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Since 1st March, 1999
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Tussle on Nandigram nitty-gritty
Debate okay, text not so

New Delhi, Nov. 19: The government today agreed to a debate on Nandigram in both Houses of Parliament after the BJP disrupted proceedings and resolved to keep doing so till it was allowed. But there is no consensus on the text of the motion.

Sabse pehle Nandigram/ Peechhe baaki saare kaam” —the BJP chanted as soon as the House sat today, rejecting the Centre’s contention that Nandigram was a state law-and-order problem.

The debate could be held under Rule 193 in the Lok Sabha and Rule 176 in the Rajya Sabha and does not entail voting. The dates have yet to be fixed because of the uncertainty over the text.

The leader of the Lok Sabha, Pranab Mukherjee, is working on the text in consultation with the leader of the Opposition, L.K. Advani. The BJP wants the debate as soon as the House resumes normal proceedings.

The BJP conceded Nandigram could not be discussed through an adjournment motion, which is allowed in cases of the Centre’s failure to handle things. All parties were unanimous that the bloodshed in Bengal did not fall in that category.

The government, hobbled by an uncompromising Left, initially offered a debate that would be part of a larger one on Naxalite violence in Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and other states. But the BJP refused to “dilute Nandigram” by clubbing it with other “incomparable issues”.

Sources said Advani wanted the motion to specifically reflect the turn of events, including the views of the Bengal governor and Calcutta High Court. But the Centre has apparently not agreed to this because of Left pressure.

Earlier, the BJP insisted that Parliament must allow a debate as Nandigram involved atrocities against minorities and women and the extent and nature of the violence were too big to be ignored.

The party said the Left’s argument that Nandigram was a state subject and could not be debated in Parliament was “totally hypocritical”. It cited how the Left had forced the House to discuss the firing in Haryana’s Gurgaon last year.

“Gujarat was not only debated more than a dozen times but the Chair adopted resolutions condemning the communal violence there in both the Houses,” BJP leader Sushma Swaraj said.

Another BJP leader, V.K. Malhotra, said state matters had been discussed in Parliament innumerable times.

“Describing Nandigram as a state matter is totally wrong as it involves issues which cause national concern. Can private armies and political workers be allowed to kill opponents'” he said.

Sushma added: “We want to know if the Centre endorses the eye-for-an-eye strategy suggested by the chief minister himself.”

Congress leader Priya Ranjan Das Munshi and spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said the Nandigram violence was “condemnable” and the government was ready for a debate. Das Munshi said only the language of the motion needed to be finalised.

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