The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Price jitters bail out noisy MPs
Speaker drops action on 32

New Delhi, May 5: Speaker Somnath Chatterjee’s initiative to discipline raucous MPs was buried today after the government moved with alacrity to avert a confrontation that eventually could have put the glare on price rise.

The Speaker announced that he was withdrawing his reference of the “disorderly conduct” of 32 MPs to the privileges committee after two rounds of meeting between him and leaders of all parties.

As Opposition leader L.K. Advani conveyed to Chatterjee that members of the NDA were agitated and a confrontation was on the cards, House leader Pranab Mukherjee requested the Speaker to withdraw the cases from the panel.

In return, all the Speaker got was an assurance of good behaviour in future — which was immediately broken in the name of upholding orderly conduct.

The government was worried that a festering confrontation would eventually have raised uncomfortable questions about the price rise — the issue on which most of the showcaused MPs had shouted slogans in the House.

When the Speaker announced the withdrawal of the cases in the House, RJD leader Devendra Yadav created a flutter by claiming that the NDA had tendered an apology and that should be brought to the notice of Parliament.

The claim enraged BJP leaders, prompting Vijay Kumar Malhotra to ask the Speaker to clarify that no apology was made.

But Devendra kept shouting, describing the whole affair as misleading and non-transparent. He said the House should not send out a message that trouble-makers had been let off without an apology.

The Speaker then denied any apology was tendered and said his interest was not in “retribution” but peaceful conduct of the House.

“There is no question of apology. I am not against or pro-anybody. Both the leader of the House and the leader of Opposition have assured me that the members will behave. This is my only concern. I am thankful to both the leaders,” Chatterjee said.

Devendra later told The Telegraph: “The word apology had not been used. But the BJP leaders did say at the meeting that they did not want any confrontation and a way out of the impasse should be found. Contrary to the muscle-flexing outside, they were keen to resume normal business. That’s what apology means.”

With the government initiating efforts for a truce, the NDA had opted for Gandhigiri and their members sat in the House with fingers on their lips as a mark of silent protest.

Both the Samajwadi Party and the RJD had walked out of the meeting at the Speaker’s chamber as they insisted on approval of the House before withdrawing the cases.

The Speaker did speak his mind soon after. Announcing the decision to adjourn the House sine die, Chatterjee said: “Instances of interruptions and forced adjournments and defying the authority of the Chair do not help our common goal of public welfare and executive accountability.”

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