The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Ally does opposition’s work
Rivals bask in BJP’s shame

New Delhi, July 29: Nobody enjoys a fight between friends more than their enemies.

It was “fun time” for the Congress and the Samajwadi Party in the Lok Sabha today as their rivals who run the Mayavati-led coalition government in Uttar Pradesh locked horns over the shelved Taj corridor project.

The standoff began as soon as the House assembled for question hour this morning. With pressure mounting on their leader in the wake of the ongoing CBI probe into the controversial scheme, Bahujan Samaj Party MPs called for Union culture minister Jagmohan’s dismissal.

BSP members rushed to the well of the House, shouting slogans against Jagmohan, after Speaker Manohar Joshi rejected party floor leader Rashid Alvi’s adjournment motion notice on alleged misleading statements of the minister. Shouts of “Jagmohanji ko barkhast karo” grew louder with every passing minute as the MPs hardened their stand in the backdrop of the Prime Minister’s outright rejection of Mayavati’s call yesterday to sack Jagmohan.

The Uttar Pradesh chief minister had accused the Union minister of tarnishing her image and conspiring with her rivals.

If the Samajwadi and Congress benches saw in the unexpected fracas the first visible cracks in the Uttar Pradesh ruling coalition, they could not be faulted. After all, they had intended to put the BSP and the BJP on the mat over the shelved project.

The discomfiture in the treasury benches was evident. Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani was seen confabulating with parliamentary affairs minister Sushma Swaraj and BJP chief whip V.K. Malhotra to restrain the BSP members.

But Rashid’s gesticulations towards the BJP benches made it clear that his party was firm on its demand.

For once, all that the Opposition had to do was remain silent and watch the unfolding drama, though, occasionally, Congress chief whip Priya Ranjan Das Munshi appealed to the Speaker to “restore order”.

Finally, the Speaker, who sought to persist with question hour proceedings, decided it was enough and adjourned the proceedings briefly.

When the House reassembled, it was no different as BSP members were back in the well with their Jagmohan hatao slogan.

The House was again adjourned after the Congress, the Left and the Rashtriya Janata Dal persisted with their boycott of George Fernandes. The Speaker had asked the defence minister to make his scheduled statement on the recent attack on the army camp in Jammu. The statement was taken as read amid a walkout by these parties. The House was adjourned soon after.

In the afternoon, the third adjournment over the BSP demand ensured that there was no further sitting for the day.

Outside the House, the Congress demanded that the government place before Parliament the versions of both Mayavati and Jagmohan on the controversial project so that there could be an “informed debate”.

End in sight: Experts

Mayavati’s withdrawal of Jagmohan’s sack may have saved the BSP-BJP coalition for the day but political observers see the posturing and the counter-posturing as the beginning of its end, reports our special correspondent in Lucknow.

“It will give a spur to dissident activities within the BJP as a growing number of MLAs are fed up with Mayavati’s style of functioning. They may make things difficult for her during the budget session of the Assembly starting on August 7,” admitted a senior state BJP leader.

He did not rule out the possibility of Mayavati herself pulling down the coalition at a politically more opportune time. “She may have miscalculated the move. But Mayavati is not the one to accept a rebuff lying down for long,” the BJP leader said.

Mayavati sought to provide political justification for her changed stand by claiming that she did not wish to play into the hands of the Opposition which was waiting for the coalition to collapse.

“The coalition is like a big family where differences are bound to crop up but the opposition should not think that it can take advantage of the internal differences. The BJP and the BSP are united and will remain united to contest the Lok Sabha elections jointly,” she said.

Sources said Mayavati had remained firm till last night when senior BJP leaders met her.

The BJP leaders later conveyed their impression to the party’s central leadership.

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