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NDA boycotts Parliament, stages dharna

By Onkar Singh in New Delhi
Last updated on: August 08, 2006 13:50 IST
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Leader of Opposition Lal Kishenchand Advani said that over 100 members of the National Democratic Alliance participated in the dharna before Mahatma Gandhi's statue outside Parliament and sat for one hour to register their protest against the manner in which the Speaker of the Lok Sabha Somnath Chatterjee has been handling the proceedings of the House.

"We sat on dharna for one hour to protest against the high-handed manner in which the speaker disallowed us to speak on the privilege motion issue. Last night (Monday) he wrote a letter to the chairman of the NDA asking for calling off the boycott of the Lok Sabha by NDA members on Tuesday. After Vajpayeeji read out the letter we decided to go ahead with the protest," Advani told waiting newsmen after one hour of silence.

Most of the members wrapped black bands around their mouths as a mark of their protest.

The members of the NDA in the Lok Sabha were directed not to sign the register and not claim any money.

"We have been upset with the manner in which the House has been run, but this is the first time that we had to resort to a dharna in front of the statue of Gandhiji," Advani said.

Gurudas Gupta, leader of the Communist Party of India, ridiculed the manner in which NDA Lok Sabha members tried to grab the limelight by sitting in front of Gandhiji's statue. "Who killed Gandhiji?," he asked.

He criticised the NDA leadership for lowering the dignity of the office of speaker by raising slogans against him. "They cannot call someone chor on the floor of the House," he said.

Chatterjee expressed regret over the absence of opposition parties from the House.

Meanwhile, Vajpayee on Tuesday said he was studying the Justice Pathak report that has exonerated the Congress party from charges of being an illegal beneficiary in an Iraqi oil contract in 2001.

"I am studying it and will comment on it after arriving at a conclusion," he told reporters after the Bharatiya Janata Party's Parliamentary Party meeting in New Delhi.

The former prime minister, however, parried questions regarding the NDA's boycott of the Lok Sabha to protest
against Chatterjee, saying it was an alliance decision.

"The boycott will end on today... It is an alliance decision," he remarked.

He also dodged a question regarding his party's charge that the Pathak Authority has made former external affairs minister Natwar Singh a scapegoat in the Iraqi oil scandal.

"I am a vegetarian," he joked.

The BJP, which on Monday called the findings of the Pathak Authority a "half-truth", on Tuesday dubbed the report a fraud.

"It's a fraud, a total cover-up," BJP Parliamentary Party spokesman Vijay Kumar Malhotra said.

With PTI Inputs

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Onkar Singh in New Delhi