The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Allies join rollback chorus

New Delhi, March 3: Joining the Opposition, key NDA allies today launched a full-throated attack on finance minister Jaswant Singh for raising prices of fertilisers and diesel in the budget.

At the end of a noisy 30 minutes, the Opposition walked out of the House. The NDA partners, however, said they do not believe in boycotting proceedings but in thrashing out the differences through discussions and debates.

“The finance minister must roll back the prices. We will wage a battle both inside and outside Parliament,” said Telugu Desam Party MP Yerran Naidu.

The Opposition benches led by Congress chief whip Priya Ranjan Das Munshi and Renuka Chowdhury exhorted the NDA allies to prove their “sincerity” by voting against the budget. “Unfortunately, they say one thing on the floor of the House but vote in a different way when the crucial day comes,” Das Munshi said.

Although unanimous in their demand for a rollback, on this point, the NDA allies became defensive. “Voting against the budget is not a solution,” said Naidu, while Shiv Sena MPs retorted “we do not need any lessons from the Opposition. We have our own strategy for countering the price rise”.

They did not want to be seen deserting the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government, at the same time, they did not want to be part of the “anti-kisan” brigade. “We are with the Opposition only on this issue and not anything else,” a Shiv Sena MP said.

What upset the Opposition and the NDA allies the most was the finance minister’s statement yesterday that he would not roll back prices under any circumstances.

His predecessor Yashwant Sinha had succumbed to similar pressure thrice in the past and withdrawn the price hike.

The NDA allies claimed the support of agriculture minister Ajit Singh and food minister Sharad Yadav.

BJP leaders — not too many of them were present — chose to remain silent throughout, indicating that their heart was with the protesters. No senior BJP leader or top Union minister could be seen in the House.

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