| Maneka Gandhi sits outside Parliament during the NDA protest against the Speaker. (PTI)
New Delhi, Aug. 8: Atal Bihari Vajpayee lent a stinging edge to the Opposition’s campaign against Speaker Somnath Chatterjee by expressing lack of confidence in his ability.
Although a senior minister claimed Vajpayee had confessed in private to the Speaker that he was being forced to make these harsh allegations, the letter the former Prime Minister wrote provoked Chatterjee to express his desire to quit.
How serious he was to pursue that intention was not known, but the Speaker was told by fellow Left MPs not to resign.
It might have been a little unnerving for Chatterjee to be staring at empty Opposition benches as he conducted business in the Lok Sabha today amid the one-day BJP-led National Democratic Alliance boycott in protest against his refusal yesterday to take up the privilege notice against the Prime Minister.
Vajpayee’s letter to the Speaker was in response to a written request to the NDA to withdraw the boycott. The BJP leader said: “All sections of the National Democratic Alliance feel deeply disappointed at the manner in which the House is being presently run. I may add that confidence in one’s fairness and objectivity has to be commanded; it cannot be demanded.”
In the context of the minister’s claim that Vajpayee had been almost apologetic to Chatterjee about the charges, sources in the Speaker’s office said the former Prime Minister did talk to their boss, “but we have no way of knowing what transpired between them”.
BJP leaders dismissed the claim.
Vajpayee walked into the BJP’s parliamentary party meeting chaired by L.K. Advani in the morning. He read out Chatterjee’s letter asking him to reconsider the boycott. Even before Vajpayee had finished, MPs started a litany of complaints against the Speaker.
Vajpayee, according to BJP leader V.K. Malhotra, was “taken aback” by the extent of outrage in the meeting. After the meeting, Vajpayee wrote the letter.
An all-party meeting is likely on Thursday.