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Focus to shift to chopper, drought

New Delhi, Feb. 20: Union home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde’s expression of regret for his revelation that the BJP and RSS were conducting terror training camps is expected to pave the way for the NDA allies to focus on other issues in Parliament, said sources in the Opposition coalition.

Janata Dal (United) president and Madhepura MP Sharad Yadav claimed he was determined to ensure that the BJP’s preoccupation in attacking Shinde for his comments on saffron terror would not hijack the discourse in the House and throw other issues, notably the alleged slush payments in the chopper deal and the Maharashtra drought, by the wayside.

Like the Dal (United), the Shiv Sena, the BJP’s other ally, was also keen to flag the Maharashtra drought as was the Akali Dal on the destruction to crops caused by the heavy winter rains and hailstorms. “Parliament must run, it is important it should because there are many challenges before the country. If the House doesn’t discuss the issues, who will?” asked Yadav.

At the all-party meeting the Lok Sabha Speaker convened this morning, Yadav said he impressed on Shinde that if indeed he wished to crack down on the terror suspects aligned to Hindutva, he need not “make a song and dance” about it but do it through legal and constitutional mechanisms. Yadav said his point was if Shinde stuck to his guns, the RSS —that is purportedly on the home minister’s radar —would keep prodding the BJP to focus single-mindedly on “saffron terror”.

That was something not even to the BJP’s liking, said party sources, and admitted the tactic would have further reinforced the impression that it was yoked to the Sangh and the Hindutva political line and not sufficiently concerned about “bread-and-butter” issues like price rise and stagnant growth.

This morning, the BJP’s Rajya Sabha Opposition leader, Arun Jaitley, bluntly stated that if the home minister did not withdraw his statements and apologise, the government should not expect cooperation from the Opposition in passing legislations and transacting other businesses.

His Lok Sabha counterpart Sushma Swaraj said in the Speaker’s meet: “If the BJP is a terror outfit, then why have I been made the Opposition leader? Why hasn’t the BJP been blacklisted as a terror outfit?”

Sushma’s emotive outburst was sounded almost around the time when the rest of the BJP leaders took up cudgels against Shinde at a Jantar Mantar rally.

BJP chief Rajnath Singh’s slogan was: “A Hindu is not bad, a Muslim is not bad, what is undesirable is the Congress government’s mindset.” He demanded the Centre account for Shinde’s “conduct”.

Jaitley’s contention was when the government was in distress, it “diverted” attention by raking up matters like “saffron terror”.

Sources said they hoped the show of strength against Shinde would “appease” the RSS. “We want debates on everything important like choppergate and I emphasized this at the (NDA) meet. If the government doesn’t allow, then it’s a different ball game,” said Kuldeep Bishnoi of the Haryana Janhit Congress, another BJP ally.

On the Suryanelli sex scandal, BJP sources said the party would not launch an offensive against Rajya Sabha deputy chairperson and Congress leader P.J. Kurien. However, if the Left raises the issue, the BJP would be compelled to target Kurien, the sources said.