The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Bigwig showdown

New Delhi, May 5: Outside the House, but inside the Parliament complex, the BJP’s decibel level was higher, its body language combative and its mood pugnacious.

The BJP’s protest appeared to be turning into a battle of personalities ' between Manmohan Singh and L.K. Advani.

As the government went about its business as usual ' or more than usual ' in Parliament, uninterrupted by the Opposition which stayed away for the eighth day, the BJP released a booklet (in English and Hindi) 'Why this boycott' MPs were given copies and told to return to their constituencies to explain the boycott to voters.

The booklet, a compilation of two NDA press statements of April 27 and May 4, a memorandum submitted to the President and a resolution adopted by its MPs on May 2, will be translated into regional languages, party spokesperson Sushma Swaraj said.

The memorandum held the Prime Minister 'guilty' of inducting 'criminal elements' in his cabinet and refusing to drop Laloo Prasad Yadav, and alleged that his government had tried to prevent Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf from calling on Atal Bihari Vajpayee for 'reasons of protocol'.

This is not the first time the Opposition has attacked Singh. During the first half of the budget session, it targeted him on the 'tainted' ministers’ issue, calling him 'invisible'. Singh hit back, pointing out that Naxalite violence grew when 'Sardar Patel II', as Advani likes to see himself, was home minister. Later, Advani described Singh as our 'weakest Prime Minister'.

Sources close to Singh said when he called Advani and Jaswant Singh on Friday to request them to call off the boycott, the latter was gracious. But the BJP president was rude. After that, the Prime Minister said he would make no further requests.

Swaraj said the party’s daily 3 pm media briefing in the Parliament complex will be used to answer the government’s charges against the NDA. Former disinvestment minister Arun Shourie appeared today to defend himself over the sale of Juhu Centaur Hotel.

Slamming Singh’s 'appeal' to the NDA to end the boycott, which started after Advani was 'prevented from speaking by unruly RJD members' on April 27, Swaraj said his telephone calls were a mere 'formality'.

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