The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Atal keeps Opposition in House
- LS functions after notice against Laloo

New Delhi, Dec. 9: The National Democratic Alliance settled for a calibrated protest in Parliament against the Laloo Prasad Yadav-Ram Vilas Paswan row under pressure from chairperson Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

The Opposition alliance met this morning and was reportedly told by Vajpayee that it should not go back on the assurance given to the Speaker that the House would be allowed to run normally.

Instead of trooping to the well of the House, holding up proceedings and forcing repeated adjournments, the BJP and the rest of the NDA made a noise after question hour and had both Houses adjourned. Post-lunch, it was business as usual.

The only concrete step the NDA took to keep the heat on the United Progressive Alliance government was moving a privilege motion in the Lok Sabha against the railway minister.

This was for Laloo Prasad allegedly 'misleading' the House by disowning the reported remarks he made against his cabinet colleague, Paswan, the chemicals and fertilisers minister.

V.K. Malhotra, the BJP's deputy leader in the Lok Sabha, told the House: 'Yesterday, Laloo Prasad Yadav denied having made allegations of corruption against Ram Vilas Paswan. It is a mockery. The television channels later showed earlier clips of Laloo's statements where he has accused Paswan.'

P.C. Thomas of the Indian Federal Democratic Party, an NDA constituent, sent a notice to the Speaker's office on the grounds that Laloo Prasad had undermined the 'dignity' of Parliament and the country by 'denying' the remarks.

Speaker Somnath Chatterjee will examine the merits of the motion before admitting it.

Sources in the Rashtriya Janata Dal contended that the question of Laloo Prasad 'misleading' the House was not pertinent or fair as his reported remarks on and exchanges with Paswan took place outside Parliament. The BJP's case, they said, was based on media reports and television tapes.

Paswan volunteered to make a statement in the House but the NDA would not allow him to speak. Amid the din, the Lok Janshakti Party chief said: 'I have made no allegations against the Union government. I have criticised the Bihar state government.'

The NDA members were not pacified.

The Opposition alliance is contemplating moving another privilege motion against defence minister Pranab Mukherjee and home minister Shivraj Patil for making 'opposing' statements on infiltration into Jammu and Kashmir.

Malhotra said Mukherjee had told the Rajya Sabha that the number of infiltrators had increased over the past few months, while Patil said it had gone down.

The BJP appeared to have backed out of its defence of the Kanchi seer, who was refused bail yet again yesterday.

The party will not send any front-ranking member as part of the 'fact-finding' team the NDA had announced would be despatched to Vellore and Kancheepuram. The allies are yet to finalise the names of their representatives.

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