The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Temple SOS & summons to Naidu
- Vajpayee bid to put house in order on budget session-eve

New Delhi, Feb. 15: Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee has summoned key ally Chandrababu Naidu to Delhi tomorrow to seek his support in staving off a likely Opposition attack on Ayodhya in Parliament next week.

In the evening, Vajpayee will host a dinner meeting for all National Democratic Alliance partners to discuss the government’s counter-strategy and other issues coming up before the House. The meeting will also be attended by Trinamul Congress chief Mamata Banerjee.

The Opposition is also gearing up, with Congress chief Sonia Gandhi calling a meeting of senior leaders to work out floor coordination during the budget session.

For the first time, Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar and Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav will join hands with Sonia. Other important leaders include former Prime Ministers Chandra Shekhar and H.D. Deve Gowda, CPM leader Somnath Chatterjee, Ajoy Chakraborty of the CPI and Lok Janshakti Party chief Ram Vilas Paswan.

Sonia’s political secretary Ambika Soni said all leaders of secular parties have been invited for the dinner by the Congress chief at her residence tomorrow.

Asked about reports of an invitation to Paswan, Soni said: “I am sure that all secular Opposition parties have been invited to the dinner meeting. It is the media which are speculating.”

The Prime Minister’s bid to put his house in order coincides with Opposition plans to put the government on the mat by pressing for an adjournment motion on Ayodhya. The SOS to Naidu comes amid speculation that the Centre may introduce a Bill to hand over the undisputed land in Ayodhya to the VHP, sources said. The Ayodhya case is slated to come up before the Supreme Court on February 21.

The meeting between Naidu and Vajpayee tomorrow is expected to be a one-to-one session. The Desam chief will leave for Hyderabad in the afternoon after a meeting with party MPs to discuss strategy and issues coming up in the first week of the budget session.

BJP strategists are worried that key allies like the Desam may support an Opposition motion on Ayodhya to embarrass the government. The Opposition, in its bid to “expose” and “embarrass” secular allies of the NDA, plans to raise the issue of the Centre approaching the Supreme Court to vacate the stay on any religious activity even on the undisputed land in Ayodhya.

Desam parliamentary party leader K. Yerran Naidu had said the temple issue was not part of the NDA agenda and the government should address issues like drought first. He added that the party would spell out its stand on the floor of the House.

Naidu, however, said the matter could be resolved through the legal route only. Naidu had also told a television channel that his party would “react sharply” if the VHP went beyond reasonable limits.

Parliamentary affairs minister Sushma Swaraj said she would meet BJP MPs on Monday and subsequently NDA MPs.

The Congress is also girding up.

“The big dinner is tomorrow. The party would, in consultation with other secular Opposition parties, decide whether to move an adjournment motion on Ayodhya or not,” Congress sources said.

Besides floor strategy in Parliament, the meeting could also discuss wider issues of Opposition unity in view of the growing realisation to take the BJP head-on, they said.

the floor of the House, with Opposition parties planning to put the government on the mat by pressing for an adjournment motion on the Ayodhya issue next week.

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