The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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NDA loads boycott gun, Cong waits

New Delhi, July 3: The National Democratic Alliance will boycott Laloo Prasad Yadav’s presentation of the railway budget on July 6 but it has not yet decided whether it should boycott the discussion as well.

The alliance, whose floor strategy is yet to be fine-tuned, will take the decision on the discussion on Monday.

The tactic will be to walk out when the railway minister gets ready to speak. The action seems to be a “tit-for-tat” for the boycott of George Fernandes for two years, spearheaded by the Congress and Laloo Prasad’s Rashtriya Janata Dal, after he was reinducted as defence minister despite alleged involvement in a defence scam.

The Congress has decided to play it by the ear and see how far the NDA would take its agitation against the induction of “tainted” ministers.

Sources said the government was more concerned with the second half of the budget session, when the discussions would take place and demands for grants-on-account, excess grants and grants for the railway and general budgets would be put to vote, and bills would have to be passed.

Parliamentary affairs minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said he would appeal to the Opposition to “cooperate and ensure a smooth session”. He indicated the government was prepared to grant a discussion on any subject they wanted.

However, NDA sources rejected his overture. “First let them create conditions for the functioning of the House, then other things can follow,” said a source.

Azad said he had impressed on leader of Opposition L.K. Advani, whom he met yesterday, that “a mere boycott” will not help. The minister said a boycott of the budget was unprecedented. “In a democracy we will have political differences. But the Opposition is always more interested in the budget because it can identify shortcomings and put the government on the mat.”

Reminded of the Fernandes boycott, Azad said: “That was a different thing because we did not boycott the entire session. It was just this that nobody would put a question to the minister.”

Among the 28 bills the government hopes to enact are the Lokpal Bill, the Free and Compulsory Education Bill and the Contempt of Courts (Amendment) Bill.

Although the Pota repeal bill and the women’s reservation bill were not listed, Azad said that does not mean they will not be tabled. The government is likely to wait and see how the session goes before introducing the controversial bills.

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