somnath Chatterjee, another leader who has bemoaned the turmoil that forced the House to be adjourned sine die today a week ahead of schedule, has called an all-party meeting in November.

The BJP-led Opposition, however, appeared in no mood to forget and forgive. The Opposition went back on its agreement to allow the budget to be passed without a discussion and boycotted parliamentary proceedings.

Ignoring the Prime Minister’s clarification to .K. Advani and Jaswant Singh last night that he did not mean to be rude or discourteous when he refused to accept the memorandum, the BJP today fielded former Prime Minister Vajpayee to take on his successor.

Vajpayee told a media conference this evening: “I have high regard for Dr Manmohan Singh as a person, but he does not seem to be aware of the unwritten code of political conduct that should guide the interaction between the Prime Minister and senior leaders of the Opposition. Only the other day, he exhorted the political class about a code of conduct. He has certainly not set a good example by being impolite with the NDA delegation.”

The public pronouncements of Vajpayee, who was keeping a low profile, have fuelled speculation that his presence has been ensured to lend a veener of respectability to the Opposition’s relentless disruption of legislative business.

Keen to counter the perception that the BJP was still not reconciled to its “shock” defeat, Vajpayee said: “We did not win the elections but we gladly accepted the verdict. We said we would support the UPA government. But provoked by some happenings, it appears as though the government does not want our help or if it seeks it, it will be for a price.”

Asked if the NDA will “boycott” the Prime Minister, Advani, who was with Vajpayee, said: “There will be no boycott.”

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