The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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George ice fails to melt

New Delhi, July 28: A new week begins and the Congress has gone back to its old line on the Opposition boycott of George Fernandes.

After trying last week to find ways to end the year-and-a-half-long boycott of the defence minister, the Congress began the second week of the monsoon session of Parliament today on a different note: “Thus far, no further.”

A senior Congress parliamentary party leader said: “We have displayed enough flexibility last week and cooperated… to end the impasse over the boycott of Fernandes. But the government is not willing to concede our reasonable demand that a discussion on the Tehelka issue to ensure the end of boycott takes place in both Houses. So the deadlock continues.”

The party’s parliamentary affairs committee met this morning and Congress chief Sonia Gandhi was briefed about the efforts to resolve the issue. Later, the party leadership said it would show no further “flexibility”. “The responsibility now solely rests with the government,” a senior leader said.

The party leadership has its reasons to shut its doors on further negotiations with the Centre on the impasse. For, even though the Congress thinks the boycott has outlived its purpose and is proving counter-productive as the Centre cannot be quizzed on defence and security, other Opposition parties do not share this view.

Even as Congress spokesman S. Jaipal Reddy today said the party would not yield on the issue, the Left parties and the Rashtriya Janata Dal, which had participated in the boycott, were angry that the Congress had begun talks to resolve the impasse without taking them into confidence.

They said had there not been differences between the Congress and other Opposition parties, the Tehelka debate would have taken place in the Rajya Sabha today and the deadlock ended. Only “unexpected” pressure from them during Friday’s meeting of Opposition leaders had made the Congress demand a Lok Sabha debate on the issue.

Parliamentary affairs minister Sushma Swaraj’s refusal to permit this gave the Congress a face-saving device to shut the door on further talks.

The party also “ironed out” misunderstandings on the issue with Opposition parties today.

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