The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Time-server or no, Laloo to stay
- Singh unfazed by rival fire

New Delhi, April 27: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today virtually rejected the Opposition demand for the resignation of Laloo Prasad Yadav.

'These are hypothetical questions. We will cross the bridge when we reach there. Today there is no change in the situation,' he said when asked if the railway minister would have to step down if his bail plea is rejected by the Supreme Court.

Earlier in the day, Opposition leaders George Fernandes and L.K. Advani accused the Prime Minister of 'practising the worst kind of political opportunism' by retaining Laloo Prasad and other 'tainted' ministers, and announced a boycott of Parliament.

Singh had asked Shibu Soren to go because he had only five MPs but had 'stonewalled all pleas' for Laloo Prasad's dismissal because the government was 'critically dependent' on his party's 25 MPs, the NDA leaders said. Soren had quit after an arrest warrant was issued against him.

The Prime Minister refused to react to the allegations. 'Well, I have been accused of many things and I cannot comment on them,' he said.

Singh, however, said he had appealed to the Opposition to reconsider the boycott of Parliament. 'I took the initiative this afternoon to speak both to L.K. Advani and Jaswant Singh (leaders of Opposition in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha). I mentioned to them that it does not augur well for the future of our polity for the second year in a row that the financial business of the government is transacted without the presence of the principal Opposition party.'

Advani's response was it was 'too late in the day' to go back on the decision. The NDA will boycott Parliament this week and 'review' the situation on Monday, the day the finance bill is to be passed.

In the evening, Speaker Somnath Chatterjee wrote to Advani asking him to lift the boycott so that the Opposition can join the discussion on the finance bill. It would not be appropriate for it to be passed without Opposition participation in the debate, he said.

At a news conference attended by the BJP's Jaswant Singh, Sushma Swaraj, Yashwant Sinha and Pramod Mahajan, the Shiv Sena's Anant Geethe and the Telugu Desam's K. Yerran Naidu, Advani and Fernandes accused the government of 'brazenly trying to defend the indefensible'.

The duo who had faced ouster calls when the NDA was in power ' Fernandes in connection with the Tehelka expose and Advani for the Babri demolition ' alleged that the railway minister was allowed to 'freely misuse his authority' to subvert the legal and democratic process so that he could get off the hook'.

Laloo Prasad, against whom a chargesheet has been filed in a fodder scam case, rejected calls for his removal after meetings with Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

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